This is part four in the our series on babies and sleep. To start from the beginning click here.
Step 2: Study the Science of Sleep
I think there is something to the whole “teaching your baby how to sleep” thing … but always gently.
Comment from Whittney on THAT Mom
I’ll bet some of you were star athletes before becoming a mom. It’s hard to find time to stay in training mode after kids, I should know. I was among the elite. I was a marathon sleeper.
I could sleep. for. ever. And a day.
With all the sleeping I used to do one would think I knew a thing or two about the mechanics of it. Nope. My first attempts to teach Katie to sleep made painfully clear my ignorance on the subject. Fortunately, in her No Cry Sleep Solution Elizabeth Pantley gives a well-researched overview of basic sleep biology.
Most babies awaken two to three times a night up to six months, and once or twice a night up to one year; some awaken once a night from one to two years old. A baby is considered to be sleeping through the night when she sleeps five consecutive hours, typically from midnight to 5:00 A.M. While this may not be your definition of sleeping through the night, it is the reasonable yardstick by which we measure Baby’s sleep.
The No Cry Sleep Solution, p.50
For me, this simple fact was a revelation. I realized that my objective should not be for my babies to “sleep through the night” without waking at all. None of us really does that. My goal is that they learn to fall asleep on their own after a brief awakening, just like I do when I roll over, fluff my pillow and drift back off to dreamland.
Strategies for Helping Infants Fall Back Asleep
I strongly believed that what they began needing to fall asleep, they would continue to need. I wanted my children to have the security to fall asleep without my breast. We mixed it up – rocking, snuggling, walking, nursing to a sleepy, cozy place but not sound asleep, etc.
Comment from Leah on THAT Mom
Following Leah’s advice, I try to mix up how Micah falls asleep as often as possible: nursing to a sleepy state and then drifting off, in the sling, walking, rocking, etc. Note: If this seems impossible because your baby has a strong nursing-to-sleep association, check out the Pantley Pull-Off as described here.
I also vary how he sleeps. Sometimes rhythmic music plays in the background, other times white noise. He sleeps swaddled on his back, cuddled next to me or on his belly. * Hopefully this will help him be more flexible in his ability to take naps away from the house.
According to Elizabeth Pantley, where he falls asleep is almost as important as how. She gives this analogy:
Imagine this. You fall asleep in your nice, warm, comfy bed with your favorite pillow and your soft blanket. . . What if you woke up to find yourself sleeping on the kitchen floor without blankets or a pillow?
Could you simply turn over and go back to sleep? I know I couldn’t! You would probably wake up startled, worry about how you got there, fret a bit, go back to bed, get comfortable and eventually fall asleep – but not too deeply, because you would worry about winding up on the floor again. This is how it is for a baby who is nursed, rocked, bottlefed or otherwise parented to sleep. She falls asleep rocking, nursing, sucking a pacifier, and so forth and wakes up to wonder, “What happened? Where am I? Where’s Mommy and Daddy? I want things the way they were when I fell asleep! Wahhh!”
Makes sense, huh? That’s why once a day I soothe Micah until he is very sleepy but still awake and then place him in the co-sleeper. Sometimes he falls asleep, but usually he raises his head and makes an expression that says “What the heck? I was comfortable!“
When he starts to fuss I pick him up and soothe him until he is sleepy again, then put him back in his bed. I do this as many times as I need to until he is so tired that he just decides it’s not worth the trouble to protest and falls asleep in bed. It’s a pretty lengthy process (which is why I only do it once a day) but I think it helps him recognize that although mommy’s arms are best, beds are also cozy places to sleep. By decreasing the “startle factor” of waking up in bed I ***hope*** he will eventually feel comfy enough during his brief awakenings to fall back asleep without my help.
Speaking of babies falling back asleep on their own, a huge mistake I made with Katie is never letting her try. If she woke up in bed I picked her up immediately even if she wasn’t crying. With Micah, I wait to respond. Although it’s rare, I celebrate the times he falls back asleep without intervention. It doesn’t save me any hassle right now (after all I am hovering over him ready to help if needed), but as he develops this skill over time we will both be much happier.
How Much Sleep Is Enough?
Sleep experts agree on one thing: Overtired babies do not sleep well at night. Unfortunately, determining if a baby is tired is not always as easy as it looks! It’s easy to attribute crankiness to so many things: hunger, wet diaper, being cold, etc. I found this chart from Elizabeth’s book to be really helpful and I hope you do, too. Things are going really well with Micah right now, but if they weren’t I’d be tracking his hours to see if he’s logging enough zzzzz’s.
|Age||Number of Naps||Total lengthof naptimehours||Nighttimesleep hours*||Total of nighttime and naptime sleep|
|1 month||3||6-7||8 ½ – 10||15-16|
|9 months||2||2 ½ -4||11-12||14|
|12 months||1-2||2-3||11 ½ -12||13-14|
|3 years||1||1-1 ½||11||12|
|4 years||0||0||11 ½||11 ½|
My Results So Far
From six weeks old on Micah has been sleeping six consecutive hours each night (7pm – 1am) and then waking up only twice for feedings (1am and 4am) . . . usually. He rarely has meltdowns as a result of overtiredness and is very peaceful and content while awake. I, however, am still fairly sleep deprived because I’d rather blog than nap. 🙂
*I’m not concerned about SIDS because I don’t vaccinate. Although belly sleeping has been named as the culprit, there is some research indicating that vaccines, specifically the DTP, may be the real cause. Besides, studies show that an infants breathing patterns tend to stabilize when they sleep next to an adult.