As you can probably imagine, I haven’t been getting a whole lot of sleep the past few weeks. I have been breastfeeding on demand and for the most part, Emily wants to eat every 2-3 hours, even shorter if I’ve let her fall asleep in my arms. I don’t have a partner at home right now who can check on her when she wakes up from naps or in the middle of the night, so I’m what she gets and often I think she smells the milk and wants to eat whether she’s really reached full hunger or not.
My Mom gave me a copy of the book Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg, and I’ve been eating it up like manna from heaven in the hopes that I glean some good tips on helping Emily to establish good sleeping and eating habits, and to help us to reach the infamous ‘sleeping through the night’ stage as easily as possible. Hogg is not a fan of the Cry It Out methods that you often hear so much about and prefers the philosophy of Attachment parenting (basically, being kind, loving, and emotionally available to our children helps them to form trust in the relationship as a safe place to come to and to explore the world from). Here are some basic tips for building a secure attachment. Just for good measure, I’m also reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution and a copy of the Sleep Sense Program that a friend gave me (although that one does support CIO in some areas, so I’ll be taking some and leaving some).
I wanted to wait until I had a good understanding of her different cries and noises before I started trying any sleep training, as I didn’t want to mistake her fussing because she’s hungry or a tired cry with the cries and noises she makes when she falls asleep. I’ve made the mistake before of going in to feed her in the middle of the night and she was just in between sleep cycles and had let out a cry – she just continued sleeping in my arms and wasn’t even interested in eating. If you’re struggling to understand your baby’s various cries, perhaps the Dunstan baby language could help? I saw her on Oprah one time…
Below are just some of the methods and routines I’ve been trying out from the Baby Whisperer to get us on the path to a well rested baby and mom! Please note that I am not trying to get Emily to sleep through the night at this point; her little system is far from being able to go that long without nursing and may not reach that point for many months. I am simply attempting to develop good sleep routines so that we’re not having to fight to get rid of any sleep props down the road.
As I mentioned before, the basic routine with the Baby Whisperer is Eat-Activity-Sleep-You with the entire cycle taking more and more time as the baby grows older. With a newborn and their tiny stomach and a limited capability for wakefulness, you should be aiming for around 40 minutes of nursing, followed by around 20 minutes of cuddling or interaction (it’s easy to over stimulate them though and that can make sleep difficult and shorten their nap length) and then around 2 hours of sleep. Now that she’s getting a bit older and a bit more alert, Emily is averaging around 30 minutes for nursing (longer if she’s been over stimulated or has gas and alternates nursing and comfort sucking) and then 45 minutes of activity time, during which we diaper change, cuddle, spend a bit of time in her swing, or just have tummy time. Her total cycle during the day is averaging around 2.5-3 hours at this point (unless we’re travelling and visiting a lot, in which case she eats more and sleeps less to cope with the changes) and at night she’s going 4 hours her first stint then three 3 hour cycles with bedtime at around 9pm and morning coming at 9-10am. Supposedly it’s best to think of their day and night as two 12 hour stints, so I’m trying to adjust my own bedtime and morning to better coincide with hers.
Teaching Emily to self soothe so that I don’t have to rock or nurse her to sleep and then TRY to place her down in her crib without her waking up is the primary goal right now. I find that if I follow the above routine she goes down a lot better and I spend a lot less time going in to comfort her when she starts fussing. One of the suggestions the Baby Whisperer makes is to follow the four “S’s” of sleep: Set the Stage, Swaddle, Sit, and Shush-pat. Basically you need to make consistent the motions you go through in their room before bedtime (closing the curtains, turning on music, etc.), the swaddling process, sitting unmoving with the baby for a short period of time to calm them, and then patting their backs while Shhhhhh-ing to help them move into sleep. If they do begin fussing or crying, you go in and pick them up and calm them again and then set them back down immediately. You’ll have to do this a LOT at first, but you will begin to see the amount decreasing if you stay consistent with it. Finding ways to make parenting her by myself easier is the top priority right now, so she is currently taking her naps in my bed and (most nights) sleeping in her crib. Our room is much darker during the day than hers, and on occasion I’ve fallen asleep with her while putting her down for a nap, which has done me well in the energy department.
I’m glad I found these alternative to the Cry It Out method as I hated the idea of leaving her in her room to cry – I want her to know that I will always come when she needs me and cries! I don’t know if this method will be the one that works for us in the process of getting Emily to learn to self soothe, so I welcome any tips or advice from those who have gone before. It does get easier, right? I find myself going without a lot of sleep at night because she’ll only fall asleep in my arms and rarely will stay asleep if I try to transfer her to her crib or swing if I need to get something done or go to bed myself. Getting more sleep will always help me to be a better momma!