With our first child, the kiddo, he went to daycare beginning at 3 months old. They taught him how to nap and put him on a schedule, which I then followed. It worked out well. He began sleeping through the night at 3 months old, just in time for me to go back to work full-time. At 4 months old he began waking up at night and at 5 months old we figured out why when his top two teeth broke through.
When the new baby turned 2 months, I realized I needed to do some reading. I had no clue as to how many naps a baby should be taking each day, or how long he should sleep at night. I read about Babywise, and despite the success of some of my other friends, did not get the book. Instead I ended up with, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child,” and “The No Cry Sleep Solution.” They ended up being at pretty much opposite ends of the spectrum, yet worked out to be a good combination of books to read. At least I got out of each a concept of how often the baby should nap, for how long, how far apart, etc.
Unfortunately, the books didn’t have the common sense advice I needed to provide me insight that I was apparently lacking in my sleep-deprived state. Maybe I read the wrong books?
Anyhow, based on my recent experience, here’s the common sense advice I was missing:
1. Make sure your baby is eating enough during the day. Sometimes babies wake up or do not want to go to sleep because they are hungry! Between 4-6 months old, our baby starting skipping his morning nap, he’d scream and fuss and didn’t want to sleep. At that age, following the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I wasn’t pushing him to eat solid foods. He wasn’t particularly interested, and since the AAP said breastfeeding exclusively until 6 months was best anyway, I figured it wasn’t a big issue. Turns out, our baby dropped from 50th percentile in weight to 10th percentile in weight during that time period. I should have been feeding him solids. Or at least some formula, since I apparently wasn’t creating enough breastmilk. Once I did both and he was eating enough, that morning nap came right back and has been there ever since and his nighttime sleep improved too.
2. Is your baby in pain? Three reasons I’ve had for my babies being in pain and not sleeping well: needing to burp/gas, teething, fever/sick. There are things to help alleviate symptoms of each of these at night. During the day I try to use these sparingly, but for bedtime, my husband, who happens to be a doctor, and I, are believers in Mylicon drops for gas, and alternating Ibuprofen (for babies older than 6 months) and Tylenol throughout the night as needed for pain and fevers. If I’m going to take these things myself in order to get some sleep, why would I make my child suffer in pain? I’m also a believer in comforting a baby who is in pain. Holding your baby all night for a night or two to get them through a cold or teething isn’t going to ruin them (as one book insinuated). Also, for sinus/breathing issues from a cold or from teething, I’ve realized that propping up one end of their mattress with a rolled up towel beneath the mattress can help them to breath, as does a cool mist humidifier.
3. Make sure the room is not to hot/not too cold. We had issues with both of these, which required us adjusting the temperature in his room during the extremes of summers and winters in Cleveland. Now that he was well-fed, and no longer in pain, he began sleeping soundly for 10-11 hours each night once we got the perfect temp in his room. He likes it pretty warm, probably about 70-72 degrees in winter, plus wearing flannel jammies and a swaddling blanket around his waist and legs.
I probably fall closer to Sears than to Ferber in my parenting style. With the first kid, I rocked him to sleep every night until he was 2. We then bribed him with a monster truck from the dollar store for a couple of nights until he got used to going to sleep on his own in his bed (neither Sears nor Ferber, I’m sure). With the baby now, he wanted to be “bounced” while I stood, which I was fine with doing until recently, when it no longer took 5 minutes of bouncing for him to fall asleep, but more like 40 minutes. The resulting carpal tunnel was getting to me, so when he started arching his back and trying to climb down I figured he wasn’t the cuddling to sleep type, and laid him in his crib. I now do this for naps and bedtime, after giving him a bottle, cuddling and bouncing for a couple of minutes. He cries for a minute or two, then makes himself comfy and puts himself to sleep.
I know there are so many reasons for children not sleeping and the books do tend to address more extreme cases. But, from talking to friends and from my own experiences, it seems like so many common sleep issues can be addresses with some common sense. Which, as I said, I was lacking in my state of sleep deprivation.
Do you have any baby sleep advice to offer that you wish someone had shared with you?
Until next time,