Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sleeping Through the Night

I don't claim to be any kind of pro on the subject of parenting, in fact I know I make mistakes every single day and am constantly learning how to do better at so many things concerning Olivia.  I have, however, been successful at helping her keep a good sleep schedule.  I have had several people ask lately how I got her to sleep through the night and take two consistent naps every day.  Part of our success is from learning by reading many many books and articles and speaking with our pediatrician and friends and family, and part is by letting Olivia teach us what she needs and wants.

Every parent is different in their approach to the kind of attachment they have with their child.  We decided early on that we were against co-sleeping and that it was important that Olivia learn to soothe herself rather than have us soothe her and put her back to sleep.  I'm not saying this is the best way, it is just best for us.

Because of our parenting style Olivia has always slept in a separate bed from us, and after the first month slept in a completely different room.  This way I don't keep her up and she doesn't keep me up with sleep noises, movement, etc.  Also, I think one of the keys to getting her on a sleep schedule was to have her on an eating schedule as well.  This way her body was able to anticipate and plan on the times of day more concretely.  In the beginning I tried to be strict with the 'eat every 3 hours' rule, and found it to be too rigid, so I let her decided when she was hungry and then made those her set times.  Same with sleeping.  Olivia gets tired and fussy at 8pm so that is her bedtime every night.  It helps to have a bedtime routine to help her anticipate what is coming and go down more easily.  I've read and found that including a few activities in the routine helps (bath, reading a book, feeding in a specific place, singing a song, putting lotion on, saying prayers, baby massage, etc.)

Here's the kicker.  When I put Liv to bed, I had to let her cry.  This is always hard, but I had to learn that she was crying because she was tired; and I had to leave her so she could get the sleep she needed!  If she'd cry for more than 15 minutes, I'd go in and rub her tummy or hold her hand but would not pick her up.  Once she learned that this was bedtime and she was expected to stay there until she slept, she stopped expecting me to come get her.  Also important: babies older than 6 months should be able to sleep for 8-12 hours without eating.  They are old enough to comfortably go that long without food.  So don't feel guilty :)  So Olivia goes to bed at 8, and then around midnight wakes up for a feeding.  I don't feel comfortable letting her go the full 12 hours without eating so if she hasn't woken up by midnight, I go in and feed her anyway.  That way I can get it in before I go to bed myself and then I get the full 8 hours before she wakes up again at 8am, ready for her day.

Sometimes Olivia will get into the habit of waking up a second time in the night (due to teething or a cold) and of course I rock her or feed her during these extenuating circumstances, but when she is well again I have found that, to get her back in the habit of sleeping through the night, if I let her cry for longer and longer stretches, or feed her less and less during that extra night time feeding, she will eventually stop waking up. (Also, it helped me to get a video monitor so that I could see that she was still wrapped warm in her crib instead of suffocating beneath the mattress or a dozen other scenarios I would play in my mind)

As far as naps go, same principle as bedtime.  I observed when she got fussy and tired during the day and made that her naptime.  Surprisingly, most babies are ready for their first nap within 2 1/2 hours of waking up in the morning.  Just go with it.  Also, 45 minutes is not a nap and won't help baby get the sleep he/she needs.  Let baby cry for a few and soothe them without picking up until they finish the nap. I've read that feeding before every nap and bedtime is a bad idea, but Olivia won't sleep unless her belly is full so we've worked a short feeding before both naps into her eating schedule.  She wakes at 8am, naps from 10-12pm, naps again at 3:30pm.  I don't let her sleep more than 2 hours for each nap, otherwise she has a harder time going to bed or taking the next nap.

I know that was long-winded but I hope that helps those who have asked me questions about how we got on schedule. 

Here are some of my favorite books to reference:
100 Things I Wish I Knew in my Baby's First Year
BabyWise (I HATED this book until I learned to use it as a guideline instead of a Bible)
What to Expect the First Year
Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems (About the Ferber method)
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