Monday, November 3, 2014

Sleep...or that elusive event that doesn't happen...

Well Mommas and Daddy- you survived.  The saddest part about Fall- the time change that Fall's back- also known as "They were waking up at 5am, now it's 4am- WTF."

Did that happen to you this weekend?  Did you wake up on Sunday only to realize that it wasn't even 6am, but it was 5am?

Well, here's to sleep training....

I had started a post a few days ago with a happy letter to the swaddle.  It started to intone my joy and love of the swaddle, who I was going to credit for my happy 7 hours of sleep that I finally got from my adorable Ocho.

And then it didn't work.  It worked for only one night, and then quit on me.  Another example of how the only thing you have to rely on with sleep and with children is constant change.

So, I'm stepping back.  Going back to the basics of sleep training, and I thought I would share our plan with you- in case some of you also need to rely on a plan in hopes of ever sleeping again.  (PS- sleep training doesn't have to mean Cry-it-out.  There are LOTS of ways to 'train' and even if you aren't doing anything, you are.  It's the same way you've trained your child to understand that going in the car means a carseat, etc.  Everything is a type of 'training' if you will....)

I want to preface all of this with the thought that everyone needs to do what's right for their family.  Until EG was 3 months old that was co-sleeping for us.  Yup, right in my bed.  Every family needs to discuss and decide what will work for them, and then make attempts at doing that.  And yes, your family includes your husband, child, other children and yourself.  It likely does not include your mother-in-law, sister, or brother.  But, who knows who lives in your house... With that in mind, here's the plan.

1. COMMIT:  Children can sense your weaknesses.  They know when you aren't committed to the process.  And no matter what process you have decided to go with- commit to it fully.  For at least a week.  I recommend starting on a Thursday- since things usually get worse before they get better it allows for only one work day before you have a few days to get through the nights.

2. SLEEP ASSOCIATIONS:  If you search online for sleep training one of the things you'll hear over and over again is sleep association.  That your child associates something with sleep is very likely.  The usual culprits are nursing (ding ding in this house) and walking/falling asleep on mommy/daddy.  These are wonderful things we do for our children.  They are nice and natural and totally find if you want to continue doing them.  It's when you don't want to do them anymore that they become negative sleep associations, rather than just an association.  So you have to create new associations.  One of the best ways to do that is to create a routine.  And stick to it over anything else.  Yes, this means that you need to be in your house, doing your routine at whatever time is bedtime.  For us, it's 7pm.  We nurse, do bath, get PJs, nurse again, then read a story and sing a song.  Then it's lights out and in her crib.  No, it's not magic the first time you do it, but give it a week or two, and then see what happens.

3. NIGHT TIME NURSING: This one is probably the most controversial to discuss, and it's also a really delicate concept.  For us, I want to make sure that my daughter needs to eat, and that she's not just eating because she's been eating before.  How do we know if she's hungry?  Mostly by how she eats when we let her eat.  If it's 10pm and she's nursing like a champ, then falls asleep contentedly, then she was likely hungry.  If she nibbles then falls asleep on the nipple, then still fusses when you put her down, likely a sleep association.  It's totally a tricky situation, but it can make or break you at 3am.  It's also hard because they could be reverse-cycling, which means eating at night rather than during the day.  This usually happens with a kiddo in daycare, and when they get really distracted at around 4 months, but it can also happen if you continue to feed each night.  It's important to make sure you really feed during the day to ensure this isn't happening.

So we've started swaddling her, have refined the routine with two kiddos, and have committed to not feeding her the moment she wakes up.  Currently Working Dad gets up with her and spends at least 20 minutes putting her back to sleep.  If that's a total failure, he gets me up and we see how she eats.  As long as she's eating, we'll keep nursing, but I'm hopeful that will change.

How's sleep going for you?  Do you have a plan?

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