A while back I said I could write an entire post about M’s sleeping habits, and this is it — what things are looking like at not-quite-four-and-a-half months. The short story is that things are looking up. I feel like we’re close to having something that works for both of us, which is a relief. Of course, what works changes so quickly with babies.
Naps, for instance, seem to change constantly. A newborn sleeps all the ding-dang time. Like, if you put them down just for a second, they fall asleep. It’s the one advantage that newborns have over older infants (everything else about newborns, if you ask me, is utter chaos). By the time M was two months old, she was staying up for forty-five minutes between naps. A few weeks later, she was awake for an hour at a time. It seems like we just transitioned into 1.5-hour activity times, but I realized recently that they weren’t working for her anymore. She’d go down for a nap very nicely, but after thirty minutes, she was awake again — and happy. There seems to be a lot of over-tired vs under-tired confusion in the baby world, but I’m pretty sure that when they wake up from a short nap happy, it’s because they weren’t tired enough in the first place.
So this week, M started staying up for two hours at a time. The Baby Whisperer forum is full of schedules and methods for extending baby’s awake time from 1.5 to 2hrs. I just… started keeping M up longer. She gets sleepy towards the end, and I have to do a lot of entertaining to keep her happy, but she makes it to the two-hour mark and then is out like a light at nap time. And I’m seeing naps in the 1-1.5hr range for the most part, which is sweeeeeet.
Nighttime sleep improved vastly when M moved to her own bedroom. Instead of 4-5 wakings (and keeping me awake in between with her wiggling), I was able to count on only 1-2 — sometimes she’d squeeze in a third, but not often. She went through a growth spurt a few weeks ago, where she’d take full bottles at each waking (4-5oz), but they were seeming more like a habit/comfort thing this past week, with her taking only an ounce or two. So I decided I would — DUN-DUN-DUNNNNNNN — let her cry it out (CIO). She’d formed a clear association with having the bottle and falling asleep (also being in my arms and falling asleep — which is so lovely and sweet, but I cannot hold her all day/night long), and it seemed like she was ready to drop most of those nighttime feeds.
So I got Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, because when you’re going to make your baby CIO, you go straight to the most demonized sleep expert, Richard Ferber. I’d heard that his method wasn’t as bad as attachment parenting types make it out to be, and I agree. I mean, it’s not easy to hear your baby cry when you know what could make them stop (rocking, a bottle). But I need M to sleep better — and on her own — and she needs it, too.
The first night, she went to bed at 6:00pm, as usual, and she had another full bottle at 10:00pm. When she woke at 2:00am, I let her cry. I went in after three minutes, then after another five, rubbing her tummy and talking to her for a couple of minutes each time. Then I was going to wait another ten minutes, but she stopped crying before I reached that limit, and soon she was asleep. She grumbled a little bit around 4:00am, and then she was up for the morning at 6:00, full of big smiles and as joyful as always. She was more eager to eat than she usually is in the morning, but she didn’t seem traumatized by her crying. (I mean, some babies cry longer than she had just as a matter of routine!)
Last night, I again gave her the 10:00pm bottle, and she spent about four minutes grumbling (not crying) at 3:00am, and that was it. (Birdy, on the other hand, kept yowling in the hallway until I had to get up and scold her.) I’ll be happily surprised if that’s really all it takes (ie, I expect there to be a bit more crying in our future), but these two nights have proven to me that she really is big enough to go that nighttime stretch without eating.
Something — either that brief CIO episode or just being more tired going into each nap — has improved her naps, so that even though she still falls asleep while eating and wakes briefly when I put her in her crib afterward, she settles right back into sleep on her own. And she’s been doing a better job at connecting her sleep cycles during naps (you read a lot about connecting sleep cycles when you have a baby). It seems to me like she’s had this ability all along, and she was just waiting for me to figure out what I had to do to give her the chance. Fingers crossed that the next growth spurt doesn’t ruin everything too completely.
The downside to M learning to fall asleep on her own is that she can… fall asleep on her own. She was up earlier than usual this morning, and I’m trying not to let her nap until 8:00am, but she snuck in a few Z’s in her Rock’n'Play when my back was turned. That hasn’t happened since she was a newborn!