Forgetting the book

My unintended blog hiatus has gone on far too long, but lately I’ve been having a hard time finding even five minutes to write a post.

Vivi’s struggles with napping continues. Today, for example, she woke up at 7AM and nursed, and then I changed out of her diaper and jammies. We played with toys on the floor, sang songs, and read a few books in her room. Around 9:30, she nursed again and started to doze. I attempted to sneak her sleeping self back into her bouncy in her room, but she woke up as soon as I put her down. Somedays, I’ll let her fuss in the bouncy for a little while in the hopes she’ll go back to sleep, but that has yet to work in the daytime. Believe me, I’ve done the fuss-then-soothe, fuss-then-soothe routine during the day so many times, and it never results in sleep when she’s in her bouncy – no matter how long I try to wait her out. If anything, it results in a more tired (and angry) baby because she refuses to let go and then gets really worked up. So, if Vivi wakes after I try to transfer her into the bouncy, I’ll let her talk or fuss for 5-10 minutes, then I’ll pick her up.

Then we begin in earnest my least favorite part of the day, which I affectionately call the “morning nap dance”. I change Vivi’s diaper, nurse her, and then put her down in the swing. I know she has a full tummy and a dry bottom, so if she fusses, I don’t get her out right away. Usually, I’ll let her fuss for only around 10-15 minutes, occassionally walking by to soothe her with a calm voice but not picking her up. If the fuss turns into a full-fledged cry, I get her out almost immediately; I just can’t stomach the “crying so hard I can’t breathe” cry.

Yesterday Vivi talked and fussed for a full hour before she finally went to sleep in the swing (and thank heavens, she slept over an hour – it hardly seems worth it if she only sleeps 30 minutes). I typically wouldn’t leave her fussing for so long, but she was mostly “talking” in a happy sounding voice, so I didn’t bother her.

That’s the thing about the “morning nap dance”: it’s always unpredictable. Rarely, Vivi will quietly slip off into sleep; somedays, she’ll fuss and then drift off to sleep. Mostly, she fusses then begins to cry in earnest until I pick her up.

What’s so confusing to me about napping is that Vivi will fall asleep while nursing, so I assume she’s tired, though she really doesn’t give any other signs of being tired in the mornings. The thing is, when she falls asleep while nursing, it’s really just a light doze – she’s not fully asleep, and when I try to put her down to nap, she seems to be (loudly) telling me that she’s not actually tired.

Back to today… I tried the swing at 10:00. She fussed until 10:15 then started crying, so I got her out. Diaper change. Nursing. Diaper change again. Back to the swing… Vivi cries almost immediately this time, but I give her 10 minutes to try to work through it. Finally, it’s 11:25 – more than an hour after I first tried this failed napping experiment. I decide to concede for a little while and let her play. She smiles at me, laughs when I tickle her tummy, then rolls onto her belly to play with her toys. This does not seem to be a tired baby! She’s not rubbing her eyes; she’s not yawning. She’s happy and not the least bit fussy… unless I try to coerce her into sleep.

Which leads me to the question: is my girl a one-nap baby? The afternoon nap usually goes better… Vivi seems geniunely tired, and though she may protest (i.e. fuss and cry), it rarely if ever takes more than one or two tries to get her to sleep.

My mom gave me a great piece of advice the other day. “The books say I shouldn’t nurse her to sleep, that she should learn to self soothe, that she should be taking 2-3 naps a day…” I said, 100% stressed. “I feel like I’m failing!”

My mom listened to my worries and then wisely pointed out, “when does life ever go by the book?”

How true. Sure, you can read every book there is on sleep, follow other people’s advice on what worked for their baby, and stress about how your child may never sleep (or eat or play or what-have-you) according to the “rule”… but the ultimate truth is this: your baby is an individual. You are an individual. What works for another mom and baby may not work for you – and that doesn’t mean you’re right and they’re wrong – or vice versa.

I try so hard to live “by the book” – to do the “right” thing – and at some point, I just have to stop, take a deep breathe, and remind myself: there is no “right”, there is no “perfect”. Is your baby happy? Is your baby healthy? Yes? GOOD! That’s what matters.

In the end, Vivi played for an hour, then she went to sleep easily with nary a word sound of complaint. Somedays you just have to step back and go with the flow – “the book” can wait.

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