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Baby Sleep…please baby please!

Over the holidays I became a grandmother…

of a new kitten. Being already gifted at anthropomorphizing, I soon felt like one of my clients.

It felt so great and so right to have this kitten sleep on us for all of her sleep. She is so tiny, so soft and so vulnerable.  She had just left her litter, her mommy, and all she knew for the 9 short weeks of her little life.

We spent the holiday “bonding” with our new family member. I loved hearing my two children talk about this important concept of bonding with her. They discussed at length how to make her feel safe and trusting.

Once they went back to school after winter break, I was confronted with the little blue eyed monster we had created. When she became tired she would follow me around crying. She would cry at my feet until I picked her up and put her to sleep. I gladly did it. I would place her into one of my daughter’s baby blankets (all the while relishing in that sweet memory) and hold her until she fell asleep. I would then proceed to hold her for all of her sleep. I found myself not wanting to move as to not disturb her slumber. But once she was in a deep sleep I could place her in her bed and she would remain sleeping.

Since cats spend 16-20 hours a day sleeping, this was quickly becoming unsustainable. In the very moment I considered putting her in a sling, I began to laugh. OMG, I am doing the very thing I teach people NOT to do. I am facilitating all of this baby’s sleep and she is not going from sleepy to asleep on her own.

I had to buckle down and start sleep training my kitten.  I started by putting her in her bed when she was “almost asleep”. Her eyes were almost closed. Unfortunately, all too quickly, that stopped working. I put her in her bed and she woke up and ran back to me crying at my feet to put her back to sleep again. I tried it again. She was up and at my feet in a flash. It was like staring into the eyes of the toddler standing at bedside in the middle of the night. Hmmmm…do I walk you back to bed for the 20th time or do I just let you crawl in? 

I thought of my oft repeated phrase–When sleep starts to unravel and you are no longer able to “put your child to sleep” this means she is ready to learn the skill of going from sleepy to asleep on her own. That day when you put her in her crib already asleep–her eyes fly open–and she looks at you like you are out of your mind–although this looks like bad news, it is great news! It is a sign of developmental readiness. Your child is ready to learn the skill of “falling asleep” on her own.

I looked at my kitten and said, “OK Tina, here we go”. I did. I talked to her just like I tell parents to talk to their babies. I told her that she was going to fall asleep in her bed. I held her until her eyes got heavy and told her, “Your eyes are getting heavy, I am going to put you to sleep”.

I only wish it was this easy for all parents. I only wish that the cries of human infants were as soft and gentle as the mew of a baby kitten.

It took only four tries. She got up and ran to my feet and cried. I let her get sleepy in my arms and I put her back in her bed sleepy but awake. The fourth time looked like this…

 

“Are you out of your mind woman?”…2014-01-15 10.57.22

Going….2014-01-15 10.58.01Going…2014-01-15 10.58.18GONE…2014-01-15 10.58.45

I know, it is a kitten. But I remembered what it was like. I remember feeling how tiny and vulnerable my baby boy was in my arms. I remember feeling happy to let him sleep in my arms. It felt right. Because it was.

It was until it wasn’t. It worked until it stopped.

And if it had kept working I would have kept doing it.

But it stopped because he was capable of more. And I changed what I was doing because I was not capable of sustaining the constant interruptions to my own sleep.

I love my sleep. He loves his sleep. My daughter loves her sleep and now our kitten loves her sleep as well.

Do we still let her sleep on us?

Of course we do. She is a soft cuddly kitten. But it isn’t the only way she can sleep.

Would she eventually have grown out of this need for me to fix her sleep?

I am certain that she would have. But cats are dependent on us for only a short amount of time. In a few months she will be ready to hunt, feed herself and reproduce. She will never have to do any of that but our human babies are FULLY dependent on us for 7-8 years. Well, 18 -years according to my tax return.

I work with children of all ages. I work with toddlers who are still nursing on demand and need to have all of their sleep fixed for them. I work with 6, 7, and 8-year olds who need a parent present in order to go to sleep and stay asleep.

You do not have to wait this long to get quality sleep.

 

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