Thursday, November 5, 2009

Daylight Savings Dilemna

You may have noticed the circles under SchmoopyBaby’s eyes in the picture in my last post. There is a very good reason for this – the end of daylight savings time. This event has been the cause of much unhappiness and lack of sleep here at chez-Schmoopy. We even started the transition a week early. The idea was to move bedtime 15 minutes later every 3-4 days until November 1, and hopefully he would start to sleep in later in the morning.

That idea was a big fail.

Here’s the problem - SchmoopyBaby is very sensitive to being over-tired. Pretty much every sleep expert, from Weissbluth who advocates a fairly hardcore version of cry-it-out sleep training, to Pantley of no-cry sleep fame, all agree on one thing – if your baby or toddler is having a hard time sleeping through the night, try putting him/her to bed earlier. They aren’t kidding. You might think it is totally counter-intuitive that a baby or toddler that goes to sleep earlier will sleep longer, but it’s totally true, at least it is for SchmoopyBaby. Moving his bedtime ½ hour earlier got him sleeping 10-10½ hours every night for months! And here we are putting him to sleep later and later each day. Ugh. The night wakings started back up on the first night. Combine that with the fact that he was waking up for the day earlier rather than later and we were starting to make plans to move to Arizona or Hawaii, where there is no time change.

Bedtime is 8:00pm. For most of this week he’s been waking up around 4:30am. I can usually get him back to sleep within about 15 minutes, which is good, only to have him wake up again between 5:00 and 5:30 (the old 6:00-6:30, his usual wake up time) which is not so good. A lot of parents I know are big supporters of cry-it-out, and from what I understand, for most (but not all) kids it works. Kiddo may wake up at 6, but Mom and Dad don’t get up until 7, so Kiddo stays in the crib until the parents are good and ready to pick Kiddo up. Within a couple of days, Kiddo is also back to sleeping until 7.

I have not been, and will not be, following this method for transitioning to standard time. I have a couple of reasons for this.

1. Not my style. There are many forms of sleep training that involve some amount of crying, from the very mild to the hardcore, and I don’t have much problem with the mild forms if it means a child learns to sleep better and the whole family is happier and healthier as a result of being more well-rested. But turning off the baby monitor and ignoring my child’s cries for an hour is just not the kind of parent I want to be. For starters, I don’t believe an hour of unchecked crying is challenging my kid to rise to the next level of his sleeping skills, I think it’s neglect. Additionally, one of my goals as a parent is to teach SchmoopyBaby empathy. One the ways I try to teach this is through my own actions, because I believe parental modeling is a huge influence on behavior. By ignoring his cries for over an hour, I believe I would be demonstrating that it’s ok to ignore another person’s distress. Now, obviously this is not the defining action that would turn my son into an axe murderer. I know it’s the cumulative impact of everything he sees and experiences - but I’m trying to be consistent in my messages starting from day 1, ya know what I mean?

2. The morning poop. This may be an even bigger influencer on my getting up with Schmoopy in the morning. Apparently SchmoopyBaby’s digestive system didn’t get the memo that the clocks changed and the morning poop ought to wait an extra hour before making its appearance. I cannot allow, let alone force, my child to sit or lay crying in a pile of feces in order to make a point that I’m the parent and I decide when wake-up time is. I’ve changed his diaper and tried getting him back to sleep after the morning poop. Resistance is futile. The biological clock is stronger than the digital.

I do think SchmoopyBaby is finally starting to adjust. Yesterday, even though he woke up twice early in the morning, he didn’t get up for the day until 7:15, over 11 hours after bedtime! Then this morning, although he only slept until about 5:45, he slept completely through the night! It is still very inconsistent obviously, but hopefully within the next few days he’ll transition back to his normal schedule (if the poop could only wait just another 30 minutes!!!) and then he’ll be back to his bright-eyed happy self. If not, we’ll re-evaluate our strategy over the weekend.

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