Friday, January 3, 2014

How I got my babies to sleep (or rather, baby sleep book overview)

In the spirit of writing a new post everyday, I am sitting down at the computer during the quite bliss of nap time -- and I'm drawing a total blank.  

So I looked through old blog drafts, and found this whooper. Originally drafted Jan 23, 2013.

I hesitate to write advice posts. I was taught you shouldn't offer advice unless asked, and even then most people really just want you to listen to their problems -- not fix them. But for weeks I've been wanting to write down my thoughts on parenting techniques. I try to convince myself that doing so isn't prideful, it is simply a way of jotting notes down while they are fresh on my mind. Surely if I ever have another baby these notes will be helpful to me. To some degree this motive is true. But I also know that deep down I hope that sharing my experiences and tested techniques might help another mother. I suppose this is my hope because I know I would not have succeeded in getting Nell to sleep through the night at 8 weeks if it hadn't been for others sharing their advice and experiences. (Riki Lyman, if you are reading this, thanks for blogging once about Babywise).

But before I get into Nell's sleep training I'll have to give a little background, and a confession.

When I was expecting Reid I channeled all my nesting juices into preparing for the delivery. I really had no idea what to do with him once he was delivered. I was told to feed on demand, and the nurses at INOVA were constantly waking me up to feed him. I was so exhausted I finally begged them to just give him formula and let me rest.

Oh my sweet chunky Reid. That kid was (and still is) always hungry. Feeding Reid on demand meant I fed him for 30 minutes, held him upright for 30 minutes (he was such a puker) and then took 30 minutes for myself before the whole routine started over again. If only I had known then what I know now!

The tricky thing about feeding on demand is that you end up using your boob to solve all your baby's problems. When Reid was tired he rooted, and so I fed him. I thought rooting equaled hunger. When he was fussy I fed him. Drs told me breastfeeding was comforting, and it definitely did calm him down after each immunization. So imagine my surprise when Nell got her first dose of immunizations and she screamed her head off, but was totally calm by the time I prepped myself for a feeding.

Feeding on demand may work for some mothers. But not this one! If you swear by feeding on demand, then you might want to stop reading. If you have been totally burnt out by a giant baby who always seems to need your body for comfort, read on.

When Reid was about 3 months old I researched all sorts of baby help and sleep books. I put them on my local library waitlist and powered through each one as they became available.

Happiest Baby on the Block = Total fluff, would be much more effective as a pamphlet.

No Cry Sleep Solution (I read both the nap and night time books), The series has some good advice, but the author is NOT a medical professional and fully admits none of her children slept through the night before age 2, and the first three didn't even get there till like age 8 or something. Clearly not an expert.

The books I found the most helpful for getting Reid to finally start sleeping well were Babywise and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

Both these books receive a lot of well warranted praise and harsh criticism. They are labeled "how to abuse your child" by attachment parenting advocates. And I am totally confused by this outcry.

Neither of my children have ever been left to "cry it out." They both consistently rank in the top 90th percentile for growth. They are/were healthy and happy babies. Each had medical conditions that should have made sleeping through the night more difficult to achieve, but once I applied the advices of these two books, both slept through the night with ease. Reid at age 4 months (since I didn't read them until later) and Nell by age 8 weeks.

^^^ Ha Ha ^^^ I laugh at that. I know I'm not a liar, so I believe Nell slept through the night by 8 weeks ... but oh my gosh that is not how I remember it.

There is nurture, and there is nature. Nell is naturally a pickier eater than Reid, and a much worse sleeper. Don't get me wrong, thanks to some techniques I used I do think Nell slept better than is to be expected. But she'd sleep great for two weeks and then have a full week of up every four hours. It drove me nuts!!! Seriously, I am not a pleasant person when my sleep is interrupted for days on end. Especially when that interruption is a screaming baby who will only calm down after a diaper change and some breast milk straight from my breast. That girl NEVER took a bottle. Never. She went straight to a sippy cup. (Okay, maybe she accepted two fluke bottles in her first month, but she turned down at least a dozen before we finally gave up trying, a decision we made after she refused to eat for nearly 8 hours when we left her in Grandma's care and I snuck away for an LDS Temple session). 

Maybe my memory of Reid is a poor one, but I'm pretty sure teething didn't phase him. Being sick seemed to have a bad affect on his sleep habits, but teeth -- no biggie. Nell, oh Nell, that girl has a horrible time sleeping when she is popping new teeth ... which always seem to take weeks to cut through. 

I suppose I do remember her sleeping a solid eight hours by eight weeks, but I also remember her being up every two hours until that magical night. Reid seemed to stretch out his sleep. Three hours ... four hours ... five hours ... and then stuck on six until I "trained" him. Nell was two ... two ... two ... eight. It is so weird how each kid truly is their own. Even if you, the parent, feel like you are the same. 

As for the advice? Hmmm? What was it that I was finally going to get to in that original post? Well, the one thing I remember, the one thing that I am SURE to do with every future baby is EAT, PLAY, SLEEP. Not eat, sleep, eat, play; not eat, sleep, play. The eat, play, sleep pattern is divine!!! That is what I learned from Babywise. My babies are fed the moment they wake up, and even if they start to doze at the breast I try to keep them up for a few brief moments before they go back to sleep and we start the cycle all over again. Putting a stop to demand feedings with Reid was one of the best new mother decisions I ever made. He, no we, thrived on the eat, play, sleep routine.

I was never huge on time scheduling. Some times it would be only an hour between feedings and other times it would be three. I was just big on the routine; eat, play, sleep, eat, play, sleep. I made sure to stick with feeding guidelines and sleep guidelines from my pediatricians. Baby age (x) gets (y) amount of feedings and (z) hours of sleep each day. 

As for those horrible months spent teething? That's where Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child came into play. Babywise gave me the foundation I needed to get babies to sleep and HSH,HC gave me all the advice I needed to troubleshoot the inevitable hiccups along the way. Of all the baby sleep books I borrowed form the library during Reid's infancy, HSH,HC is the only one I purchased in preparation for Nell's. I know I referenced it at least a few times during her first year. Its 500 pages can be a little overwhelming to new parents, but it reads like a reference book and you can easily just skim through what you need from it. 

Aside from the daily eat, play, sleep routine. I've also always had a bed time and nap time routine. For Reid I sang songs before naps and bathed and read before night time sleep. For Nell I pretty much always just rocked her and read her a story or two, whether it was nap time or night time. She still hasn't reached the long nap phase. Every now and then she'll give me more than two hours, but most of them are just an hour and a half. Reid has been known to nap for more than four hours ... at which point we wake him up. His average is three. I'm hoping that once I transition Nell down to one nap she'll hit that three hour mark. 

I'm a big believer that sleep breads sleep. The better babies sleep at night, the better they'll nap. And vice versa. Unless I really have to (or a nap leans toward the four/five hour mark) I never wake a baby (that seemed instinctual to me, but HSH, HC uses that as one of its main thesis). Too much TV does affect sleep. As a recovering first time mom I watched the full 30 Rock series with Reid in my arms, and then I was all surprised when he wouldn't nap. Duh! 

I'm sure that in the end this scattered post will be helpful to zero new moms. And that's okay. I'm just getting in my blog post for today!

Hey, be grateful it wasn't about the corrupt relationship between businesses and government, specifically in regards to the ACA federal exchange website ... cause that's what I was planning on until my nap time brain was too mushy! 


Riki Lee said...

Yep, still reading! You're welcome. Babywise always made sense to me.

Riki Lee said...

I'll have to read the other book you suggested next time.

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