I blogged previously about baby sleep schedule; first I wrote a rambling introduction, then an explanation of the method that my friend introduced to me. I took a time out to devote an entire post to crying. And now, at long last, I will try to wrap things up and describe to you what our “baby sleep method” has become.
Our Sleep Attitude
I believe that what you do isn’t nearly as important as who you are. First off, I believe that if my baby is going to be calm and relaxed, she has to learn these things from me. I cannot be anxious or stressed when trying to calm down an anxious or stressed baby. Only after I have made myself calm can I hope to help my baby find the same peace.
And I can’t fake peacefulness with my baby. She grew inside me for 9 months. She knows what my true state of being is, and she responds to that.
When Phoebe cries (I mean, REALLY cries), I breathe deeply, focusing on every breath. I pray, “Dear God, let me be a conduit of your love to her. May her cries pass through me. Please strengthen me with the depths of your endurance and faithfulness.” And I stay with her, just as I would want someone to be there for me; just as I believe God is always there for us.
You need your soul anchored in something. A crying baby just reveals where you turn to for strengthening. Remember who you are and where the root of your soul lies. This is more important than any actions or methods you take.
There are some basic principles that we implement with Phoebe, some of which we did before the schedule change, and some after. Here are the general ideas behind our “baby sleep method”:
The day is split into nighttime hours and daytime hours. From 6pm-6am, any activity that occurs is “nighttime activity.” Phoebe experiences as little stimulation as possible: dim lights, soft voices, no extra touch (i.e. she is held, but not tickled or stroked, because these things wake her up). Also, she is typically nursed in bed, lying beside me, for nighttime hours.
This does not mean Phoebe goes to bed exactly at 6pm. She is often sleepy before then, and we sometimes lay her down for the night as early as 4pm. If she wakes again close to 6pm, we treat the time as nighttime hours and put her right back to bed.
Additionally, this does not mean we get out of bed at 6am. We have our alarm set for 6am so that we can get an early start on the day, but if we’re tired, we might sleep in 30-45 minutes. Last Saturday, we weren’t feeling well and went back to sleep until 8am. But, when Phoebe wakes up before 6am, we still interact with her as if it is “nighttime.”
During the day, we are as stimulating as possible, and we try to keep Phoebe awake as long as possible between naps. The goal is 1h30m of wakefulness between naps.
In addition, Phoebe sleeps in the co-sleeper for her daytime naps. She does not nurse to sleep; instead I place my hand on her butt and lower back and/or talk to her to let her know I’m in the room until she falls asleep. She sleeps 30m to 1h30m, but typically her naps are around 45m long. If she stirs before 30m, I give her a chance to go back to sleep. If she is crying, I check to make sure her diaper is dry. If she is crying and upset, I might transfer her to the ring sling to help her get back to sleep and have a more comforting naps.
I used to nurse Phoebe whenever, for however long she wanted, and at any interval. I also used to nurse her to sleep for every. single. nap. One big concept with this sleep scheduling is that Phoebe is nursed upon waking, for as long as she wants, but once she’s through, she’s through. The thought behind this is that she will then metabolize and use the milk that she just ate.
Practically speaking, if Phoebe has a dirty diaper or needs to burp, I take care of those needs, then return to nursing, treating it as the same nursing period. But, I don’t let her loose to play or do babywearing chores until she’s communicated that she’s dome nursing. Sometime this means the nursing session lasts an hour, and then she goes down for a nap shortly thereafter. But she doesn’t nurse to sleep.
Unexpectedly, there have been some great side effects to the nursing scheduling.* Once I try to put her down for a nap, the time it takes for her to go to sleep is significantly decreased because she is not distracted by eating. She spits up a lot less; when she eats, she is more awake and alert (Phoebe used to have major issues of waking up to spitting up). Finally, my milk supply, which has been in gross overproduction, became more regulated as the “events” of feeding were lessened. (I also practice block nursing to help with my oversupply, which means I nurse for one session on the right, the next on the left, but never the both in one sitting).
*The term “scheduling” kinda makes me cringe here, because we aren’t really feeding her on a clock or anything. We feed her in rhythms: sleep-feed-play; sleep-feed-play. But you get the picture. So I say “schedule,” wince & carry on.
CRYING IT OUT
We. Do. Not. Let Phoebe cry it out.
Phoebe, like any baby, has different cries. There’s “I’m cranky and tired,” and then there’s “&%$# I’m frickin upset! Somebody console me!” When I laid Phoebe down for naps the first week, she’d cry for 5-10 minutes. These were tired cries. They were constant in pitch and volume and would be very similar to the cries she’d give me if I held her as she fell asleep. I would lay my hand on her lower back and upper butt, and simply reassure her I was there. These crying sessions ended in her crying herself straight to sleep. I’d sit there 5-10 minutes longer to make sure she was in dreamland before leaving to do Mom stuff.
As she got better at getting herself to sleep, she cried less. Sometimes she’d lay there for several minutes, then cry 3 or 4 belts of sleepiness, then be asleep. Sometimes she’d cry or whimper off and on for 10 minutes before sleeping. But, for the most part, 10 minutes was the maximum it took for her to get herself to sleep.
If she lays there and the cries get worse, that’s when I know something is wrong. Typically, I’ve forgotten to change her diaper before the nap, and she is upset because her bum is uncomfortable. Sometimes, however, she is sad or upset for a reason unknown to me. In these instances, I put her in the ring sling and let her sleep on me for a babywearing nap. If I realize before the nap that she is having a cranky time, I might wear her in the ring sling until she is almost asleep or has just drifted off, then transfer her to the co-sleeper. These transfers have always been successful to date.
Now, I lay her in the co-sleeper and she only cries some of the time. I rarely place my hand on her anymore; I simply sit with her till she drifts off. She’ll often gab at pictures of animals that we leave in the crib for her, or she’ll coo herself to sleep.
This is what I take great joy in: since Phoebe is learning how to fall asleep without my assistance, when she is having a rough day or a cranky moment, we always have the fallback of ring sling naps, rocking chair naps and co-sleeping naps. These are her comforts, but not her necessities. Phoebe understands that she does not need nursing, touching, babywearing or rocking to fall asleep; so when she’s upset she actually finds these things comforting enough that they help her sleep. She’s not immune to the Mommy tricks. It feels really cool to know, in dire circumstances, I have an Ace up my sleeve.
I love sleeping with my baby girl. I love cuddling with her all night long. I love nursing her in bed. So, during nighttime hours, the rules are drastically changed. If she asks to nurse, she gets it. Typically she’ll only nurse 10 minutes or less, and she’ll nurse herself to sleep. I nurse her right in the bed, and we carry on with the night.
Rarely, she wants to fussily nurse, and the breastfeeding is actually causing more problems than solutions. In these rare instances, I’ll refuse the breast (typically after an extended fussy nursing session), lay with her the way I normally would, and allow her to cry herself to sleep.
Phoebe goes to bed around 4-6pm each night, depending on how tired she is. I nurse her as much as she’ll accept before getting into bed. Her Papa will burp her. We’ll make sure she’s in PJs and a fresh diaper. And then I lay her on the bed and let her fall asleep. If she’s having a rough night, I’ll nurse her to sleep, and then get out of bed. Mr. Wetzel and I typically come to bed 9:30 – 11:00. And, let me tell you, it is AWESOME having those evenings with Mr. Wetzel.
I think that about covers it. Is there anything I didn’t cover that you’d like to hear me talk about more? Do you have any questions? I’d also love to hear any tips on how you put your infant to sleep!