Friday, April 20, 2012

Sleeping Like a Baby

A few weeks ago, I put out an APB on Facebook for all my Mommy friends.

Would someone - anyone - please help me figure out how to get my baby girl to sleep.

She was waking two, three, four times a night, screeching. Loud, animal screeching that was impossible to ignore and painful to hear. She also was napping during the day once, maybe twice a day, for about 1/2 an hour each time. Not enough for an 8 month old baby.

Rocking didn't help. Nursing didn't help. Medicines didn't help. Crying and yelling with her didn't help.

So since nothing I knew worked, I changed my Facebook status to something like "New mother needs help. And sleep. Please. . . . please. . . ."

I think it was just desperate enough to get attention.

And for maybe the second time in my life as a mother, I read a parenting book. The suggestion was the No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.

Immediately, I was struck by affirmation in my mothering skills. All  this time I had been told my others - other mothers, older mothers, friends with kids - that crying it out is the only way to get a child to sleep. That sometimes babies just need to cry, and that is OK.

I have never believed them.

I feel that if a baby cries, there is something wrong. Babies don't just cry for the sheer joy of crying. They are crying because they are hungry or wet or hurting or tired or wanting to play. They don't cry just to drive you crazy bonkers. Although that is definitely the result.

In reading No Cry Sleep Solution, I finally felt that my instincts were correct, my nurturing nature justified. The book details exactly what I had always thought - my baby is crying, so my baby needs something. Find out what it is.

Unfortunately. the help stopped there.

No Cry Sleep Solution became the Won't-Stop-Crying-Why-Won't She-Sleep-There-Is-No-Solution.

Although I still felt affirmed.

Then another friend, with kids the same age as mine and sleeping problems the same as mine, recommended the 90 minute Sleep Solution by Polly Moore.

So for the third time in my life, I read a parenting book.

Again, my skills were affirmed, in that this book also agreed that crying it out is not the only way to get a child to sleep, and has been shown to not even be the best way to get your child to sleep. Good thing, too, because as much as I can't function on little sleep, I absolutely can't function when my baby is screaming.

This book struck me instantly, as it was technical instead of emotion; it uses science to explain a child's sleep cycle. And it is so simple that I can't believe I had never heard it before.

Children - and adults too, to a certain extent - are on a 90 minute sleep cycle. Pretty much, within a 90 minute time frame, their energy levels change and different body cycles kick in. Some babies need a nap every 90 minutes after waking. Some may go 180 minutes (Two 90 minute cycles) or 270 (Three 90 minute cycles).

Parents who have their children on a strict schedule (Nap at 10 and 2, Bed at 730) may not be taking into account this 90 minute sleep cycle. A baby that wakes at 630 am may need a nap by 8 or 930, but keeping them up until the 10:00 nap time might actually hinder their sleep, moving them into a different body cycle and thus keeping them from sleeping as well, or for as long.

It sounded simple to me, so, despite misgivings from others, I canceled all activities for a few days and tried putting Peanut to sleep every 90 (or 180) minutes.

And it worked.

It worked, people. It worked.

Her two 1/2 hour naps a day (!!) became two - or three - hour and a half naps. Her nighttime sleeping went from waking up three or four times to waking up once - if at all. And those nighttime wakings? No more were they banshee screeching of a baby in pain, they were baby cries of hunger that were soon sated. And they occurred almost exactly 90 minutes after putting her down, on cue with her sleep cycle.

It was so simple, so easy. All I had to do was watch the clock, and 80 minutes after she woke up, start slowing her activities down, mellowing her out. Then, at 90 minutes, walk in her room and start her "sleep time cues". (Music, White Noise Humidifier, Shhhh-ing.)

After a few days of her falling asleep almost instantly when we started her sleep time cues, I began the next step: putting her to sleep groggy, but awake. So she could learn to put herself to sleep.

It didn't always work, but the book had prepared me for this. Nothing works perfectly every time, so why should we expect parenting to be any different? But over the next week, I would put her in her crib groggy but awake at least every other time. From which she would then put herself to sleep.

And it was a beautiful thing.

I won't say that she sleeps through the night every night. But those moments of screaming are gone. If she wakes - once every couple of nights or so - it is the crying of a hungry baby, or a baby startled out of sleep and then crying herself back to sleep in a few short minutes.

Now, she sleeps like a baby. Or, at least, like we all wish a baby would


kderoll said...

Lets say after 90 minutes or so (nap during the day) she doesn't wake up, do you wake her up, or let her get another sleep cycle?

Andi said...

Oh no no no. I strictly adhere to the tenet "never wake a sleeping baby".

That is, of course, after they are 6 weeks old. Before that I did a whole lot of waking up to eat

Amber said...

That's awesome. And I'm sure you're all much happier for it!