Friday, February 26, 2010

Day 38: Imposing a schedule, of sorts

I've been trying to respond promptly to Mari's cues and keeping track of when she sleeps for quite awhile now in hopes a pattern would emerge. Unfortunately, the only conclusion I've come to is that Mari is highly unpredictable and has little or no internal rhythm of her own.

She wakes up wide awake and ready to play anytime between 2:30 AM and 8 AM, though of course with the earlier times I try really hard to get her back to sleep, though it often takes up to an hour and a half. Her nap number ranges from two to five, though three is most normal. She has gone to bed as early as 5:30 PM and not until nearly 9 PM. Her morning nap has started as early as 7:40 and as late as 10:10. Her nap lengths vary from 20 minutes to three hours.

Having learned a little more about temperament, I can conclude that Mari is a highly irregular baby and will not put herself on a schedule no matter how long I wait and keep track of what she does. So I've decided I have to impose one.

No, Jon, I'm not going to be inflexible about this. Because I'm going to try to balance establishing a schedule with making sure Mari gets enough rest and isn't overtired, it may take a long time for her to get the idea. Nonetheless, I'm going to try. Someone has to set her circadian clock.

The key is going to be establishing quiet times and active times. Ideally she will sleep during the quiet times and play during the active times, but if not, she will play quietly during the quiet times and nap in a brighter, noisier environment during the active times.

The ideal schedule will be as follows:

7:30 AM - Up, active play
8:15 - Naptime routine (feed, potty, story, lullaby and rocking, down)
9:00 - Nap/quiet time
11:00 - Active play
12:15 PM - Naptime routine
1:00 - Nap/quiet time
2:30 - Active play
3:45 - Naptime routine
4:30 - Nap/quiet time
5:30 - Active play/suppertime
6:30 - Bedtime routine (feed, potty, bath, massage, 2 stories, lullaby and rocking, down)
7:30 - Sleep

Of course, Mari won't follow the ideal schedule exactly. So I have the following contingency guidelines:

- If Mari wakes up from a nap while it's still naptime, I will try my hardest to get her back down. If after 20 minutes of rocking and soothing, she won't go back down and it's still naptime, I will let her play quietly in her crib for up to 20 minutes or until she shows tired signs. Then I will try again, until she goes down or until it's active time.

- If Mari wakes up while it's still naptime and I'm able to get her back down, but she wakes up again I'll try a second time to get her back down -- and this time I'll rock her all the way to sleep. At all other times I will endeavour to rock her only until she's drowsy and put her down still awake. If she wakes up a third time while it's still naptime I'll let her play quietly in her crib until it's active time.

- If Mari shows signs of fatigue during active time, I will immediately stop what I'm doing and put her to bed. I won't do the whole naptime routine -- no feed, no potty, no story. Just lullaby and rocking.

- For naps during active time, I will not try super-hard to be quiet. I will walk around, flush the toilet, etc, though I won't actively try to disrupt her sleep. I will close only the blind over her crib, not the one over the roof, unless it's very sunny, in which case I'll close the bamboo part of the blind only, not the blackout fabric. For naps during quiet time, I will close both blinds and I will try to be as quiet as possible.

- If Mari wakes up from a short nap during active time I won't try to put her back to sleep unless she's very fussy and obviously tired and continues to be for more than a few minutes.

- For most naps, even if they go into the next scheduled time, I will not wake her up or disturb her. However, if the last nap of the day goes beyond 6:30 PM, I will go into the room, walk around, open the blinds, turn off the white noise machine. If that doesn't wake her up I'll try again in another 10 minutes. By 6:45 at the latest, I will actively wake her up by picking her up.

- During active time, Mari will play downstairs, not in her crib. I will try to play actively with her as much as possible, though I don't promise to do so all the time.

- If Mari is happily playing in her crib during quiet time, I will either leave her alone in her room or sit in the chair and read, interacting with her only minimally, if at all -- looks and smiles, no talking.

- If Mari is playing in her crib during quiet time, I will provide only her lovey and perhaps one other toy at my discretion, and she will be facing the direction she faces to sleep, unless there's less than 15 minutes remaining in her quiet time, in which case she can play with whatever she wants, facing whichever direction, as long as she stays in her crib.

- If Mari starts to fuss when I've left her alone to play in her crib during quiet time, I'll take this as a sign she's tired and will try again to put her down for a nap.

- If Mari naps during active time, I will nonetheless try to put her down for her next nap on schedule, unless she has woken up less than half an hour before the naptime routine is supposed to begin. If the latter is the case, I'll let her play actively for 30 minutes before beginning the naptime routine. If she seems wide awake even then, I will use the time normally allotted for the naptime routine as a transitional time. I will feed her if she'll eat, read her stories, play with her very quietly until she starts to lose steam or until the actual nap is supposed to start. Then I will try more aggressively to get her to fall asleep.

- The bedtime routine starts at 6:30 PM even if she's just woken up, because she's tired at that time of day anyway and because the bath and massage will provide some activity before bed.

- While I will try to feed her at the beginning of every naptime/bedtime routine, it's not a big deal if she's hungry earlier or refuses to feed because she's not hungry -- I will feed her on demand. If I end up having to nurse her at the end of the naptime/bedtime routine I will pull her off before she falls asleep completely. I will try not to make a habit of nursing her immediately before bed.

- I will try to potty her toward the beginning of the naptime/bedtime routine. If she doesn't go, I won't take her again unless she clearly needs to poo (not pee). If she does, I will use the bowl in her room; I won't take her to the (brighter) bathroom.

- If she wakes up before 7:30 AM, I will try hard to get her back down. But if she's wide awake between 7:00 and 7:30 and seems unlikely to go back down, I will let her play quietly in her crib until 7:30. In this case I will potty her if need be.

- If she seems very tired at night, I will shorten the bedtime routine and concentrate on getting her down, even if it's earlier than 7:30 PM.

- I hope that eventually, if she's sleeping better during the day and waking up less at night, I can move the bedtime up to 8 PM and allow her to get up at 7 AM, since she probably only needs about 11 hours of night sleep.

Today: Last night we were back to the bad old days -- four night wakings. She was up from about 2:15 to 3:30 AM and wouldn't fall back asleep. I don't know what's up because yesterday was a fairly average day. Maybe it's the developmental leaps of Wonder Week 26 making her fussy for up to five weeks. Sigh. As for the new schedule, yesterday was the first day I tried to follow it, and we were fairly successful. However, today, Mari screwed it up by napping only for about 45 minutes in the morning and refusing to back down. She ended up having four short naps today, one of them during an active time. I really, really wish I could get her to nap longer.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Day 37: Do babies have nightmares?

Wow, Mari just woke up SCREAMING. Usually she wakes up with a little cry that turns into fussing or calling but this time it was top-of-her-lungs shrieking. I waited only about a minute before I went in, just long enough to be sure it wasn't just a sleep cry. It took only a moderate time to settle her down and I didn't have to nurse her, but for awhile she seemed truly in a panic. It almost sounded like she was in pain, though I didn't notice anything that could possibly be hurting her. She isn't teething yet. The only thing I can think of is: was it a baby nightmare? If so, what nightmares do babies have?

Today: Naps were problematic again, though not as badly as some days. She woke up twice during her second nap and had to be rocked back to sleep because she still seemed tired. Also, she only had a 30-minute late-afternoon nap. I feel like I'm making no progress whatsoever on the nap front.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day 36: Temperament and sleep

I'm still not done reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth, but the book's discussion of infant temperament made me wonder how much Mari's temperament affects her sleep.

The widely accepted measures of infant temperament are as follows (more details at

Activity (General motion and energy):  Mari is pretty squirmy, always has been. Even when she's on her back she's always kicking and flailing in a jerky way. Though she's not yet creeping or crawling, I would put her activity level at fairly high.

(Regularity of bodily functions): Mari is definitely not regular or predictable. Today was a fairly good day -- she napped regularly and was pretty happy and energetic. But I swear, I didn't do anything differently than I did yesterday, when she hardly napped at all. I can never predict when she'll nap or for how long, when she'll poo, how much she'll eat, etc.

Approach/Withdrawal (first reaction): Hmm, I'm not sure on this one. Mari has some pretty fierce stranger aversion, so she's definitely withdrawing when it comes to people. But she's not necessarily fearful of new places, experiences or tastes, as long as we're with her.

Intensity: Mari is very intense. When she's happy she's ecstatic. When she's unhappy she screams like a dying jet engine. She can careen between the two in less than a second.

Mood: Not sure I get this one. Mari's moods vary a lot, but don't most babies' moods vary? When she's well-rested she's generally cheerful. When she's not she's fussy. So I suppose she's somewhere in the middle of the scale.

Persistence: Mari is very persistent, for better and for worse. When she was learning to roll over or to sit up it was all she wanted to do for days. She can also be extremely persistent in crying and resisting sleep even when she's tired.

Distractibility: Mari is quite distractible, though she's not on the extreme end of the scale. She's very easily distracted by unusual or new sights, noises, and toys. Picking her up can distract her from fussing quickly, but it doesn't last. Same goes for novel soothing techniques -- they seem to work quickly at first, but she goes back to fussing quickly.

Threshold (sensitivity): Mari is very sensitive, especially to noises. She's easily startled by even not-so-loud noises such as a wooden block falling into a small box. Truly loud noises such as the sound of the vacuum make her howl. When she's sleeping she's very easily awakened even by tiny sounds such as the rustle of paper or the crinkle of plastic.

According to the book, intense babies also tend to be slowly adaptable, negative in mood and withdrawn. These traits make for a "difficult" temperament. Well, I'd say Mari is very intense but in the middle on the other supposedly related measures. So I suppose she has an "intermediate" temperament by the book's classification system. But Weissbluth also notes babies who are highly active and highly sensitive are also at risk of sleep problems, especially when routines are disrupted. This is obviously true for Mari. So despite her natural lack of regularity she really needs me to try my best to impose a routine and a schedule. Too bad it's so hard.

There are other ways of measuring temperament. According to The Baby Whisperer, Mari is "spirited" -- a baby who knows what she wants and doesn't want and doesn't hesitate to let people know, and loudly. (An abbreviated version of the quiz in the book is available here:

Mari is also a "high needs" baby according to Dr. William Sears, the guru of attachment parenting. She fits all 12 of the characteristics listed here <> to a tee.

All this adds up to Mari not being hard-wired to sleep well. Dr. Sears has a good article about it here: So I suppose sleep will always be somewhat of a struggle. Still, the changes I've made so far have made a world of difference, though I clearly still need to do more work on trying to get her to fall asleep on her own, especially for naps, since I'm still having difficulty putting her down before the very-nearly-asleep stage.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Day 35: Bad, bad naps

Argh. Mari slept for only 35 minutes in the morning, which always bodes poorly for the day. Sure enough she was fussy all day but wouldn't sleep. She went nearly five hours between her first and second naps, which is unprecedented. In total she only napped 2 hours, 10 minutes and was clearly overtired and squawky most of the day.

Night sleep is going mostly all right now, so why are naps such a problem?  I've been so desperate to get her to nap I haven't been good about following the sleep plan. I think I need to take a more hands-off approach to her naps, though, even though it makes for some cranky days, because if she doesn't learn to put herself down for naps this will continue to be a problem. I am still reluctant to let her cry it out entirely, but maybe I need to tolerate a little more fussing.