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Saturday, June 18, 2005

to sleep and sleep not

so one of the things our pediatrician told us -- when we mentioned our child refuses to sleep on her back -- was that it's time to start teaching her to sleep better. it's time, basically, for BABY BOOT CAMP. this little kid is like a koala -- she's not happy unless she's clinging to you. and she only falls asleep when she's upright. you'll be pacing the hall, up and down and up and down and up and down, holding her upright until she doses off. she's peaceful, angelic, asleep in your arms. you figure it's a good time to lie her down on her back or side (BUT NOT HER STOMACH FOR THE LOVE OF GOD) in her bassinet and carefully tip-toe away.

you would think. but you would be, how do you say?, wrong. the second the baby suspects that she's about to be banished to the hellish solitude of her bed, she loses her mind. she can't talk yet but i am pretty sure she's saying "whoa! where the fuck do you think you're going, turkeyneck? PICK ME UP OR I WILL SCREAM UNTIL YOUR COLON BLEEDS." i know the conventional wisdom is that it's a battle of the wills -- you have to duke it out early and show the little shit who's boss. well, yeah. you try getting anything done in this house: i walk with her until she falls asleep. i put her down. i get settled in and begin drinking doing a little work. she snuffles and snorts. i ignore her. she starts screaming. i dig my fingernails into the soft flesh of my palms. she turns dark purple. i cave.

i pick her up. but not for long. i walk with her until she falls asleep, which now requires having one or more of my fingers in her mouth to soothe her. i put her down. thank god she doesn't have motor control because i swear she would shiv me at this point. i pick her up and repeat the process. after failing to convince her for the 37th time to fall asleep, i become totally irrationally angry with her, a tiny baby. "you want to walk?" i ask her. "YOU WANT TO WALK?! i'll fucking walk, kid. we're going to walk FOR DAYS. you're going to be BEGGING ME TO PUT YOU DOWN. we are going to walk my legs down to bloody nubs. i'll show you walking." this, of course, is exactly what she wants. so, i lose. and she's not even two months old yet.

there was an excellent concert at the park near our house last night -- top flight jazz line-up: james carter, charlie hunter, the bad plus. brilliant. brooklyn rules. so mrs nice guy and i packed a picnic, grabbed the stroller and set up camp on the lawn by the bandshell. five minutes after we get there the kid, who was on track to sleep for the next 3 hours, decides to have a very public meltdown. in our neighborhood, that's ok. everyone in park slope is either a parent, a small child, or having a meltdown. but it's a little stressful when it's YOUR kid that's melting and all you want to do is hang out on the grass, sipping wine and enjoying a show with everyone else and their non-melting-down babies. it was not meant to be. after 16.1 minutes--after charlie hunter had barely noodled through 10 bars on his eight-string guitar--we caved. put her in the stroller and walked home. she was asleep by the time we walked through the door. baby wins again.

but. do you want to know our dirtiest little horrible secret? do you?

come closer.

lean in.

promise you won't tell anyone, but ...

sometimes, in the darkest moments of our soul-blackened despair, we let her sleep on her stomach.


look. when i was her age, i slept on my stomach. i turned out fine, right? (don't answer that.) our baby has none of the SIDS risk factors; the kid loves sleeping on her stomach, and quite frankly, we rather love clinging to the vestigial shreds of our sanity. so she sleeps on her stomach. and we're not alone! mrs nice guy and i have a couple friends with babies ... they let them sleep on their stomachs too! there is a quiet revolution happening in the parenting undreground, people! rise-up! i mean didn't we all sleep on our bellies? back in the day, doctors even recommended it! (this is, of course, deeply flawed logic because i believe back then they also used to prescribe menthols as treatment for esophageal lesions.) anyway. she's asleep on her stomach right now! ha! what are you going to do about it sleep nazis?! scream at me? i got people screaming at me here ALL THE TIME. i can take anything you --

ah hell. she just woke up.

yep. there she goes.

i am a tiny, broken man.

hold me.


Blogger Candace said...


Hey! Sleep nazis! Look over there! It's fluffy bedding and stuffed animals!

OK, now that they're gone, we let both of our kids sleep on their stomachs when we had to do so in order to make sure we didn't kill them. Actually, I remember that my daughter loved sleeping in her car seat (the portable kind that snaps into the base). LOVED it. I'd put the whole damned thing into her crib. Until she started rolling over, she slept for up to...ready?...6 hours at a time. Hand to God. Then when she could roll over on her own, she chose to sleep on her stomach. With her little butt sticking up in the air. Nothin' better than that.

Do what you have to do, dude. Totally.

6/19/2005 12:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mt 7 week old daughter sleeps in her bouncy seat, and has since we came home from the hospital.

No doubt she'll end up with a crippling spinal deformity, but I need to sleep longer than 20 minutes at a time, and walking is overrated anyway, right?

*weeps softly*

6/19/2005 2:22 AM  
Blogger cafemama said...

hi! no way am i holding you. anyhoo, we're stomach sleepers here. when i hear the stuff about sids i stick my fingers in my ears and sing LA LA LA LA I'M not listening... two boys, no problems yet!

6/19/2005 2:32 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6/19/2005 2:49 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

I know I was a back-sleeping baby, as I was strapped into a horrible brace of doom for the first six weeks of my life that left me in a permanently spread eagled on my back position. Let me tell you, the baby pictures are not cute, but that's not my point.

Did anyone actually go to the SIDs page and notice that at the bottom it says "Enjoy your baby!" And did anyone else start to think of "your baby" as a tasty delicacy, like good hot dog, or a pumb turkey or something?

Just wondering.

6/19/2005 2:50 AM  
Blogger Joy said...

I love your blog so much! I don't want to be a killjoy, but I was a nanny for a baby that died of SIDS, after, I shit you not, her father put her to sleep on her stomach because he couldn't deal with the crying.

It was the most horrible grief I've ever experienced, and I wasn't even one of her parents. I'm pretty sure that their sanity was in worse shape than when she had been alive and crying.

Sorry for the happy tummy sleeping buzz kill. I suck, I know.

6/19/2005 4:19 AM  
Blogger desertUndine said...

Hey - I love the blog. I personally think that how your kid sleeps is your choice, and it's stupid for others to rag on you.

We have a "family bed" that has worked out just fine for us, and no one really would know - they say that it makes it so your kids have sleep problems later, but our 6 year old sleeps FINE in her own bed without ONE problem. Our littlest one is still in our bed and will be until she's ready to move into her own bed. That's our decision, and too bad what everyone else thinks of us.

If you made the decision to have your daughter on her tummy so you don't go mad, it is NOT my place to judge you.

I totally agree - I was placed on my tummy to sleep, and the "experts" were the ones that told my mom to do so. Funny - the "experts" contracdict eachother year to year and no one really knows why they are "experts". Frankly, I think I'm an expert - I've had 2 kids and they are both just fine, thank you.

6/19/2005 4:01 PM  
Anonymous Chloe said...

Have you looked into slings? I swear that they have saved my husband and from insanity. We carry our babe in it and can still use our hands and he falls asleep within 5 minutes of being put in it. When he is asleep, we just slip off the sling and lay him down while still tucked inside. There are a million different kinds, but this is what we use: In fact, she has a picture of my husband holding our son in one on her page.

6/19/2005 4:10 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

Not being a parent yet, I can't imagine how much of a baby's screaming it would take to drag me away from Charile Hunter! Are you kidding me?

6/19/2005 7:44 PM  
Blogger emjaybee said...

I was just going to second chloe on the slings. I have no real-world experience yet to back it up, but I've talked to parents who swear by it. Keeps the baby close to you, but your arms free, it's a bit swaddly and comforting to them.'

Think about it this way: kid's been snuggled tight in the uterus, warm and carried around wherever mom went; suddenly she's out here and it's colder, and then the snuggling goes away, and she's just not ready for it yet. Like moving to country and missing the sound of car alarms and not being able to sleep. So you keep things as womb like as possible for a bit. Think of them as tiny agoraphobes; not used to all the space around them, they freak out.

That's the theory, anyway. Good luck.

6/19/2005 10:19 PM  
Anonymous spinklicious said...

You may be able to derive some comfort from the reduced risk of plagiocephaly.

By the by, my sister let her screaming baby sleep on her tummy, in her crib, in the baby's own separate room, with the BABY MONITOR TURNED OFF since she was a week old. The kid just turned a year old and is lovely with a perfectly rounded head.

6/19/2005 10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both of my kids slept on their stomachs and are just fine. In fact my son couldn't breath any other way. He was always very congested, (bad allergies from birth)and we had to elevate his bed as well as put him on his stomach. I agree with the others about the sling. I used one for my daughter and she loved it. It goes up to 35 lbs. and the baby can be carried in many different positions. Slings are also very useful for discrete public nursing if prefered. My daughter's three now (she weighs 30 lbs) and I still use the sling. They are a very wise baby purchase.

6/20/2005 12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nora slept in two positions: vertical/clingy and on her stomach. And she still sleeps on her stomach.

6/20/2005 10:17 AM  
Anonymous anonymous fred said...

Your blog is sooooo HILARIOUS!!! The funniest thing my brother and I have read for ages. We're making it our mission to direct as many readers here as possible. After I, uh, I mean WE take over the world, that is. >=D

6/20/2005 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might be worth a trip to Target to pick up a sleep positioner. Then you can at least see if she likes sleeping on her side, its not perfect but it is better than her stomach for SIDS.

6/20/2005 10:57 AM  
Blogger Hostile in Ohio said...

Okay, first off, there is no such rule that you have to send baby to boot camp on sleeping. Try the "No Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabth Pantley, and don't EVER assume you have to CIO. I won't get on my soapbox about this, but please think about it? Maybe borrow and read The Baby Book by Dr. Sears? Okay off my soapbox...

I, whatever number we are on, the sling idea. They are wonderful, really really wonderful. A life saver, the baby's life mostly. I have a Moby Wrap, LOVE IT! It is really great any time baby is sick and wants held constantly. You can still function! There are also ring slings, mei tais (not the drink!), and pouches. I have a friend who makes slings Slings make breastfeeding easier (especially the wraps) since you can do so handsfree.

We cosleep (i.e. baby in our bed) so the sleep nazis are far FAR too busy harassing me to bother with ANOTHER parent who allows a little tummy sleeping for sanity's sake.

6/20/2005 2:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

after my kid was born, being that i had no idea about kids at all, i went to one of those mums things where they tell you what you should do with them. and one week we had this woman who INSISTED on routine - as in, you must wake your child up every three hours and feed them, they cant be allowed awake more than x amount of hours, etc. and then another week, we had this woman who totally advocated doing whatever it was that kept you sane as long as you didnt kill your child. i liked her a lot better. anyway, it kind of illustrated to me that pretty much no one has any idea what the 'best' way to look after kids is.

personally? i FED my kid to sleep, which was a huge no-no amonsgst everyone i came into contact with. but you know what? he was also the only kid in that group that would sleep through the night by the time he was 7 weeks old, and hes never stopped doing that (of course there was the bit where we stopped feeding him to sleep and left him to put himself to sleep (thats loud) and the bit where he moved into a real bed and he could get OUT and NOT sleep, but thats a different story).
in conclusion?
sometimes other parents (and people) will tell you that you're doing things wrong. sometimes they're genuinely concerned about what you're doing! and sometimes they're just pissed off that you're doing better than they are/did at that stage.

6/20/2005 6:13 PM  
Blogger Ted said...

Flipping doctors are stupid. I've had one that only sleeps on his back, one that only sleeps on his stomach. They are both still alive.

6/20/2005 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New reader - love your blog.

I was so paranoid with my first, I checked him constantly, wrung my hands when he began to flip himself onto his stomach (I even used to flip him back over, sometimes waking him up!)

He finally slept through the night at 26 months.

My second sleeps through the night on his stomach at 5 months.

My mom thinks that doctors are deliberately cruel to babies these days - no solids, no milk, no water, back sleeping only, black and white patterns, etc. etc.

(I think she may be right)

6/20/2005 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My son did the sleep upright, on belly or cry thing and I started swaddling him around 2 months and it changed my LIFE! Pick up the "Happiest Baby on the Block" and it teaches you how to do it so it won't come undone. It's tight and you'll feel cruel but it stops the crazy flailing arms that wake them up...He almost immediately started sleeping 6 hours at a was fucking awesome. And btw he's now 9 months and sleeps on his belly every night. They can overheat on their belly so use a very light blanket or skip it.

6/20/2005 11:52 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

The trick to guilt-free family-sleep? Let her sleep on her stomach -- on YOUR stomach. Just go belly to belly with the brat, and you'll both be out and snoring like a pair of happy winos.

6/27/2005 1:47 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Just wanted to let you know that my daughter died of SIDS. She didn't have any risk factors either. I am not telling you this to scare you by any means. I am telling you this because I think you should keep doing what you're doing. I have learned that when the higher power says it's time for these little souls to go back, there is nothing you can do about it. Keep loving your little one and giving her all the love in the world. You all are doing great...oh, and for The No Cry Sleep Solution. It is great.

6/28/2005 2:01 PM  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

k, i am so sorry to hear that. thank you for your kind words -- and thank you for not taking the tone of this site the wrong way. i really feel terrible for your loss.

6/28/2005 4:12 PM  

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