I’m supposed to go back to work in 2.5 weeks. This has caused me to panic just a bit.
I feel like we’re just finally getting to know Emma. For the first 3 weeks of her life, she was pretty easygoing and slept quite a bit. Then we had the month of her crying almost all day, every day, due to her swallowing too much air during nursing. When she started feeling better, we were on vacation for 2 weeks. So we’ve really only been at home with Emma alert and happy for about 2 weeks – and Emma’s almost 3 months old!
With my return to work looming, I have been feeling pressure to get Emma on a schedule – though we have been following the routine of eat-play-sleep for several weeks, it was at different times everyday. Emma went to bed at a different time, meaning she woke up at a different time. So each day was different. Returning to work, I’ll have to leave the house at a specific time, which means getting Emma up at a specific time. And with Travis traveling for work a lot this summer, I’ll be on my own for many of the days I work. I think a schedule would also be helpful for my friend who is going to be taking care of Emma, so she doesn’t need to constantly guess what Emma wants.
The only problem is, putting her on a 3-hour schedule hasn’t been working. I’ve discovered that Emma’s maximum awake time (from the end of one nap to the beginning of the next) is about an hour and 15 minutes – and that means starting to try to get her to sleep for her nap after about an hour. She’s not awake for very long but anything longer and she gets really fussy and it takes her a very long time to fall asleep.
So she’s awake for about an hour and 15 minutes, and her naps are usually 45 minutes long if I put her down. If I think she needs a longer nap, I’ll hold her for the first 45 minutes and then put her down. She’ll usually sleep an additional 45 minutes that way, but sometimes she wakes up when I try to put her down. Sometimes I’m able to get her back to sleep for a longer nap but lately, I’ve just been feeding her after 2 hours if she’s wide awake. Emma has taken longer naps in the Baby Bjorn, but I think she’s getting to the age when she’s too interested in what’s going on around her that she has to be really tired to sleep in there now.
And we’re still rocking, bouncing, and shushing her to sleep with a pacifier and swaddle, both at bedtime and for her naps. I don’t really see a way around that yet without lots and lots of crying – and I could totally see her being one of those babies who cries so hard they throw up. I’m not ready to go there – and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m mostly hoping that as Emma gets older, her need for that amount of help to sleep will decrease. I know there are plenty of people who would say that we’re teaching Emma to depend on props for sleep, and who knows, they might be right. But right now, we’re parenting with the philosophy of “It’s not a problem until it is.”
Otherwise, it’s easy to drive yourself crazy. I know because I’ve been driving myself crazy. I’ve read about 6 different books on how to get your baby to sleep, plus countless blogs and forum posts. I’ve been so unsure and confused as to what I think we should be doing with Emma that I’ve changed my mind probably about 100 times. I’ve been tempted to laugh/cry when I hear people say, “Do whatever you know is right for your family.” Um, that’s exactly what I don’t know and what I’m trying to figure out. Travis has been very encouraging and laidback, reminding me to just focus on one thing.
The most helpful book I read was Secrets of the Baby Whisperer. It helped me see that going from being rocked to sleep and held during naps to being put down awake and sleeping on her own for naps (she does fine at night) would be a very big and unwelcome change for Emma. So instead of overcorrecting for everything we ‘shouldn’t’ be doing (I have more thoughts on parenting shoulds that I’ll share in a later post) with Emma, we’re taking it slow – focusing first on getting her to sleep in her Rock ‘n’ Play for naps (meaning we get her to sleep and then put her in there). But again, if I can tell that she needs a longer nap or would wake up if I put her down, I just hold her. That’s why I haven’t been blogging a ton! Though I am getting pretty good at writing posts on my phone (which is what I’m doing right now).
So what’s my plan for returning to work? First, I decided to take my full allotment of FMLA leave and not return to work until July 30. This will give Emma another 3 weeks to mature and me an additional 3 weeks to figure out how best to mother her. That way, hopefully I can leave Emma with my friend without worrying about her crying all day – not fun for Emma or Charlotte. But maybe the 4-month sleep regression will make that a hard time to go back too…
Second, I’m continuing the eat-play-sleep routine on a 2 to 3 hour schedule. It has been very helpful for me personally to be ok with feeding Emma every 2 hours if that is when she wakes up. It has taken so much pressure off to not have to make her get to a certain time. And I’m not frustrated when she wakes up after 45 minutes because I expect it (though I hope that she extends her naps as she gets older).
Last, I’m going to stop worrying so much. I’m going to surround myself with similar-minded mothers – those who didn’t let their kids cry it out but can testify that they eventually grow out of whatever phase they’re in. And most of all, I’m going to trust God to guide me and give me the wisdom I need to be the mother that Emma needs and that I’m called to be. Parenting is just one more aspect of the Christian life that requires a moment-by-moment dependence on the Holy Spirit and relationship with Jesus. I don’t have to fear ‘messing it up’ with Emma because God is actively at work in our lives. This verse has been a great comfort to me recently:
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
Parents – how did you decide on your parenting style?