“Back to Sleep”?

Isabella has never been a good napper. For the first several months she pretty much slept while someone was holding her and that was it. If you tried to put her down, the eyes popped open and she started to wail.

We’ve long suspected that “back to sleep” was to blame. Dom noted that she’d sleep twice as long when she fell asleep lying face down across his chest. But because we’d read all the experts that said SIDS is reduced dramatically when the baby is put to sleep on her back, we continued to put her down on her back. And put up with the frequent night wakings.

I don’t think it was a coincidence that she began to sleep much longer stretches at night at about the time when she began to be able to roll from her back to her stomach. She could finally sleep the way she liked. Dom worried that we should flip her back to her back, but I figured it would be pointless since she’d just flip right back again. And anyway she was sleeping longer at night and that made me very happy.

But she still didn’t nap during the day. She’d only fall asleep occasionally in the car seat while we we running errands or in the stroller while walking to the park. Or she’d fall asleep while nursing and I could sometimes ease her down into the crib and she’d get about twenty minutes or half an hour. Forty-five minutes tops.

Well recently she’s become much better at sleeping at night. She wakes up once or twice a night several nights a week and one or two nights a week she sleeps through the night. But one thing I notice is that when I put her down at night she immediately turns over onto her belly. (so cute with her little bottom in the air!)

So recently I decided to see if I could improve naptime by making it more like bedtime. After breakfast and then again after lunch, when she’s been rubbing her eyes, I take her to the bedroom, change her diaper, zip her into her sleepsack and nurse her down in the rocker. Then I put her down in the crib face down.

Yesterday afternoon she slept for an hour. This morning for an hour and a quarter.

She still isn’t falling asleep without nursing. Not sure she’s going to manage that before she’s weaned. But at least she’s taking normal length naps. Which is nice for me because I’m getting to the point where I need a nap in the afternoons.

But then there’s still the niggling worry about SIDS and the whole “back to sleep” thing. I know, I know. Our parents put us down to sleep face down and we turned out fine. But there is evidence that putting babies on their back does reduce the incidents of SIDS dramatically.

That’s what’s most frustrating about parenting. There are no easy answers. There are no hard and fast rules. There aren’t even any experts you can trust because five people will give you ten different answers and no two experts will agree on anything. So you make judgment calls. You balance the risks and the benefits and decide what risks you can live with. But you doubt yourself and second guess yourself the entire time. Because you are taking risks with the most precious treasure in the entire world.  And when she looks at you and smiles, you know your life will never be the same again.

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