Friday, September 12, 2008

Middle of the Road

That's what kind of person I am - middle of the road. With most issues in life, I don't usually think that one way is the only way, and I'm not a person who embraces the extremes. However, with the sleep deprivation I've been suffering lately, I feel extremely bitchy and extremely exhausted. But I can't let those extremes influence how I deal with Jellybean and his sleep issues of late.

In the beginning, I didn't know what to expect, so when Jellybean slept 4-5 hours at a stretch as a newborn, I was thrilled. By the time he was four months old, he was sleeping at least 10-12 hours at night. He was not like other babies, who sometimes got their days and nights confused. He also took at least two naps a day on most days, which helped me keep myself centered.

All of that came to a screeching halt in July. Several things happened at the same time - he got yet another cold, he slept in the Pack N Play in our room instead of his own crib, I tried some pajamas from the Children's Place (I think these sleepers are made for skinny alien babies and not any babies with any kind of baby fat), and we were attempting some day trips that required Jellybean to sit in the car for longer than he was used to. At that point, Jellybean started waking up at least once during the night, but often times he woke 2 or 3 times in a 10 hour period. That may not seem horrible, but when you're used to status quo, which had been no night wakings, it was a shock to the system. At first, I thought it was because he was sick, so I did whatever I needed to do to comfort Jellybean - rocking, pacing, running the shower, nursing, and various combinations of the aforementioned. My summer off of work was about to come to an abrupt halt with me getting a new job, so I was desperate to get some kind of sleep.

I have read the "No Cry Sleep Solution" and found it too difficult to follow. Plus, I'm not a "hearts and flowers" type of mom, and I don't believe in totally sacrificing my own sanity for the sake of my child. When K was a baby, I used the "cry it out" approach religiously, which did work, but left me feeling like a horrible parent. So I've tried the two extremes, neither of which fit my personality or my world views. At the advice of my pediatrician, I picked up the book "The Baby Whisperer" by Tracy Hogg. I like her "middle of the road" approach to creating better sleep habits for babies. She does not advocate letting a baby cry it out alone, but does not advocate using a ton of "props" designed to help a baby sleep. In a nutshell, the baby whisperer emphasizes the importance of routine (which is different than a schedule), and using the pick up/put down method. You watch for signs that your baby is tired and put him to bed in his own crib. If he cries, go to him and pick him up and comfort him until he stops crying. The minute he stops crying, put him back in his crib. If he starts fussing, try using gentle words and a calming hand on his back. If he still cries, pick him up and comfort him. Lather, rinse, repeat as needed.

We tried this last night for the first time and it was painful. It took an hour to get Jellybean to sleep. But, as with any behavior modification plan, the behavior you're seeking to change gets worse for a time until you see the light at the end of the tunnel. At 1 a.m., Jellybean woke again because he was too cold. Using the plan, I had him back to sleep in his own crib in less than 5 minutes, and he did not wake again until 6:30 this morning. At naptime today, it was painful again, but took half the time it did last night to get Jellybean to sleep. We'll see what happens tonight.

I'm committed to trying this approach because it seems like something both H and I can live with (which is essential). It's pointless to try to change any behavior using a method that both parents won't follow through with. Also, I feel like I'm trying to create a sleep habit that will be healthier for all of us. The cherry on top is that I don't feel like I'm abandoning Jellybean in his hour of need - that he knows I'm there to comfort him and help him in this process. Hopefully soon, Jellybean will return to sleeping a full blissfully content night on most nights of the week so I can get back to the middle of the road.

*Update: The first night I tried this approach with JB, it took at least an hour or more to get him to bed. The next night took 15 minutes, and tonight took 5 minutes. Last night I was not able because we got back late from a friend's house. We'll see what the pattern looks like this week. Of course, it doesn't help that we'll be going out of town on Friday.


Blogger Carrie said...

Man, were you lucky early on! However, it is very common for babies to change their sleep habits and have more night waking midway through the first year. For most kids, from my reading and observation, the toughest times for sleep are from this mid-year disruption through around the middle of the second year. Both my girls started sleeping through the night during the second year, although I guess that is also because that's just when I got sick of getting up at night to nurse them!

That book sounds good. I agree that the "No Cry" book is very, very difficult to stick with. I didn't succeed with it. The one that helped me the most was Dr. Marc Weissbluth's "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," although that book does not have as much step-by-step advice on getting the kid back to sleep. What interested me most about it was the basic advice of getting babies/kids to sleep more, sleep earlier.

Hope things continue to improve!

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That does sound like a pretty good alternative to the extremes. I wonder if there's any chance that he'll catch on that when he stops crying, he gets put to bed and Mom leaves and decide to just keep on crying. I suppose he'll cry himself to sleep eventually. Lately I find myself a little obsessed with child rearing (considering I don't have any, nor any plans to have any). I catch Supernanny and Nanny 911 more often than I'd like to admit, and I'm always thinking, "That's what I'd do if I had kids." You know, I'd be the perfect parent and all that :)

6:04 AM  
Blogger tshsmom said...

Is JB teething? SME always had cold-like symptoms and extremely high fevers right before a tooth popped through.

We were truly blessed. Both of our kids slept 8 hrs/night right from the start. The only time we lost sleep was when they were sick. This actually freaked me out when we brought SME home. I'd get up in the night to make sure she was breathing. I've spent more sleepless nights with puppies than I ever did with my babies.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

Carrie - I still am pretty lucky. Some of my friends are having some real sleep deprivation issues with their little ones. What is so hard to figure out is if there's something external that happened to change his sleep pattern. I remember K was close to a year old before he slept 12 hours straight.

When you didn't get up to nurse the girls, then what approach did you use when/if they cried? The book you mentioned - Healthy Sleep Habits - was also recommended by our pediatrician.

Thanks for your well wishes!

Kit - So far he's not done that. I forgot to mention an important part of the approach. The parent stands there with a reassuring hand/voice until baby falls asleep. That way, they know you're there. When I've done that the past few nights, JB has not woken up again crying. Tee hee - I know what you mean about the "perfect parent". I work with kids and families all the time and I'm often very judgmental of their methods. In reality, I haven't got it figured out, either.

TSHS - JB just got his top two front teeth in. He's had his bottom two in for a while now, so I knew it wasn't that. He's definitely not in a growth spurt. His weight has steadied since he's been crawling and cruising.

Too funny about checking the breathing. I've done that with JB because I immediately thought there was something wrong with him sleeping longer than usual (which usually doesn't happen).

8:29 PM  
Blogger tweetey30 said...

I bet he is a cute little guy. I never had sleep problems with the girls. They took a bottle before bed. Not in the crib but before bed and then usually would sleep till about 4 or 5 am then wake up again. But maybe this little phase will change quickly enough esp with you working with the book you mentioned.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Bearette said...

Thanks for the advice. I am trying to eliminate night wakings with my 3.5-month-old.

12:54 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

Bearette - Congrats on your little one! It's hard when they're under 4 months. This particular book advises not to begin this approach for a baby under 4 months, if I remember correctly. Then again, I've read several books, so it could be where I read that somewhere else. Personally speaking, what's been most helpful is breaking the connection between nursing and going to sleep. That way, Dada can put Jellybean to bed some nights. It doesn't always have to be me.

6:21 AM  
Blogger Carrie said...

Notta -- When Nutmeg was waking up at night, we tried so many things, mostly bringing her into bed with us or rocking her. Often we would end up just letting her cry in her crib because in the middle of the night, when she wanted to nurse, nothing helped.

With Pebbles, I tried the "no cry" suggestions, and also tried just going in and putting my hand on her until she fell back to sleep, which could take an hour. But I just got tired of all that. So finally I stopped going in and just ignored her crying. Or Epu would go in and bring her a sippy cup of water, which seemed to help. She might have cried a long time once or twice, but now she sometimes still wakes up at her old waking times, but just cries for a minute and falls back to sleep.

But remember this is with an 18 month old, not an infant. When she was Jellybean's age, I would just nurse her back to sleep, no matter how many times she woke up. If we have another baby, I am definitely going to start Weisbluth's suggestions of stabilizing naptime and bedtime at an earlier age, around 4 months. But I would probably do the same again in nursing to sleep for night wakings. Now that I have two kids who are sleeping pretty well, I don't worry that this "indulgent" practice will result in bad sleep habits, and to me it's just the easiest way for everyone to get back to sleep.

Bearette -- Almost no one recommends eliminating night wakings before the age of 4 months.

10:16 PM  
Blogger Notta Wallflower said...

That's what's the hardest - when I know something will get JB back to sleep quickly and relatively painlessly, it's the easiest thing to do. I just felt like I was creating a monster, so to speak. I do take special cases into consideration. We are in Spokane this weekend visiting my family, and I'm more flexible because I know JB is not in his familiar place.

7:57 AM  
Blogger S.M. Elliott said...

I can sympathize with you and JB - not sleeping so well myself lately. I hope things turn around for you both!

10:43 PM  

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