Thursday, January 7, 2010

The (not so) Importance of STTN

It seems being a parent in America today takes knowing a whole lot - whether the Graco or Chicco travel system will match your car interior better, what crib mattresses are on recall, what childbirth class you had better take or else you and your baby will never bond, etc. Apparently, in addition to all of this, you need to know some acronyms. Actually, you become an acronym. After a month of being a mom, I found out that I was an EBFing, WAHM who was also a FTM. Interesting.

As my family and friends know, I frequently read my "baby board," a discussion group of moms (and a few dads) that all have babies born in the same month. There are FFers (formula feeders), BFers (breastfeeders), BWers (baby wearers), CSers (co-sleepers) and even something that I haven't quite figured out yet called ecoBFers. They discuss everything from diapers to pacifiers to what TV shows they watch when up for those late night feedings. But no single topic gets more play than STTN. Hands down, STTN is the winner.

Before my little bundle of joy was born, I never really thought about "sleeping through the night." Honestly, when I was pregnant, there weren't many nights I STTN myself because someone thought my bladder was a perfect kickball. So I assumed that babies are usually awake throughout the night. I was not prepared for the mass confusion and tons of (dissenting) information I was about to receive.

When we came home from the hospital, Ariella woke up every hour at night to eat or be held. I honestly thought it was normal. I was blissfully unaware that some of my friends' babies were STTN by the time they were 5 days old. One day when she was about two weeks old, I read in a magazine words that amazed me..."Don't worry if you are about to become a zombie; most babies STTN by the time they are 3 months old." Wow! I could not believe my eyes! To a woman who had not had more than 3 hours of consecutive sleep in a couple of weeks, that sounded great! I became ravenous for any material I could get my hands on about STTN.

I read so many suggestions...swaddle your baby, use white noise, put her down in her crib awake so that she learns to soothe herself to sleep, sleep with her, don't sleep with her, nurse her to sleep, never nurse her to sleep, on and on and on. I tried all of it. The swaddle did help until my fiesty little one (as her pediatrician called her) started kicking and pulling out of it at 8 weeks old. I tried other swaddling methods, but she got out of all of them. So I stopped swaddling.
We did get her on a routine, like a few of the books suggested, and that seemed to help with her naps (which was another big surprise). No one ever told me babies can only stay awake for about an hour when they are that little! After we got naps down pat, we started working on bedtime. We experimented with timing, routine, to do a bath or not, is she hot? is she cold? is she wet? is she hungry? EVERYTHING. Finally we got some sort of routine and time that seemed to work well...for awhile. (That's another thing I didn't know about babies - they change all the time, if something works for a week or two, it probably won't work in a month!)
All the while, we still have not STTN. We were getting close, down to about 2 wakings per night. Then we went on vacation, she got sick, and now we're back at about 5 wakings per night. Am I tired? Physically, a little. I'm more tired of trying so hard.

Yesterday, I was praying for Ariella and something hit me like a ton of bricks. Who cares if she STTN now? I read a book that said if she doesn't STTN soon, then she will be sure to have ADHD and be more likely to quit high school and end up in jail than those babies that are STTN. I usually finish books, but that one I promptly stopped and took back to the library. Did our grandmothers have all these books? What did they do? What does God think about STTN?

When I read the Bible (the real one, not one of the "What to Expect..." series), I see nothing about STTN. Ok, there are a few passages about sleep. But I don't think my baby is any less Godly because she has never STTN. (Ok, maybe I occasionally think that at 2 am!) What I do see, is that as a mom I had better focus more on developing her character and training her "in the way that she should go" than spending all my time trying to get her to sleep.

When I ask my mom about when I STTN when I was a baby, she doesn't seem to really remember. (And I don't have ADHD, I didn't quit high school and I've never been in jail, thank God!) Back then, they didn't focus on it like we do now. We are so competitive these days, it's almost like a reality TV show, like my baby is going to get "voted off the island" if she is the weakest link. We have Baby Einstein and yoga for babies and did you know your 3 month old can now read and do sign language and go potty?

Please don't think I am saying that sleep is unimportant. I know it is. There is a Yiddish saying, "Eating and drinking and sleeping all come naturally, but praying and studying Torah seem to take much effort." Ariella will STTN when she is ready to. Just as it took us a few days to learn to BF, she will learn to STTN. But I must teach her to pray and study God's Word. Those are the priorities. The other stuff is secondary. We have to keep first things first. And in my four and a half months as a mom, that's what I've learned.

Oh, gotta go...someone just woke up!


Janell said...

I totally agree with you! My first son slept through the night at about 3 months but then would go through phases when he would wake up at night. I just cuddled with him on a recliner and we both slept just fine. He's 4 now and sleeps 7pm-7am!
My second son is a whole different story. He is 18 months old and still gets up 2-3 times a night! Right now he is a little sick so he woke up at like 10 last night and did not fall back to sleep until after midnight. I pray he gets into a better routine soon!
I thank God I have a wonderful husband who lets me sleep in a little and takes care of the kids in the morning.
Sometimes when he does sleep well during the night I wake up afraid something is wrong :)

Jenny M said...

I couldn't do it without my awesome husband. He takes her in the morning as well and lets me sleep in. He's the best!

Megan and Jason said...

Jennifer...thank you for your beautiful post. As moms, especially of little babies (but I'm sure it happens as they get bigger too), it is so easy to focus on milestones, or what they can do that will make life easier, etc. Thanks for reminding me that nothing is ever as important as molding this little life to love and serve the Lord and praying for him! Have a wonderful weekend! God bless you guys!

Joanna said...

Love this! Thanks for sharing. Glad to see you are getting enough sleep to write again!! ;) She'll STTN when she's ready and it will be a distant memory.

WendyMom said...

What a beautifully written blog, DD! (I bet you know that stands for dear daughter, don't you?)I see there seems to be a lot of "milestone pressure" for mommies these days in this high-tech world. I felt a twinge of guilt when I read it because I was thinking of buying 'Baby can Read' for Ariella in the fuure, but how silly is that, let her be a baby, develop normally, and learn to read by watching mommy and daddy and aunts and uncles and granparents interact with her in the thousands of communication moments she will experience in the next 5 years. Let her discover that "books take you to places you want to be" when you cuddle with a family member and read together.

When you were preschool age there was a lot of pressure among the mommies to enroll my 4 and 3 year-olds in Dance and buy expensive costumes for you and your sister to wiggle and wriggle in on a stage. We didn't keel in to the pressure, thanks to your dad. While your little friends and the mommies went off to class, the three of us played Birdhouse on the swings or went to Story Hour at the Public Library. You suffered not a bit of social disgrace for not being a part, your friends liked you just as much and you and Beth both grew up to be extremely Godly, intelligent and talented young women. Incidentally, I believe 0% of the little dancers grew up to be in a chorus line or on Broadway.

Keep doing what God's called you to do. I can't remember when you and Beth STTN, but I do remember watching "Dobie Gillis" on CBN in the middle of the night with you while you played on the floor, sitting up unsupported (obviously you were over 6 months). I just adjusted my thinking- I had a wonderful husband working hard so I could stay home with our baby, and if she wanted my company at 2am, then we hung out together. No one else could ever say they had the joy of being the mother of a wonderful baby named Jennifer Dare. And now Ariella has the distinct pleasure of being HER daughter!

His Talmidat said...

This made me laugh, thanks! Not that sleep, or lack thereof, is a laughing matter. But it is just such the forefront of our minds isn't it?! My 3 1/2 yr old has fought sleep from the day she was born. She needs it, but oh how she hates it! That and food seem to be the daily struggle. But I appreciate your reminder of what is truly important. May our lack of sleep not hinder our showing of God's love. Thanks again.

bubbeedee said...

Well said! You certainly have your priorities straight and it seems like you're fairly relaxed especially for a new mom - a guaranteed recipe for successful parenting! Keep up the good work sweetie! Love, Lisa

Anonymous said...

IM going threw this as well trying to get him on a schedule mostly but I have a 3yr old that also doesnt sleep threw the night wakes up screaming, throwing tantrums in his sleep or just wont go
back to bed. SO as soon as my 4mth old is sleeping my 3yr old comes in and wakes him screaming so I have two screaming at 4am and we wont sleep at all. Life is rough sometimes I cant even function. I pray all the time for some relief because my DH is either at work or school and Im hear by myself dealing with all of this. most days my chest hurts so bad from all the stress and no sleep its just not healthy im 34yrs old and shouldnt feel like this. my son wakes up at 3 and at 6am he changes it up on me ever so often. So I guess what im trying to say is getting him to STTN is my goal for my health, so I can be in a better mood to my children so I can function correctly, drive a car. Im teaching my kids about God and I know God would want me to maintain a healthy state of my mind