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!)?