You might be wondering where we’ve been. Stephen talked about our Christmas trip to Arkansas and his Freak Out but since then we’ve been at Sleep Boot Camp. You might remember Potty Boot Camp. Well, this is another round of tough love parenting, except this time it’s for Liza to learn to a.) put herself to sleep for bedtime and naps b.) return herself to sleep if she wakes up in the night, and the lovely by-product of c.) eliminating all night time feedings.
Something happens to our kids’ sleep at six months. We had to radically change Eli’s habits starting around seven months, and here we are with Liza doing the same thing. I don’t know if that’s when they become more aware of their surroundings or what exactly the factors are. For those of you new parents that have babies with bad sleep habits before six months, they are going to get oh so much worse after that; work at changing them now, I beg you.
Since just after Thanksgiving, Liza’s sleep has been abysmal. She suffered multiple colds, one right on top of another, so we developed some bad habits for getting her back to sleep when she would wake in the night. During the very worst week, she was up for 4-5 nights in a row from roughly 10:30 till 2 at which time she would succumb to exhausted sleep. During that time we tried rocking, medicine, her sleeping on us in the recliner in her room–everything but standing on our heads to get the girl to sleep. Christmas traveling wasn’t much better, although we did have the bonus of being with family who could watch the kiddos while we grabbed naps as needed.
I vowed when we got home we would clean up her sleep habits and get her back on the right road. So on Thursday last week, I took her to the doctor to make sure she didn’t have anything wrong with her due to the succession of colds. She did indeed have an ear infection, and frankly I’m not sure why that surprised me. Eli’s first winter after I stopped breast feeding was a parade of ear infections lasting from Halloween to Easter. Their unfortunate inheritance from me is teeny, tiny ear canals. (There’s something you want to put on your résumé!) Regardless, the medicine seemed to help almost immediately. I know antibiotics don’t work that fast but she seemed perkier by the next morning.
Thursday night at dinner, Stephen and I mapped out the plan for the next few days to two weeks of how we were going to get her some better sleep. A lot of our methods came from this web page on untraining a trained night crier. The major points are: earlier bedtime, putting her in the crib drowsy to fall asleep on her own, let her have more time in the night to put herself back to sleep instead of running in there to check on her, and help her to find a security object.
I had forgotten that with Eli at about six months we had to start putting him to bed at 7 p.m. I know that sounds really early but it actually gives them more restful sleep to start earlier instead of getting so overly tired before bedtime. So that was the first place we started with Liza: we knocked bathtime back to 6:45 p.m. in order to get her in bed around 7-7:15 p.m.
I also chose to modify the checking ritual. Liza sometimes will hang out in her crib for a long time before getting mad so instead of watching the clock and checking on her every 10 minutes, then every 20 minutes, etc., we waited and listened to the tone of her cries. If she sounded like she was working toward sleep and just working off some energy by crying, we were going to let her be. If she sounded really mad or in distress then we would go in, pick her up and rock her back to drowsy and put her down again. I would continue to give her milk if she asked for it but otherwise not offer feeding as a solution to going back to sleep.
Below is Liza’s sleep diary from the past four days. I think the diary is helpful mostly because when I feel discouraged about lack of progress I can look over it and see the improvements in her sleeping. While putting Liza to bed is not the only thing I’ve done the past few days, it certainly feels like it. We aren’t cured by any means but we have seen giant leaps. I understand why people give up and let their kids sleep with them. It’s very hard work to get them to do it themselves.
Friday, Day 1
Morning Nap – Started at 9, between 9 and 10 rocked her till drowsy five times. Fell asleep at 10. Slept for almost an hour.
Afternoon Nap – Started at 1, fell asleep quickly slept for less than 30 minutes. Rocked till drowsy four times and slept for 1 1/2 hours.
Bedtime – 7:15 rocked till drowsy, slept until 8:30. Rocked till drowsy, slept until 12. Fed, slept until 4. Rocked till drowsy, slept until 6:45.
Saturday, Day 2
Morning Nap – Started at 9:15, rocked till drowsy, fell asleep by 9:30!! Slept till 11.
Afternoon Nap – Started at 1:30, went to sleep with no crying!! Woke at 2:45.
Bedtime – Put in crib drowsy at 7:15, went to sleep on her own by 7:30. Cried a couple of times around 9:30 but went back to sleep on her own. Woke at 2, fed, talked herself back to sleep on her own. Woke at 7.
Sunday, Day 3
I’ll admit up front we did a couple of things poorly here so we suffered the consequences in the evening of Day 3 and the morning of Day 4.
Morning Nap – Someone at church rocked her to sleep and let her sleep on them. Mistake #1, we should have told the nursery workers what we were trying to do and had them put her in the swing to sleep or in the crib. Even if they rocked her all the way to sleep and then put her down she would not have been sleeping on someone.
Mistake #2 before afternoon nap: we went out to lunch and instead of heeding her sleep signals after lunch, we went on to the store. She almost fell asleep in the car on the way home but when we got her out, changed her clothes and tried to get her to nap this is what happened:
Afternoon Nap – Started at 2. Rocked till drowsy 4-5 times. Fed at 3:30. Stopped trying to nap at 3:45. No Nap = Exhausted Liza!
Bedtime – 7 p.m., Asleep before I put her in the bed. There was no rousing this girl after the afternoon she’d had! Woke at 9, rocked till drowsy twice. Woke at 11, rocked till drowsy twice. Slept until 6:15!!!!
Monday, Day 4
Morning Nap – Started earlier because she woke up earlier. Put her in bed drowsy at 8:30. Rocked two more times. Asleep by 9:45. Slept until 10:30.
Afternoon Nap – Started at 1:30. Rocked till drowsy, she grouched on her way into the crib and then settled into sleep. Had to wake her up at 4!!
Bedtime – 7:20, she cried so I went back in and it turned out she wasn’t done eating. In bed asleep before 7:40.