I think we have finally arrived. Do I dare even put it to words out loud as to not jinx it? I do dare…
After 8 months of “training”, Pearl, finally, not only can put herself to sleep, but stays asleep, takes 2 great long naps a day, and can sleep through the night for 12 hours. *falling back into the couch in exhaustion*
The book I’ll be referencing is Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. By Marc Weissbluth. Below are his general ideas and findings with a few of my opinions sprinkled in. This book saved my sanity and just as important, everyone’s sleep. Below are the reasons I became so protective and psycho about Pearls sleep. I hope this blog will help any other baby mama (or Dada!) out there who is struggling to get your child to sleep well.
WHY: Reasons why babies need naps as well as good, deep, protected sleep: What I learned about babies need for adequate sleep:
-Weissbluth is a pediatrician who specializes in sleep for infants and children. His book is based on studies that he conducted and what he has learned over his years of studying sleep. Weissbluth supports both the Attachment Parenting Style and Unattached Parenting Style (Cry It Out). His basic stance on the matter is, he doesn’t care how you get your baby to sleep well, just get them to sleep well…whatever it takes. And do every thing in your power to help them to sleep well. I’ll be focusing more on the Unattached Parenting style since that is what ended up working best with Pearl (who is a happy super connected baby). In his studies, he has found that allowing your baby to Cry It Out (CIO) does work the best and quickest though it may be the hardest for the parents. He found that CIO does not cause any harm to your baby. Brain cells will not be damaged, and they will not have attachment issues. In fact, he found babies who were allowed to CIO actually developed a healthier sense of security than those who didn’t.
-Every child deserves to have their sleep protected. It sucks when you can’t or don’t sleep, why would a baby be any different? Think of how you feel when you don’t get enough sleep; you’re groggy, you get headaches, you become confused, disoriented, you can’t concentrate or learn as well. Now imagine being a baby who doesn’t need just 8 hours of sleep a day, like an adult, but needs 14-16+ a day. Not only do they need more sleep then us, but add in the fact that their brain is still developing and growing. What does sleep deprivation do to a growing developing brain?
-Some babies will not just fall asleep on the spot when they are tired, they actually need to be trained to sleep. This was the case with Pearl. She eventually stopped napping and needed to be taught how. It starts with their crib or area of sleep. Weissbluth believes that it’s best for babies to learn to sleep in their crib (or wherever baby usually sleeps). He believes babies can’t get the quality sleep they need when on the go (by all means though, if this works for you great! Pearl was never able to sleep on the go after 2 months). He also believes that some babies cannot learn to sleep well, and stay asleep, until they are given the opportunity to learn. Unfortunately, giving them this opportunity may mean a bit of tears. This is why I read this book. Pearl was not sleeping well. We had to do something.
-Weissbluth says that there are many reason why babies don’t sleep well. In his studies, he has found the usual reason is that babies aren’t getting the sleep they need. If babies don’t get the sleep they need…then it effects their sleep. His method? The more a baby sleeps, the more and better a baby will sleep. Sleep begets sleep. We have found this to be true for Pearl.
-He also has found that all humans have natural and universal biological sleep rhythms. These are rhythms that align with different times of the day that are optimal for sleep. Meaning, certain times of the day are more optimal for falling asleep and receiving good sleep than other times of the day. We will naturally sleep better during these times than when trying to sleep during other times of the day. For babies about 5 months and older, these are: Bed between 6-8pm and wake around 6-8am. First nap around 9 (lasting around 1 to 2 hours. Second nap around 1 (lasting 2 to 3 hours). Possible 3rd nap around 5 (lasting around 45 minutes). Putting a baby or very young child to bed any later then 8 is only depriving your baby or child of sleep. We actually found this to be true with Pearl. No matter if we put her to bed at 10pm, 9pm, 8pm, or her normal bed time which is 7pm, she will still wake at 6am or 7 am. We were, at one point in time, putting her to bed at 9 or 10. After reading the book we decided to try a 7pm bedtime. After we did, we found she still slept until the same time in the morning.
-Before the biological sleep rhythms develop, babies should not be kept awake at any time of time day longer then 2 hours at a time. Sometimes even an hour depending on the temperament of your baby. Keeping a baby up longer then two hours, even if they don’t seem tired, will cause the baby to be overtired and the nap wont last very long. Probably 45 minutes (which was the case with Pearl). Baby will give sleep cues to tell you they are tired. These cues could only be one yawn, or even just a blank stare. The moment baby is fussy, they are overtired, so watch for the cues! There have been times, like today even, where it comes time for Pearls nap and she does not even seem tired. To my surprise, just minutes after I put her in her crib, she is asleep and sleeps for at least an hour.
-The general rule is that, for babies, sleep that is 45 minutes or less is not restorative to the body or brain. Naps should be at least one hour. The 45 minute nap is when a baby will fully awake during a sleep cycle instead of just slightly waking and then enter into the next sleep cycle. An overtired, unrested baby will wake after 35-45 minutes. A baby getting the right amount of sleep, who has been taught how to sleep, will enter the sleep cycle with ease and continue on to a nice long nap. Sometimes Pearl wakes after 45 minutes, will play or cry for about 10 and then fall back asleep. The point is, don’t rush to baby if they wake and cry, give them an opportunity to learn to fall back to sleep, up to a half hour. We let Pearl cry this long. Now she enters each sleep cycle with ease.
-Is your baby taking the dreaded 45 minute nap? According to Weissbluth, it’s usually (but not always) because he or she is not sleeping enough OR not resting well enough during sleep causing them to be overtired. Because they are overtired, their body is produces a chemical (much like adrenaline) that causes them to fight sleep. He says all types of sleep (including naps) are important and should be protected because each nap and sleep rests a different part of the brain. The baby’s morning nap rests a different part of the brain then the afternoon nap, then the evening nap, then night sleep. Day sleep is actually lighter the night sleep. Wonder why your baby sleeps great at night and not for naps? That is why, its a different type of sleep, a lighter sleep. As well, he says, naps during the day should not be disturbed, meaning, if your baby needs to be swaddled to nap well, swaddle them so they nap well. Keep quiet during naps so the naps are full and deep. Trying to get baby to sleep on the go is not recommended though he understands people have lives. Weissbluth says, it is a myth that unrestful sleep or disrupted sleep during the day will cause babies to sleep better and longer at night. The opposite is actually true: The less your baby sleeps well during the day, the more it will affect your baby’s sleep at night. If your baby is sleeping through the night and is not taking great naps during the day, it is because they have most likely pasted out from exhaustion and not because they have become good night sleepers. Babies should be sleeping about 10-12 hours a night and be taking two, two hour naps.
-Though some babies will learn to sleep through the night early, such as formula fed babies, after reading this book, I will never force my child to try to sleep through the night before 4 or 5 months. Until this time in development, their bodies have not yet produced the chemical that signals to their body the difference between night and day. This takes time to develop, friends, be patient if your baby is more then a few months old and still not sleeping all the way through the night. Also, are you breastfeeding only? Weissbluth says that it is very common for some breastfed babies to wake twice a night to be fed all the way up until 9 months
-The habits you form with your baby, such as sleeping with baby, rocking baby to sleep, or nursing to sleep, will be the habit they begin to depend on or get used to. There is nothing wrong with these methods, he says, but just know the habits you form, are the habits baby will expect. If a baby falls asleep in your arms, with a pacifier, bottle, by nursing, or by being patted on the back, when they wake, they will expect to fall asleep in the same manner. SO ask yourself, “Do i want to do any of these every time my baby wakes at night? If they answer is “No” perhaps you need to try the CIO method.
-This is important to distinguish: You are not neglecting your baby by allowing them to CIO. You are not being mean, you are giving them opportunities to learn to sleep. There is a difference between neglect, and training. If you try the CIO method, you are training. Of course don’t neglect your baby if they are screaming bloody murder! or if they are hungry! Go to them for crying out loud (literally). Most of the time, though, when you start training, they are crying in protest, not because something is wrong. Give them the opportunity to learn.
-Weissbluths solution to sleep problems, after reading the book, seems to be earlier bed time. He gives other thoughts and advice about sleep problems, but in most of his studies, it seems that simply a temporary earlier bed time, coupled with appropriate nap for whatever age your child is at, will fix sleeping problems. We did this for a while. Like we put pearl to bed at 530 for a short while. It helped, and she slept all the way till 7 am still.
-You will know if your baby is rested enough by how they wake. Do they seem rested? Are they pretty fussy? Pearl will wake fussy, but only sometimes. Most of the time when she wakes, she babbles and is happy. Thats the ideal sign that your baby took an appropriate length nap.
HOW TO: Our story. Get ready for some tears, but the pay off is sleep, for everyone. And less hassle for you, mom (or dad)
Given the above information, we knew sleep was important. I never wanted my baby’s schedule to dictate mine, and I know once I have my second, it cant. But the other way around was causing Pearl not to sleep at all except for night. I eventually felt it was rude of me to rob her of sleep so I could have a life. By 8 months, her wake time is long enough that I’m able to get out and have a life (not to mention I have some great friends willing to make their way to me). I also bend the sleep rules once in a while and take Pearl out which causes her to miss a nap. No big deal if that happens once in a while. But usually, I get a babysitter so she can sleep and so I can get away a bit.
We decided to tackle naps before trying to get Pearl to sleep through the night. Since I am a stay-at-home, I was ok with waking with Pearl twice a night to feed her. I also didn’t want to force her to sleep through the night when she wasn’t biologically ready yet. We started training Pearl around 3 months because she had stopped napping all together and thats when I bought the Healthy Sleep Habits book (understand that he has different advice for new borns than he does as baby grows older. Get the book!). We followed the book pretty closely. Before Pearl was 6 months, no matter when she woke, she was down for her next nap within two hours of waking, even if she didn’t seem tired. She became dependent on her pacifier (She would wake the moment if fell out of her mouth), so we pulled it around 4 months to improve her sleep (Note: We did this ONLY to improve her sleep). She screamed for about a half hour, and then some, the first nap. This was the case for about a week, for both naps and night sleep. Eventually she learned to sleep without it. It was hard and stressful. At times I would give Brett the monitor because my mamas heart couldn’t take it. One week of crying equals better sleep for months and years. My friends, it is worth it.
I also stopped nursing her or rocking her right before naps so that she didn’t become used to or dependent on that for sleep. We always put Pearl to sleep either drowsy or fully awake, never fully asleep, so that she could learn to fall asleep on her own. I cant remember where I heard this next idea but its worth noting: The way a baby falls asleep is the way he/she will expect to wake. Imagine falling asleep in your bed and waking in the front yard. Would you just be like, “Oh cool.” and fall back to sleep in the front yard? No, you would be like, “WTFudge! Where am I!?” Pearl has learned the art of falling asleep in her crib on her own. And when she wakes at night or during a nap, she is able to fall right back to sleep. Did it take a few days of extreme protest and crying to accomplish this? YES. Actually, I think it took weeks. Of course she would rather be with me than taking a nap. But now, when I lay her in her crib, she rolls right over and falls asleep. From what I researched, all sleep experts agree, teach baby to sleep on their own before object permanence or separation anxiety sets in. Once it sets in it is way more difficult to teach a baby to fall asleep on their own.
A few weeks ago we decided we wanted to try and get Pearl to start sleeping through the night. I decided this out of pure exhaustion. I had read that continual wakings for feeding may end up causing fragmented sleep in baby and in the parents, which means, even if Pearl is not hungry, she will naturally begin to wake up during “feeding” times even if she is not hungry because that is what her body was used to. I started waking naturally at these times too (12 and 4) and then could not go back to sleep after 4. As well, when I would go feed her at night, she wouldn’t even feed anymore, she just would fall asleep in my arms the moment she latched. This showed me she was ready to sleep through the night. Weissbluth said the average amount of time it takes a baby to train to sleep through the night if you do the CIO method is 3 nights. It took Pearl only one. (thank the good LAWD!). She cried on and off that night from 1130 until about 5. We did not go to her once. She has slept through the night for the past 4 days ever since. She still wakes, and cries a bit, but each night the cries are shorter and shorter, and they are hardly cries.
I know it seems cruel that we never went to her. We did this for two reasons. 1- We have found, that if Pearl is having a hard time falling asleep, going to her to try and help her only upsets her more because she becomes frustrated that we are not picking her up. It is easier in the long run (and the short run) for her and us, to let her figure it out herself. She always does. 2- Weissbluth, against popular advice, actually feels that trying to help soothe your baby doesn’t end up helping them, it hinders them from learning. He feels, and I agree, it’s more for the parents emotional benefit, rather than the child’s, that parents do this technique. He actually thinks baby’s don’t need to be helped (soothed) at all, that they are quite capable and able to learn all by themselves (again, he does support those who DO use the sooth methods. He just believes CIO works best and quickest). This was true for me and Pearl. I would go in her room to help her, not because I thought she needed it, but because I DID! Since Weissbluth found that babies are not negatively affected by being left to cry, I knew Pearl would be fine. And she was. She is actually more connected with me and happy then ever. And neither of us dread nap time OR bed time anymore. We are all sleeping way better. I actually slept 10 uninterrupted hours of two nights ago and 8 all the other nights.
I encourage anyone who is having troubles getting their baby or child to sleep well to read this book. I haven’t finished the book yet because he covers up till age 10 (i think). I have only read the parts that directly related to Pearls age at the time, which was 4 months until current.
Ps. Even just now, Pearl woke from her 1pm nap at 215. She played around in her crib and even cried at times for a full half hour. And now she is sleeping again… and has been for the past hour. Had I gone to her, I would have robbed her of precious sleep.