Thursday, July 14, 2011

Sleep and Autism

Before R was born,  I meticulously read up on all the latest parenting books

Especially the ones on sleep

For it seemed - sleep problems- is all that the new parents I knew, talked about

I read about sleep scheduling, about the importance to get your baby started on a proper routine

I read about "crying it out"

And how it was really good and kind in the long run to let them cry it out

That by leaving them to sleep by themselves, you are teaching them to be independant

This had made complete sense to be in the months when I was expecting R

But after R was born, I felt different

This little baby had been living inside of my body-  till just a few days ago - completely dependant on me -

While independance was important , it felt more important to make him feel secure

( Now, I reasoned, how would it make sense for a helpless infant when it made no sense for me, an adult -  After all how would I - an adult -  feel , if DH would leave me by myself to "sort my feelings out"/" teach me independance" when I was sad/crying )

And though we tried,  R  simply was not able to sleep by himself

(  I dont mean to criticize  the scheduling method - I know it works for many people. It was just not for us and I would realise this much much later  when I was to understand SPD and learn about the proprioceptive system and gravitational insecurity. Much later, I  would realise that R simply could not realise where he was in space, unless his body was touching another)

It seemed that the only way R would fall asleep or stay asleep was in one of our arms
So we decided to co sleep for just the first few days

 And the days turned into weeks
 And the weeks turned into months
 Our crib - an expensive gift from a friend - was never used .

And R slept in one of our arms each night

Slowly, in fact , we found ourselves to be full fledged attachment parents

I did not know it then , but it would eventually be 5 more years before R would sleep in a big boy bed by himself

Sleep has never come easy for R

For a good night's sleep , we have to do it all

The behavioral methods- consistent routines

The biological methods- soothing bathtime, dim lights, melatonin

The emotional methods - reading a story of his choice, saying bedtime prayers, snuggles and telling him each night how much I love being his mother

But he does sleep each night

And mostly he sleeps all night

I finish his bedtime a little while ago

We say our prayers of gratefulness

We say goodnight to the fifteen books that are on his shelf

We finish reading "Wild Cats" - R's favorite  bed time book for the past two months

I end the book with the line "The big eared cub sleeps safe and sound as it rests besides his mother"

R sighs with staisfaction.

Its his favorite line

I look at my own little eared cub with his arms around his neck and think about this other mother - the African lioness

How this mother in a small southern town in America ( me )  is essentially  doing the same bedtime routine as this lioness in Africa

When I look back on those early years - that time when we did not know what was autism, how greatly anxious R's basic personality was, the unusual sensory system he had and his inability to produce enough melatonin  -

Even in those years when we had such little information about our child

We still had enough wisdom-that each time we had to make a choice
We followed our instincts

We chose the ways that worked for R

This post has been written for the wonderful Danette's Best of Best Bloggers edition on Sleep


Mr. Daddy said...

K because of Rach's hearing issues we have had a time with the sleeping arrangements at our house too...:o)

it is not always easy but it is always home:o) and that is where the heart is...

and as you, I wouldn't have it any other way:o)

Þorgerður said...

I am glad that co sleeping or not has never been an issue for us... all parents co sleep with their babys here.. the other way around seems strange... We have a strange habit though here in Iceland ... we let babys sleep outside during the day even in wintertime... supposed to be very healthy ;). Sturla never did... he would only fall asleep in our bedroom or in my arms.
I love the pictures.

Lizbeth said...

I love that line in the book too!

I think its great that with all the books and everything out there you followed your instincts and did what you felt was best. So many times we think we should be doing something based on what the "experts" say and we forget we're an expert ourself.

Well done mama!

robin said...

I'm glad you guys used your instinct! With S, we coslept with him for about 4 years (give or take) and he still will beg to sleep with me (I let him last night as our book time ran late.) He was just that kind of kiddo that wanted to rub my arm a little to feel secure and sleep well.

Natalia said...

I really love this post!

AutismWonderland said...

Great post! If you could only see some of the sleep books I studied before my son was born. They were highlighted and tabbed with notes in the margins. USELESS! In the end, all we have are our instincts and what feels right for us and our children.

Yuji said...

I, too, have had to adjust my thinking on the type of parenting methods I thought I would employ before I became a dad. Glad that your son now sleeps most nights. Good job!

Niksmom said...

I love where your instincts lead you with R. We all do best, I think, when we follow our gut with our children, yes? :-)

Asperger_Mom (Chi Yon) said...

Congratulations on getting him to his own bed. Mine slept in his grandparents' room until he got his own room. Whatever works.

Patty O. said...

I think that is key: following your instincts. Whenever I do, I don't regret it.

danette said...

Love the pictures, so sweet! And how cute that he loves that last line about the mama lion. :)

Bitty is very much the same, when he was a baby he had to be tightly wrapped in my arms before he could fall asleep, slowly over the years we eased back to where he just had to be touching one of us, and now he just needs to be in the same room. We carry him to his own bed after he falls asleep and most of the time he wake up to find he is back in our bed :). I'm just glad he actually sleeps through the night now.

With our older boys, we did the co-sleeping thing too. Mostly out of survival instinct... sleep deprivation was one of our biggest issues that first year and we went to great lengths for any extra few minutes of sleep we could get :). It ended up lasting until they were about 5 or 6, by then they went to sleep in their own room but would usually end up in our bed by morning (making for a very crowded bed, lol).

Rachel said...

I love - that no matter how many books you read and how phenomenally smart you two both are - that you are incredibly successful at parenting by instinct.

Because that instinct? Is indistinguishable from love.

Looking for Blue Sky said...

Beautiful photographs :) I never had these kinds of sleeping problems with aspie boy, I was just always up and down all night to all three of them for different reasons. Finally now after 18 years I'm usually getting to sleep through. But aspie boy still insists on getting up at 6am every day *sighs*

jazzygal said...

You did exactly all the right things..instinctively ;-) I too tried to follow these methods but they didn't work. They don't work for children on the Autistic my opinion.

It also took us 5 years to get WiiBoy to sleep through the night!

xx Jazzy

Anonymous said...

It's so nice to hear about others doing what's needed rather than what is convenient. (Obviously people need to do what works for them, so I'm not trying to start any fights- just wanting to let go of the "what ifs" I feel when people tell me how I should do things!) Both boys had to be rocked to sleep in their strollers for naps... and I cosleep with Colton which means I kind of "bed hop". I always felt like he "wasn't ready to come out" and was forced into attachment parenting... I don't know where I'm going with this- it's just nice not to feel "weird" or that we're doing things wrong. :)

Lisa said...

He looks like an angel when he's asleep. My son is six and still sleeps in the same room with us, because he started having seizures, and I'm very nervous for him to be all by himself at night. I feel good about my decision and I don't feel any pressure to change.

Anonymous said...

Very nice. I love to snuggle my kids. My oldest daughter slept with me for six months at a time while her father was deployed.

D. S. Walker said...

Following your instincts is definitely the way to go and I am glad you figured this out much earlier than I did. R. is a lucky little boy.

Tanya Savko said...

I did co-sleeping with Nigel and Aidan when they were babies too. It was beneficial for so many reasons!

P.S. I'm blogging again, although not at Teen Autism (but I'm still leaving that site up). My new site is I'm glad to be getting back into it!

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