When I was pregnant I spent at least three straight months agonizing over which bassinet to buy.
What I should’ve done was grill every parent I knew on how to get my baby to actually sleep in that bassinet (you probably know where this is going, but I’ll say it anyway: the bassinet itself turned out to be the least important part of sleeping).
Because once my baby came, I was shocked at how mega-complicated baby sleep actually is.
Call me ignorant, but I interpreted “sleep like a baby” literally. I read children’s literary classic Love You Forever, which led me to believe you can even stalk and disturb sleeping babies and they won’t wake up. ALL THOSE INSTAGRAM PHOTOS OF SLEEPING BABIES HAD ME FOOLED. Damn you, Laura Iz!
I thought babies slept like… adults. Very sleepy adults.
After surveying a bunch of new moms, I was happy to know I wasn’t alone.
“Long story short, bubs wakes up every time I put him down. Then I give him my nipple until he sleeps. Then he only takes 15 minute naps. My entire day revolves around me trying to get him to sleep or stay asleep.” – Jenna
“This is the cycle: I give up on my baby’s daytime sleep schedule and let him stay awake. He gets overtired and starts screaming. I try to get him to sleep. I give up. I read about how necessary sleep is for baby’s development. I try to get him to sleep. Over and over and over and over until he randomly decides to sleep in his car seat while I drive to Target.” – Sigourney
So for all you moms-to-be and new moms who would like to feel less hopeless because there are a lot of us out there experiencing the same shock of baby sleep, I present the 5 baby sleep mindfucks:
Baby is not OK with “drowsy but awake.”
All the sleep experts will tell you to put baby in the bassinet when he’s “drowsy but awake,” so you rock him oh-so gently until his eyes flutter and roll backwards then pray to the Universe/Source Energy/Jesus/anyone holy willing to listen that you don’t startle him as you lower him down at a glacial pace while keeping him close to maintain as much body heat as possible. However, as soon as you release him, his eyes beam open and he’s wide awake (and potentially very angry with you for trying to let go of him).
Baby won’t stay asleep because: short wake cycles.
You give up on “drowsy but awake,” so you decide, Fuck it, I’m going to let him fall deeply asleep in my arms, THEN sneakily move him into the bassinet. Brilliant! Aha! Not so brilliant, mom. Because baby might stay asleep after the transfer (if you’re lucky), but his sleep cycles are short (45 minutes, as opposed to our 90) and he’ll eventually wake up pissed and confused because he remembers last sleeping in the coziness of his mother’s arms but now he’s in a flat, hard box. Waaaah!
Baby only prefers sleeping in places that are apparently very SIDSy.
After learning your baby loathes the bassinet, you soon learn he loves sleeping in every other location and sleeping position that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states will increase your odds of SIDS. He falls asleep instantly in his swing or rock ‘n’ play. In bed with your fluffiest duvet and sheets. On the Boppy baby lounger. In his Bjorn bouncer. Baby also likes sleeping on his stomach. You agonize over whether you should move him to the bassinet knowing full well he’ll wake up. You decide to be that mom who listens to the AAP and move him. Eyes open!
Baby is sleeping even though he looks (and is) acting completely awake.
Your baby is finally asleep. But then he wakes up. Or… did he? He’s crying. His eyes are opening and closing. He’s kicking. Oh yeah, definitely awake. No but wait. His eyes are closing. He’s crying. If you wake him up while he’s actually sleeping, you just lost precious minutes if not hours of me-time. If he’s actually awake but you’re just sitting there wondering if he’s sleeping, then you’re not helping your helpless little baby. But it’s OK because he’s definitely sleeping. While flailing? Wait, is the French Le Pause supposed to last this long? How do the French know when their babies are awake?
Baby might sleep in the car seat or stroller when you’re out. Operative word: might.
You and your partner finally decide to go out and extricate yourself from the confines of home and back into society. Your baby is nice and snug in the car seat as you drive to the restaurant. He quickly passes out thanks to the nice hum of the engine and bumpy ride. When you get to the restaurant, your baby wakes up and enjoys the new surroundings. Until mid-steak, your baby gets tired because it’s nap time, except now the car seat isn’t as lulling because it’s not inside a moving car. Baby gets crankier and crankier until he’s screaming at the top of his tiny little lungs. You curse the day you decided to eat out (how dare you try to eat!), frantically throw everything into your diaper bag, apologize to your friends and get the hell out of dodge.