Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sleep-Training, NICU-Style

My youngest, Baby G, is going through a phase. A "bad-sleeper" kind of a phase. For whatever reason (teeth? sunburn? growth spurt? random development shift?), she is not the super sleeper she once was. I'm not writing this to rant about that. Truthfully, it hasn't been that bad for me. She still naps and she'll sleep like a rock at night... so long as it's right next to her mama's side. While I'm not a "co-sleeper" by nature, we'll make it through this stage...

When I think back, my first-born was a super sleeper too. But he, like G, had a couple of phases that required some extra "mama attention". I remember them as being tough times. I even remember a stretch where I feared he would never sleep more than six hours a night ever again. But he did. We made it through.

She had no such phases as a baby.

We never had to even have a real "routine" to get C to sleep (though we did)... we could simply place her in her bed and she'd go to sleep. This was kind of a blessing since she was hooked up to so many tubes and machines... pacing, going for a drive, or even rocking would have been complicated.

Was it just her temperament? No... I don't think so. She's arguably the feistiest of my children. She can be demanding, defiant, and is sometimes prone to crying fits.

But she'd just go to sleep.

Why? Because she'd been inadvertently "sleep-trained" by three and a half months in the NICU.

And that makes me sad if I think about it too much.

I should probably point out before I go on that I am NOT a cry-it-out kind of a mama. I'm not judging (and I realize that it works well for some), but I cannot do it. I don't have the strength to hear my babies sob and not go to them. I also don't really like the idea of my baby eventually stopping crying not so much because she's not sad anymore but because she has learned that, even if she cries, I will not come. I'm sorry if that view offends any of you, but I cannot help the fact that that is how I perceive it.

At my home, a crying baby is a priority. Can I always get there immediately? No. Sometimes it takes me a moment. But that crying baby is near, if not at, the top of my list.

But at the NICU? Understandably, a crying baby often has to wait... sometimes long enough to just give in and fall asleep. This is because the nurses are doing their JOBS... they are attending to babies whose health hangs in the balance... babies who are sometimes in great distress and truly, truly need immediate attention. The NICU nurses I know are amazing people who enjoy snuggling and soothing the babies... I have no doubt they would try to comfort each crying baby if they could. They just can't all the time.

And so, those babies who spend a long stint in the NICU often come out "sleep-trained".

Was it nice to have a baby who self-soothed so easily?

I guess so.

I just wish I didn't have to wonder if she just didn't trust that I'd come...

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