|A great book on the biology of baby sleep.|
I just want to share the "sleep gospel" - the more the child sleeps, the better quality of sleep he gets. It sounded too good to be true, but it does make sense.
One happy day when Declan was about 6 weeks old, we were at Goodwill in San Antonio and my mom found this book while we were actually looking for another book that had been recommended to me a lot, On Becoming Babywise. We couldn't find a copy of Babywise, but after thumbing through Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, I decided I would probably learn something worth $0.99 from it.
To be honest, initially I didn't like the book. It was difficult to read and follow. Admittedly, Weissbluth may not be the most talented writer, but I was intrigued with the actual hard facts he had from his years of research. He was talking about the biology of baby sleep. It was refreshing and comforting to know that most non-colicky babies are very similar in their needs for sleep and even the time of day and night that they most naturally grow drowsy. It was like he knew my kid! This information is invaluable! It's like gold! I started referencing the book for specific problems we were having and I've ended up going back and reading through Declan's age range. I still return to it if we have a specific problem pop up and it is always helpful.
My main issues at the time were Declan's daytime naps. I had no idea how much daytime sleep he needed. I just put him down when I thought he seemed tired. It was usually after I had nursed him and he fell asleep, because I really hadn't figured out the best way to soothe him yet. I'd put him down completely zonked and without fail he'd wake up 5 minutes later. I cringe when I think about how I got him up and just assumed he wasn't tired, or he had cat-napped long enough while eating that he was rested.
I was exhausted and stressed. I was trying to carry on a part-time job at home, take care of our apartment, and have supper ready when Ryan got home. I was so far away from that expectation I had for myself that I didn't see how anyone did it. Little did I know, Declan was tired, too. Over-exhausted, in fact. And that's why he wasn't sleeping.
The most revolutionary thing I learned was that infants his age should have a wake time of between 1 and 2 hours. Weissbluth said to be mindful of the clock, but mostly watch your baby closely. The first yawn or eye-rubbing, slow blink, or slow down in activity -- that was my cue. I picked him up from his play - because these cues often occurred while he was still very happily playing - changed his diaper, turned out the lights in his room, swaddled him, and started rocking and singing to him. Sometimes there was a little crying, but I was surprised at how easily he fell asleep. My confidence grew and I took it a step further and practiced putting him down drowsy. This helped him get familiar with falling asleep in his crib.
The next amazing thing that I learned was how to help him to sleep through the night. Now I have your attention, don't I? At around 6 weeks, most non-colicky babies are mature enough to sleep 8-10 hours, maybe even 12, with no night waking. We had been trying to start his bedtime routine at around 9. Thus began a wake-fest that lasted til 11pm on good nights and 2am on bad nights. We had been keeping him up - going to Walmart, out for walks -- whatever we could do to try and keep him awake in the early evening hours - and of course he wasn't napping well during the day, so he was hard to keep awake by that time of day. I remember one time sitting down in the nursery with him. I propped him on a pillow in my lap, turned to grab an exciting book to read to him in hopes of keeping him awake just a little bit longer, and when I turned back he was OUT.
When Weissbluth described what our evenings looked like, his book became a page-turner for me. He talked about babies crashing at around 11pm and 2am. Ours was a common problem! His suggestion was to move the bedtime earlier - to about 9. So we started the routine at 7:30. Leisurely bath, long nursing, then more rocking and singing til he fell asleep a little before 9.
The first night we tried this, my little boy slept for 10 hours. Asleep at 9pm, awake at 7am. No wakings. This continued virtually without flaw for 5 weeks, when unfortunately the acid reflux came and stole our nights back.
But apparently we might have run into more night wakings around that time anyway. Three to four month olds get a lot more social and distracted during the day. They don't eat enough because they're too busy looking around and talking at EVERYTHING, real or imaginary (yes, it's adorable). So they get hungrier at night. If this was the only thing we were dealing with, I would have done what Weissbluth suggested: roll with it. If you realize it's just a phase that will last a few weeks, it gets easier to get up once or twice a night to feed. Declan has done that the past week or two, and in comparison to the reflux waking him every 3 hours, it was great. Plus he has blessed me with the way he will lay quietly in his crib after these feedings - even if wide awake. He puts himself back to sleep, and I probably fall back to sleep before he does most nights (c:
Today we're in a pretty good place with sleep. Up until recently he has had only 30-45 minute naps. I felt like there was something wrong with that, but when I read more about 4-5 month olds I learned that their brain matures at this age and enables them to start napping longer. At almost 5 months old, Declan usually has two or three 1 1/2 hour naps a day. What a relief! He still has days where all his naps are short, but those are fading out.
His bedtime the past couple of nights has been 7:45. He always wakes up again between 8:15 or 8:30, but it's just to be burped one last time and rocked for a few minutes more. Then he's good to go until around 5am when I feed him again and he goes back to sleep with no soothing until 7:30 or 8. Weissbluth describes this as a healthy sleep pattern for this age, and says to expect it to last until around 9 months when he'll go back to sleeping through the night.
I should mention that Weissbluth does not recommend using the cry-it-out method until 4 months of age. That was one thing that kept me reading. This is sleep training without the heart break. In truth, we didn't even want to do the cry-it-out that he suggests at 4 months. We couldn't take it (we did try it a night or two). And Declan is still a good sleeper, so I am confident that you can do it without letting your baby cry it out, if that's what you want. I think the important things are having a solid foundation of a good sleep routine (we've had basically the same ritual since he was 6 weeks old), plus having an already well-rested child.
So, if you're feeling like you have to let your baby wail in the crib to learn how to sleep, don't. Don't think you have to do something that goes against your instincts and breaks your heart. I'm not against the crying method - it does work for so many, and I'm sure it would have worked for us - but it was way too painful to me!!
I hope you can have the same blessing of sleep that we have had.