Friday, March 5, 2010

Day 45: Thumbs down and thumbs up

I can't say today has really been a success for sleep overall, since Mari woke up at 5:40 AM and absolutely refused to go back down. Then she only napped very briefly from about 8:45 to 9:20 and the only reason I was able to get her down at all was because I allowed her to nurse to sleep. I then spent the next 40 minutes trying to get her back down (I persisted more than I like to because she seemed so tired; just wouldn't fall asleep). When I finally succeeded, she slept from 10:00 to 11:45, which totally messed up her schedule.

However, for her afternoon nap, for the first time ever, she managed to put herself to sleep for a nap. I rocked her until she was drowsy, put her down awake and left the room. I've been trying this only once every few days because the other times I've tried it she's screamed. Today she "talked" to herself briefly and then was silent. Hope she manages to do it again.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Day 44: Top 10 things I have learned in the last six weeks or so

While Mari's sleep habits are nowhere near perfect, they are certainly a lot better. And while I continue to learn, these are the most important things I think have worked so far to help improve her sleep. Some are derived from the No-Cry Sleep Solution, some are from Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, and some are of my own invention. These points are roughly in order of importance, in my opinion. Of course, every baby is different, even babies at the same age, but from what I understand from my research, these are points that would help most, if not all babies.

1.  Trust your baby. One of the hardest things for me to wrap my mind around is that Mari has often proven herself capable of more than I have expected. Maybe it's because babies grow and change so fast. I tend to think rules that applied a few weeks ago as still applicable, but often that's not been the case. The biggest thing for me was getting over the idea that Mari would never be able to put herself to sleep, because there was a time when that was true. The first time I left her alone in her room still awake, if very drowsy, I was afraid she'd freak out and it would then take me forever to get her to sleep. Instead, she "talked" for a little while and then there was blessed silence.

2.  Trust yourself. Another hard thing for me has been to weed through all the contradictory things all the different books say and pick out what I think will work for us. Consistency is important, yes, but sometimes I've have to do a bit of experimenting to find out what does work. Once I've found it, I've been trying to be consistent yet flexible -- i.e. if something disrupts her routine. It's a hard line to walk, and sometimes I have to stop and tell myself I'm a good mom and I know my child best.

 3. You do have to alter your life to fit your baby's sleep needs. Being well-rested during the day is crucial to a good night's sleep, and an older baby isn't going to be well-rested if she's not home and in a sleep-inducing environment at consistent times. I miss the days of newborn portability, when Mari could nap anywhere, at any time. But those days are gone and I have to accept it. So I have to keep any outings short and be strict about it. Yes, it's a bit of a pain for me. But a decently rested baby is so worth it and it makes for better rested parents too. 

4. Not every cry is the same and not every sound from a baby necessitates an immediate response. Leaving a baby to fuss for a bit is not the same as crying it out. For more:

5. Your child's temperament will affect his/her sleep habits and your responses to them. Some babies might be able to set and stick to a schedule on their own. Others will not. Some babies will cry very persistently, others will not. Some need a lot of cuddling, others don't like it. For more:

6. By about six months at the latest, natural sleepy times develop, even in an irregular child, according to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child author Dr. Marc Weissbluth. If one nap is short or skipped it may be better to keep the baby awake until the next naptime, to keep the baby on some sort of schedule, though that needs to be balanced with the need not to get the baby too overtired. The morning nap should start between 9-10 and the afternoon nap, between 12 and 2. For Mari, her morning nap has been starting around 8:30 to 9 and her afternoon nap around 1-ish. A third nap is variable, according to Weissbluth. Mari's has been around 5-ish and she's OK with it only being half an hour if the first two have been long enough. I have been having an easier time convincing her to nap around these natural sleepy times than I did strictly watching the clock to make sure she was up exactly, say, two hours and 15 minutes between naps.

7. The first nap of the day is crucial, and needs to start no more than two hours after the wake-up time. Apparently the morning nap is something of a continuation of night sleep, with plenty of REM sleep. I have found the morning nap sets the tone for the whole day. If Mari is sleeping again within two hours of waking up, she goes down more easily and is more likely to sleep longer. If the morning nap turns out to be shorter than an hour, she'll have a crankier day and will tend to wake up more easily from her naps. However, for some reason it's harder to get her back to sleep if she wakes up prematurely from her morning nap than from afternoon naps. This is something I'm still struggling with -- today, her morning nap was only 40 minutes and I couldn't get her back down. Lo and behold, she was a bit cranky.

8. A parent's presence can be a hindrance, not a help, in getting to sleep. Mari has always been a bit clingy, and my presence can reassure her if she's upset. However, my being around once she's calm at night seems to often delay her falling asleep, because she'd rather interact with me than sleep. However, at naptime, it's harder for me to leave the room, because she's more awake and gets upset if I leave. Having her put herself to sleep for naps is still something we need to work on.

9. A comfortable, sleep-inducing environment is important. Mari has started napping a bit better since I put the blackout fabric on the other side of the bamboo blinds. However, it's still not a very dark room and sometimes I regret not having bought black blackout fabric. On the other hand, I don't want to train her into only being able to sleep in a bat cave. Other environmental things that help: a white noise machine that stays on all night long (we have one on a timer too but she often wakes up when it turns off), removing all toys from the crib (wasn't necessary a few weeks ago, but it is now -- she's more aggressive about getting at them and more active in her sleep -- I usually put her down on her back, head to the left, and very often she wakes up on her tummy, head to the right).

10. It's normal for breastfed babies to wake up once or twice a night to feed until the age of 9 months, according to Dr. Weissbluth. Knowing this has helped me be OK with one or two night wakings and responding fairly promptly with feeding.

Near-future posts: ideas I have not found useful, ideas that may or may not be working, things I have learned specifically about Mari.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Day 42: Still struggling with naps

Why is it that one day can go so well and the next day everything is all screwy again when I've changed nothing?

Mari had bad naps again today, napping only tiny periods before waking up still tired. I'd rock her back to sleep and put her down and she'd wake up again, still cranky and easy to put to sleep again -- but also too easy to wake up by putting down. Argh!

Anyway, it occurs to me I didn't post Mari's 6-month pictures, for those of you who might be grandmas or otherwise interested primarily in the cute.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Day 41: Talking, fussing, calling, crying and screaming

I used to think if a baby made noise at night, a parent needed to respond right away, no matter what the noise. I thought anything else was leaving the baby to "cry it out," and that was cruel. But slowly, I've been changing my mind.

I've been developing the theory that Mari's nighttime and pre-falling-asleep vocalizations come in five varieties: talking, fussing/whining, calling, crying and screaming, and that I should vary my response to her based on what type of vocalization it is. Please note both her cries and my responses are different at naptime; this is only for night sleep.

Talking: She doesn't sound upset, just using her voice. If she was old enough to say more than "ah-eh" and "oogie" it would sound like she was saying: "...and then we went to the store and Mommy bought me new socks..."  If she's "talking," I leave her indefinitely, until she falls asleep or gets upset.

Fussing/whining: She's a bit upset, but not too much. It sounds at first blush like crying, but the sounds are fairly quiet, intermittent and sound more annoyed or whiny than really upset. If she could talk, it would sound like she was saying, "I'm bored," "I'm tired" or "this sucks." I feel comfortable leaving her to fuss for between five and 20 minutes, depending on just how upset she sounds. I go in if the fussing turns into crying, but often she manages to put herself to sleep. Exception: if it's just after I've put her down for the night but she still hasn't fallen asleep and is getting upset, I go in fairly quickly (after only a few minutes of fussing) for a quick cuddle, then I set her back down still awake. The one-time "Mummy may have left the room but she hasn't abandoned you" visit seems to reassure her and she almost always falls asleep quickly afterward. I'm not sure if I should keep doing this but for now it seems to work.

Calling: She's a little upset, but I get the impression she's testing my boundaries more than anything else. The cries are louder than fusses but very intermittent -- from several seconds to as much as two minutes between cries. If she could talk, she'd be saying: "Mum! Where are you?" "Come pick me up!" Or: "Waiter!" "What's a baby got to do to get service around here?" Often calling is intermingled with fussing, and I respond the same way, on the same timeline.

Crying: She's really upset or hungry and there's no way to translate the sounds into speech because even if she could talk, she'd still be crying. I only wait a minute or two to make sure she's really awake and not crying out in her sleep (unlikely) before going in to comfort her. My response would usually include nursing, unless she ate less than three hours ago. Often if she's hungry the sounds start off as fussing but become more insistent and more like crying quite quickly.

Screaming: A panicked scream, again no way to translate into speech. Will either turn into crying if she's awake or it's a night terror, in which case she's not really awake and will quickly stop. Though she sounds more upset than if she's crying, I wait a little longer before going in -- a few minutes -- because it's reasonably likely it's a night terror. If she keeps screaming, I have to turn on a dim light so I can see well enough to make sure there isn't anything hurting her, though that's never yet been the case. I may have to revise that when she starts teething.

Today: A good day for naps. Mari slept only an hour and ten minutes in the morning, less than I like to see, but unusually she slept for two straight hours in the afternoon -- no waking up and me having to put her back to sleep. Her late-afternoon nap was only half an hour, but this is becoming more common and seems to be OK.

I think I have to slightly revise the schedule I set out the other day, since Mari seldom wakes up after 7 AM, so it's impractical to try to keep her sleeping and/or quiet until 7:30. So I will let her have active time from 7 AM until the naptime routine starts at 8:15. Also, if she has a decent but not two-hour morning nap, I will let her have active time starting at 10:30, not 11.