Sleep. What does this word mean? I vaguely remember using the word prior to my son's birth. At some point, between his arrival and this afternoon, it slipped away. According to Merriam-Webster, sleep is "the natural state of rest during which your eyes are closed and you become unconscious." Hmmm. I'm confused. As a stay-at-home dad, I operate in a foggy state of mind that probably qualifies as unconsciousness. Based on the number of times during the first year of my son's life I found myself moving the wrong direction on the subway, I don't think I meet the standards of a conscious person. Perhaps a zombie, but not a conscious human being.
You ask: How do you establish healthy sleep patterns and deal with challenges? Ha. If you are living in this wonderland of healthy sleep patterns, then I am happy for you. (Actually, I want to thump you on the forehead and curse the sleep gods.) Most of us with small children live in a world where the only established pattern is explosive morning diapers. Ughhhh. The first diaper is rough.
Of course, parents get lucky and enjoy the occasional night of solid rest. The third night my son was home from the hospital he slept through the night. My wife and I rushed to his bassinet because we thought something was wrong. Nope, the kid just decided to extend his sleep. However, it was the one and only time that happened the first year.
Look, I know sleep deprivation is real and does weird things to your brain. I have found myself, more than once, sitting on the cold, tile floor with legs spread in a v-shape wondering how I would make it through the day. Sleeplessness sucks! Yet, from my experience from a vast twenty months of parenting, there are no standard solutions. There are things that might increase the chances of your child sleeping. You can stick to a routine, darken the room, pump your child full of milk, bounce, shush, and pray, but ultimately there is little control over our child's ability to sleep. Actually, there is the option to use tranquilizers, but my wife vetoed the idea.
So, here is my sleep solution: deep breathing. Seriously, when you want to toss your child out the window take a deeeeep breath. When I reach the breaking point in the middle of the night, I sit him down (safely in the crib) and walk into another room. I do not return to him until I have taken ten deep breaths, filling my lungs completely and exhaling slowly. I don't care if he is crying. I breathe deeply. I drink a glass of water. I wait until I can make a rational decision.
Let's practice. Sit your child in a safe place. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. Okay, you've got the hang of it. After ten breaths, go drink a glass of water. My thing is to eat Bagel Bites in the middle of the night. Just kidding. I eat Hot Pockets.
Now, let's make a good decision. Do you think there is a chance your child will go back to sleep? If so, keep trying. If not, concede the battle on and move on. The middle of the night is a good time to watch '90s television on Netflix. My son and I are currently finishing season two of the "X-Files" while balancing "Wonder Years" episodes.
Here are my parting words: Do what you gotta do, but don't throw your kid out the window. Remember, deep breaths. Okay, I'm done offering parenting wisdom, not that I ever had any in the first place.