mama monday VII: SLEEP!

Mama Monday Disclaimer: I am nowhere near an expert mom. I am on a mama journey just like all of you are. However, I’m more than willing to share my experience with you guys. If today’s topic is something that you have an experience with then I hope you’ll share too…either on your own blog (be sure to leave us a link) or in the comments section.

Sleep. Mmmmmm, glorious sleep! I could talk about this all day. There are a lot of things I stress about as a mama but sleep has never been one of them (theirs OR mine). I realize that this isn’t the case though for lots of you out there…nothing can get a mama riled up like her not-sleeping baby! So I hope this post, the buddy posts, and the comments will help those of you who might be struggling with this issue. Let me start by saying where we are and then I’ll list some ways that we got there. Ephraim sleeps for 12 hours straight every night starting at 6:30 or 7:00. He takes three naps during the day that each range from 45 minutes to over two hours. Sarah sleeps for about 11 hours each night starting around 7:30. She takes one nap in the afternoon for about an hour and a half.

List form seems to work well for MM so here it goes:

1. Swaddling. We have always swaddled our babies from the time they were in the hospital until they find their hands (around 2-3 months). We always swaddled with two thin thermal blankets (a tip learned from J.J.) One thing I realized early on though was that swaddling did nothing but tick the kiddos off unless it was done right…and right=TIGHT. There are a handful of things that I know I do well and one of them is swaddling a baby. Maybe I should add that to my profile…master swaddler. I’m willing to make and post a video if anyone is struggling with this and would like to see it in action! When Hayden was first born and I visited him in the hospital I swaddled him up as a nurse walked in. She took one look at him and said to me, “you must be a nurse.” To which I responded, “nope, just a mommy!” 🙂 At any rate, swaddling has always worked for us. Let me add though that “worked for us” doesn’t actually translate too “babies always liked it and cooed and babbled up at my adoringly as I wrapped them tighter than a bandito burrito.” Which brings me to my next point…

2. Crying. When it comes to sleep I have always been able to keep in perspective that *I* know best what my babies need. They have often fought it and cried about it and I’m totally okay with that. I don’t think teeny tiny babies really benefit from lots of crying but between birth and like 2-3 months I totally think it’s okay to let them fuss for a couple of minutes during a nap(probably not more than five) to give them a chance to calm themselves down. Occassionally it will work, usually it won’t, but giving them the opportunity to soothe themselves back to sleep will only be good for them (and you!) in the long term.

5. Noise. I realize that some people are really anti-white noise but it’s always worked for us. With Sarah we ran a humidifier everytime she slept…partly for the humming but also because of the horribly dry air in Colorado. We do the same thing for Ephraim now. Sarah still sleeps with a small fan in her room that runs for background noise but she can totally go to sleep without it. In the beginning it was one of the strongest sleep cues for both of our kids and Ephraim still depends on it for a strong cue. As soon as I bring him in his room, turn the lights off and start the humidifier his thumb goes straight into his mouth…sleep time!

6. Sleep cues. Let’s face it, these little creatures are trainable…probably even more so than adults. The more cues we give them that it’s time for sleep, the easier it will be for them to rest well. And that means ROUTINE. Our nightime routine has always included a bath, books, and then a feeding before sleep. We bathe both of them every night and I really thinks it helps them wind down and know what’s coming next. For naptime Ephraim’s sleep cues go like this: walk in the room, turn the lights off, draw the curtains, turn on the humidifier, swaddle from the waist down and lay down in the crib. Even though all of that takes 10 seconds or less by the time I lay him down he knows that it’s time for sleep. Of course, he didn’t know this in the beginning but after weeks and weeks and months and months of the same thing he’s totally trained. He goes to sleep without a peep about 99% of the time.

7. The first 3 months. I always soothed my babies to sleep until they were 2-3 months old. Sometimes that meant rocking, sometimes swaying, sometimes walking, sometimes even nursing. It ALWAYS included swaddling. Once they found their hands and could bring things to their mouth independently I took that as a sign that they didn’t need the soothing/swaddling anymore. At that point I made both of them figure out how to get to sleep on their own.

8. After 3(ish) months. I put the -ish in there because it’s not so much a date as a developmental milestone. Even if your kids don’t soothe themselves with their hands (sucking thumbs, holding a lovey, whatever) finding and being able to use their hands means that they have enough control of their body to not need swaddling anymore. When they’re itty bitty and jerky and spastic they often need help holding it all together…after they find their hands they don’t. This is the point when I started swaddling both Sarah and Ephraim from the waist down so they had access to their hands. Ephraim is 5 1/2 months and I still swaddle him this way as one of his sleep cues. As an added bonus it discourages him from rolling over onto his tummy and getting all ticked off and screamy (although he’s quickly outgrowing that thank goodness.)

9. Nightime waking. Sarah started sleeping through the night (11-12 hours) around 2 1/2 months and was doing it consistently by 3 1/2 months. She pretty much did it on her own. In the interest of full disclosure she weaned from breast to bottle just before three months. She was sleeping through the night about 30% of the time before weaning and within weeks she was doing it all the time. I think she would have done this weaned or not. As for Ephraim, he would still be waking up once for a feeding if it were his choice. He weaned from breast to bottle at three months (a mama monday for another day…and another blogger…unfortunately nursing is just not my strong point) and was getting up once in the night at that point. He continued to get up once every night until he was just over four months old. At that point we started letting him cry it out. It took about 3 nights before he stopped waking up at all. Now, let me say this: if I were still nursing him I would not have done this. But not for the reason you’re probably thinking. Some people will say that formula holds them longer because it doesn’t breakdown as quickly and I’m sure that’s true to an extent. But. I didn’t notice a difference in either of my babies eating patterns when they weaned. They still ate just as often during the day and at night. The only reason I was comfortable letting him cry once he weaned was because at that point I could actually SEE his intake. And I saw that he was taking a full bottle in the middle of the night and then literally nibbling an ounce or two in the morning. He clearly didn’t need that nightime feeding. He just needed to learn to wait. If I had still been nursing him though I wouldn’t have known that and I would have been too nervous about my supply to nighttime wean him. I probably would have cut him off at six months though.

Okay, I’m going to go ahead and hit “publish” and I’ll come back and add to this if I think of anything else or if there are questions I can answer.

Buddy Posters:

Mandy

Megan M.

Becca

Colleen

*Be sure to check the comments section for other great ideas and routines, including a great post from Krista about sleep as it relates to a baby with colic.

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