This post isn't cutesy or full of adorable pictures. It's about a learning experience. It's funny how much of the baby's 'problems' turn out to be caused (unintentionally) by the parents. Rory has never been a good napper, but he was such a good baby, it didn't really matter. About 4 weeks ago his naps became even shorter than usual, I was lucky if he stayed asleep for 30 minutes, I would pray for at least 20. Rory really wasn't struggling too much with this nap schedule, but I had been religiously following Babywise and that stated he should be sleeping for an hour and a half every 3 hours. Sleep, change, eat, play, sleep repeated every 3 hours. With Rory's 30 minute naps resulted in his schedule repeating every 2 hours, and so he wasn't extremely hungry when it was time to eat (since his last meal had been so recent). I started to have anxiety attacks over this, I must have been doing something wrong. Desperately I tried to find an answer online, or in books. I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, which did help me learn to recognize his nap cues better, but the book was so full of what horrible awful things happen to children who don't nap that I felt like a total failure. I was ruining my baby, and I didn't know how to fix it. I was trying to force Rory to fit the schedule he was 'supposed' to be on. In the mean time, Rory was getting fussier and fussier everyday and Dalan and I were at the end of our rope.
The anxiety became so intense that it started affecting me physically and emotionally. I stopped eating breakfast and lunch and I would be standing in the kitchen, and start to sob, for no reason at all. I got behind on housework since I now spent every second Rory slept watching the baby monitor and crying every time he moved or looked like he was about to wake up. I felt completely inadequate as a parent and started having regrets about being a mom. Rory would be better off in a different family where the mom knew what she was doing, and she would know how to get him to take productive naps and therefore, not condemn his future. I was sane enough to realize that these thoughts weren't normal and I contacted a helpline regarding Postpartum Depression.
Sadly, it took over a week for my local Postpartum support rep to respond back to me. In the meantime, I thankfully worked things out for myself. In my hours of internet searching trying to find an answer for what I had done wrong, I came across a sample schedule for a 4-month old. This schedule stated that 4-month olds are usually horrible nappers, and the sample schedule was based on a baby who only wanted to take half hour naps. This was a huge turning point for me, I just needed some sort of validation that I hadn't broken my baby.
Once I realized that 30 minute naps were ok, I started paying close attention to Rory's cues. 1 hour and 15 minutes after being awake, Rory is ready for his nap. Sometimes he doesn't even eat between naps, and thats ok. My baby is thriving and happy on this baby-led schedule and I feel so much more in control once I could accept the fact that my baby takes 30 minute naps. Now I know that I can get housework done, it just needs to be in five 30-minute intervals during the day.
Rory still sleeps well at night. I was jealous and upset that he wasn't sleeping in 12 hour stretches like some of my friends' babies, Rory sleeps a total of 11 hours every night, and wakes up once during that time to feed. I've since met a family with a baby the same age as Rory who wakes up every 3 hours to feed at night! How lucky am I?
Now that I've decided to go with the flow, I've been able to actually get out of the house with Rory! Before I didn't dare leave, because he might end up wanting a nap, and having a meltdown. Now that I can guestimate what time he will want his next nap, and watch his cues, I make sure to have him home for naptime, or to have an environment ready where he can take a quick snooze. Last week we went to infant story time at the library and to play group. He was great at both, but just took a little snoozer while I sat in the corner and held him. We've started going for walks during the day, even just to take out the trash and that helps with the cabin fever a lot too.
I think my anxiety/depression was caused by quite a few factors, I've had crazy hormones going on associated with my breast milk drying up and also the return of my monthly cycle (this was shortly after my worst meltdown, it's always nice to realize you can totally blame that stuff on PMS). I was also feeling very isolated and lonely while Dalan was at work. I've met some great mom's through play group and also at church that have been a huge help.
So, it a nutshell. All babies are different. What works for your baby, will probably not work for mine. Authors can give generalities, but there is no guarantee that what they have to preach will be right for you or your baby, and that's just fine. As long as my baby is happy and healthy, we'll keep doing what we're doing.
And as a funny little sidenote, Rory got his shots yesterday and has been cranky and fussy all day. He's currently napping and just passed hour #2, so I got to write a blog post about his half hour naps, during a 2+ hour nap.