Over the past few weeks, I have been reading all of the sleep information I can get my hands on. So far, I’ve read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, The No Cry Nap Solution, The No Cry Sleep Solution and Happiest Baby on the Block. So far, The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley has been my favorite, and I really have very little use for Happiest Baby on the Block (this book is mostly targeted towards mothers of younger babies, particularly babies with colic).
Why? Why are we interested in sleep? Well, I am interested in getting some. And indeed I am. Sam is sleeping at least five hours at a time at night, which is medically considered sleeping through the night. But, he does wake up a time or two after that, and yeah, after falling asleep in his bassinet, he still insists on staying in bed with us. (The shock! The horror! A baby in bed snuggled with mama!) My goals include: getting him to his crib by six months, getting him to learn how to fall asleep better on his own, and getting him to take at least two naps a day, lasting one hour or more each. I think this is attainable — and better yet, I truly believe this is attainable without TOO much relying on crying it out.
Well what have I learned? How does it apply to Sam?
On crying it out: Crying it out, which I wrote about before, CAN be a very useful tool for getting an infant to self soothe to sleep. I have found that, with Sam, sometimes he gets overstimulated being held or rocked or fed, and he just needs to fuss a little to himself in order to fall asleep. This doesn’t mean he needs to scream. He just needs to be left alone to say Meh, Meh, Meh, and then ZONK he is asleep. (This only works sometimes.) If he is screaming (Mehhhhhh Mehhh MWAAAAAAAAAAHHHHRRRRRRRRR), I know he is in distress, and I pick him up and comfort him. To me, this has proven to be an effective strategy for our kid. I’ve done this after having read about crying it out, and viewing both sides, and I take a balanced view. It works sometimes in some situations when Sam is in certain moods. I would highly recommend that anyone trying this method research it — it is only fair to you and your child that you are informed about what you are doing. (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems are the best books about this method.)
The best ideas from Elizabeth Pantley’s No Cry Nap Solution:
Set an early bed time! (This is also a great idea in Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.) Try different times to see what works for your kiddo. I’ve tried: 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:30 and 9:00. Before this Sam was going to bed at 10:00 or 11:00 — when we went to bed. And I wondered why he was so fussy! DUH. Now I’ve found that Sam goes to bed really well around 8PM, no earlier, not much later. Yay!
Adopt a lovey for your child. I’ve recently given Sam a bunny from my friend Nicole that he likes to hold on to. It really actually replaces mama’s boob, and it comforts him when he is on the fidgety edge of sleep. It helps him self soothe! Great idea, Elizabeth Pantley!
Create a ritual for bedtime. Well, this one isn’t too necessary for Sam. Find a good bedtime for him, nurse him, give him bunny, and he’s out. BUT I love reading him a book I got from a friend — Mama Do You Love Me? I read it just about every night before his last feeding. It is so sweet and unique, and I can’t wait til he understands — yes, I will always love you, because you are my dear one. He now loves to touch the pictures and listen to me read. If he’s patient, I also read himGoodnight Moon — or Dad reads it, sometimes in Christopher Walken’s voice! This is now his signal that it’s time for sleep, along with taking a warm bath, eating, getting a fresh diaper, and a putting on his sleep sack. ZONK, he’s out.
Observe your baby’s natural sleep times for naps. During the day, Sam likes to be AWAKE (this shift occurred shortly after he turned two months old — before that he slept all the time, which is natural!). This shocked me, and I didn’t know what to do. Now, I know that he needs to take a couple of naps, and he really needs all distraction removed. He rubs his eyes when he’s sleepy, fusses, and gets a faraway look in his eyes. Cue nap time!
Nap time should happen in his crib, far from distraction. Before now, I had been used to having Sam sleep in his swing or Pack and Play right with us. I felt I needed to watch him. Now he is fine in his crib (well, he’s getting there) at least once a day. He takes two naps (ish), and we all are happier! I really wish he would sleep two hours at a time, but one hour seems to be what he does right now. We’ll see how it develops over time.
So far, so good! The best tip? From my coworker today — don’t stress over it. Patterns emerge, and your baby will fall into a more consistent nap and sleep pattern over time.
On co-sleeping and bed-sharing:
One last word — on co-sleeping. I think that co-sleeping has become sort of a dirty word in American society. It (like extended breastfeeding and babywearing) is quite common in other countries. In Japan (a country where I lived), I saw co-sleeping firsthand at houses I visited. Babies slept with Mama and Daddy — not a crib to be seen. Let me just say, I am rather ANTI bed-sharing, but I do it so that I can sleep — not so that I can meet some sort of crunchy ideal. After Sam wakes up the first time, he yells and fusses and takes a giant dump when I put him back in his bassinet. Intellectually, I want him to stay there. I really, really do. But at 4AM, I often feel rather too lovely to put effort into getting him back to sleep. What’s easiest? Here’s a boob, go back to sleep. I wake up with my back hurting from being curled up protectively and stiffly beside him (this is a weird mothering instinct that kicks in though you don’t expect it to — there is not one moment since about week 3 that I’ve ever thought I’d roll over on Sam. Have you seen my giant baby? His giant head would crush my side if I accidentally moved onto him).
Yeah, I was a co-sleeping, bed-sharing hater. I was hating on it. I thought it was dangerous, and infringing on my space, and la la la. Well, I figured it out at about week two. Baby doesn’t want to be in the cold co-sleeper. Seriously. Babies are FAR more aware than you think they are going to be. The first time I accidentally fell asleep with him next to me, he thought, “Yes, this! This is better than the stupid co-sleeper. I will yell any time she puts me there. Yell, yell, yell some more!” So we bed shared for most of the first two months, and then he decided it was okay to be in the co-sleeper bassinet for the first part of the evening. Good times. It is better on my back anyway.
My point? If you are planning to nurse in bed, you WILL fall asleep next to your baby. It will be scary the first few times. You will do internet research on the horrors of co-sleeping, and you will find that it’s probably pretty okay unless you are drunk, on drugs, a heavvvvvy sleeper, or significantly overweight. The best way to avoid bed-sharing altogether? Put your baby in a crib from day one. There are huge benefits to co-sleeping and room-sharing though — baby’s breathing is regulated when he is near mama, reducing the risk of SIDS, and nursing is far far easier with the closeness, meaning more sleep for you guys.
And last, after this rambling sleepy mess, you can have a successful sleeper with co-sleeping. Sam is! Moving to the crib … well, that’s a post for later. But we’re on our way … For now, it’s hard for me to let go …