Thursday, March 1, 2012

How to get your baby to sleep through the night {mostly}

{Boaz as a newborn}

So I"ve mulled over this post for quite some time now because I realize this topic opens a can of worms and if you don't believe me just google it! I'm willing to go there and share because of my terrible experience with getting my first kiddo to sleep. I beg you not to send me any mean comments or emails with reference to this topic, I"m merely sharing my experience with hopes to offer others relief! Also, I am not an expert on this topic, although I am a nurse I worked primarily with cardiac patients and have zero extra knowledge with babies and kiddos! And one more thing, keep in mind there's more than one way to get to Philadelphia, just like there's more than one way to decorate your house and cook chili.
Here we go....Before giving birth to my first child nobody and I mean nobody warned me about the lack of sleep or the challenges that teaching a child to sleep may hold. I just assumed they would know how to fall asleep and obviously sleep through the night like adults. There are lots of babies that do this all on their own, God bless them and their mothers, but unfortunately I do not grow that kind! My children tend to be very active, wide-eyed wonders who don't have time to sleep because they are much too busy discovering the world. {My mother said I was the same way!} So I tried everything with my first, I bought every book out there on sleep from babywise to no-cry to you name it. I even co-slept since we were nursing, which may have worked except he would wake up every 45 minutes to eat and that bought me zero rest. For napping, he would only nap on me so during those times I couldn't even answer the phone and honestly most of the time I napped too! By 5 months old I was ready to jump off a cliff and my husband had just deployed to Iraq. I'll never forget a dear friend running into me at subway and she merely asked how I was doing and I broke down in sobs, I mean the horrible ugly cry. So with my husband's encouragement and many friends I put him in his crib around 6-7 months let him cry and after three nights or so he finally put himself to sleep. But then just a couple months after that he climbed out of his crib and we were really back to square one! So I went back to nursing him in the middle of the night 1-2 times probably up until he was almost 2! Yes, craziness. My sleep patterns have been forever altered and I regularly took melatonin. Good news is putting him to bed now is a non-event. We read him books, say prayers, put the nightlight on and walk out. That fact has given me great hope because after everything he sleeps perfectly normal and we have no issues. But when you are a first time Mom stuck in the dreadful season of un-sleep, its hard to see the light at the end of tunnel.
Enter baby boy number two. I was determined to improve and not feel so hopeless. One of the secrets of getting your baby/child to sleep longer stretches is helping them to learn to self-soothe and put themselves back to sleep when they inevitably wake themselves up. By the way the definition of a baby sleeping through the night is 5-6 hour stretches. I threw out the idea of having my baby sleep all the way through the night like 8-10 hours because babies will be hungry especially if they are nursing. Also mine are typically on the small size and move a lot burning off calories quickly. I think its important to be realistic and manage expectations. One of the main problems with my first is every single mother would ask me if my baby was sleeping through the night and quickly brag how theirs did. This made me feel guilty, inadequate, and like a total failure. Why do women do this to each other?
So here's what I did with Boaz, he slept in our room in the pack-n-play until 3-4 months, then around that time I put him down for naps and bedtime in his crib while still awake. I put the white noise machine on and a little music player attached to the crib and waited to see what would happen. To my surprise and delight, he cried max 5-7 minutes and fell asleep. Now, if he did cry longer, I would go in pick him up, rock him and sing then put him back down. If you can take note of their tired cues and he also took a binky (paci) and could put it in his own mouth that was helpful. Again, lots of Mom's don't allow binkies, I sucked my thumb forever as a kid and don't have a problem with it. So at this point (7 months) he has slept through the night a handful of times, but mostly wakes up at least once and I feed him. He's in the 7% for weight so I don't mind giving him extra nourishment in the night. For naps he takes twice a day for 2 hours long each! I hear him wake up and he puts himself back down. So I basically took the best information from all those books and found a grove that worked for us. Babywise's feeding schedule was impossible for us, my baby needed to nurse more frequently because of reflux, but I do follow the general concept of scheduling naps or at least watching for those sleepy cues and putting him down at that time.
So to summarize, I started putting him down awake, but sleepy around 3-4 months, put the white noise machine on plus music maker and binkies available in the crib. I'm in such a better place than before and have found what works for us, hope this helps you in anyway!


Erin (Out on a Limb) said...

You're so brave to put this post out there! Having a new baby in the house is such a whirlwind in so many ways. We sort of used the Babywise model with our first, our daughter and she did sleep through the night well pretty early, but I think it had more to do with her and her personality than us. She has always, even now at almost 6 been an easy transitioner. Plus she's a thumb sucker. We approached our son, baby #2 with the same method more or less with incredibly different results. Each child is sooo different. At 3 weeks old he would be up for hours and I mean hours during naptime. He'd fall asleep and nothing could keep him that way. Swaddling was a joke. We finally learned during tummy time that he liked to sleep on his belly, (a no-no, I know). Suddenly he slept. He always needed more rocking, singing and patting to help him wind down than my daughter, and would sporadically wake up looking for reassurance during a random night, but in time, we figured it out.

I remember feeling frustrated and like a failure when I couldn't figure these things out, or when some mom would brag about her own experience, that far exceeded mine. I survived with trial and error and the wisdom and support of others.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience. It can be so hard and often dark when you're sleep deprived, muddling through this. I'm sure you've helped several new moms out there to feel reassured.

Aja said...

Thanks for sharing this! I agree- moms can be hard on one another. And it's so strange, since we are all (hopefully) just trying to do what's best for our baby and family. I had a tough time with my daughter sleeping, too. She now does really well, but I read nearly every book and tried all kinds of things. Why no one ever tells you to try and prepare to "teach" your baby to sleep, I'll never know. It's such a big thing!

So glad Bo is sleeping well for you!

Sarah said...

Thank you for this! I was the same way with No. 1; we got into the bad habit of nursing to sleep so he didn't learn to self-soothe and was still waking up 3-4 times a night until about 9 months. Torture. I'm a total believer in letting them learn to self-soothe. It's so tough for a few days, but the payoff is worth it and the baby is much happier in the end. Will do so with baby No. 2 this summer.

Anonymous said...

A couple of things that worked for us:

1) Wait a bit (a minute at the most), if they cry during the night. I think they wake up between sleep cycles, and if we don't interrupt, they go back down to sleep.

2) Food, food, food. If they wake up during the night hungry, try to increase the amount of milk (or solids, if appropriate) during the day.

3) Dream feed: this is from the Baby Whisperer (LOVE HER). She recommended to put the baby to bed at his/her normal naptime, but then go in around 10:00 pm or 11:00 pm, quietly, with very little light, just give him/her another bottle. Usually, the baby barely wakes up, you don't have to burp if they are asleep, and put them back to bed. It worked for us.

Also, the music box or mobile is a must for us, as well as the white noise machine, and putting the baby to bed awake but sleepy. A routine is also very important.

Kirsten said...

I have followed your blog for a while, but this is my first comment. I am SO thankful you put this on here! We have a 13 month old little girl and have/are experiencing many things you mentioned with your first. At 6 months we did the "cry it out" (which I know people are against), but we had to for our sanity. She took 2+ weeks of 2+ hours of was not fun. Now she puts herself to sleep at night time, but naps are still a nightmare.
Do you think because with you second you laid him down awake at an early age this helped him fall asleep easier? I am curious for the future.

Lindsay N. Strickland said...

Thank you for posting this!! I'm reeeeally nervous about this whole baby sleep thing and I really can't comprehend the lack of sleep in the months to come. Yikes. I'm glad there's hope (and real honesty)!

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