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“It’s Sleepy Time” | Tips & Tricks Tuesday

OK guys. This is the phrase I repeated over and over to Otto since he came into this world, in hopes that he would one day catch on. While repetition is good for babies, it didn’t take me long to realize that the learning curve is pretty large when it comes to babies and sleep.

And I should say– MOST babies. Some babies learn to put themselves to sleep on the very first day and are sleeping 12 hours stretches by 6 weeks. To the Moms of those babies– I am happy for you. Truly, I am. But I also hate you just a little bit.

For the rest of us, with babies who may or may not figure out this whole “sleep” thing on their own (and/or do a great job of it for, say, a month– and then revert back to their waking-up-6x-a-night-ways), my hope is that this post can bring you some solidarity and advice!

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First of all, while I would probably beg to differ during my lowest, most sleep-deprived moments, I should say that Otto was a pretty “average” sleeper. With that said, he also came out of my womb super alert and aware combined with quite a temper, so I believe this impacted his sleeping habits a bit. He wasn’t one of those newborns who would just sleep for 4-5 hours straight. He pretty much woke to nurse every 2 hours max and rarely gave me more than 3 hours in a row. Thankfully, he never had days and nights mixed up, but it’s not like I was having to wake him to eat. He also usually woke up fiercely– screaming and wild. Otto never had a “ramp up” button. It was always Zero to Screaming.

By 2-3 months, I was hoping for better things (“Everything gets better around 6 weeks,” they said). I was sorely disappointed. Otto was still waking every 2-4 hours at night to nurse, and often in between to cry. He would sometimes give me a larger stretch at the beginning of the night and would do a 9pm-1am scenario, but it was never consistent. And this usually required that I go to bed when he did, which always proved impossible. My anxious, sleep deprived mind would race for 2-3 hours and just about the time I’d drift off to sleep, he’d wake up to eat.

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A typical night at 3 months old eventually included…

  • Otto needing to be VASTLY soothed to sleep for bedtime (this could take up to an hour), and sometimes he would then wake up an hour later crying. I’d have to return and pop the paci back in his mouth or rock him again. Bedtime at this point was between 9-10 pm.
  • The biggest stretch would usually happen first, but not always. Sometimes he would wake up after 2-3 hours and want to eat, and then go a long stretch between midnight and 3-4am.
  • After the 3am feeding, the rest of the “night” was a wild card. Things would typically deteriorate from here. He would usually wake up every hour or so hereafter until morning and need soothing. I eventually got desperate and would bring him into bed with me just to buy a few hours of sleep. We would end up a fury of bed covers and nursing and puke until morning.

As you can see, my nights were unpredictable and not full of too much sleep. Otto was constantly waking up and needing my intervention, and it was waring. My days included many tears and wondering, “Why doesn’t my child want to sleep?”

Anytime I do not fully understand something, my personality type attacks it with TONS of research. I envelop the topic and get all kinds data. I ask friends who are in the same boat as me, I talk to my family about what they did. I read a lot of different  blogs / books / articles. I make sure I am getting the full picture from all sides, because everyone has an opinion. But mostly, I make sure my information is founded with research and I look for patterns as to what seems to work and I make sure I understand WHY. This is very important to me! To me, understanding why something is happening allows me to fix the root cause rather than just treat symptoms. With such an influx of information, it takes me awhile to feel confident about what I want to do, but once I decide, I commit with gusto!

All of this eventually led me to my favorite sleep advice.

Let me preface this with the fact that there are A LOT of great books and advice out there regarding baby sleep. At the end of this post, I am going to list all of the resources that I have read and my personal opinion on them. Since all babies are different and all parents and their parenting / philosophies are different, this creates a myriad of methods.

However, after reviewing a lot of the research and data, this book / blog / podcast ended up being the most informative, easiest to read / understand, and importantly– the most effective for Otto. And bonus: the author is SO entertaining!

I share it in hopes that it might help some of you, too!

It’s called Precious Little Sleep– the blog can be found HERE and she also links to her book within her blog. You can find it on Amazon, or even better– I bought it on iBooks so that I always have access to it on my phone.

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If I could make a recommendation, I would say to first read her book. It includes most of what you need to know. Then, use her blog as a resource for topic-specific articles. The podcast is also informative if you want to start somewhere and don’t have time to read, or just want to check out her style.

What I like about her book is that it first lays out “how babies sleep” so that you go in with an understanding of why certain methods will or will not work. I found it fascinating to learn about and like I said– she makes it concise and entertaining!

She then lays out “Baby Sleep Power Tools,” SWAP (sleep with assistance plans) and SLIP (sleep learning independence plans). After reading the book and understanding all the power tools and SWAPs, it became apparent to me that I had actually already tried everything short of “SLIP” — which is her term for teaching a baby to sleep independently. She no longer uses the term “Cry It Out,” but in a nutshell, this is what this method is in various forms.

After laying out a game plan with Ryan, we tried this with Otto. It included a consistent bedtime routine and a no-turning-back approach. Here is what we did. Otto was 15 weeks old at the time. (This is a bit young for what the author recommends, but only because she feels there are many other approaches to try first. Since we had exhausted those, I felt confident going in that this was what we needed to do).

His Bedtime Routine (starting at 7:30):

  • Nurse with Mom in the baby room (low light and white noise on)
  • Bath with Daddy in the bathroom (dim lighting)
  • Lotion and PJS with Daddy
  • Bedtime Book with either Mommy or Daddy
  • Put sleep bag on (this keeps him warm at night! We love our Baby Deedee Sleep Bag!)
  • A few rocks with a song while standing with Mommy or Daddy
  • Put in crib FULLY AWAKE with paci, gives a few pats / reassuring words and then leave the room (usually by 8-8:30pm)

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The room is very dimly lit throughout this process and is dark when he goes to bed with white noise.

The SLIP process we went through required that we leave him and come back for checks at certain intervals. The intervals got longer and longer each night. The first night, he cried for 25 minutes. The second night, it was 12 minutes. And by night 3, it was only 5 minutes. On subsequent nights, he not only didn’t cry but he was usually asleep WITHIN 5 minutes.

From there, I would feed him no sooner than 3 hours (this is personally what I felt comfortable with). He would usually go until at least midnight, and anytime he woke up that wasn’t a feed time, I would let him fuss. It usually only lasted 5 minutes, 10 minutes tops and then he would go back to sleep.

After just a week of this, we saw a HUGE improvement. And by two and a half weeks, he started giving me some 7-9 hour stretches. I was simply amazed at how fast and effective this process was.

My main hang-up with doing this method was letting him cry. It’s just heartbreaking. And I was worried it would somehow ruin him. All I will say is to just read her book– she addresses this– and I have also read other literature that addresses why this is not a “cruel” thing to do but rather a skill you are helping to teach them. This is also why I opted for the “cry with check” method, to give me a bit more peace of mind. But to be honest, by the second night, he didn’t even cry long enough for me to go in and check on him anymore. It’s truly fascinating how well this process works.

Consistency is also key. We stick to his bedtime routine and time every single night, even when we travel. It’s so important!

Ever since Otto has started sleeping better at night, he has also slept so much better during the day for naps, too! Good sleep begets good sleep, and the opposite is also true– a baby that sleeps poorly at night will be overtired and will nap poorly during the day, thus setting you up for a bedtime full of turmoil and another bad night of sleep. It’s a vicious cycle!

I hope this post helps some of you! Keep in mind that she offers advice for ALL ages, not just little babies!! So those of you with a 11 month old with terrible naps or an 18 month old who wakes 3x a night, this is a great resource!

Other Resources I have read:

Books…

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

This book is great if you don’t mind sifting through hundreds of pages of somewhat dry reading. Lots of good principles and information. Best read in “sections” as the different stages apply to your baby / age.

The No Cry Sleep Solution

This is one of the first books I read… and while I identified with it on SO many levels, I also didn’t have the patience to go full-force ahead with this method, largely because it would take MONTHS to see results. I was sleep deprived NOW and wasn’t convinced all of these ways would work (and frankly, wasn’t willing to wait 3-5 months to find out). I also came to eventually disagree with her stance on CIO. However, if you’re looking for the MOST gentle method out there, this is your book.

Websites…

Baby Sleep Science

Lots of helpful articles on baby sleep!!!

Wee Bee Dreaming

This lady actually offers sleep consultations and I considered hiring her. I was impressed with her knowledge and credentials. However, after our success with SLIP, we felt more confident in tackling sleep on our own. She also has some really great articles.

Phew! I think that’s it. Thanks for reading and I hope you are able to find some small nugget of helpful wisdom here!

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  • Laurel Valente - Taryn this is a great article on baby sleep! It’s amazing advice! Great job!! This will help lots of new parents!! I like how you kept it real, added humor and then good solid advice that you tried and researched!! Happy for you that you are getting better sleep. A+++ article!!ReplyCancel

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