The ultimate topic of conversation for any new Mom (or Dad).
I am sure most of you do not need my advice/thoughts on the matter. There are about a thousand people, a billion books and trillion internet sites, all talking about the same thing: how to get your little bundle of joy/ultimate creator of sleep deprivation to GO TO SLEEP and STAY ASLEEP. Most of you reading this (meaning my friends, colleagues and family) have already gotten through the rough early months with your baby or babies, so you can just skip reading this post. I am writing this in case a poor sleep deprived Mother (or Father) stumbles upon this article and I might be able to help.
First of all, let me acknowledge that every baby is different and what works for one will not always work for an other. Also, let me say that our little monkey has been a good sleeper from the beginning. That doesn’t mean there weren’t/aren’t major struggles along the way, but I do know that some kids are better sleepers then others. So, at the risk of sounding like the skinny girl with the high metabolism giving advice about dieting to someone who’s metabolism sucks….here are my favourite books and websites re: baby sleep.
1) I really liked the book “The 90 minute Sleep Program” by Polly Moore on sleep/activity cycles. This worked like a charm for our baby. The idea is that babies (actually all of us) follow a 90 minute cycle going from being very alert and active to being more relaxed and calm. Thus, if you want your little monkey to sleep, try to put them dow 90 minutes from when they wake up, when they are least active in the cycle. If they are older and can stay awake for more then 90 minutes, you want to try in a multiples of 90 minutes (3 hours, 4 1/2 hours). Especially for babies under 6 months, instead of even attempting a ‘schedule’ based on the clock, they suggest a pattern of time between naps/sleep. For example, a typical pattern for a baby who is about 4 months old:
Time baby wakes up + 90 minutes= #1 nap
time baby wakes up from #1 nap + 3 hours= #2 nap
time baby wakes up from #2 nap + 90 minutes= #3 nap
time baby wakes up from #3 nap + 90 minutes= bed
Now, this pre-supposes that you can a) get your baby to sleep and b) they sleep for longer then 20 minutes… but it is still good advice to try every 90 minutes. Especially if/when your baby is not sleeping well. Also, where to stick that 3 hour stretch in is random and totally up to you. And do however many naps you want, I just found that three worked at that age.
2) The book “Bed Timing” by Marc Lewis and Isabel Granic had some very unique suggestions about when to attempt sleep training (either cry it out or no cry methods) based on babies developmental stages. Their basic argument is that as babies go through different cognitive and emotional development there are times where things are just too crazy in their little brains to handle sleep training. Then there are periods of relative calm, from a developmental point of view, and these are the windows of opportunity for sleep training. (Spoiler alert: In case you are too sleep deprived to read it, the ‘best’ time is between 5 1/2 and 7 1/2 months. BEFORE they go through fun times in the form of separation anxiety that makes sleep training harder.) Oh, and they also go through the most popular cry it out and no cry methods and give tips on how to make them work for babies at their different developmental stages.
And if you are really interested in the whole ‘development and what it means for my baby’s behaviour’ thing you can pick up a copy of “The Wonder Weeks.” Fascinating. All your babies really frustrating behavour begins to make sense, kinda. Here is their website: http://www.thewonderweeks.com.
3) An awesome website to check out for all your parenting woes is ‘Ask Moxie.’
The thing I love about Moxie is that just when you are about to cry because you are so frustrated, you look up a post on her blog about it and laugh until you cry. Thus releasing all of your frustration into one big laugh/cry session.
My favourite of her posts are on sleep regressions (http://www.askmoxie.org/2006/02/qa_what_are_sle.html) and on “CIO” (cry-it-out) sleep training (http://www.askmoxie.org/2006/06/babies_and_cio.html). I particularly like her explanation on recognizing if your baby is a tension releaser or a tension increaser when crying. Essentially, she is saying that if your baby gets increasingly upset when crying (tension increaser) then CIO is probably not for you. If your baby is like ours, and her crying dissipates pretty quickly, then Moxie doesn’t consider this using a true CIO method. (I still think it is CIO; CIO just tends to work for babies like ours, and not for babies that are tension increasers).
4) “The No Cry Sleep Solution” by Elizabeth Pantley. Great book. Non-judgmental, supportive and a collection of great ideas whether or not you use a CIO or no-cry methods. Essentially her deal is: pick a bunch of ideas from the book you think will work for your little monkey. Try for a couple weeks to a month. Keep what works, trash what doesn’t, try some more stuff. Wash, rinse, repeat until you find what works. When baby changes the game again (which they always do) go back to the book for some more ideas. Wash, rinse, repeat.
5) The Baby Sleep Site. (http://www.babysleepsite.com/) Some pretty good free articles with reasonable advice. Some good examples of suggested schedules for babies older the 6 months. Just don’t sign up for their newsletters unless you are okay with a ton of e-mails suggesting all the other stuff they can sell you to help you get your kid to sleep. That being said, the website is connected with an online program for tracking feeding, sleeping and other such things that would have been particularly helpful when our baby was newborn. It would have saved about 25 trees that were used up when I tried to write every detail down. Why did I do that again? Anyway, I am sure you can find the link on their site if your are interested.
Now, for the things/ types of advice to AVOID AT ALL COSTS.
1) Ignore any book/website/person who strikes you as judgmental, or claims that their way is the only way and all others are cruel and unusual punishment or don’t work. I can think of two books off the top of my head that are like this…. you know who I mean… the lady who claims she can ‘whisper’ to babies and the guy who’s name is like the name of a department store. Sorry to anyone who found these two valuable… but I found them uber-juddgy and therefore, even if they do have some good advice, any new Mom ends up feeling like crap after reading them. Not what you need. (I will say that I read the whispering one before I gave birth and thought it was a fabulously good system. Then I had my baby and realized it was crap. Except the dream feeding thing, that worked wonders. Google it. She is still a nut-bar though.)
2) Only do what you feel comfortable doing. Even if you are desperate, do not attempt something that you don’t feel right about. Trust your parental instincts. If you don’t feel good, the baby can tell. Then likelihood of them being relax enough to sleep when they see you are uncomfortable is about zero. Less then zero.
3) Don’t believe anyone who says they can change your babies sleep patterns in anything less then 2-3 weeks. It is not an overnight thing. And their little brains and bodies keep changing, so you are trying to hit a moving target. Not easy.
Hope this helps someone out there.