MamaBear has a problem! This one's lengthy, but there was little I wanted to edit out of Mamabear's letter, and my response? Well, it needed to be said:
I work full time and my husband attends college full time. We found a very nice woman to take care of our baby in her home for about 25 hours per week. Kikki, who is 8 months, has been in her care since late August. Everything is going well besides... sleeping. Or lack of it at the child care.
While she consistently sleeps 11 hours at night and takes 2 naps of length from 1 to 2 hours, she often skips naps at the day care or takes really short ones at odd times. Result is she falls asleep at the time when I pick her up, so I don't get to see her at all. She just stays asleep until the morning. Even if I try to awake her to eat her supper (drink a bottle), she'll only stay awake long enough to be changed and drink a couple of ounces.
I'm upset because some days I don't get to be with my baby at all, and I look forward to it all day. More importantly, I don't like her sleep and eating patters disrupted like that! It makes for an unpredictable moody baby next day. I've asked the childcare provider to write down her eating and sleeping times and I've been tracking closely. I think the root cause of her not sleeping is that the she is held to sleep in the child care provider's arms and if she even makes a peep in her crib, she is tended to and picked up.
I've tried talking to the babysitter about how we can get the baby to sleep better, and she admitted she can't listen to her cry so if she does, she will pick her up and she'd rather hold her to sleep. At first, she'd hold her to sleep each time, because she said that's what she did with her 3 daughters. We got her a portable crib and she's been putting Kikki to sleep there. It helped a little but she would take only 30-40 minutes naps.
My husband tried helping her to put Kikki to sleep. He stayed and they put her in her portable crib. She'd cry. The baby sitter tried running in every time she made a peep, my husband stopped her to see if she'd calm down right away on her own. Then if not, they'd go in and pat her belly, talk to her soothingly, put her pacifier back. After an hour my husband called me that she is not going to sleep, she is screaming at the top of her lungs unless you pick her up, and he's never seen her like this at home. She never gives us this much trouble. So they let it go and she ate at 11 and fell asleep at around noon but only for a half an hour again.
When I was picking her up at 5:30, she was dead tired. A couple of things he noticed is that it was louder in her house, either a phone would ring or her little dogs would bark. Her bedrooms are upstairs so she puts her to sleep in the downstairs open-space dining room. He suggested moving her to a quieter space with less light so they did move her to a shaded living room. Also, my husband suggested to her to make sure the baby gets a nap before her own daughters get home from school, because then they want to play with the baby and no more sleep.
When I talked to the baby sitter on the phone later, she said she felt so bad because she just wanted to "run in there and hold her" and she said that's just the way she is, her husband calls her the "natural nurturer." I let it go for now because she is otherwise wonderful with our baby and didn't want to add any more stress. It's still pretty new to all of us, only 2nd month she's been in her care (although she was in her care part-time once a week for 3 months prior to that).
I don't really want to instruct her to ignore the baby, we don't really do that either, and I don't want to de-sensitise her to baby cries. But on the other hand, I'm not ok with my baby not sleeping. I also noticed she's more flexible with baby's eating times, she'll feed her an hour earlier sometimes because she says the baby seems to be cranky and interprets it as being hungry. She rarely gets hungry earlier at home. I wonder if she's sleepy and it’s being misinterpreted as being hungry by the baby sitter? So what do I do, how do allow some flexibility in the child care yet ensure baby gets her needed sleep before she's picked up?
Well, you do have a dilemma, but I'm not sure it's the one you think you have!
Let's see... we have a caregiver who gets a child who naps and eats well, a cheerful, interactive child, and within a matter of weeks, turns her into a screaming non-napper, sleep-deprived and irritable. A child who, instead of getting two or three treasured hours with mommy and daddy at the end of the day, can only drop with exhaustion the moment she gets home. Moreover, it seems that the caregiver is diligently training the child to misread her body's sleep and hunger cues. And she calls this nurturing?
Who, exactly, is being nurtured here? Not poor Kikki, who is now sleep-deprived and missing parental interaction because she makes up lost sleep when she could be playing with you. Not you, who has to deal with a cranky baby when she's awake, and are missing time you dearly treasure with your child.
So who's gaining in this scenario? Oh, I know! The caregiver. She's the only winner here. She is the only one whose needs are being met. Not you, not your husband, and certainly not your child. She gets to cuddle a baby. All things take second place to this need of hers. Oh, and her children benefit, too. Instead of letting your baby have her afternoon nap, she lets her daughters 'nurture' the baby.
Speaking as a caregiver, I am shocked and offended. Her behaviour is detrimental to Kikki and unfair to you, and as such, grossly, grossly unprofessional. To call it 'nurturing' only adds insult to injury, since it makes her out to be the truly loving one, whereas you and your husband are asking her to be less 'nurturing'. How crass! How uncaring! How selfish! How could you??
Even the caregiver's children get more time during the week with your baby than you do.
Do I sound angry? I am. You are being treated badly. She is not doing one single thing to ensure your child get the sleep she craves, and yet you are being made to feel as if you are making harsh, non-nurturing demands. (Why can't the baby sleep upstairs, in a dim and quiet environment? Does she not have a baby monitor?)
I am also afraid that there is probably no way out of this except to find another caregiver. I don't say this because I disapprove of her actions. I believe you when you say she's a lovely, loving, gentle-spirited woman. I think she's well-intentioned. The problem is, she's created a situation in which your baby now associates sleeping with being held. In order for Kikki to get any reasonable amount of sleep in the caregiver's home, this association will have to be broken - which will almost certainly involve crying, possibly a LOT of crying, something the caregiver declares herself (and demonstrates herself to be) incapable of withstanding. In short, I don't think this caregiver, even if she were willing, is capable of solving the problem she has created. Which means that, left with this caregiver, Kikki will never get the sleep she needs. Never. Can you, in all good conscience, allow your poor child to continue long-term in her sleep deprivation, no matter how awkward it may be to find new care?
A new caregiver will start with a clean slate. Because Kikki has good habits with you, she will quickly regain them in a new environment. You haven't been with this caregiver long; Kikki will very quickly adjust to a new face in her life, particularly if the new face respects her need for quality sleep!