Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Sleep Experiment

When I found out I was pregnant for the second time, I made several promises to myself. One, I would succeed at breastfeeding. Two, I would cherish every smile, burp and coo. Three, I would avoid all of the sleep disasters and bad habits we acquired in desperation when we had Julian. Julian was a really bad sleeper. From the beginning, it was constant crying and fussing. If we put him down, he would cry instantly. Getting him to sleep always involved complicated gymnastics, with patting, rocking, swinging, flipping - we were practically doing cartwheels with him to get him to sleep. We co-slept and gave him food to get him to sleep. We did all of the things the books say not to do. I realized how stupidly we approached sleep training when, at the age of 1.5, he slept through the night and stopped drinking milk. We were feeding him milk before he went to bed but when he started sleeping on his own, he refused to drink it, meaning he never needed it in the first place.

Emily is like a completely different species of baby. She is capable of falling asleep on her own. If she cries, she can calm herself down and go back to sleep (which I found out once when I was using the restroom and couldn't get to her right away). Once Julian started crying, he would escalate his crying until he got to the point where he was absolutely hysterical and took forever to calm back down. Seeing her sleeping habits, I wondered if we could at least implement some sort of sleep training early on. She would be more amenable to it than Julian would, certainly. She was also quite flexible and easy going so I thought I'd give it a shot. I have read two books now: the No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley, and The Contented Little Baby by Gina Ford.

Now, I'm not one for saying there is a 100% fail proof solution to sleep problems for all babies. I know that babies are very different (as apparent from watching Julian and Emily). I also think that a highly regimented approach simply won't work for us because we have very busy schedules and we travel all the time. I'm not following any one book to the letter, but adapting them to our lifestyle and Emily's own personality. For instance, I like the No Cry Sleep Solution's approach of not letting the baby scream and cry it out. I personally can't stand the crying thing even though that is eventually how we taught Julian to fall asleep on his own. I know it works but I just don't want to do that, especially now when Emily is only a few weeks old. However, I don't want to wait until she is three months old to start sleep training because I really believe that setting habits now is crucial. I like Gina Ford's schedules because I like to have a more regimented approach to sleep training. I know I should probably make a log of when she eats, how much, when she sleeps, etc (like the No Cry book recommends) but I'm too busy to sit and record those things. With the Contented Baby book, finally here was someone who would just say "Do this!" and supposedly it would work. Yes, a starting point. I take Ford's schedules and I sort of adapt them. For instance, I don't only feed when she says to, but also whenever Emily wants to. Sometimes when I sit down for a feed, she doesn't feed properly or doesn't eat enough, so keep at it until she's gotten enough. Plus I'm afraid of my supply dropping if I don't feed on demand. I'm also not so strict about the times, either. For example, this morning we all got up at 7:30 instead of 7. I just refuse to wake up at 6 if I don't have to or want to. If she wants to let me sleep a little bit longer in the morning, I have no problem with that, regardless if it offsets the rest of the schedule.

I also try to schedule outings around the time when she is supposed to have her short naps (9:00 and 4:00) because I know she will sleep in the car or the stroller. It's a good idea to combine the Contented Baby book with the No Cry book because one expects you to put your baby in bed while they are drowsy and not to assist them by patting or rocking, but doesn't give any advice on how to do that. The No Cry book has some great suggestions for that (which I use a lot). I can't say whether this will work perfectly in the long run, but really it's ok if she doesn't sleep all night long. I just need her on a schedule so I can better plan my day and do other things. So, here goes a log of our sleep experiment.

Day 1
Emily responded really well to the schedule. Perhaps she was already on a schedule which resembles the one Ford has, but she seemed to fall almost right into the time periods which were given. She napped from 12 -2:30 and from 3:30 - 4:15. The most difficult part of the day was between 5-7 when she seemed to hate the bath and wouldn't fall asleep right away. She almost always has bad evenings. Some nights she would cry and fuss from 6-10 pm. We couldn't figure what the problem was, but now I think she was really tired. Once I put her to bed at 7, she woke up once and needed a quick feed before falling asleep again at 7:30. Then she slept all the way to 10 pm. This was AWESOME. It was like a revelation. Duh, she wants to sleep so let her sleep. I actually had a real evening. I got Julian fed, bathed, and to bed without any problems. Then I surfed the net and watched tv until 10. I even had to wake her up at 10 to feed her. I just wanted to make sure she had a long stretch of sleep after I went to bed. She woke up at 2, 5, and 7:30. The night feedings were just fine - she ate and then quickly went back to sleep.

Day 2
So far, so good. She had the standard naps, and I even managed to put her in bed a few times while she was still pretty awake and she fell asleep on her own. I'm perfectly happy if she doesn't sleep all night, but as long as she keeps this schedule for a while, I will be a happy camper.

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