Saturday, March 16, 2013

sleep tidbits

Due to popular demand, here are a few sleep tidbits

For the most part I am a big believer that decisions involving sleep  are a very personal choice made by each family to figure out what fits their own unique situation.
Some folks all sleep in the same bed.
Others have the baby in a separate room and the parents are comfortable letting them cry it out if they wake up during the night.
Everyone needs to figure out what works best for their family (and hopefully both parents have figured out a compromise)

I tend to fall somewhere in between the two extremes  (I do NOT worry that your baby will have future psychological damage or attachment issues from some fussing at night)

There are many books out there on the subject and many of them make good points,
Dr Ferber (who tends to be one of the“cry it out guys”) says something that really resonated with me. We ALL have sleep cycles and may have periods during the night where we semi wake up.
You might fluff your pillow, go pee or have a sip of water and then go back to sleep.
But….if you woke up and your pillow was missing, you wouldn’t simply turn over and go back to sleep. You would be up!! Where the heck is your pillow??

Guess what. If you are nursing your baby, they fall asleep and you sneak them into their bed, it is no surprise that when they come to a light sleep cycle they wake up fully. Hey, where is that breast, bottle, pacifier, rocking body?

As much as our instincts lead us to PUTTING the baby to sleep, we are better off letting them soothe themselves down.
It is certainly okay to pat them and make loving shoooshing noises, but every time you are able to put your baby down while they are still drowsy, you are a giant step closer to getting a baby who can sleep through the night.

Feeding at night

Once your baby is over 3 months of age and at least 11 pounds, they can start giving you a longer stretch at night.
I would encourage you to feed every 2 ½ -3 hours during the day. Don’t let any nap go longer than 2 ½ hours.
At night, let them give you a longer stretch. Their little bodies have a lot of growing to do while they are sleeping. It is actually better for them to not be spending the energy digesting.
Watch their pattern. Once they have shown you that they can go 4 or 5 hours at night. Try not to back slide. It is okay to comfort if they wake up, but I would do my best to avoid falling into the “feeding because it is easy” trap.
One of the things I like to say is,  imagine if you were up in the middle of the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep. Someone is trying to help you. They might rub your back or stroke your hair. They might offer  you a sip of water. They would likely not offer you a turkey sandwich.

Eventually we want your baby’s nighttime to be food free.
There are lots of lessons that get taught in a quest for your child to sleep through the night.
In my opinion, let us let the first lesson be that night time is NOT the time for a meal.
I don’t know of ANY sleep training that doesn’t involve some fussing, but my method is fairly gentle.
 I tend to start with fairly low expectations. If a baby is getting adequate milk during the day, no one should need to eat more often than every 3 hours during the night. (let’s consider night time as soon as you go to bed and until the sun comes up)
 If they wake up sooner than 3 hours, someone can check in on them (best not a mom who is nursing) but food is simply not an option until the magic 3 hours mark. After a few days stretch it to 3 ½ hours and so on.
You can certainly check on them, change the diaper, even offer ½ ounce of water. If you think they might be teething go ahead and try some homeopathic teething gel. You are present for them, just not offering food ( think turkey sandwich).  If you want to sit next to the crib and sing, that is up to you. The main lesson is that night time isn’t meal time.

The Ferber method involves going in to check on them and try to settle them in increasingly longer increments. First time might be 5 minutes, then waiting 10, then waiting 15 etc

I have actually found that some babies tend to get much madder if you go in at all and  many parents just leave them awake and crying until the next feeding opportunity has come. You guys need to figure out what works best for you

Night time feedings should always dark, quiet, business like.
Once babies learn to fall asleep on their own and don’t expect to eat at night, you will start to roll in the right direction.

Listen, it is really wrenching to let your baby cry. In my case I had to do some hard rationalization until I was able to go through with it (My husband was the main sleep trainer in our family)

Here are some of the factors that convinced me that it had to happen..
  • Many people are lousy sleepers their entire lives. If you can potentially give your child the tools that it takes to be a good sleeper and it only costs a week or two of crying, it is worth it
  • You have to “put your own oxygen mask on first”. Sleep deprivation is an awful thing. In order to be the best parent that you can possibly be, you need to be rested.

Take shifts.
If you are lucky enough to be in a two parent household, there is no reason for both of you to be up all night. Figure out a way for each parent to get a three or four hour shift of being OFF DUTY.  Once you have spread out the feeding expectations this will get easier to figure out. It is amazing how wonderful that little stretch of being off duty feels. NO guilt. You each get a turn.

Even the best sleeper will need a tune up once in a while. Traveling babies almost always need an adjustment but these little tweaks are almost always way easier than the first go round of sleep training.

If you suspect that your baby may be ill, in my opinion that is not a good time for ‘crying it out’ . I often get folks in to the office for a quick visit with their doctor so that we can make sure they are well. (sometimes ear infections can cause sleep disruption)

Worried about disturbing your neighbors with night time noise? Sometimes a proactive bottle of wine, some ear plugs and little note explaining that you are sleep training goes a long way.

May the force be with you. You will get through this..

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