Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Sleep Question

Photo taken April 3, 2012. Two and a half months old.

I remember how exhausted I was when Ella first came home from the hospital.  All she ever wanted to do was sleep.... on someone.  We held her so much in the first day or two that the nurses told us she wouldn't fall asleep in her bed in the nursery, because she just wanted to be in someone's arms.

In some ways, I loved those precious moments with my daughter, but in other ways, I just wanted her to learn to sleep on her own.  And then finally, she did.

For a long time, Ella would get very fussy and tired during the day, screaming without end, and going almost full days without napping.  And then we got on a daytime schedule - eat, play, nap, eat, play, nap. It works well, she naps longer, and she isn't crying as much (because we can tell when she is tired).

That being said, we still haven't mastered the night sleeping.  Ella is just a little over 3 months old and still sleeps in bed with us (I know, I know - we said we would never do it, but it just worked best for us).  Her naps during the day are in her own bed.  We swaddle her during naptime and bedtime because she flails around and wakes herself up if she isn't swaddled.  Our bedtime routine goes something like this and starts somewhere between 9:00 and 10:00pm:

1.  Feeding
2.  Bath
3.  PJ's
4.  Book
5. Prayer
6. Swaddle
7. Put down, lights out.

Dave and I go to bed usually about half an hour to an hour after she does.

She usually wakes up about 2 times in the night to eat.  She eats laying down, and I just wait for her to fall asleep until I go back to sleep.  She usually wakes up for the day around 8:00am.

I have read that babies at 3 months should be able to sleep though the night, and I would like for her to be able to do that.  I would also like for her to sleep in her crib at night.

We have established a bedtime routine, and we have a daily nap schedule - the only thing keeping her up at night is her eating.  I need some ideas on how to proceed though.  Should I wait a little longer until she is slightly older to try to coax her into sleeping through the night?  Has anyone tried any methods for getting their younger (3-6 months) babies to sleep that long? I have looked at the Ferber method and at SleepSense, but don't want to buy something and commit unless I know it works.

We are also okay with moving her to her crib to sleep at night, but I don't want to have to be walking to her room to feed her twice a night for the next two months or so if she isn't really old enough to sleep through the night yet.  We are prepared for some bad nights, if we can feel confident we will see some results in a couple of weeks.

So if you have any advice or can share what worked with your child, it would be greatly appreciated!


  1. Ahhhh.... eeee.... do I even comment?

    My first comment would be DON'T RUSH THINGS. Ella doesn't need to be sleeping through the night right now. And if she DID, she will probably stop again around 4 months (I'm pretty sure there is another big developmental growth spurt around that time that makes sleeping harder - but I don't really remember). Even Sleep Sense (which I will email to you but don't necessarily agree with it completely) says that a baby has to eat in the night until she is at least 3 months old, or 13 lbs. Personally, I wouldn't start trying to stop night feedings until baby has at least doubled her birth weight.

    Although you see and hear people say all the time, especially on Facebook "Baby slept through the night!" it is usually not an every night occurrence. Especially not for breastfed babies. Most babies that I know of don't start doing so at least until they start solid food. Ella's tummy is still very little.

    Truthfully, I wouldn't start sleep training until a) birth weight has doubled and b) baby is at least 6 months old and c) both you and baby are ready for it (we tried sleep training at 6 months and Cam was definitely NOT ready. It was SUCH a different experience for us when we did it at 9 months).

    Right now, I would continue with trying to differentiate between night and day: keep lights off at night, do the bedtime routine before bed, and try to not put Ella down completely asleep so that she can learn to put herself to sleep (ie: no rocking to sleep or nursing to sleep). That is what Sleep Sense would tell you to do at this infancy stage.

    And my encouragement to you is that by doing these things, you are providing a safe environment for her to be loved, cared for, and secure feeling while also giving her the tools she needs to sleep on her own and for longer periods if she is ready.

    It doesn't matter where she sleeps, as long as she is safe. (So don't leave her alone on your bed...) Suggestion? Maybe put her down in her crib and then go get her at her first feeding and keep her in bed with you for the rest of the night.

    Anyway, you asked! :) I know I am a bit more Attachment Parenting than you are, but I thought I would give you my advice... since you asked.

  2. I second Laura's comment! Every baby and family is unique, so sleep works differently for everyone, but I think exclusively breastfed babies generally need to eat at night.

    I am really hesitant to say much as I feel pretty inexperience on this very sensitive subject, and I only really know how it has gone for us. But since you asked the question, here's a bit of our experience. FYI, it sounds like I might be even more Attachment Parenting than Laura.

    Emelia has only started sleeping "through the night" in the past two weeks, at just over 14 months. I know that's much later than some, but we tried to work in sleeping through the night earlier and it was not working for any of us so we stopped. We went through a rough few months this winter/spring with teething and colds and she was waking multiple times a night to nurse (read every 2 hours some nights - believe me, I was dreaming of only waking up twice!). However, when we tried teaching her to sleep through again this last time, it was still hard, but it felt right. I loosely followed this plan (http://drjaygordon.com/attachment/sleeppattern.html). And it worked! It wasn't until I weaned her from nighttime nursing that she started sleeping through from 8:30ish to 6:00am.

    1. I need to have a LIKE button for this reply! :)

  3. Oh man, sleep and babies is one thing that gets momma's panties in a bunch. I promise not to hate you whatever you decide to do in the end, but here's my two cents :)

    A note - I do NOT consider myself an "attachment parent." I'm all about working them into a schedule at a young age and making sure that life revolves around what works best for everybody, not just them.

    That being said I do breastfeed on demand (though I try not to permit lazy "snacking" or just allow myself to be a pacifier - they have to actually be hungry) and Theo didn't start sleeping through the night until he was (gulp) 9 months old! Eli was earlier, he slept through at 6 months. He did it on his own but Theo had to be encouraged. I was getting tired of getting up in the night.

    He actually never slept in our bed. I find that for my babies on the rare occasion when I did fall asleep with them in the bed they would wake up far more frequently to nurse. They always slept better and longer if they were on a separate surface - as did I! The important thing for me was not so much getting them to not wake up in the night but training them to fall asleep on their own without me, and it sounds like you've already done a great job of that with Ella. I was still nursing Eli to sleep when he was 3 months old but it was getting SO difficult to do. As soon as I would try to sneak away he would wake up and scream. Finally one night I gave up in frustration and let him cry it out. It took longest the first couple nights of course, but he actually ALWAYS cried himself to sleep. I sometimes wondered if I was a complete failure as a parent because he would always scream for 5-10 minutes before he went to sleep... every... night... until he was TWO! But apparently I was much the same as a child, so I chalk it up to personality, because Theo never really cried himself to sleep. I was careful to put him down awake even as a newborn and he's always gone to sleep cheerfully (it also helps that he's a finger-sucker, Eli never took a soother or sucked his thumb so I think screaming was like his soothing mechanism or something).

    Anyway, if I were you - which I'm not so you should probably take in everyone's advice and stories and then ignore us all and follow your instincts - I wouldn't worry about training her to sleep through the night yet. I would probably move her out of the bed and see if that made a difference, but ultimately I think you should go for what makes everyone the happiest. For us that was not having them sleep with us, but for you guys it might be different. Laura's idea of putting her down in her crib and then moving her into your bed after the first feeding sounds good too.

    If you do decide to sleep train her, rest assured that if she's not ready, she'll let you know. It just won't work! Theo wasn't ready until 9 months and even now he still gets up once through the night maybe once a week. Nobody knows your baby like you do so you know best what she needs.

    My mom always tells the story about a couple she knew who had 4 or 5 children, I forget, but NEVER got up in the night to nurse them. Just let them cry it out right from newborn stage. I'm not saying that this was a GOOD thing or advisable, but their children didn't die, weren't malnourished and were well-adjusted, happy members of society. If you decide not to nurse at night anymore she'll make up for it by nursing more during the day and be fine in the long run!

  4. I just found your blog today! And...I have been helping mommies and babies get on good routines and sleep through the night for 5 years! I have had much sucess...and my own three babies were sleeping 12 hours straight without waking for a feeding at 8 weeks, 10 weeks, and 9 weeks (my three in that order). I have had the same success helping dozens of other babies! It is easiest for me to help via email, rather than a blog comment roll...so if you want to email me directly, my email is melissa.horton@charter.net. :) I'm not harsh--as in, we won't be making your baby cry it out on her own--but we will tweak some things that will definitely help you get that much needed sleep for both baby AND mommy (and daddy too!). :) Oh...and unless she was super-premature, she can definitely sleep all night without needing to eat! :)