Monday, April 29, 2013

Mama Monday: Sleep Training

I've kept a book blog for the last three years. I've always liked expressing my thoughts, whether through writing or talking, and I read so much that the blog was a perfect way to get all my book thoughts out there, communicate with nerds like me, and not drive the people nearest and dearest to me crazy.

Since I've had Cal, motherhood has similarly consumed my thoughts. While this blog isn't a "mommy blog" read by thousands who admire my perfectly decorated home,, size 4 Anthropologie wardrobe, and cherubically adorable child (just kidding about all of that, except the adorable child part), I feel like I need an outlet for some of those thoughts (and I have a lot of them). So I'm thinking on Mondays, I will post something about a motherhood-related topic that is on my mind.

In a similar and yet also tangential vein, I am also going to start doing a "Foodie Friday." I jokingly say that if I wasn't a nurse, I would have been a food critic. Probably not in reality, because I have an aversion to any career that doesn't ensure an income, but I love eating and I love discussing food. I don't want to maintain a whole new blog devoted to food -- my poor little book blog is neglected enough as it is. So it will be thrown into the hodgepodge of my personal blog.

And with that taken care of... on to my first topic. SLEEP TRAINING. I feel like this is one of the most divisive topics in parenting. The two extremes are co-sleeping and letting babies cry-it-out, but there is a whole gamut of opinions in between.

Let me fill you in on our situation. Cal has always been an excellent night sleeper -- he usually sleeps ten-twelve solid hours at night, and before that he was usually only getting up once. However, naps are a different story. Ever since he got out of the hospital, he hasn't been able to stay asleep for more than forty minutes at a time. My solution to that problem has been to rock him to sleep and then hold him until he wakes up, at which point I can immediately rock him again and then put him down in his crib once he is asleep. Usually I can get another half hour out of him that way, and have a little time to get things done.

Cal is kind of a wild sleeper. 
However, I came to realize that this needed to change. First of all, Cal wasn't staying asleep in my arms anymore. Now that he isn't swaddled, he would get too distracted and start playing with my hair or my shirt or his pacifier. Also, I was just starting to get frustrated with my confined time. I really am grateful for all the time that I was able to hold Cal during his early infancy (and all the reading I was able to get done), but I felt that he was getting older and more mature and needed to become more independent in his sleeping habits.

So, on Friday we began sleep-training. I knew I didn't want to co-sleep, obviously -- that wouldn't help with naps and the rocking was close enough (especially since I usually ended up passing out... thank goodness we have a comfortable recliner). I also knew I didn't want to let Cal cry it out. It just felt instinctually wrong to me to leave my baby screaming, at least until I had exhausted every other option. (I'm not saying that those of you who did let your children cry it out are bad parents. I think it works very well for some families. However, I didn't feel that it was right for ours). After talking to a friend who had successfully sleep-trained her son who had similar sleeping patterns to Cal, I decided to adopt the Baby Whisperer's "Pick-up/Put-down" philosophy.

The general idea is that you help the baby wind down with a naptime ritual, then lay them in the crib. If they cry, pick them up until they stop and then put them back down. Keep your hand on their back (except Cal sleeps on his back, as all babies should now that we know it reduces SIDS... so I put mine on his chest) until he falls asleep.

I modified this somewhat. Our naptime ritual is that I change him, zip him into his sleep suit, rock him and sing a song, say my little "I love you" rhyme, and then hold him for a few minutes until he seems completely calm. Then I say, "Time to go to sleep. I love you!" and lower him into the crib. Then I sit where he can't see me. Sometimes he has gone right to sleep. Other times, he wants to play and just messes around for about twenty minutes, after which we go through the pick-up/put-down thing.

For the most part, it has been going well. He usually goes down fairly well, and when he doesn't, I keep reminding myself that he eventually will -- he has every time but once. For the first couple of days he still didn't make it past the forty minute mark, at which point I would pickup/putdown until he was due to eat or fell asleep (um, he never fell back asleep). However, today he has made it through to at least an hour and twenty minutes for his first two naps. We're at the thirty minute mark of his third nap, but according to the Baby Whisperer (I've said that phrase so many times this weekend my husband mocks me for it), its okay if the last nap is a catnap.

I've read or at least leafed through several books on this topic, including:

  • The Secrets of the Baby Whisperer and The Baby Whisperer Solves All Your Problems by Tracy Hogg
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by ... someone I'm too lazy to look up right now
  • Baby Wise
I also have found the book The Wonder Weeks to be very informative on times when a baby will probably have more trouble sleeping than normal.

Did you sleep train your kids? What did you find to work? 

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