Daughter, Wife, Mother... this is what I do

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

[Mama Post] Babies and Sleep

I'm not writing this post because I've got Elle's sleep figured out, nor am I writing it because I've exhausted my research on the topic. I just want to open a dialogue on sleep and offer up my experience, anxiety and conclusions as of late.

For the first 8-10 weeks of Elle's sweet little life, she would sleep anywhere. I never really worried about naps, because she slept whenever she was tired. And she would sleep anywhere I went. At this point she was sleeping 6-8 hours a night on her own. I didn't have to do anything to help her do this. It was marvelous. I'm sure I didn't appreciate what a magical time that was for me.

Well, as Elle is becoming a thriving 4 month old, she's much more alert, awake more often, sees all kinds of things and has a really hard time napping. She also has been going through her 4 month growth spurt (I think) so she wakes up a couple of times a night to eat. (However, there was one night this week she slept for 9 hours straight, so I think we're maybe climbing our way out of that one.) All this to say, I began thinking about Elle's sleep habits and thought maybe it's time to start some research on sleep training and what that might look like for our family. Now, as I said, I still have not exhausted my research on the subject, but I've read "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth and have been talking to friends and thinking lots about my sweet girl's sleeping habits and how I can help her learn to be a better sleeper.

I don't know if I've shared this before, but when I do lots of research on baby-raising, I tend to get really anxious, "Oh gosh! I don't do this! I've ruined my child!" or "Oh gosh! My kid isn't like this. What's wrong with her?!?!" or "Dr. So-and-So says this. I CANNOT deviate!"

This dialogue goes on internally most of the time. On the outside, I try to project myself laid back and cool-as-a-cucumber. Ha! Maybe I don't fool some of you. Hopefully I don't.

Here are some things that are currently happening in our lives as far as sleep is concerned. Then I'll get into what I hope to change.

- I almost always nurse and/or rock Elle to sleep. I think Dr. Weissbluth calls this "Parent aided sleep." What I really like about this book is that it never says that this is a bad method. I've read some other books (maybe Babywise? I can't really remember) that say that this is NOT a good idea. Subsequently, I had this notion that nursing my sweet girl to sleep was bad. "Bad, mama!" But it was easiest and convenient for both of us. Her feeding times seemed to come right before bed time and nap time. So we went with it. But I just felt so guilty. Because I thought it was wrong. Because I thought I was messing up my child or creating some kind of unhealthy sleep association. False. I've since decided that I totally don't mind nursing her to sleep. I actually really love it. It works for us. My issue here is that she'll sleep in my arms like a champ. But when it comes to nap times, she has a tough time sleeping after I put her down. I'll get into this more in a minute.

-She has fallen into an almost regular nap schedule. She will get sleepy around 9:45am. If I wait until 10:15 to start soothing her to sleep, it's too late and she's a crazy lady. I did learn from Dr. Weissbluth that an infant who is overtired is much MUCH harder to get to sleep than an infant who is just entering the sleepy zone. I've learned Elle's tired signals and do my very best to get that girl lightly swaddled and calmed down really quickly. And honestly, it works most of the time. She goes right to sleep and often when I catch her at the right moment, she's much easier to put down after she falls asleep. Her morning nap ranges anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 hours. Yesterday her morning nap was 2 hours. Then she gets tired again around 12-1 depending on how long she slept during her morning nap. Here's where I didn't love Dr. Weissbluth. He expressly states that any nap under 45 minutes is not a viable nap and not restorative for her. So, when she would wake up after 20 minutes of napping, I felt like I HAD to get her back down. I would try, she would flip out because she was not wanting to sleep at all. Stress. What I realized is this: if she's not cranky after her 20 minute nap, that's all she needed. I'll keep an eye out for her tired signals and put her down if I can later, even if it's not at her regular nap times.

-I've started keeping a nap log. Similar to the diaper and feeding log they make you keep on your baby the first couple weeks of her life. But I just log when she sleeps and how long and what comes before and after the nap/sleep. This has just helped me figure out her sleep patterns and how much she's getting. More for my peace of mind than anything. And if she has a particularly rough day, I can look at how much sleep she got and see if it had anything to do with that. This makes me sound more anal than I am. It's not that big of a deal. I just opened a sticky note on my desktop and just write it in when I think about it. I started doing this to put myself at ease about her sleep habits. Another thing I didn't love about Dr. Weissbluth's book was that they really lay it on thick at the beginning of the book about what can happen if your kid doesn't get enough sleep. (ADHD, Learning Disorders, all hell will break loose, etc.) So I was freaking out a little. The nap log reassured me that she was fine. Also, trusting that God, who created her, is in control of her sleep and whatever happens as a result.

What I want to change:

-I really would like Elle to be able to fall asleep on her own. It would make having sitters and being at other people's houses around bed time/nap time alot easier. So we're going to work on that. Not sure what works best as far as this is concerned. Do I need to give up nursing/rocking her to sleep cold turkey and never do it again? Can I do a combo of both? Thoughts?

-Sleeping longer hours at night. Really this is more for my comfort than anything. Lately, things have been crazy at night. Like first 3 weeks crazy, so maybe I'm being overly ambitious because I'm so ready for a normal night of sleep again. But I feel like 10 hours on average is a reasonable goal for her. The best we've gotten in the past month is 9. And that was 2 nights ago. and the only time she slept through the night at all in the past month.

So I'm currently researching different sleep training methods, understanding that I'm mostly ok with my daughters' current sleep habits. She does pretty good and so do we. Again, just wanted to share my experience as a very unexperienced mother who's just figuring it out as we go (sort of.) Feel free to leave thoughts, comments, suggestions, what have you.

Happy Sleeping!

Post-thought: Little Love Bucket took a TWO HOUR afternoon nap. And her morning nap was ONE HOUR! WAHOO! This mama's happy.


  1. Hi Lauren,

    I had similar issues with my little one when he was that age. He was the worst napper!! I strongly disagree with BabyWise and other strict newborn scheduling methods, so I too nursed or rocked him to sleep for months. My pediatrician explained to me that newborns are not capable to self-soothing until around 4-6 months. For that reason, we waited until 4 months to start sleep training, which is basically teaching them how to self soothe (once they are ready) by crying it out. Once we did this, it solved his 30 minute nap problems because he learned how to put himself back to sleep.

    I never read any newborn books because I was afraid I would be way too swayed by them, and not in touch with my baby's individual need. Mothering is a lot of instincts, you know your baby and what is best for her. It sounds like you are doing a great job!!

  2. Thanks :)

    Did you let him cry unattended or do the gradual way by going in after 5 min, 10 min. 15 min. etc?

    Thanks for your input. Love hearing about your little one!

  3. We did the gradual way. Went in after 2 minutes, then 5, then 10 and so on. The first night he didn't fall alseep until after 45 minutes. Which was better than we expected.

    I've actually heard the gradual way is worse because it gives them more anxiety knowing you are going to come back in. I don't know....we still did it because I wanted him to know we were there but he needed to put himself to sleep. Making decisions for babies is soooo hard....