Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sleeping Baby = Happy Baby & Mommy

a note: or should I say a warning? This post is a bit long and may ramble on. I realized it was lengthy after completing it and was too lazy to go back and revise. Read at your own risk. =)

As I mentioned in Amélie's three month post, our little girl started what people term, "sleep training." I much prefer the term, "mommy needs some sleep soon or else everything is going to spontaneously combust!"

It was a serious problem here in our abode when I was just not happy. Our once sweet girl made a 180 in her attitude during one night and for almost two weeks I could not get her to sleep soundly enough for me to eat, get a drink of water, or even have a potty break. She would not let me put her down and the once successful use of the Ergo was no more. I remember a day(or more) where I literally held her in my arms all day because that was the only way she would sleep or be content. Try going to the bathroom with a baby in your arms or better yet, a baby that is screaming at the top of her lungs because she can't wait to eat a minute longer (She could have waited. I'm not starving my baby). I also started seeing a lot more of her at night. She was down to waking up two times during the night, but she started adding one and sometimes two more times. That was NOT good! It got to the point where I was really resenting Eric for getting a full nights rest and when he got home from work I was really mad at him all evening. I probably made it worse by not really letting him help me out in the evenings. I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually make her happy. Also, her bedtime routine was just not working anymore. We've been doing the same exact thing for a while now and the routine itself didn't mean anything to her anymore. It would sometimes take us up to three hours to get her to finally sleep. This meant no quiet time for Eric and me in the evenings and definitely no chance of us eating dinner together. It was bad. After dealing with this for two weeks, it was definitely time for a change.

We'd been hesitant to try any kind of sleep training before this because a lot of books/web say that a three month old is too young for such methods. It is also excruciating having to listen to your baby cry for any length of time and boy can Amélie cry. She's got some lungs on her! I finally convinced Eric that we needed to do something because I was exhausted and we both felt there was definitely some tension between us. I did some online research that night we decided to give it a try and found Dr. Weissbluth's method and his book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Eric also mentioned that one of his friends at work had used Dr. W's methods and that they recommended his book. The next day we bought the book and I finished it before Amélie's bedtime that night.

Dr. W's method is not about letting your baby cry it out. Instead, it's about learning your baby's cues so that you can start their sleepy time routine before they start to cry. You're supposed to watch for signs like yawning, eye rubbing, the far-off daze, and basically anything that will signal that you're babe needs to take a nap or go to sleep for the night. His book has a general overview of how his method works and then it's separated into different chapters based on the age of your child. We focused on the 2-4 month chapters. He gives two different ways of soothing your child for sleep, how much sleep he/she should be getting, how sleep benefits a child now and then years later, what a sleep schedule looks like and a lot of other information. I basically just took what we needed. Two things that we didn't follow per Dr. W's suggestions were/are letting the baby cry it out for up to an hour and leaving the room immediately after putting the her down to sleep.

Did it work? Heck yes! Amélie improved with every passing day. We actually went in reverse with her training because of our little vacation to Hawaii where there is a three hour time difference, but she's getting it a lot faster than the first time. Here are the details on our routine and her sleeping habits:

-We start by closing her blinds and turning on what we call her "sleepy time music," even though it's not music at all. It's actually Hawaiian white noise I downloaded onto my Ipod. We have a speaker docking station in her room and we play it on repeat for the duration of her nap or all night. We started using it after your suggestions on her previous sleep issues. It works!
-If it's bedtime, we change her into her pj's and give her a little massage on her legs and tummy with her "sleepy time lotion." Yes, we use the term "sleepy time" a lot. It's actually a lavender and chamomile scented lotion that's supposed to help her relax. I don't know if it actually works, but I think the scent itself and the action of the massage are a signal for her.
-If it's her nap time we skip the massage and move onto the next thing which is putting her in what we affectionally call "the bag" or sleep sack. She wears it every time she sleep because she's a crazy sleeper like her daddy and swaddling blankets don't stay put anymore. Her sleep sacks have an attached band that can be wrapped about her arms to create a swaddle. For a while we didn't swaddle her because she would fuss and cry about it, but now it's a necessity. She'll wake herself up with her flailing arms and legs and also scratch her face. She now loves to be swaddled. I can swaddle her and just leave her in her crib and she'll hang out, talk to herself, and just smile. I also like the fact that her little arms stay warm at night. Although...she's a Houdini. I'll check on her periodically throughout the night and sometimes only her hands will be peeking out right below her chin (I wish I could take a picture because she looks so freakin' cute!, other times it's one arm, and most often she'll get both arms out completely while she's asleep.
-After the lights are dimmed or turned off, the music turned on, and she is wearing the sack, we lay her down in her crib and give her the pacifier. This is the only time she gets a pacifier. Sucking really soothes her and every single time I give her the paci she immediately starts closing her eyes. It doesn't mean they stay closed, but this lets me know she really is tired.
-Depending on how tired I think she is I'll either leave her room after giving her a kiss and gently rubbing her brows (she loves this) or I'll stay for a few minutes and continue with the rubbing. Sometimes I'll just stand by the side of her crib and look at her. That's enough to calm her down and get her to sleep. I really think she just wants to know I'm close by. She goes down with almost no crying, although there have been exceptions. She will fuss a little and spit out the paci a couple times, but eventually she'll close her eyes and just fall asleep. It's been amazing!

Sleeping Habits:
-Since we started the sleep training Amélie's only been getting up once at night. She goes to sleep between 5:30 and 6:30. This time includes the routine outlined above and being fed if it's her bedtime. Nap time comes after her activity time, so there is no feeding involved. She'll sleep until about 2:30 or 3AM, get up to nurse, and then sleep until 7AM. That's when her day begins.
-After nursing at 7AM, we'll hang out until I notice that she's getting sleepy again. She either starts making her fussy/sleepy grunts or starts yawning. By the third yawn, she'll already be in her crib or in bed with me since Eric is up getting ready for work. I usually nap with her during this time. This is usually her longest nap of the day from about 8-8:30ish to 10ish.
-After our morning nap, the rest of the day goes pretty much the same: activity, signs of sleepiness, nap, and then nursing session. She naps from about 11:30 to 12:30 and then again at around 2:30 to 3:30. There have been times when she slept longer for those naps, but 45 minutes to an hour is the norm.

I hope to get her to a place where she can go to bed a little bit later so Eric can at least see her awake for a few minutes. Right now she's already asleep when he gets home from work. If she'll nap more, the idea is that she'll be able to stay up later. But for now, I am very happy. In the last few weeks I've actually sat down and had a relaxing quiet lunch every day and used the bathroom without screaming in the background. Amélie is also back to her normal super smiley self and has learned how to put herself to sleep. Everyone is happy. Woo for sleep training!


Maggie said...

I loved reading this post! It definitely brought me back. It sounds like you guys are doing all the right things right. I'm so glad you found some good tips and help in that book. This sounds just like Colin's nap time schedule when he was that age. Two morning naps and an afternoon nap, all averaging about 45 minutes. Unfortunately, we could never get him to fall asleep on his own in his crib at that age (even using the pacifier)without hysterical crying so our routine included rocking him to sleep until we started the cry-it-out method at 8 months. Isn't it great to have a routine that works and actually be able to eat a meal in peace? Tell us about your Hawaii trip!!

Amber said...

WOO! Happy to hear about such a quick and positive change. Excellent work!!

mrs shortcake said...

I don't think there is a too-early age for a sleep routine. We started Baby Shortcake on one as soon as we came home from the hospital ( diaper change, nurse, bath, nurse, books, Sleep Sheep white noise, bed, or diaper change, nurse, sleep sheep, bed at nap time) and we have been lucky to have a "good" sleeper who has slept through the night since two weeks. I worked in a daycare for several years, and having a consistent routine (ESPECIALLY familiar sounds every nap, whether it's a sleep sheep or lullaby cd) is critical for sleeping success. I'm so glad you're getting some rest now! :)

mrs shortcake said...

Oh, and I highly recommend the book, "The Baby Whisperer solves all of your problems" - it's brilliant!

Elizabeth, Lawrence, Samantha and Calvin said...

I'm so glad you've found something that works for you and life is better! Congrats!

Dr. W. sounds like The Baby Whisperer with respect to watching for sleepy signs and putting her down immediately, plus the routine bit. Those things worked for us as well (although our routine isn't as rigorous). And the paci totally helps!

You could also try treating 5:30pm as nap time (with the nap routine)instead of bed time and seeing if she wakes up on her own around 8pm. Then you can sneak in one last feeding, some daddy time, and the bedtime routine (or combine bedtime routine with daddy time - even better), and she might just sleep until 5 or 6am. That seems to work for us. If she doesn't get up on her own around 8, you could also try what the Baby Whisperer calls a "dream feed", although I have trouble getting Sam to nurse when she's truly half-asleep.