Friday, January 29, 2010

Sleeping Like A Baby

I have received quite a few comments and emails asking what kind of "sleep training" I gave Gracie to get her to sleep 11-12 hours a night. I thought I would share what very little wisdom I have on the subject in the off-chance that I might help someone else.

It is important to note that Todd and I agree we have gotten progressively dumber with each child we've had. When we brought Joey home from the hospital we had no clue what we were doing and yet it seems we had more common sense with him than we did with any of our other children. Perhaps each child has sucked a bit of sense out of us leaving us nearly empty. Or maybe we are just sleep deprived and exhausted in general. I do not know.

Here is what I do know:

The first night we brought Joey home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed Joey, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course he woke up the minute I laid him down but I went back downstairs and let him get himself back to sleep. I sat there and cried right along with him as I listened to his wails on the monitor. Todd and I reassured each other that he was been fed, he was dry, he was not cold or lonely, he just needed to sleep. And sure enough he got himself to sleep fairly quickly. Of course I still went to him every two or three hours when he woke up and needed to be fed. That was the pattern, and by 3 months old he was sleeping through the night. Probably because he had learned how to sooth himself.

The first night we brought Tommy home from the hospital and it was time to go to bed, I changed him, fed him, burped him, and laid him down in his crib. Of course the minute I laid him in his crib he woke up and I promptly picked him up and started the whole process all over again. After all, I had a sleeping toddler in the next room and I certainly did not want my new baby to wake my sleeping Joey. Tommy never slept through the night. And he didn't nap either. When he was almost 5 months old he was getting up every 45 minutes to an hour at night and we were all exhausted. He was not hungry and wouldn't nurse. He didn't even really want to be held. When I would pick him up out of his crib he would arch his back and cry and cry. It was clear that the little boy just wanted to sleep, but he didn't know how.

In my desperation I bought a book called Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. In the book the author, Dr. Marc Weissbluth, lists signs of an overtired baby like the arching of the back when being held and frequent wakings without wanting to be fed. Dr. Weissbluth then outlines three different methods of sleep training to help the overtired baby (and parents). The quickest method was the "let cry" method. Of course I was loathe to think of letting my poor little man cry up in his crib (and keep Joey awake too) but I was so exhausted I couldn't think of a better plan.

The night we began we warned Joey ahead of time that baby might cry for a while and that he was okay, he was just learning how to get himself to sleep. It was awful. Tommy is nothing if not persistent, and the little fart cried for about 3 hours. Then he slept for 2 hours, cried another half hour, slept for 4 hours, cried for 20 minutes, and then slept the rest of the night. The next night he cried for an hour and slept the whole night. The third night he cried for five minutes and slept the entire night. It was bliss. And ever since then (save for illnesses) the kid slept through the night.

Still, when Ben came along we seemed to make the same mistakes with him that we did with Tommy. I never let him cry it out for fear of waking the older kids. And because he wasn't a chunky baby as his brothers were I told myself he was waking often because he was hungry. When he began waking every hour and not wanting to eat I knew that wasn't the reason. So again, around five months I repeated the same "let cry" process. Ben was not as persistent as Tommy and there was far less crying. Thank the good Lord.

Now Grace. Well, she is just about the most mild mannered baby there is. She has been a good sleeper since she was born. I never had to let her cry it out because every time I would put her back to bed she would remain asleep. By two months old she was sleeping through the night. Then Christmas came and because of all the festivities, travel, parties, and activity her sleep schedule was all messed up. She got out of whack. When I would put her down in her crib at night she would immediately wake up and cry so I would promptly pick her up and sooth her again. Sometimes it took me two hours to get her to sleep. Put her down. Pick her up. Put her down. Pick her up. For two hours. Then she began getting up two or three times a night. My fabulous sleeper was having troubles. I figured she forgot how to sooth herself.

So, I decided that I would nurse her to sleep at night as I usually did, but if she would wake up when I laid her down then she would have to get herself back to sleep. The first night she cried for 40 minutes. And then on and off for an hour, but after that she slept the whole night. The next night she cried for 20 minutes and then slept the whole night. The third night she barely cried and slept the whole night. She has been doing so well ever since and her naps have become so much easier too. It is wonderful.

Now I know that the "let cry" method is not for everyone. It is heartbreaking to listen to your child cry. But it really is the fasted method to use. And after seeing how happy my babies were after finally getting a full nights sleep I knew it was the right decision. If you don't want to do that then Dr. Weissbluth outlines other methods for you to try. The book also outlines how much sleep a child should be getting at various ages and how to implement healthy sleep habits. It is definitely a great book to have on hand.

Before starting the training I always made sure my babies were ready for it. Meaning, they were at the higher end of the growth chart and had plenty of weight on them. That way I knew they wouldn't be hungry in the middle of the night. I also made sure they did not have colds or ear infections, because then all bets are off. On those nights my babies always slept on me and I just planned on getting very little sleep. Sometimes we had to do a bit of sleep training again when their colds were gone, or after holidays and travel, but it was usually very minimal.

So there you have it. I told you I don't know very much on the subject but I have realized that sometimes you need to teach your child how to sleep. As painful as it feels to let your child cry it is far less painful then having a sleep deprived baby.

(And no, I did not receive any compensation for my review of Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. I just really loved the book and thought it might help another tired mom and dad. It is not just a "cry it out" book. Dr. Weissbluth teaches you to watch your child's sleep signals and gives you tons of helpful ideas on training your baby to sleep. Of course I did not agree with everything that was written but I just skipped over those parts and read the chapters that I needed. It was a huge help.)


Doc said...

We found that swaddling our son (as tightly as possible) worked wonders for his sleeping. Swaddling mimics the in womb feeling that he was used to.

My Life With Boys said...

That's exactly what we do and our boys have always slept through the night by 3-4 weeks old. I've always put my babies to bed awake and we've never had any children that wake up at night. Of course, my babies are large babies when they're born so maybe that has something to do with it too. =)

Kat said...

Doc- We swaddled all of our babies too. That seems to have helped, to a point.

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

I totally believe in letting them cry it out! And my secret was switching OFF the baby monitor and switching ON a fan to drown out their screams. They figure it out if you let them.

Lisa said...

Oh's a hard one. I've done a little of both....but a sleeping baby makes for a rested, happy Mommy!

Scrappy said...

It sounds like your boys were all similar to mine. Our second had the hardest time sleeping too.
One thing that I have found helped me was to not nurse them to sleep so they do not associate eating with sleeping. Also, I do not change their diaper when it is not needed in the middle of the night because that will just wake them up more. Of course both of those things just can't happen in those first few weeks, but once I could get away with it I would.
Hope this all helps someone out there. :)

Kat said...

Scrappy- I never had a problem letting them fall asleep nursing because when I go to put them in their crib they usually wake up anyway. I was always told "never wake a sleeping baby" and I have personally found that to be true. ;)

But, like you, I never changed their diapers in the middle of the night unless the diapers were poopy or very full. Then I would just turn on a small nightlight and did NOT make eye contact with them. Eye contact always seemed to make them want to play. ;)

Emily said...

I totally love that book too and used it with all my kids!

Kristen said...

I didn't read that book, but my great friend did, and she passed along all the same info you just did. And I agree...IT WORKS!!! Many kids don't sleep because they are overly tired!! Watching the sleep signals saved my sanity!!!


Hattie said...

I do/did the same things with my boys. I let them cry themselves to sleep. If they are fed, changed and okay let them cry. I recently had a friend w/ a newborn tell me that it was cruel and she couldn't do it and she even lets the baby sleep w/ her & her husband. I am totally against co-sleeping. The bed should be for you & your husband!

Doing a great job momma keep it up!!!

Elaine A. said...

We've had to do the ole cry it out method too and I'm just proud of you for remembering the details so well with each kid! I know it only took one or two nights with the boys and K is already sleeping through the night right now. It seems like it was when the boys were older, like a year or so, that I had more trouble getting them to settle and that's when we had to enforce it.

tweetey30 said...

Have to admit I didnt have those problems with my girls.. They were great sleepers from the start.. Glad you had something that could help though.. some babies arent great at sleeping and they need to be helped..

Riahli said...

What ever works for your family is the best way to go! :)

I admit I am more of a Dr Sears follower myself... ;)

Krystyn said...

That crying it out is sooo tough, but it really does work. Babies don't know they have to close their eyes to sleep.

And, of course, when your baby is sick, it all goes out the window.

April said...

So glad Grace is sleeping like a champ!! :-) Hunter has been a pretty great sleeper from the start (overnight) but napping was an issue. Crying it out doesn't work for him unfortunately (or maybe me LOL) but I developed more of a routine when putting him down for nap and it worked! I think he now "knows" it's nap time and it's easier for him to fall asleep.

imbeingheldhostage said...

I agree-- trying to keep the older children sleeping really puts a damper on the younger one's sleeping habits. You have given fantastic advice here Kat and it's very coherent for someone with four small children at home! :-)

Jaysi said...

Hey Kat,
Sorry I haven't been around much!

I have to agree with you. At some point I have had to let both of my boys cry it out. It is not fun, but it really does work!

Glad Grace is sleeping well again!

Danya said...

The experience I have has differed a lot from child to child. My first two (twins) were the WORST sleepers ever! They never napped more than 15 minutes at a time and never slept longer than 45 min to 1 hour at night. Even though I was going out of my mind from sleep deprivation, I never felt comfortable sleep training them by letting them cry it out because I had a strong instinct that something wasn't right. They just weren't the "typical" babies. They cried and cried even when awake and were rarely content. I always responded to them and it wasn't until they were 2 (and started seeing an occupational therapist for sensory issues) that they started to sleep better. My daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was 2 1/2 and my son was closer to 3. In the worst sleep cases, you may be looking at immature nervous systems (especially in twins where they are much more likely to have sensory issues).

My third child was like night and day from my first two. I could put him down awake for a nap and he was actually FALL ASLEEP and stay asleep for 2-3 hours. It was a total revelation for me. He slept long periods at night (5-7 hours) from day one.

So, I guess my point is that children are all different and you really have to trust your gut when it comes to your children.

Karen Deborah said...

You stumbled onto the old fashioned way of doing things, and it works doesn't it. It doesn't hurt babies to cry a little. Mom's can tell the difference between fussing and getting frantic. i also like that you make the point that when they are sick it's a whole different scenario. Your a great mom!! *claps hands--applause applause!!!

Nishant said...

That seems to have helped, to a point.

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