When Marta suggested we start to put Nico on a nightly schedule I was resistant. No baby of mine will begin life bound to some fixed set of activities! I said. My baby will be carefree! She will do as she pleases until she discovers her own internal schedule!
Then Marta reminded me how little we had been sleeping. And I agreed she had a point.
So we started with a light schedule. We began bathing her every night. At more or less the same time. To that we soon added a feeding right afterwards. And then some reading time with me.
The first night that we tried all three together something amazing happened: Nico fell asleep. And she slept more or less restfully. For about four hours.
I was so happy I could have hugged a daily planner.
And since then, things have only gotten better. We start the schedule around 9 p.m. now and usually by 10 Nico is asleep. Or close to asleep, which counts because the other thing that the schedule has allows is this: we can now put Nico in her bassinet when she is almost asleep and she’ll fall asleep all on her own.
I want to hug the bassinet. And my pillow when I lay my head on it each night knowing that I’ll get at least five solid hours of sleep before Nico wakes us. Some nights she’s slept seven or eight hours.
Then, I want to everything in sight.
Starting to sleep again is a subtle sort of pleasure, one you almost second guess, believing that perhaps you were never that sleep deprived to begin with. It just doesn’t seem real. But then a friend of yours says something like, “Your blog has gotten so much more coherent recently” and you remember those hazy days a month ago when you tried to communicate basic feelings with the world (and the blogosphere) and it felt like you were speaking through an ocean of marshmallows.
Or you remember the nightmares.
Marta reminded me of those last night. We were going to sleep and I was looking for Lucy, the stuffed dog I (yes, still) sleep with. Marta suddenly started laughing and said, “Remember when you’d wake up thinking that dog was Nico?”
I had the nightmare perhaps a half a dozen times. I would be dreaming that I was holding Nico and suddenly I dropped her or she shrank in my arms or I lost her and then I’d wake up with a start, near tears, clutching my stuffed dog Lucy. Usually this occurred on those nights when we were getting up every hour or two to feed or change or soothe Nico. And in the haze of no sleep a stuff animal and a baby didn’t seem all that different.
I am sure, of course, that this schedule is not the only reason Nico is sleeping better. Probably it’s age (she’s the ripe ol age of 11 weeks now). But I do think having a routine helps. It’s kind of like Pavlo’s dog. When we get out the bath now, every night at more or less the same time, Nico starts to smile before she’s even in the water. Then, by the time I start reading her a story, it’s almost like her tiny little brain remembers that this is the moment to sleep. And she sleeps.
And whenever I start worrying that perhaps were being too regimented with our child, when I fear this bedtime schedule will turn her into a corporate lawyer or–worse–a time management consultant, I remember our bedtime routine is not all that neurotic. When Marta and I were trying to figure out what to do for our schedule, we went to babycenter.com and read the forums on the topic. One mother wrote that her schedule spans hours and includes lavender face massages and an elaborate bouncy-chair reading ritual. By comparison, we’re lesbian commune hippy parents.
Besides, I’ve begun to almost like the schedule myself. We spend a lot of time together during the day, but this hour at night is our scheduled time together. It is the three of us during the bath, then Marta with Nico while she breastfeeds and, finally, just Nico and me while read her a book. It’s almost meditative in that this hour is when we just focus on the three of us, in all of our permutations. Because perhaps the best part is that, after we put Nico to sleep, Marta and I get a little time to ourselves.
And we’re all happier for it.
Here Nico is during what we call “jungle time,” which is not at all scheduled.