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The Matter of Sleep

May 15, 2013


Like most things baby-related, I did a lot of reading and research about baby sleep habits while I was pregnant, in order to prepare myself for the onslaught of sleepless nights. I read numerous recommendations on how to get baby on a sleep schedule and on the various methods used to get babies to a) fall asleep on their own and b) sleep through the night as soon as possible. Baby Wise, Ferber, No-Cry Sleep Solution, the Baby Whisperer…I looked into them all.

And didn’t end up using any of the suggestions I read about.

Up until a few days ago, I nursed Molly to sleep. Night, day. It didn’t matter. Bedtime, for the most part unless she was having an off day, was quiet. It was peaceful. Yes, it placed a lot of demands on my time, but I have a year of maternity leave! Time wasn’t an issue. Plus,Β  I unknowingly had my own philosophy on a baby’s sleep habits, once I didn’t realize until Molly was placed in my arms: A baby will sleep as they need to until developmentally they’re ready to change. If that means frequent wake ups, so be it. It’s how they were designed to survive and I didn’t want to mess with that. But then I was lucky. Molly started sleeping through the entire night off and on when she was around three months. She naturally put herself onto a sleep schedule without any help from us. On the nights she didn’t sleep through, she usually only woke once and that was after a 7-8 hour stretch. I got enough sleep, I didn’t have to listen to my daughter cry…it worked for us and I vowed to continue our routine until it didn’t work for us anymore.


It doesn’t work for us anymore.

There are two reasons for this. The first is that I’m definitely going back to work towards the end of July and Molly will be heading to day care three days a week. I’m not going to be there to nurse her at nap time, so it’s time for her to learn how to go to sleep without nursing.

The second is that around the 8 months mark, Molly’s sleep patterns drastically changed. It started with her waking frequently in the evening (she was waking between sleep cycles) and escalated to her also being awake for 1-2 hours in the middle of the night.

I think there are several reasons for this change:

  1. I started watching CK, a huge change in her daily routine
  2. She wants more mommy time since she doesn’t have me all to herself anymore
  3. She’s not nursing as much during the day because she’s distracted, so she’s filling up at night
  4. Any number of developmental milestones
  5. Teething
  6. Mild separation anxiety

This type of sleeping upset has been termed the “nine month sleep regression”. It’s supposed to be temporary, only a few weeks long and the suggestion by numerous articles I’ve read is to just ride it out, that your baby’s old sleep habits will return.

Well, regression or not, it has been more than a few weeks now and things haven’t changed. I’m exhausted, I’m concerned that new habits have been formed and I’m heading back to work. Something has to be done. I’m reluctant to call it sleep training. She knows how to sleep, she just needs a little help remembering how. I’m just calling it a change in her sleep habits.

For reasons I won’t go into, I don’t believe in using the Cry It Out method. I’ll just say it’s not for us and leave it at that. I also don’t believe in encouraging her to drop nighttime feedings nor can I stop nursing her before naps right now. My darling girl is easily distracted and with CK here, she won’t nurse for more than a minute while he’s around. Frustrating! I have them both on the same napping schedule so after I put him down (he putters a bit and then falls asleep on his own…he’s almost 14 months), I’m able to nurse her without distraction and then she goes to sleep.

After a bit of reading, I decided to do a little bit No Cry Sleep Solution and a little bit Baby Whisperer. This is my game plan:

  • Change our bedtime routine. We usually have dinner around 5-5:30, then A gives her a bath because she gets so messy. We would then play with her a bit downstairs before A read her a book and I would nurse her to sleep. We’ve decided to push back dinner time, since she desperately needs that bath directly after and I want to cut out the in between play time. Bath now starts at 6:30 and immediately flows into book, boob and bed.
  • Introduce a lovey. I think it’s a great idea to get her attached to a lovey that she’ll be able to take with her to day care. I chose a cute floppy bunny BFF B got for her in France. I started putting it between us while I nursed so that it would pick up my scent and then put it into her crib with her. It stays in the crib all the time and is purely for sleep time.
  • Continue to nurse for now but take her off as soon as she starts closing her eyes or stops sucking for a bit of time so that she can be put down awake. When my sister finishes school, I’ll have three weeks before heading to work to work on putting her down without nursing directly before hand.
  • Use the pick up/put down method recommended by the Baby Whisperer. Yes, it means she’ll cry, but I’m there with her the entire time and that makes all the difference in the world for me. I can comfort her and help her learn how to fall asleep on her own.

We started with the new bedtime routine and the lovey early last week. The routine was easy enough to change and she took to her lovey right away! It’s really cute to see her reach for it. The nursing and pick up/put down (pu/pd) though were linked and would possibly cause disruption to OUR sleep, and so we decided to begin last Friday night. According to what I read, the first few nights are the worst.

The basic method of pu/pd is to put your baby to bed awake but you’re able to pick them up to comfort them if they get upset. Once they calm down, but before they fall back asleep, you put them down again. And repeat until they finally settle. For a baby Molly’s age and one who has the ability to stand in the crib, you adapt it a bit. Unless she’s seriously upset, avoid picking her up but rather put her down once she completely stands up. If she is seriously upset, wait until she’s fully standing to pick her up to comfort. As soon as she stops crying, we put her back down. The Baby Whisperer encourages the use of a lovey, and also to use comforting consistent words and phrases. She also gives the go ahead to pat baby on the back or place your hand there so baby knows you’re still there.

Shortly after six on Friday, we implemented the routine bath, book, boob, bed. Hubby set up camp in our bedroom, ready to help if needed. I read in the book that the first night of pick up/put down could take an hour or more, with countless pu/pd’s. Me being me, I had a notebook on hand to record how long it took that first night. When she started closing her eyes, I took her off my breast. She immediately got upset. I’m not going to lie, it was rough at first. I’m not used to her crying like that, but I know that she wasn’t in pain or uncomfortable, just frustrated at the change in how she gets to sleep. I repeated comforting phrases, emphasizing that she was OK, that I was here. After 10 minutes, A took over for another 10 minutes or so while I regrouped and then I came in for the final round. All in all, it only (only, ha) took 30 minutes for her to settle down. Once she stopped standing up, we knew we were in the home stretch! And wonder of wonders, she slept for several hours in a row! We were actually shocked, expecting much worse. She woke around 10:45 and it took over and hour that time for her to settle down, but then she slept for about five more hours after that. Wow!

We stuck with it for naps the next day and on night 2, it took very little time to get her to bed. After she was out, I went in to where A was sitting (we were expecting a repeat of the night before and he was waiting to help if needed) and he said “Don’t you wish we’d done this sooner?”. My response? No. I wasn’t ready until now and I’m a firm believer that your attitude about something is what helps it fail or succeed. I absolutely do not regret nursing Molly to sleep for her first nine months. I’m thrilled that I was able to soothe and comfort her in that way. If we’d started this change in routine any sooner I would have been anxious and apprehensive and she would have picked up on that. I probably wouldn’t have been able to follow through like I did.

Since that first night, she’s done extremely well in settling fairly quickly. With the exception of last night, when she was awake for over an hour, it’s taken a maximum of 20 minutes for her to go to sleep. Yesterday we had a major breakthrough as well when I put her down without nursing directly before!

It’s not a quick fix like Cry It Out. I have to be persistent and do it each time she naps, each time she wakes at night. But I’m happy with our progress so far πŸ™‚


2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2013 3:59 pm

    Im glad you found a solution that works for you! I read something interesting recently I thought Id share….someone recently said to me that “sleep training” is actually meant to train the PARENT not the baby. Basically, we need to learn how to put our kids to bed and learn how to let them be. It definitely gave me a different perspective on sleep training.

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