Let’s Talk Sleep

Of all the sleep books I have bought and read, I’ve managed to take bits and pieces of each to create the best of all worlds for our family re: sleep schedules.

I know sleep patterns and schedules can change as children grow up, but I like to credit these three books for helping us get Maya to sleep through the night (STTN) [which, for us, is roughly 8 pm-7 am] since she was 11 weeks old.

Of course there have been exceptions … there have been random off nights when she’s been sick .. and then there was that annoying two-week stretch at 4 months when she’d wake at 2 or 3 AM screeching … but it’s all been short-lived, thank goodness.

And even with two weeks of being a bit off-schedule for vacations, this little one still naturally was ready for naps and bed at the same time as non-vacation, proving that she really does have even more of a schedule than we assumed (with daycare it’s hard to pinpoint exact “tired times” and naps vary — she has 2-3 per day, but length and time of day vary). In fact, the time change didn’t even phase her in El Salvador. No matter that it was 5 pm there; homegirl was ready for bed!

We managed to stretch her out a little longer (later naps/she ended up waking up later as the mornings progressed) and once we got back home, she was fine. Back to normal. This experience away validated all the sleep training we have been doing and made us feel good about Maya’s adaptability – which, hopefully, will stick!

This isn’t all said to boast, but rather to share what has worked for us … and has given us peace of mind.

Though I think those first 8-12 weeks can be a crapshoot (some babies STTN on day one), I think sleep training can effectively begin around 3-4 mths of age. And I now GET why my mom was encouraging me to get her on a nap schedule before I went back to work vs letting her sleep anywhere/anytime.  Once she hit the 11 week mark, I began to take her needs into account (creating a consistent nap schedule) and that’s when — coincidentally? ha! – she began STTN. Imagine that?!

In a nutshell, here’s what I love from these three books, in the order in which I read them.

Babywise: while I think sleep training is a crapshoot before four months of age, I do see the value of organizing a baby’s day into several cycles of eat/wake/sleep and repeating them over and over for consistency. Though sometimes it would be eat/sleep/eat in the very beginning, for the most part, we did loosely follow that program and today it’s very much on par with how Maya’s daytime hours are spent — even at daycare where I have little control over what’s happening. Her natural body rhythms now dictate her needs.

Happiest Baby on the Block: without a doubt, the five S’s — all of which help(ed) soothe Maya to sleep: swaddle, Shhhh, suck, swing, side/stomach. Genius! These five simple acts of soothing can make a world of difference for an infant. The premise is that these acts replicate what a baby experiences in the womb, catering to a baby’s needs during the “fourth trimester” [i.e., the first three months post-partum]. Though we don’t swaddle Maya anymore (we stopped around three months) she loves to sleep on her stomach/side sucking on her Giraffe Wubbanub to the sound of her fan or us “shhhhh”-ing.

Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child: my fave book of all. Teaches the value of organized daytime naps and emphasizes that sleep begets sleep. Also teaches cry it out (CIO) in a comforting, non-cruel manner.

[… which I needed to use last night for the first time when Maya was having an uncommon and particularly fussy night with respect to separation anxiety (read as: she did not want to be alone in her crib!). I hated every second of hearing her cry, but within 15 minutes she was out cold and woke up her usual smiling self today. We will keep repeating as necessary … the trick is not going to her when she is crying (provided all her needs have been met; I still check on her when she can’t see me) which seems SOOOO cruel but, in reality, is the only way to teach her how to soothe herself to sleep. Once down, she is fine and STTN. It is just getting there lately at bedtime has been a bit of a challenge. I want to get back to the stage we used to be at where she laid down and went to sleep without a problem … hence we might need to endure a few nights of CIO.]

All in all, I think each of these books had some good insight. And though we aren’t perfect and have some challenging nights (i.e., last night) and will likely have a lot to learn going forward, I feel like they’ve provided us with a good foundation for the next phases of Maya’s growth and development.

How about you? Are there any baby sleep books you swore by? Or did you ditch the books altogether? Sometimes I feel intuition is best … but I felt like they provided good guidance.

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4 thoughts on “Let’s Talk Sleep

  1. The best thing that helped me with baby sleep was not a book but a website. It’s a message board on Babycenter called Teaching Your Baby and Toddler to Sleep. I don’t have a link now since I’m on my phone. It was a great board because it put all the info from all the popular books into a useable form. The biggest thing I learned was about typical wake time: how long a baby of any age typically is able to be awake before needing sleep. As soon as I started following the guidelines, my son slept SO well and transitioned from 4 to 3 to 2 to now 1 nap right on a typical schedule. I recommend the website to anyone with a baby who is having sleep troubles! It also helped me gently sleep train (like the Healthy Sleep Habits) book.

  2. I love Babycenter! 🙂 Yes, that is key to know! Like now, Maya has roughly a 3 hour window of wakefulness before she needs a nap …it’s fairly predicatable now. That definitely helps. We’re still on 3 naps a day but will be transitioning to two at 9 mths I’m thinking.

  3. GREAT post Melissa. This is invaluable advice and something I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past 2 weeks. Sofia doesn’t STTN per se, but once she goes down around our bed time, she sleeps a good 4 hours, wakes up to eat, and goes back to sleep for another ~hours or so. I’m interested in getting her in a “regular” sleep pattern as early as possible.

    We saw part of the Dr. Harvey video at a newborn care class, and the one aspect which we were not comfortable with was the intensity of the shhh-ing directly into the baby’s ear. I’m not a doctor or anything, but it seemed over to the top to me.

    Anyway- thanks again for the great information and resources!

    1. Thanks, Dave! 🙂 That’s GREAT she is sleeping in four-hour stretches! Go Sofia! I have loved seeing your pics, you proud papa you! 🙂 Maya had lost too much weight at the hospital so when we got home that we had to feed every 2-3 hours and nights were miserable in the very beginning, especially since then I was exclusively nursing those first two weeks (before the doc recommended supplementing some formula too). But once she got to those 4-hr stretches (where you are now, though she was around 4 weeks I think?) and weighed more/could hold out longer, life got better and then once she was doing even longer … heaven! 🙂 Luis and I can have the nights for us now, and that’s a treat!

      Good luck! I *definitely* think there’s merit to organized sleep and she seems to be on a great schedule already (woot!). But like I said, the first 2-3 mths are often all over the board so try not to be too frustrated if it doesn’t work at first. Not sure where she is sleeping but we also moved her from the pack’n play to her crib at one month…I think that helped, too. It was the best decision for our family — she made soooo many noises and I’m a light sleeper as it is (Luis could sleep through WWIII) and her room is just next to ours so with the monitors, we felt good. Of course, we still check on her even now … but usually just to get a glimpse of her [nowhere near where we laid her!] and a quick pat on the head before we go to sleep.

      Def. pick up the Weissbluth book — I think you’ll enjoy it and it extends well into the toddler years. (the HSHHC book).

      Yea, I see what you mean on that shushing part. We don’t do it loudly in her ear but she likes this sound, “shwshwhshw” (hard to write it but it’s close enough).

      Thanks for writing and I hope some of my baby posts can be of value to you and other new parents! 🙂 Great to hear from you and know I’m here anytime. Enjoy your beautiful baby girl! She’s precious!

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