Saturday, January 23, 2010

Day 5: Ch-ch-ch changes

It's clear some aspects of my sleep plan aren't working out.

For one, I can't breastfeed every two hours. I used to be able to, when Mari was younger, but now she's eating more at once and isn't hungry as often, and when she's not hungry, she rejects the boob. All that's good in general, but not when I'm trying to get her to eat more during the day so she doesn't need as much at night. It's still not clear to me just how much Mari really needs to eat at night. She does seem legitimately hungry sometimes, but other times, even now that I've been stretching out how often I'll put her to the boob, she barely nips.

Also, I don't think Mari can really take three 90-minute naps. It's a battle getting her to stay napping for more than 20 minutes sometimes. I can persevere to a point, but sometimes she's obviously up and energetic and no amount of rocking will put her back to sleep. So I will now be trying to get her to nap for 90 minutes in the morning and late afternoon, but will allow her early afternoon one to be shorter -- that one's been the shortest for a long time. I'll still try to get her to nap at least 3.5 hours in total, 4 if I can manage it.

Finally, I think we need to be stricter about her naptimes, to try to get her onto a more consistent schedule, much as she resists being scheduled. It takes her quite awhile to settle down into sleep, so I need to start a naptime routine half an hour before I want her actually sleeping. That's only an hour and a half of active awake time between naps. So her ideal day should now look like:

7:30ish - up and play
9:00 - Naptime routine: breastfeed boob 1, story, song, breastfeed boob 2 (she likes a break between boobs), rock and shh
9:30 - Nap
11:00 - Play
12:30 - Naptime routine
1:00 - Nap
2:00 - Play
3:30 - Naptime routine
4:00 - Nap
5:30 - Play
6:30 - Bedtime routine: Bath, massage, breastfeed boob 1, two stories, lights out and sound machine on, lullaby, breastfeed boob 2, rock and shh
7:30 - Sleep

Today: It was a rough start to the evening. Mari went down okay by 7:45, but by 8 PM, she was up again. I tried repeatedly to soothe her just enough to get her drowsy and put her down still awake. Several times, she seemed to go to sleep, only to start fussing again minutes later. Finally she started all-out crying. She seemingly didn't want to be rocked, jiggled, nursed or put down -- nothing worked for the longest time. Finally I gave up (for now) on trying to put her in her crib still barely awake, and finally she allowed me to rock her to sleep. It took an hour, and she was up again within less than another hour. Argh!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Day 4: Lovey bunny

I've been working on introducing a lovey, as the No-Cry Sleep Solution instructs. I chose the bunny at right because Mari sucks on everything she touches, and I thought organic cotton would be better than some synthetic teddy. It's similar to the Snoedel NCSS author Elizabeth Pantley said she used with her youngest. Also, with a light T-shirt-like feel, I figured it would be easy to stuff it in my shirt for a few hours and give it my scent. (I wore it most of the day the day before we started the sleep plan and went around with the little bunny head sticking out from between my boobs. These are the things a mother does.)

I wasn't sure if Mari would take to it, since she hadn't adopted anything on her own as a comfort object, but she now seems to be enjoying sucking on Bunny before she falls asleep at naptimes and at night. All well and good, I thought.

Then Jon found her yesterday with Bunny stuffed right up against her face. It made us wonder if she might be able to suffocate on that thing. Of course, many babies cuddle with their blankies, some of which are no doubt thicker than Bunny. Mari evidently survived her mashing-Bunny-into-face experience. But it made us wonder what a totally safe lovey would be. I don't think I'll be trying to get her to glom onto another comfort object, at least not for now, though. I'm sure if people of my generation survived sleeping on our bellies with lots of squishy blankets, not to mention being fed with formula and non-organic baby food, Mari will survive her bunny.

On a related note, Pantley says to have an extra identical lovey in case the first goes missing or gets destroyed and baby is inconsolable. A good idea, but Bunny was a gift and I don't know where to get another. Anybody know? It's made by Piccolo Bambino.

Today: A better day for napping, though three 90-minute naps may be too ambitious for Mari, who woke up from her second one after only half an hour and absolutely wouldn't go back down. So far a not-bad evening for sleeping, with a nearly three-hour stretch in between episodes of frequent waking. Maybe there's hope.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 3: How long can a five-month-old stay up?

The day started out so well. Mari had a fairly long morning nap, followed by a long early-afternoon nap. Both were admittedly broken up by awakenings, but I managed to get her back to sleep. She seemed well-rested, though both naps started and ended later than I would have liked.

Then, less than an hour after her afternoon nap, she started rubbing her eyes and fussing again. I thought it was too soon for her to be seriously tired already. After all, she's not a newborn. She's stayed awake far longer than an hour. So I read her a story, put her in her sling and did a few things. Then I nursed her, and she fussed when she was done. I wasn't sure if she was fussing out of fatigue or because she wanted to use the potty, but I took her to the potty. Then I tried to rock her to sleep but she wasn't having it. Before I knew it an hour had passed and she no longer seemed tired. It was also six o'clock. So I had went to have supper, and midway through, she started to fuss again, the fussing of an overtired baby. I had missed the window of opportunity to get her to take a third nap.

I'm still finding it kind of hard to believe that at this age, a well-rested baby would want another nap after less than an hour of being up. But the evidence is there. And once again she hasn't slept enough during the day and being overtired before bed is making her wake up frequently in the evening. Damn. Following this plan is harder than I thought.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Days One and Two (so far): the importance of naps

Day One of the new sleep plan was actually yesterday, but I waited until today to post about it because I wanted to see how the night went. One thing is clear to me already: naps are key.

Day One went astoundingly well. From about 8:30 to 2:30, Mari woke up only once, briefly. I attributed it to being well-rested during the day. Though she woke up after only napping in short spurts, I did everything in my power to get her back to sleep, and she did sleep.

Today, though, everything went wrong. Her first nap was a little over an hour, short of the 1.5 hours I would like, but long enough, I thought. I think now that was a mistake. An hour just isn't enough for her; she seems to really need 90-minute naps.

She woke up around 10:40 and around 11 AM, we went shopping. I'd previously thought she was generally good for about 2.5 hours after a nap. She has managed to stay up more than four hours at a stretch before.

But by about noon, she was overstimulated and fussing. I should have taken her straight home to bed, but I wasn't done in the store. So it was about 12:45 by the time we got home, 1 PM by the time I seriously started trying to put her down and 1:40 by the time she fell asleep. By this point she was overtired and woke up after only 30 minutes. I rocked her to sleep again in my arms and put her down, but she woke up. So I let her sleep in my arms until she next time she woke up, which made for a total nap of about an hour.

After that short early-afternoon nap, she was showing tired signs again after only an hour or so but I again thought she could stand to be up longer. Wrong. By the time she was down for her late-afternoon nap she was again overtired and this time she only slept for about 45 minutes. But because it was about 5:30 by that point, I let her stay up thinking she would be having her bath in only an hour, and I had to make dinner.

Another mistake. Mari started to have a meltdown. Jon took over but she wouldn't fall asleep for him. So I ate a quick dinner and started to put her to bed around 6:30, skipping the nap. It took her until after 8 PM to fall asleep and she has woken up multiple times since then, a far cry from yesterday.

So, do I have to come to the conclusion that I can really only take Mari out of the house for less than an hour at a time, and only if she's well rested? At five months (and as of today, able to sit up), you'd think she would be able to last longer. But maybe this is the lesson I needed to learn to get Mari to sleep better: she's still only a little baby. And she needs to sleep an awful lot.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mari's sleep plan

Finally – I'm done the sleep plan for at least the next 10 days. If necessary, I will re-evaluate after that point. This will likely be the longest blog entry ever, but here's the plan. (Jon, you may want to bookmark this page.)

  1. I will breastfeed every two hours during the day except when I can't because she's napping. I will try to get her to take both breasts. If she won't immediately take the second, I'll try again in half an hour before giving up. After she's gone to bed, I will breastfeed her no more than once every three hours, and only when she's up and won't readily go back to sleep.

  2. I will follow a bedtime routine, starting at 6:30 PM, as follows:
    Bath, Massage, Put on pajamas and sleep sack, 2-3 stories, Lights out, Lullaby, Breastfeed but not completely to sleep, Rocking and shushing but not completely to sleep, Put down in crib, Sleep by 7:30.

  3. I will strive to follow what Pantley calls a “flexible yet predictable” daytime schedule, the ideal of which is as follows. Naptimes don't have to be exact but should be in the ballpark. The bedtime routine should start at 6:30 PM sharp unless there's very good reason to vary it by no more than half an hour.
    7:30ish: Up (I will not set an alarm, but this is the one area in which Mari is relatively predictable – she tends to get up between 7 and 8. Sometimes she wakes up earlier, but if it's earlier than 6:45, I will do my best to get her back to sleep.)
      Play independently while Mum & Dad shower and eat breakfast
      Play actively with Mum
      Play quietly with Mum
    9:30 – 11:00 Nap
      Play independently OR outing
      Play actively with Mum OR outing
      Play quietly with Mum
    1:00 – 2:30 Nap
      Play independently OR outing
      Play actively with Mum OR outing
      Play quietly with Mum
    4:00 – 5:30 Nap
      Play independently while Mum and Dad have supper
      Play quietly with Dad
    6:30 Bedtime routine
    7:30ish: Sleep

  4. I will try my best to get Mari to nap for 90 minutes at a time. If she wakes up after less than an hour, I will do anything in my power, including rocking her in the sling or nursing her to sleep, to get her back down right away. This is the only time these techniques will be used. I will not take her to the potty until she has napped more than an hour. I will deviate from the scheduled naptimes if Mari seems tired – then I will try to get her down right away.

  5. Mari's naptime routine will consist of:
    One story, One lullaby, Breastfeeding but not totally to sleep, Rocking and shushing if necessary, Put down and sleep.
    Of course, this will be easier said than done.

  1. I will spend some time every day playing quietly with Mari in her crib so she's comfortable in it and likes it.

  2. I will try to get Mari to take at least one nap a day in a place other than snuggled up next to me in our bed. This can be in her swing, in her car seat, or ideally in her crib. However, if she doesn't fall asleep within 15 minutes of trying, I'll let her snuggle up next to me in bed, since at this point that she naps is more important than how she naps. (As she gets better at napping, I'll try to increase the naps in her crib and decrease naps in our bed and in her swing. But that's is for a future 10-day plan.)

  3. I will try to encourage her attachment to her bunny and give it to her for every nap and sleep, so she associates it with sleep. I will frequently put the bunny in my shirt so it smells like me.

  4. I will help her differentiate between naps and nighttime sleep by keeping the curtains (but not blinds) open during naps, and making it as dark as possible for nighttime sleep.

  5. The following sounds will be sleep cues: shushing, “it's time to go to sleep,” and white noise via the fan/heater in her room or the white noise machine in ours.

  6. I will avoid nursing or rocking her completely to sleep. If she seems in danger of falling asleep on the breast, I will pop her off and try to hold her mouth closed as the book instructs. If she continues to try to latch on, I'll let her for a brief time, then pop her off again, until she no longer tries to latch on.

  7. In this 10-day plan, I will put her to sleep in her crib at least until it's time for me to go to bed. I will then bring her to our room and put her in the co-sleeper to sleep until morning. I will try to avoid having her sleep directly in our bed. (As time goes on and she sleeps better, I will keep her in the crib for longer, until she's sleeping in the crib all night long.)

  8. I will try to differentiate between still-asleep noises and I'm-waking-up noises. If the former, I will monitor her but take no action until it seems she might be really waking up.

  9. In this 10-day plan, I will stay with her while she sleeps as much as possible. When she starts to stir, I will put a hand on her and quietly shush her to try to keep her asleep. (Once she learns to keep herself asleep a little better, I will still stay near her but wait until she makes a sound to put a hand on her and shush her. Once she's not waking up as much, I will leave the room but respond quickly once she makes an I'm-really-waking-up sound and try to keep her asleep or immediately get her back to sleep.)

  10. If putting a hand on her and shushing her doesn't work and she seems to really be up, I will pick her up and rock her briefly on the spot, put her back down and put my hand on her and shush her. If that doesn't work, I will pick her up again up to five times. If after five brief pick-ups, she's not falling asleep, I will take her to the rocking chair and rock her fully to sleep and try again to get her to fall asleep on her own next time. If it has been more than 3 hours since her last feed and she's not readily going back to sleep, I will feed her instead of rocking her in the rocking chair, but avoid having her fall asleep nursing.

  11. If by some chance she hasn't woken up around the time I want to go to sleep, I will give her a “dream feed,” avoiding waking her, and put her back down in her crib. In this instance it's OK to nurse her to sleep, since she isn't the one who woke up and in fact may be feeding in her sleep.

    (For future 10-day plans: As she gets better at putting herself to sleep from a nearly-asleep point, I will move her into her crib when she's settled and sleepy but not net nearly-asleep. When she can fall asleep from that point, I will try to comfort her when she wakes without picking her up, though I will put a hand or hands on her. When she can handle that, I will try to comfort her without touching her, just through shushing and my presence. When she can handle that, I will try to comfort her from outside the doorway, where she can hear me but not see me. Though hopefully she'll be sleeping through the night by that point.)
Tomorrow: Day One of the new sleep plan.

Mari's sleep results

I spent yesterday logging when Mari napped, our pre-bedtime routine and her night wakings. The result: 11 night wakings. Yes, eleven. Now you know why I'm so tired.

It may have even been a slightly better than usual day. Though I haven't yet started the formal new sleep plan, I was already following some of the suggestions from the No-Cry Sleep Solution, and put her to bed earlier than usual. In total, she slept 8 hours 50 minutes at night. The book says she should be getting 10 or 11.

Her longest sleep stretch was 2 hours and 45 minutes, probably the longest she's had in weeks – I don't think she's slept more than two hours at a stretch since the new year. Her shortest, after appearing to be genuinely asleep enough for me to relax and log the previous sleep stretch, was five minutes.

Her longest awake stretch was 30 minutes, which is better than usual. Some days she's up for an hour or an hour and a half before dawn, before she goes to sleep again. But 11 wakings of 5-30 minutes each means I'm really not getting much sleep, especially considering it takes me longer to get to sleep than she does.

It wasn't a good day for naps either. In fact, the short naps were why I put her to bed earlier than usual. Her three naps totalled only 2 hours and 35 minutes, a far cry from the 5-6 hours the book says she should be getting at this age.

In total, Mari slept 11 hours, 25 minutes. She should be getting 14 or 15 hours of sleep. It's clear something has to change.
Tomorrow: the plan.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Introducing Mari's sleep blog

Welcome to my new blog about trying to get my baby to sleep through the night. This blog is based on The No-Cry Sleep Solution, by Elizabeth Pantley. I'm keeping this blog in large part to keep myself honest – that is, following the book and my sleep plan. I'm far too good at doing things in a half-arsed way, but can't afford to this time. I'm also doing this in hopes of getting feedback and suggestions from parents who have had more success at baby sleep than me, and hopefully to help out parents who are just as sleep-deprived. The first few posts may be long as I try to set up my daughter's sleep plan, but they should be shorter after that as I explore one of Pantley's sleep ideas at a time.
Introducing the cast of characters
Mari (pronounced MAH-ree): In my biased opinion, the most adorable little girl in the entire world. She'll be five months in two days. Until last month, I was able to more or less live with her night wakings. Typically, she woke up three or four times a night, nursed and usually went straight back to sleep. Sure, sometimes she woke up more often and sometimes she stayed up for an hour or more to fuss in the middle of the night, but those bad nights only occurred once or twice a week.
Until she was about three months old, she didn't seem to have much of a clue when night and day were, so we often kept her up quite late at night, but she napped quite a lot during the day and evening. By early December, we got her bedtime down to 8 PM or so and by mid-December, weaned her from having to be swaddled. I had to stay with her for awhile after she first fell asleep, and when her sleep got lighter after about 45 minutes, I would put a hand on her belly and shush her. Normally she didn't wake up. On good nights, she would stay down for up to four hours and would let me do grown-up things before bed. After that, she typically woke up once every three hours to feed and went straight back to sleep.
Then, around the new year, things got suddenly and inexplicably worse. Suddenly she started waking up as often as every five minutes after appearing to be sound asleep. Sometimes she slept for up to two hours at a stretch, never longer. On average she awoke every half hour or so between 8 PM and midnight, and every hour to two hours thereafter. Often she woke up good and proper before dawn and wouldn't go back to sleep, or would only after more than an hour of rocking. With her waking up so often, I could no longer rely on nursing her to sleep every time, as sometimes she wasn't hungry. I've been constantly exhausted and sometimes feel like I'm starting to lose it.
Karen: I'm the tired mom. But I don't want to make my baby “cry it out.” I know it works for some, but I have serious doubts that it would work for Mari, who can be very persistent and is capable of screaming at the top of her lungs for ages. More importantly, I don't think it would be good for my baby. I think it would lead to her hating and fearing bedtime, and distrusting us. I'm a pretty “attached” parent in other ways – I try to respond quickly to her, carry her often, breastfeed, co-sleep (more about this later), and practice elimination communication. Why would I send her the message during the day that her physical and emotional needs are important, and give her the opposite signal at night?
Jon: The wonderful dad, but a busy one working on a PhD, making me the usual person to put Mari down for naps and for the night.
The goals, from more immediate to less immediate

  • Teach Mari to not wake up with every sleep cycle

  • Teach Mari to go to sleep, and back to sleep, without having to nurse or rock until she's totally asleep

  • Get Mari to take longer naps, so she naps 3-4 hours a day

  • Teach Mari to sleep at least five hours at a stretch, once a night

  • Teach Mari to go to sleep without having to be snuggled up to Mum or Dad

  • Teach Mari to fall asleep in her crib and stay asleep there until Mum is ready for bed

  • Teach Mari to go to sleep without physical contact from Mom or Dad right until the moment of falling asleep (we will continue to cuddle her to get her sleepy)

  • Teach Mari to sleep in her crib all night long

  • Get Mari to sleep eight hours at a stretch
The story today
As of today I've made only a few changes as I prepare Mari's new sleep plan. Today I made sure she had 3 naps, when she started to seem tired, though she fell asleep in the sling when we were out for a walk and steps from home. Then she woke up when we got in the house and got a second wind, and I couldn't get her to sleep until 4:30 – an hour after she first started showing signs of fatigue. She only napped for half an hour that time. I had thought Mari was moving toward just two naps, but actually it seems she still needs three, and she needs them closer together than I'd thought. Yes, she CAN stay up for up to four hours at a stretch, but that's probably twice as long or more than twice as long as she really should stay up – she's really overtired and frenetic at the end.
Tomorrow: the results from my logging of her sleep habits