Posts Tagged sleeping through the night

Sleeping Through the Night! (Mostly)

*NOTE* I meant to publish this nearly a year ago (soon after J started sleeping through the night), but now that he’s almost two, I figured I’d better finally hit publish on this post. Below is what I wrote earlier this year (and finished today so I can’t remember the details as well now) and I hope it will possibly help some sleep-deprived parent out there.

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After 13 and a half months, it finally happened–Jaylen slept through the night! We didn’t really do any kind of sleep training, but I did start following a “plan” in January (after Jaylen got better from having hand, foot, mouth disease) that I somehow found online. It’s from Dr. Jay Gordon, who supports attachment parenting.

Since Jaylen started drinking cow’s milk after his first birthday, I wanted to start weaning him from night nursing. We didn’t really like the “cry it out” method, so when I found Dr. Gordon’s article, I thought it sounded more do-able for us. He doesn’t advocate doing any kind of sleep training until your baby is older (like 12 months or older), which makes sense to me. I also continued to night nurse because I wasn’t pumping as much milk during the day when I was at work since Jaylen was at least 8 months old and knew he wasn’t taking in much milk while I was gone. Obviously he could go for 11-12 hours without drinking milk, but I was concerned he wasn’t getting the daily amount of milk he needed so I think he really needed to get those calories and nutrition at night. Even though it means I didn’t really sleep well for over a year, it’s worth the sacrifice. Plus now I sometimes miss those nights when I’d get to hold him in my arms because now he’s usually still sleeping when I leave for work (if I don’t need to drop him off at the babysitter’s) and that means I don’t see him for nearly 24 hours when I get home!

So for parents who want to try this more gentle version of sleep training, basically Dr. Gordon says you should choose a period of time when you want to get continuous sleep like 11 pm to 6 am. I also went with those hours because sometimes I’m still awake before 11 anyway. So after you put your baby to bed, if he wakes up any time before 11 pm (even at 10:58), you can go in and do whatever you usually would do to help him sleep (rock, nurse, etc.). Then between 11 pm to 6 am, you follow the following guidelines:

Nights 1-3

If your baby wakes, you can nurse, but do it for shorter periods of time. I would go in and only nurse him for one minute (it was also easier for me to keep track of this since I was counting the seconds in my head). Then you can hug him, rock him, etc. but make sure you put him down awake. That wasn’t a problem for us because even after nursing, Jaylen usually went down awake and would fall asleep on his own. He was typically waking 1-2 times a night at this point. For these first few days, you can only repeat this pattern after the baby has slept. This can be challenging if your baby fights this new way of sleeping (understandable though), but stick with it!

Nights 4-6 

Again, stop nursing to sleep at 11 p.m. When your baby wakes, hug and cuddle him, but do not feed him, and put him down awake. Since I’m writing this part nearly a year after we did this sleep training, I can’t remember exactly how these few nights went, but eventually Jaylen did sleep without needing to eat. I think I also offered him water instead of breastmilk at night. When he realized he wasn’t getting milk, he decided to just sleep. It was hard staying in his room to comfort him when I’d rather be sleeping, but in the end it was worth it.

We didn’t even have to continue the plan (which has instructions for nights 7, 8, 9, and 10). At this point, Jaylen started sleeping 11-12 hours straight a night. Of course, I thought the first night was a miracle and tried not to expect it to happen again (from past experience), but it did! We do have our moments and weeks of not sleeping (like from sickness or random night wakings), but they are fewer and definitely nothing like those first 13 months of his life.

I recommend reading Dr. Gordon’s article since he gives better descriptions and instructions than I do here, but this method worked for us and if I have another future kid that’s not a great sleeper, I will definitely try this again after the baby turns a year old.

So if you are currently a sleep-deprived parent of an infant, don’t worry–you will sleep again someday. It definitely won’t be the same kind of sleep you got before you had kids, but it will be better than now. My only problem now to getting more sleep is getting myself to bed earlier!

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Advice I Would’ve Given Myself Before the Baby was Born

I’m nearly ten months into this motherhood journey. I know I still have lots to learn and I wouldn’t say I’m an expert in parenting an infant by any means (though how can you really be a parenting expert? All kids are different!). However, I have several friends who are expecting their first baby this year and as I think back to where I was a year ago (7 months pregnant), I keep thinking of advice or things I would’ve told myself back then as I was just enjoying the excitement and anticipation of being pregnant and preparing for birth. People always give unsolicited advice to new parents (and particularly new moms), so whoever may read this can take what they want from it, but more than just advice, I think it’s just an honest reminder of the reality of motherhood (and parenting in general).

So what would I have told my pregnant self?

1. Babies have their own schedules, so go with the flow.
I felt this reality more as I waited anxiously for my due date to approach. Starting from 3 weeks before, I was constantly wondering when I would go into labor. I was born three weeks early so I didn’t know if Baby J would follow my lead or if he’d be “late.” Babies will come when they’re ready and there’s no sense in trying to rush it or in putting your life on hold in expectation. It’s better for baby to stay inside longer (at least 39 weeks) since baby grows best inside his mother. I learned the most predictable thing about labor is it’s unpredictable.

Once the baby’s born, the baby’s schedule seems to dictate your day (particularly if you’re a new mom and only have one child to worry about). He eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps, eats, sleeps…all day long. It’s best to just accept it for what it is and do what your baby needs. As Jaylen has gotten older, he does have a more predictable schedule, but even then there’s variation. Sometimes he’ll take long naps, sometimes he won’t. Sometimes his nap schedule will get messed up or he’ll end up having a later bedtime, but it’s okay. {To further prove this point, I should mention that I started this blog post just before Jaylen turned 6 months old. I’m now publishing it when he’s almost 10 months. PRIORITIES.}

2. Babies don’t go by the book.
I was so excited for Jaylen to turn 6 months old so I could start giving him solid food. Part of me hoped this would help him sleep longer at night (which it does not necessarily help with that) and part of me just couldn’t wait to see him try new things and be a little less dependent on me for food. I was looking into the baby-led weaning process for introducing solids and was anxious to offer Jaylen regular food so he could feed himself and eat with us at meal times.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to try baby-led weaning much because Jaylen wasn’t that interested in solid food at 6 months! I would put food in front of him and he wouldn’t even try to pick it up. Then I put a toy in front of him and it instantly goes into his mouth (go figure). So I ended up giving him baby cereal and purees (but not chunky ones because those would make him gag and throw up). Now he’s great about feeding himself and loves food, but he still doesn’t have any teeth yet so we’re still waiting on those.

I’ve also learned that just because a website or a book says your baby should do something by a certain age (like sleep 4-5 hour stretches by the time he’s 5 months…Jaylen would do 1.5-2 hours instead), doesn’t mean your child will do it. Once you accept that each child is unique and will reach those milestones in his own time, your life will be so much easier. This leads into point #3.

3. Babies aren’t meant to sleep through the night.
I know parents can have very strong opinions on this one, but after reading various articles about this topic (mostly because I still haven’t gotten a decent night’s sleep in nearly 10 months), I believe that babies are not meant to sleep through the night. They’re supposed to wake up every couple hours to eat (especially when they’re newborns). They may still even wake up once or twice even after 6 months. Yes, there are some lucky parents whose babies start to sleep through the night (however you want to define it–some say 5-6 hrs straight, others say 11-12 hrs straight) at an early age. My baby is not one of those. On average he still wakes up about 2-3 times a night (although last night he woke up once…yay!). I’m still waiting for that day when he’ll sleep 11-12 hours straight at night. People have told us to let him cry it out, but we are not completely comfortable with that. This doesn’t mean that we don’t let him cry at all, but we just don’t let him cry hysterically for long periods of time. I am also not completely willing to night wean him because he doesn’t drink much milk during the day even when I nurse him so I think he may be reverse cycling. I’m concerned too about my milk supply, which seems to be dwindling (since I don’t pump as much when I’m at work anymore) and the stash I once had in the freezer is now gone as of today. As tired as I am, I do cherish those night feedings (sometimes) when I look at my son in my arms. I love that bond I have with him. And when I think I can’t take this phase anymore, I reread this KellyMom article and it reminds me that I’m still doing okay by doing what I think is best for my baby and me.

4. Don’t forget to pursue your husband and your marriage.
This is probably the most important thing I would’ve told myself before having a baby. I admit I still need to do a better job of this. It’s so easy as a mom, especially a new mom, to spend all your time and energy on the baby. When Jaylen was a newborn, it seemed like all I had time for was caring for him round the clock. Even now when Jaylen goes to sleep around 7 or 7:30, it’s easy for me to feel like I’m too tired to do anything–including invest in some quality time with my husband. It’s not a good excuse and a healthy marriage is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. So all you moms out there, no matter how tired or overwhelmed you are, make a commitment to try and love your husband well in spite of how you feel.

There are plenty of other things I’m still learning as a new mom. With Jaylen’s one year birthday around the corner, I can tell those brand new moms that it does get easier (even if I’m still not sleeping well). So I know the stage I’m at with the sleepless nights will also get easier eventually. Then I know I’ll probably be dealing with something else, but there’s no greater joy than having Jaylen in my life. Sure, we may not stay out late anymore and right now our days may revolve around Jaylen’s nap schedule, but we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Life wouldn’t be the same without seeing this smiling face. 🙂

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