May 1, 2013

Our Sleep Solution

Ah, sweet sleep!

I have always loved sleep, but I have never appreciated it as much as I do now.  When I was younger, I had a lot more energy and (somehow) survived on 5-6 hours of sleep per night.  When I was pregnant, I had already quit my job and had the luxury of taking a nap whenever I got tired.  No big deal.

And then we had a baby.

To be honest, the first month or two were actually really easy, in terms of night sleep.  Andrew would wake up pretty often to eat.  But once we were in bed for the night, he would come into our bed too, as soon as he woke up that first time to eat.  It was super easy to nurse him in bed and fall back asleep. And because I was nursing him back to sleep, we usually wouldn't even get up for the day until around 9:00am!  Co-sleeping was wonderful!

We eventually decided that it was time for him to move into his own room.  He was getting close to the weight limit on his bassinet and Aaron and I were ready to have our room back.  We had never planned to co-sleep, and we had only planned on Andrew being in our room for a couple of months in the bassinet anyway.  Poor Aaron had a hard time getting ready for work in the mornings because he was afraid of waking the baby, and we were both ready to be rid of the diaper smell that had taken over the room.

We started with naps to get Andrew used to his crib.  I still nursed him to sleep, but Andrew was only napping for 30 minutes at a time.  After a couple weeks of napping in the crib, we decided to move him at night.

He had no problems being in his crib.  Hallelujah!  The issue was that he kept waking up every couple hours just like he had when he was in our bed, but now I had to get up, stumble to Andrew's room in the dark, feed him, and then hope he didn't wake up again as I put him back in his crib.  And no more nursing him back to sleep in the mornings either, so my day started two hours earlier.

I was a bit of a zombie.  And I couldn't take naps either, since Andrew's naps were so short.  It was rough.

So I checked some books out of the library and we got started with sleep training.

Step 1- Stop nursing to sleep.
  • We used the Baby Whisperer method (mostly) to accomplish this.  I can't handle cry it out (CIO) methods, and I knew that from the beginning.  So this one fit the bill.  The basic idea is that you comfort the baby and as soon as he calms down, you put him back in his crib to go to sleep.  If he cries, you pick him back up, comfort him, put him back down.  You repeat this as long as it takes for the baby to get the idea.  (The book says not to bounce or rock the baby- only shh and pat them on the back, but I find that a little bouncing goes a long way and I don't mind bouncing him for a couple minutes.)  I think it took us about 40 minutes the first night, 25 minutes the next night, and 10-15 minutes for a few nights after that.  Now if I get the timing right, it takes less than 5 minutes to put him down for a nap and I don't have to pick him up once I put him down.
Step 2- Lengthen nap times.
  • I didn't do anything here.  Once he started being able to fall asleep on his own, he started taking one long nap (2 hours) pretty much every day. His other naps were still only 30 minutes, but at least he got that one good nap and I got one break during the day.  Now he usually takes 2 longer naps and a couple short ones.  He's still working on this one, but he's starting to get more consistent.
Step 3- Eliminate night feeds.
  • This change was pretty recent.  At Andrew's 4 month pediatrician visit, the doctor told us that he (based on age and weight) should easily be able to sleep for 12 hours without getting up to eat.  I was still feeding him when he woke up twice a night and she told me how much happier we would all be if we could stop those feedings.  So we went back to the Baby Whisperer who says that you can basically eliminate extra night feeds by giving them a pacifier instead of a bottle or breast.  She also recommends doing a dream feed (you feed the baby in his sleep around 10:00-11:00pm) to help them last through the night.  Well, even with the dream feed, Andrew was waking up and crying for me twice in the night.  So that was a fail.  Andrew stopped taking a pacifier even before we started all of this sleep training so that definitely didn't work.  Another fail.  So we tried the pick-up/put-down that had worked so well before.  But he never calmed down.  We tried this for 3 nights, and each time we were up for several hours with a baby who wouldn't calm down because he knew he wanted to eat.  We were even more exhausted and so was Andrew.  And I was an emotional wreck.
  • We switched gears.  I knew I didn't want to do cry it out, but it couldn't possibly be worse than being in there with him while he wailed.  So I did a dream feed.  We went to bed.  When he woke up, I knew he couldn't really be hungry because I had given him the dream feed.  We turned off the baby monitor and set a timer for 30 minutes.  If Andrew was still crying when the timer rang, I was going to go in there and comfort or feed him.  But when we turned the monitor back on, there was no crying!  I sent Aaron in to check on him but Andrew was asleep, safe and sound.  It happened one more time that night with the same result.  The next night he woke up once, and stopped crying sometime before the 30 minutes was up.  The third night he woke up once, let out a single cry and went back to sleep.  Not even enough time for me to set the timer and turn off the monitor.  And ever since then, I've been sleeping through the night!  I've even stopped doing a dream feed, and he still sleeps until at least 7:00am.
People keep asking me, "How is he sleeping?  Are you getting any sleep?"  Now I can finally smile and answer that yes- we are all sleeping!  And what a happy family we are because of it!

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