Mar 28, 2011  •  In Baby, Claire, Motherhood, Parenting, Personal

Preserving Naps and Bedtime

I wish my daughter was one of those babies that can sleep anywhere. I wish she were a naturally good sleeper. But she is neither of those things, as she is a highly sensitive child who is always so transfixed by the world around her that she needs to be in a dark, quiet room free from stimuli (and in her own, comfy crib) in order to fall asleep and sleep well.

And I am pretty certain that this isn’t something that you can “train” a baby to do. I am a firm believer that every baby — every person — is different, and as a result, some are naturally more sensitive sleepers than others.

Take my sister and I, for instance. When we lived in Korea our house was attached to a manufacturing factory. I can’t recall exactly what they made, but I do remember that it was constantly noisy with machines running all the time.

Having grown up in such an environment I should be able to sleep through anything, right? Wrong. I have been an extremely light sleeper ever since I can remember and can’t sleep well anywhere aside from my own bed.

In contrast, my sister can sleep through natural disasters. Seriously. She almost slept through a fire in our building when we were little. She was sleeping even as the fireman carried her down the fire escape!

I’m surprised my sister is not sleeping in this photo.
(Yes, that’s me in the background, rocking the red bikini.)

Before I became a mom I swore to myself that I would not be one of those parents who lugged their ill-behaved kids around everywhere, annoying patrons of restaurants, theaters, airplanes, etc with my children’s incessant crying.

Heck, even as a parent now I still refuse to fly with Claire unless it’s absolutely necessary (and if such a thing exists, I would happily pay more to fly on a child-free flight if I were traveling without my children).

And because Claire cannot sleep well outside the house — and because she becomes a cranky mess when she does not sleep well — I am, for the moment, tied to the house and to my daughter’s sleeping schedule.

I have a 2-hour window of opportunity between the moment she gets up to the time she should be sleeping next to run errands, go to the grocery store, etc. And keep in mind that I would still need to change her and feed her during this time, which usually takes about 30 minutes.

Claire also needs to be down for the night between the hours of 6 and 7pm.

So between her naps and her bedtime, there remains very little opportunity for this mommy to have a social life.

Which is perfectly fine with me. After all, I was the one who signed up to be a parent.

The problem arises when we have to cater to other people’s schedules. When there are family events. When there are birthday parties. When there are friends visiting from out of town. Because, you see, these all almost always require us to be out of the house for more than a couple of hours at a time, and/or they run past Claire’s bedtime.

Claire is a giggly, happy baby WHEN she sleeps well.

Why don’t we just bring her out? Like I said, some babies are just fine out in the adult world. My daughter is not…at least not yet. Not only would I feel bad for the other people who would be exposed to a crying baby, my own stress levels would rise too and I would need to make an early exit after apologizing profusely.

Why don’t I just leave her with a babysitter? J has issues leaving our six-month-old daughter, dog, and our household in the care of people we do not know very well. And while we have family members who can watch the baby, they have lives too and can’t always be expected to drop everything to babysit.

I feel bad refusing invitations. I feel bad making people come to us, rather us to them, so that Claire’s naps and bedtime will not be ruined. And I feel bed ducking out early out of the few events that I do attend.

I’m sure some people are reading this and thinking that I’m being too neurotic. And I’m sure that some of those people include parents too. But apparently I am not alone. Reading threads like:

reminds me that I am not alone.

Surely at least one of my readers feel similarly?

11 Responses to “Preserving Naps and Bedtime”

  1. Teresa:

    First let me say that Claire is an adorable baby!

    Having a kid really restricts my schedule more than I swore it would. My kid is a good sleeper but even so if we keep her out late at night or during nap time then she doesn’t sleep as well (or as much) as she should. And while she’s usually sweet at the time, we pay for it later when she’s really grouchy with us from tiredness in the morning or cries and cries when I’m dropping her off at daycare. So we just balance it… skip this nap? Well, ok if it’s for something really good, but not on a regular basis.

    So I don’t think you sound neurotic at all!

    • That’s pretty much we’ve been doing. We always ask ourselves: “Is this event really worth the tradeoff?” Except in our case, it seems that Claire takes FOREVER to make up for the lost sleep and deviation from routine — two weeks ago we left her in a church-run daycare for 6 hours while we took a class and she was a mess for the next 5 days!

  2. As you know, Piper can’t nap anywhere other than her stroller. She can nap (if pressed) in various strollers, but will fuss and fight and cry until hoarse in her crib during the day. At night, only in her crib ALWAYS at a set time. We had to do this starting at 13 months because I COULD NOT get up 5 times a night to hold her! Finally, when we CIO with her at 13 months, it seems to flip a switch for her. FINALLY she sleeps all night. Sure she wakes up a few times moaning/crying out, but is usually quieted down within minutes (or more, with me sitting up, anxiously biting my nails hoping I don’t have to go back in there). I understand this. Sometimes I wish Piper could sleep anywhere at night, nope. During the day, at least, her stroller naps come in handy when we need to go somewhere. She’s also good at falling asleep in the car, but again- it’s because of the car seat!

    I don’t think people can “train” a baby to sleep anywhere. I do think you’re right- some babies are naturally able to ignore the noise, and some can’t. Piper needs white noise to sleep at night. Shut it off and she’s immediately awake. Same with her daytime naps (unless we’re out and the outside noise is white noise). I’m a veeeery slight sleeper, while Paul can sleep right through Piper wailing next to him. We plan things around her naptime, and I have no shame in that. If family/friends think I take it too seriously, I’d like them to deal with a sleep-deprived toddler who missed her naps. It’s easy to mock and be aghast when your kids slept anywhere, like it’s that easy for everyone. Nope, for us, sleep is the most important thing for Piper (other than food), so if I have to stay home all day to get her to nap, or take two walks so she’ll doze off, so be it. We all have our priorities. Our schedule revolves around Piper, for us that is important. I think that in having kids, your life kind of has to take a back seat- at least for a few years- because why else have kids if you don’t make their life the priority? My errands aren’t more important than having a happy baby who sleeps- because I know the sleep helps her brain grow. Since I wasn’t blessed with a baby who sleeps anywhere, I’ll just have to create my own luck. :)

    • “Since I wasn’t blessed with a baby who sleeps anywhere, I’ll just have to create my own luck.” — I couldn’t have said it better myself!

      P.S. — I wish Claire would sleep in her stroller! Though I think it has to do a lot with the fact that she was born in the fall, and that we live here in the east coast. It got cold almost immediately after she was born, so we hardly ever went out with her. I hope to try to get her to sleep better in her stroller as the weather gets nicer and I can take her for long walks in the park!

  3. Thank you for being such a considerate mother.

    I see babies cry from being cranky, fussy.. and their mothers are ignoring them like: Well it’s a BABY. It HAS to cry and bother everyone around them who has paid to sit down and eat a nice dinner. It’s like a “shut up and take it”.

    I don’t mind when kids cry a little but a full out tantrum of tears and screaming would really annoy me. Sorry. It had to be said. Kids need to sleep, eat and be comforted at home. When they cry it means they’re annoyed, frustrated, sad and probably over tired.

    I will also not be one of those mothers who brings a crying baby out in public. I’d rather stay chained in the house than subject others to that, even if it means not going out to restaurants or nice places for months until the baby is okay to be in public without dissolving into a pile of screaming tears.

  4. Val:

    Being a mom myself, and watching friends who are also parents, I think it’s more common to live according to the schedule of babies and your days revolve around it than not. My daughter, while a great sleeper at home, doesn’t sleep when we’re out. Not in a stroller, not in my arms. The first year, I pretty much went out only if I absolutely needed to – ran out the moment she woke up as soon as she was done with her bottle, and ran back home right as she was due for her nap even if it meant I had to go back out after she woke up to finish running the rest of my errands. She still doesn’t sleep when we’re out at 14 months and while she may be okay during the time we’re out, she becomes difficult the following day if she’s had a late night or a missed nap because she is overtired. I’m not as unrelenting with her schedule as I used to be, but I’m still pretty stiff about it. I think you nailed it with “After all, I signed up to be a parent”. Like you, it’s not something I mind. It’s one of those things that just is. Between my husband and I, I’m the one that refuses to leave her with anyone and don’t expect or ask others to drop their lives on a moment’s notice so I can go out and play. I don’t think you’re neurotic. I think it’s called being a mommy. =)

  5. I love this post! We’re going through the same thing. Julia isn’t quite on a set nap schedule yet but we’re right there with you on the 2 hours thing. I have about 45 minutes two or three times a day to get out of the house and go do what I need to do, otherwise we’re either eating, pooping, sleeping, waking up from sleep, or about to sleep. It’s frustrating and it sucks. Fortunately, Julia will nap in the car (although she doesn’t sleep as long or as well as when she’s in her crib) so I can usually time an outing around a nap per day. But otherwise, if she’s not in her crib, in the dark, in the silence, we all pay for it by the end of the day.

    And my family (BOTH my parents and in-laws!) drive me crazy because they don’t seem to get this. Julia likes her bedtime at 7:00 right now, and if we miss it, we’re up for hours later. I hate it when they schedule events that will inevitably run late and mess that up. I’m willing to just pass on things and stay home with her, which is what I do when my family does that, but I really hate getting caught up in the in-law battle with my husband. But what to do? Sacrifice Julia’s sleep (and my sleep since I’m the one getting up with her) or piss off the (usually terrific) in-laws? Same issues arise with friends but they don’t generate the same anxiety when we say no.

    I too don’t get the people who sacrifice their babies’ sleep for their social lives. It’s a basic need! You don’t not feed your baby just cause it’s inconvenient. And I have to cringe when I hear people tell me their three-month old stays awake for six hours at a stretch or that they put their five-monther to sleep at 10:30 because they like to go to the gym after work. But, I remind myself that, just as the parents of a sleep-anywhere-baby can’t understand my baby’s needs, maybe I just don’t get what works for them.

    You can only do the best you can. And it sucks to be so housebound, but you’re really helping Claire thrive and learn and grow by preserving her sleep as best you can. This will only last a few more months – that’s what I keep telling myself!

  6. Emily:

    I completely understand! My little boy is 7 1/2 months and I have been told he is too structured and I should be more relaxed with his schedule, but those people don’t have to live with him. When he was about 5 weeks old we realized he just couldn’t stay up till 7 or 8 it had to be 6 and now it’s like 6:30 but still he is ready at that time no matter where we are!!
    I have never left him more than about 2 hours and that was with my mom like 2 times and with husband a couple of times. When we leave for the night and go stay somewhere I pretty much know we aren’t going to sleep. If his naps are messed up everything is messed up! We have slept over night other places about 6 times and once was a week in California (we live in Illinois) to visit my in laws and I am not exaggerating that he went 48 hours on 4 hours of sleep. because he just couldn’t sleep in their pack n play we tried EVERYTHING… Finally he started sleeping about 2 hours at a time and then I’d nurse and he would sometimes settle back down! HORRIBLE
    I have tried a little nap training at my mom’s in a pack n play and he seems to do okay there after like 5 times of trying to lay him down with the vibrator setting on and if he can’t hear me.
    I sometimes am scared to death that he will always be this tough to parent but my love for him wins out!
    I schedule grocery trips to when he has just woke up or needs a nap so he can sleep in car. but other than that I am tied down too.
    I have decided that now that he sleeps a little better to take him to my mom’s an hour away once a week and go to lunch alone or something so he can be exposed to other people more. We have no family or friends where we now live soo… he is used to us! And that’s rough sometimes when other people want to have him..

    Don’t feel bad we are all doing the best we can!!

  7. Right there with you…Jax is NOT a good sleeper. But neither was my daughter. I was sort of hoping that I paid my dues with the first one, but apparently it doesn’t work that way! I never had to train Jenna to sleep, it took forever, but eventually it just clicked for her. Now, with Jax, I’m 8 years older (8 years more tired) and this getting up 3-4 times a night for an 8 month old is getting really old. I’m ready to start sleep training him…but dreading it all at the same time. He will cry forever if I let him…so I’m not expecting this to be an easy two weeks..

  8. Mary:

    Myself, I don’t mind dropping off my kid with family so that I can get some time away from him but the husband says that we should take him with us every where we go because it is OUR responsibility to watch him because he is OUR kid. Like this past saturday, my older siblings wanted to go out for dinner but they didn’t want us to drag our kid alone. The older siblings childrens are all old enough to stay home and take care of themselves and going out to dinner is a way to get a break from all the children.

    Since we travel to see my parents once or twice a month, the kid’s sleep schedule is ruin and I just don’t have the patience to hold and coddle him until he falls asleep but I deal with it because I NEED to see my family. At home, I plop the kid in his crib, shut the door and he falls asleep whenever he wants too. I can’t do that at my parents because it’s noisy and he doesn’t have a confined space to sleep in.

  9. LHR:

    You are definitely not alone. When C was younger we used to be terrified of messing with his schedule. The implications of a missed nap was just too daunting.

    It wasn’t until he was about 15 months old did we realized that making exceptions to a rigid schedule was ok. We took a trip out to LA when his entire schedule went out the window. 3-hr time difference + being out all day + super late bedtime + Disneyland sensory overload. He’d basically nap in the car whenever he could. Surprisingly, he adjusted to the time zone difference just fine, didn’t self-destruct, and we all had a good time. Exhausted, but good. Looking back, I’m thankful that we were forced to go with the flow. Otherwise, I’m not sure how long it would have taken us to realize that skipping a nap every once in awhile was not the end of the world.

    As Claire gets older and can handle being awake for longer, you can start to be more flexible. Until then, do what you gotta do to keep your family sane, happy, and healthy.

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