Wednesday, March 6, 2013

What I've Learned...

So I realize I've been a bad blogger and have not posted in a month. That's because we've had a birthday celebration with family every single weekend since February 2nd. We won't know what to do with ourselves now that we have a free weekend.

Oh, and of course this little guy turned one...

Since it's been one whole year since I've given birth, I've decided to do a series of posts chronicling my amazing VAST experience (/sarcasm) of what I've learned in the one year that we've been parents. I'll let you know what we did, how it worked, and what I'd do differently (if anything) next time (if there is a next time ;)). First Topic? What else?! SLEEP.

What we did:
0-1 month - Judah slept in our room in his Rock N' Play sleeper. He slept in 2-3 hour increments at night. I would feed, Scott would change diapers - every time he woke. This arrangement didn't last very long because neither of us were getting more than 2 hours of sleep at a time. Plus I was pumping the middle of the night. FUN! Naps were often - he was never awake for more than an hour.

1-4 months - Judah slept in his swing. This made me a little worried because I'd heard things about babies sleeping in swings and Plagiocephaly. This, on top of his other cranium issues, made me a little bit of a worried mess. BUT, he slept SO well in his swing that I didn't want to mess with it. He would normally sleep in two 5-hour shifts by the time he was 2.5 months old - waking once around midnight/1am to eat and once at 5am. Scott would take the night shift, meaning if Judah woke up anytime between bed time and 1 or 2 am, Scott would feed him and change him. After that I was on duty. This meant we each got at least 5-6 hours of sleep at a time, which made us happier and much more productive members of society; and of course it was crucial when I went back to work when Judah was around 3 months old.

We would do our nighttime routine: bath, bottle, book, bed. We usually rocked him to sleep or placed him awake in his swing. We used this swing. Judah LOVED it and would only swing in the cradle position - he was not a fan of back and forth.

For naps, I made sure that he was never awake more than 90 minutes at a time. If so, it was overtired city and cranky pants baby. We didn't follow any sort of "method" or structure. The only rule I followed was the awake-time rule of no longer than an hour and a half along with a very clear bedtime routine. I never attempted to do any sort of sleep training because I felt he wasn't cognitively ready, and I happily swaddled, rocked, swayed, fed, and did anything else he needed to be comforted to sleep.

*Note: Judah did experience the "4-month regression" which lasted only for a week or so where he was waking multiple times at night.

4-8 months - The day after he slept all night in his swing for the first time, I decided it was time to transition him to the crib. Because of course my theory is "If it ain't broke...well, fix it anyways!" We still kept the swing for naps for another few weeks, but he was getting a little big for it...

To transition him to the crib, I did our whole bedtime routine, rocked him to sleep and laid him down asleep in his crib. He woke crying a couple times a night for about a week or so. Then, one day I decided to lay him down completely awake and wouldn't you know it? He fell right to sleep. No crying, no fussing. He'd been ready to fall asleep on his own, but I loved rocking him so much that I thought he really needed it when he didn't. From this point on he slept pretty consistently through the night, 12 hours, with no night feeding. Bedtime around 7:30.

I realize this makes us extremely lucky. He didn't require any sort of sleep training, which I realize can be a rarity. Don't get me wrong, there were clingy times that he just didn't want to be left alone that required us to let him fuss for a little while. But it never lasted for more than five minutes or so. I was fully prepared to hard-core sleep train, and bought this book: The SleepEasy Solution. Even though we didn't need to use it, I read the whole thing and it has great reviews, so I would still recommend it to anyone looking for a good sleep book. I also think putting him down AWAKE in his swing for months 1-4 helped him learn to make the leap himself that he knew he could fall asleep on his own, even if there was movement involved at first.

Another thing that I think helped us? Judah being at daycare. By state law, he has to sleep on a flat, non-moving surface for naps at daycare - no swings, rock n' plays, etc. Just cribs, cots, or pack n' plays. So he was already used to sleeping this way at daycare, and that made our transition to the crib a lot smoother. I swear, kids will do things at daycare they never do for you at home (take three hour naps, sit in his highchair nicely, etc.). Daycare also helped him get into a consistent 3 nap-a-day schedule, since all the kids (it's an in-home daycare) take naps at the same consistent time every day. Awake time was around 2-3 hours and he would take an hour nap in the morning, two hours in the afternoon, and a little catnap at around 5pm. Bedtime was still around 7:30.

We did have a couple little regressions during this time period - most notably right around 8 months when Judah was learning to crawl and cutting a couple of teeth at the same time. But it was short lived once again.

8 months - present - We continue to be consistent with our bedtime routine, and Judah normally goes to sleep when we set him down awake in his crib. Now when I rock him, it's not for him, it's for me. Because I do it to still feel needed and to convince myself he needs my help doing something. He's so fiercely independent, and prefers to put himself to sleep, feed himself, etc. He'll push our hands away if we're trying to help him walk. And I rock him because it's an amazing feeling to have a baby fall asleep in your arms.

He takes two naps a day now - usually 1.5 hours each. One at around 9:30 and the other at around 2pm. Bedtime has gotten a little later recently - closer to 7:45 or even 8. However, we're now dealing with early wake times - 5 or 6 am. He'll put himself back to sleep in the middle of the night and even if he wakes at 5 or so. But if he's up at six...well so am I. I'm trying to play around with nap times and bedtimes to see if we can remedy it. But it may be something that only time (and that darn tooth waiting to pop through) can fix.

If you've stuck with me this far, I applaud you. This has gotten really long! Overall, I think we've had a pretty easygoing baby when it comes to sleep.

If I had to do anything differently, I would have:
1. Not changed his diaper every single time he woke in those first couple of months. It's so stimulating and wakes them up completely. I didn't know they didn't need to be changed that often overnight! Seems like such a "duh" moment, but one I honestly didn't know as a first time mom.

2. Let him "fuss" just a little bit more in the early months. I read a book recently called Bringing Up Bebe that discusses French parenting. In it, the author Pamela Druckerman talks about how all French parents expect babies to "do their nights" - i.e. sleep through the night - at a very early age. Usually only 1 or 2 months. But at the same time they never let their babies "cry it out." They do this by being extremely attentive to HOW their baby is crying, and they believe each cry is trying to communicate something very specific. Even from day one, they won't pick their babies up immediately when they are crying, because they don't want to inadvertently wake them up. They listen to their fussing and crying for about 5 minutes before picking them up. By doing this, the French babies' brains make the connection from one sleep cycle to the next earlier in life, and they learn to sleep through the night much quicker - and with less crying. They call this "the pause" - and I wish I would have known about it earlier. I can't even imagine how many times I must have woken Judah up unknowingly. Newborns make A LOT of noise in their sleep, and I probably misinterpreted a lot of middle of the night fussing for being awake.

In the end, I'm not a sleep expert, nor can I cure your sleep woes. But this is what we did and what worked for us. The most helpful online site I found during my numerous sleep searches was this one:

In my next post in the "What I've Learned" series I'll talk about feeding!

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