Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Sleep Training - The First Year
It is November, the month of Thanks. I am thankful, so very thankful, that it is so easy to put my kids to bed every night. I don't hear a peep from them after I tell them goodnight and close the door. They are happy through the entire bedtime routine: Bath, Nurse, Story, Bed (Singing, massage). Even when I put them in their cribs; they are smiling up at me. It is precious!
And even with how well amazing they sleep now, I'm not sure I would approach sleep training in
exactly the same way if I had another kid, but apparently I did get results. Naps/bedtime/waking up at night were THE things that stressed me out the most the first 9 months. Before I had kids (read: before I had a set of twins that hated life when they were tired, but hated going to sleep & staying asleep even more) I was completely against the "cry it out" method. Read on to see what happened.....
During these months we had no schedule. The boys nursed on demand and slept when they were rocked or swung long enough ;) The boys mainly fell asleep during nursing (we would try to
transfer to their pack n plays, with hit or miss success), in their swings/bouncers, or by being rocked to sleep (simultaneously). It was pretty difficult to successfully transfer them to a pack n play with both of them in my arms! I must have looked pretty comical. During these first few months the babies were often on me the entire time they were napping, or I was bouncing a
At around 3 months, the boys had been either on different nap schedules, or being held during their naps their whole lives, and I was starting to lose just a little bit of my sanity. (You can ask
my husband). Try rocking two babies to sleep simultaneously for 3 months.... it's not as warm and cuddly as rocking one. ;) So I went to Border to buy the Dr. Sears book on infant sleeping. Borders didn't have that book, but they did have On Becoming Babywise (which I actually wasn't going to buy originally, because some of the reviews said it was harsh.)
I ended up reading through it in every spare second I had (usually while I was tandem nursing). The basic premise is: babies need sleep to be healthy and happy, but they will often fight it and end up not getting the sleep they need. Not taking good naps = waking up more at night, and a fussy baby all around. (My kids were very, very fussy newborns.) The book advocated an
Eat, Play, Sleep schedule during the day. But when it was time to sleep, put the baby in his crib, and if he doesn't go to sleep right away, it's okay to let him cry it out. They crying it out should end in 2 weeks.
I was so desperate for some sleep and maybe just a little sanity back, I followed this book
exactly. The longest the kiddos cried was 20 minutes, but they did cry before every nap time. But, they slept in their cribs, I had some free time (45 minute naps.. but 45 minutes baby free was a huge step), and the babies were definitely happier. They still woke up several times a night, I didn't follow the part about letting them cry it out at night (I really think they needed
their breast milk). I thought... I can handle two weeks of crying for simultaneous naps in the crib. I was very strict... no one was allowed to rock the babies to bed, pick them up from their cribs after they were placed in them for nap time, etc. I was terrified ju
st one deviance would mean two more weeks of crying before nap time.
I did this for 4 months. I loved having a schedule (You can see these in my previous posts). But, unfortunately my kiddos still cried every.single.nap.time. To be fair, they did quietly go to sleep some naps, but that was a minority. And also to be fair, they cried every single nap time before I did the whole schedule/sleeping in the crib thing, it's just I was
actively doing something about it so I didn't feel as bad. My kids just really hated sleeping I think. Well, after 4 months of crying in their cribs before naps, the mommy guilt really set in, and I changed my game plan a little.
I read parts of a new book, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child". This book had different levels of strictness that you could follow (For example, you could choose to either soothe your child to sleep every single time before you put him in bed, OR soothe him for a set time, and then put him in bed asleep or not and let him cry if needed.) It said it was okay to nurse your child to sleep, okay to rock your child to sleep, etc, as long as you put him in his crib after he fell asleep to ensure the sleep is good quality. It also advocated putting your baby down for naps/bed at the same time every day. Also it talked more about having a nap time and bed time routine.
I liked this book better because it allowed more freedom. I kept the Eat/Play/Sleep schedule because I had been using that for 4 months (I might change that if I had another kid, I think babies like to nurse before sleeping). But instead of just putting them in their crib, I started taking them out in their stroller when they got tired. They fell right asleep in their stroller, then I would transfer them to their cribs without a problem. This actually worked really well because they went to sleep without crying, and I got a jog in every morning. Usually for the afternoon nap, they would fall asleep in the car on the way back from an errand, and I would either let them sleep in their car seat, or transfer them to their cribs. At bedtime they would nurse to sleep.
I wonder if this would have worked if I hadn't trained them to sleep in their cribs first, but I was a happy momma when I switched to this method. We were still on a schedule, but without the crying.
Months 9-12 (and beyond)
I started getting worried that after all my efforts in months 4-7, the babies would never be able to fall asleep on their own in their cribs. At 9.5 months, we went to visit some relatives, and I watched my cousin put her two girls to bed. She just read them a story, etc, then kissed them goodnight and closed the door. While they were still awake! No crying or anything. I had a renewed hope that this was possible without crying. When we got back from our trip, I did everything I could to make the bedtime routine fun. I discovered the babies loved full body massages; they would actually lie down for them. I did let the babies cry it out again, but within a few days, they had stopped crying (for the most part), and started going to sleep on their own in the crib. Success!
They still occasionally cry at nap time, but only for a minute or two before singing or talking themselves to bed. I don't hear a peep at bedtime. I now nurse before nap time and bed time, but they rarely fall asleep while I nurse. I read them a story, put them in bed, and sing to them while I massage their backs. At nap time they often pop right back up, but I say "goodnight" and close the door, and they understand that I'm not coming back until after they wake up :) Now that they are down to one nap, they often wake up once of twice during their nap. I used to go in, but discovered once I am in their room, they do NOT go back to sleep. Now I wait ten minutes, and only go in after that. They almost always fall back asleep for another 1-2 hours. I wait several minutes at night too when they wake up. Most nights they wake up for a few minutes, but I very rarely have to go in there anymore.
WOW, that was a long post, sorry :) In summary, I am so thankful for where we are in this sleep training journey. But I still have some guilt over months 4-7 when they cried before almost every nap time. I wish I could go back and find a different solution, but still have the same result I have now. I think if we have another kid, I will use "Healthy Sleep Habits" instead of "Babywise". I am definitely not against babies crying it out (I think it is needed for some babies...although I don't think it should be used for very young babies), but I now think rocking and nursing babies to sleep is not bad, but actually important for mother/baby bonding, especially those first few months. The two things I believe are most important for good sleep habits are consistency and a schedule. Stick with the method you decide to use, at least for a few months. And a schedule = a must, at least for twin moms. :) I'm thinking singleton moms too?