Monday, January 24, 2011

Mommy Monday

Last week I shared my thoughts on schedule feeding versus demand feeding. I liked the comments we received, there are a lot of wise mamas out there! Two things stood out to me that I thought would be helpful to re-cap. One suggestion was to read books from both sides of the argument and find where you fall and feel the most comfortable. I think that is great advise. Another thought that came up was the idea of flexibility. I think that is important whether you decided to schedule feed or demand feed. You don't always have to feed you baby when they cry but you don't have to deny a baby that when all other options have been exhausted and it's not quite time, according to the schedule. Hopefully, dear sister, you will find what works best for you.

Today, I thought I would talk about sleep. It is the Holy Grail of parenting....that night you get to sleep from night til dawn without interruption. For some it takes a long time and for others, just a few months. There are many factors that determine when a baby will sleep through the night, I won't discuss them all here, but I will share what has worked best for me.

One factor that can sometimes get a baby to sleep through the night is the ability for them to self-soothe or to go to sleep on their own. As I mentioned in the last post, I started off using the Babywise method, which not only promotes a schedule for feeding but for sleep and wake times as well. I found this extremely frustrating. I could never get my baby to stay awake when he needed to and go to sleep when he should, etc. I also was not comfortable letting him cry for extended periods of time, which Babywise promotes as the method for getting a baby to sleep on their own. I will say that I did glean some helpful advise from the book. I tried a "flexible" eat, wake, sleep cycle with all my babies and found it worked well. I would feed baby, then change his/her diaper (to wake them up) and then try to interact with them as much as possible. When they seemed sleepy, I would rock them until they were almost asleep and then lay them down. If it didn't work, that was fine, I tried it again the next feeding cycle. It worked, most of the time. I didn't go by the clock but learned to read my baby's cues and gently guided them when needed. I also used pacifiers and blankies so they had something to soothe themselves to sleep. Eventually, I was able to lay baby down and they would gently put themselves to sleep. Every once in a while there is some crying but it was only for a few minutes. This helped my first two babies sleep through the night by two months but Silas it took nine months. I am not sure exactly what the difference was but I know that I didn't let Silas cry as much as the first two.

I will say, that letting a baby cry is a sure-fire way to get them to sleep through the night. If baby wakes during the night and they are old enough to go the whole night without eating (there is some debate about the age), then they should cry until they go back to sleep. It does work, I know it does, if you can stand it. I think I did this a little more with Jesse and Karis but they were always good sleepers. I remember when Silas was six months old and still waking at night, Matt would tell me, "If you just let him cry, he will sleep through the night." I knew this but I just couldn't do it. It was probably because I knew he was my last baby, I got that it goes so fast and I wanted to savor those quiet times of nursing in the middle of the night more than I wanted sleep. So, I dealt with it. Everyone is different. There is no right or wrong. Find what works best for you. (Notice a theme developing here!)

Some books about this subject: On Becoming Babywise, The No Cry Sleep Solution, and The Baby Whisperer. You could also research the Ferber method, which is a systematic way to let baby cry it out.

Readers: What helped your babies sleep? Lessons you learned about sleep (or lack thereof!)?


Nina said...

Hi Jane, I'm Christina... a friend of Emily's. I love that you're doing this! And, I couldn't agree more with the theme that is developing... find what works for you. I also started off with the Babywise method but knew before my son was even born that I was never going to be able to follow the method to a T. If I had followed the method to a T I think I would have become completely neurotic and uptight. It probably would have sent me over the edge. But, I will say that I also gleaned a lot of wise information from the book. I think letting Caden cry was one of the best things I have ever done... he definitely fell into a better sleep pattern once he was able to fall asleep on his own. However, I couldn't handle letting him cry for long and I didn't let him cry until he was a few months old...3 or 4 maybe?? I can't remember. And, I definitely went in after 10-15 minutes of crying to calm him down. I always thought, "whats wrong with a baby wanting his momma?!" Nothing. So don't feel bad if you can't handle it. It is true that there is something so special about that cuddle time and they do grow up so quickly. But, sleep is also important and I thought that the notion of children developing abandonment issues because you let them cry was/is completely bogus. But.. that's me. So I'm sorry if I offended someone by saying that.
Like you said... its all about flexibility, learning the cues of your baby, and learning what your baby wants verses what your baby needs. Em... you're gonna love your baby and you're going to be a great mom!! You have nothing to worry about, just keep in mind that part of being a mom, if not all of being a mom, is flexibility, trial and error, and learning as you go. You can read as many books and manuals as you want but until that little one is here you won't know how you will feel, what you can handle, how your baby will react, etc etc etc.... So just have faith in yourself and go with your gut. :)

Anonymous said...

I definitely agree with Nina on listening to your own internal sense of what you're comfortable with and listening to your babies cues.

We're on the other side of BW spectrum - we co-slept with T for the first 8 months or so. And I loved it. We're actually really looking forward to the time when we can do this again, when she calms down a little bit. Co-sleeping also made breastfeeding super manageable. I never had to get up! I can tell you more about the dynamics and the ways to make it safe in an email if you're interested.

When T started crawling she had to go into a crib because it wasn't safe for her to be wandering around while we were sleeping. Around 10 months she needed to start figuring out sleep on her own more intentionally. For us it's felt like we wake up one day and she's all the sudden a different person in this new stage. This one day we realized, she's a toddler and she can handle this. She cried for about an hour one night and that was it. I was really uncomfortable with the idea when she was a baby and I'm glad we waited until we felt good with where she was at (no longer exclusively nursing, just past a growth spurt, expressing her feelings through means other than crying, etc).

Melinda said...

When I read mothers' comments on the Baby Whispering books and other methods, I'm struck by how wise you all are. Of course, each baby is different--and who's in a better position to gauge what's right than you? Tracy's philosophy was always meant to GUIDE and to teach mothers how to tune in. Sounds like that's what you're all doing!

Thanks for sharing your stories all over the web!
Melinda Blau
co-author, the Baby Whisperer books