Today on the blog – in conjunction with Touro Infirmary – we are absolutely thrilled to be opening a dialog about sleep through our “Rest Assured: You Are Not Alone” series. As moms we are all often sleep deprived, and we struggle with making decisions around our children’s sleep habits as well. Should we use a crib or a bassinet? Is co-sleeping safe or not? Should we sleep train? And who IS the expert on sleep training anyway? Will the baby ever sleep more than 2 hours at a time? Why does my toddler have night terrors? When do I move the toddler to a “big kid” bed and oh my word why won’t they stay in the darn thing? Our goal through this series is to create a safe place for all of us to open up about the sleep issues that trouble us and to acknowledge that no matter our struggles or choices, we are never ever alone.
Make Like a Zombie and Sleep Train the Baby
When Jude was born, I was blissfully clueless. It was nice, but there’s a bunch of sh*t someone should have told me. I knew lack of sleep was on the horizon, but I had no idea how little sleep we would actually get. I heard how much newborns sleep, so I figured I could get in some shut eye when he did. The motto “sleep when the baby sleeps” did not always pan out for me. I always felt like I had so much to do by the time he napped and when I did try to nap it was restless. I sought out advice from friends and settled on two books: Happiest Baby on the Block and On Becoming Baby Wise. I read both and adapted methods from each book to keep Jude happy and work towards a full night’s rest. Both methods are routine-oriented, so they worked well together.
After a rushed but relatively easy delivery, I prepared for the road ahead. Like many newborns, he was gassy and cranky early on. On top of having to watch what I ate, including cutting out dairy, nursing was a rough road too. To preserve my sanity, we tried the Five S’s System described in Happiest Baby. These are shushing, swaying, swaddling, side lying and sucking. This method was a God send for Jude. The idea behind Happiest Baby is that you try to create a ‘4th trimester.’ The environment babies are born into is vastly different from the womb and takes some adjusting. I’d hoped to have a baby who was easy and just slept but that was not the case. We used a sleep sheep and an oscillating fan from the beginning, as the world can be a very quiet place for newborns (compared to the womb) and therefore difficult to sleep. If he was nursing, he was generally happy. When he wasn’t nursing, he was tightly swaddled thanks to a great lesson from my sister in law, a NICU nurse. When holding him, we would ‘shush’ very loudly if he was fussy. It seems excessive at first but it really helps. At the same time, we would position him on his side, sway and give him a pacifier. Used as a complete system, it really calmed him down. The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital has classes available on Happiest Baby.
We also followed Baby Wise with Jude, implementing the ‘eat, wake, sleep’ routine and feeding every 3 hours. The basic idea is that you ensure the baby stays awake during feedings, not only to get a full feeding but also so they do not become dependent on feeding to go to sleep. After feeding would be ‘wake’ time, talking and playing with him. Then we would wind down in a dark room (also suggested in Happiest Baby) and lay him down drowsy, but awake. It took some time, but after a month or so he had a good pattern. We hoped he would naturally fall into a sleep pattern where he slept for longer stretches, but alas, he did not. At 12 weeks, we decided to sleep train, also known as cry it out. My husband was the enforcer on this one, as I cried along with Jude. We would go to him every 15 minutes and reassure him but not pick him up. After three nights, he was sleeping all night. He’s been sleeping 8 pm-7:30 am ever since. This saved my sanity and restored me from my zombie like state. recently moved him to a ‘big boy bed’ with rails and he did GREAT. Never gets out, always calls for us first, and still sleeps all night.
We found that combining elements of these methods worked best for us, and I plan to use them again for baby number two, expected to make his debut April 26. If you’re searching for something to try, I would recommend these two books. Ultimately, you make the decision that’s best for you and your baby.