Sleeping Like a Baby

Sleeping Like a Baby

Kathy Ellerbeck, MD, FAAP

Kathy Ellerbeck, MD, FAAP

When one of my friends told me “she slept like a baby” I asked what was wrong with her!   When my babies were babies – they didn’t sleep much!

We have funny family stories now – but back then getting our two girls to sleep was exhausting!

When babies are eight or nine months old, they often have separation anxiety.  And going to bed meant SEPARATION to my Samantha.   In the beginning we would stay with her until she fell asleep.   This would take well over an hour.  And she would wake up with the smallest noise.  I remember my husband sitting by Sam’s crib until she fell asleep…and then rolling out of the room so that the floorboards wouldn’t creak and wake her up!

Next we turned to the experts.  There was the book by Dr. Benjamin Spock.  This book recommended that we “put the baby to bed awake, leave the room, close the door, and don’t go back”.  This wasn’t effective for Sam or me.  She cried for more than an hour and my husband had to lock me out of the house so I wouldn’t pick her up.  That lasted one day.  Dr. Spock said it might take three days.

Finally a neighbor gave us a book called “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” by Richard Ferber.  This was popular among all the parents who lived on our block.   Our neighbors would walk by and ask “Have you Ferberized your baby yet?”    This was a gentler way to get Sam to sleep.  We did what they call “gradual extinction”.  With this method, you put the baby to bed awake and then leave the room.  BUT – you can come back in two minutes.  You aren’t supposed to pick the baby up or talk to her – but she can see you and you can see her…and then you go away again…maybe for five minutes…and you keep extending the time.  And the baby goes to sleep.  This mostly worked for us.

But then our girls became toddlers.  Toddlers have lots of fears.  And I’m not sure we always handled them well.  When Sam was three, she saw Peter Pan.  And she decided that she couldn’t go to sleep because there were pirates under the bed.   First we told her that pirates wouldn’t FIT under the bed – she slept on a futon!  We also told her that her stuffed bunny (known as “Magic Bunny”) had magic powers and would get rid of the pirates.  Sam said, “But Mommy and Daddy, Magic Bunny isn’t real” – and we had just confirmed for her that the pirates were!

We finally got rid of pirates.  But then Ali turned three and decided that the real problem was sharks.  She had seen sharks at the Baltimore Aquarium, and she knew they lived in salt water.  And somehow she knew that tears were salty.  So she told us that when she cried about going to bed at night…well, there might be sharks.  Which is why she shouldn’t go to bed.

Once Ed and I got our acts together and developed a more consistent bedtime routine…sleep got easier for all of us.  We read books and sang lullabies.  And bedtime became a favorite time.  Twenty years later I remember word for word (or mostly word for word) my favorite lullaby. So, while I’m not sure that I ever understood why “sleeping like a baby” is supposed to be a good thing – I hope that you can make bedtime a special time….a time that everybody will remember.

The Tucking In Song (by Lois Duncan and Robin Arquette)

Just one drink of water is all you will get
With two drinks of water the bed might get wet
With three drinks of water and one swallow more
You’ll find yourself floating right out of the door

So one drink of water, one small cup of water
Just one drink of water, and not a drop more
Just one bedtime story is all we will read
For two bedtime stories are more than you need

And three bedtime stories would keep us all night
We wouldn’t get done ‘til the sky filled with light
So one bedtime story, one fairytale story
One happy-end story is all for tonight

Just one goodnight kiss on the tip of your nose
And ten goodnight kisses on all of your toes
A hundred more kisses – that seems like too few
There just aren’t enough for a baby like you.
‘Cause kisses are different, and kisses are special
And one goodnight kiss, well that just wouldn’t do!

*The lullaby isn’t free – but the whole CD of Songs From Dreamland is lovely…


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