Sunday, November 16, 2008

How do you get a baby to sleep?

3 kids later, I still have no idea - as far as which way is best.

But if I had to do it again, here's what I have figured out...

(Here's the disclaimer: I know many people who've tried various methods and they've worked well for them. So this is by no means the definitive way to go. It's merely what's worked for me - every parent and child is different.)

Co-sleeping isn't as bad as you might think. As I mentioned before, I co-slept with Charlie for the first 15 months of his life.

The only reason I didn't do it again was because of the negatives:
1. You don't sleep as well, because you're ever conscience of your child in the bed with you.
2. You don't have privacy.
3. Weaning the child out of your bed is NOT easy.
4. I also did attachment parenting during the day which meant every time he cried he got to nurse. He over ate and was way too attached to me for his own good. And he had to nurse to go to sleep. He had a hard time learning to soothe himself to sleep.

But the advantages (of co-sleeping) are:
1. It doesn't matter as much if they sleep thru the night (if you're breastfeeding), because it's oh-so-convenient. You don't even have to sit up, or be fully awake for a feeding.
2. There's the emotional component, and you get to cuddle with your baby even once they've reached the no-cuddle, I'm-busy-learning-to-be-mobile stage.
3. You know your child is close, protected, and breathing.
4. Your baby will be harder sleeper, not a light sleeper because they're used to noise and movement around them while they sleep.

Some people don't like the idea of co-sleeping because they worry about SIDS. And actually, SIDS was the reason I preferred co-sleeping. I would always sleep with the baby's head on top of my arm, and so close to my body that his head would be pointing up so he could breathe, and his body would be turned to the side, tummy facing me. Another advantage was that this would soothe those upset tummies from reflux. And within a couple of months, they have enough muscle control, that I didn't worry about suffocation at all. And sleeping lightly enough to protect them in this way was not a problem for me - I was a deep sleeper until I had kids, but that all changes once your baby is born!

Then there's another technique which I dub as "Babywise" but really it could be credited to someone before that. The idea is you get the baby on a schedule of eating every 3 hours (waking them if necessary), and the routine goes: eat, play/stay awake, sleep.

The advantages are:
1. You know why your baby is crying, depending on the schedule. That was a big one for me. You can allow the baby to cry themselves to sleep without worrying if they're crying for other reasons.
2. Hopefully they get better feedings when they nurse, because they're good and hungry from going 3 hours.
3. Supposedly, this helps the baby figure out night and day, and sleep thru the night sooner. I say supposedly, because my guys didn't sleep thru the night by 8-10 weeks like the Babywise book said. They were skipping 1 feeding maybe, but not sleeping thru the night. I know many who have done it successfully, so maybe it's just me (or my kids and their health issues).

The disadvantages are:
1. You don't get to sleep with your baby. That's just an emotional thing for me, I guess, but it gave me peace of mind when they were so near to me. (And I worried more about SIDS, so I'd wake up to check on them often.)
2. You have to be a structured person, and keep an eye on the clock.
3. You have to wake the baby for feedings (well, I guess you don't have to...) This one was always tough for me to do. I just always feel bad waking a baby, when they need their sleep.
4. It also didn't account for the fact that 2 of my kids wouldn't sleep thru the night for their first year because of health issues, which left Mommy with some major sleep deprivation.
5. At least in my experience, my babywise babies are lighter sleepers. The slightest noise or movement wakes them.

However, I know many people who've done this method or a variation of it, and love it.

So, I think I've mentioned before that I started out doing the baby wise method during the day. I would keep them on a routine, although not strict to the 3 hour mark, where they would eat, and I'd try to keep them awake if I could, then let them nap. When they woke up, they'd eat again. I let them cry it out for naps, if needed.

But at night...I'd co-sleep. It worked better, and with the health issues leading to not sleeping, it would've helped both of us get a little more sleep.

As for Chandler, he co-slept with me the first couple of months. When I would try to get him to sleep in his own bed at night he'd either be really uncomfortable, or he'd want to wake up for awhile. Once I started co-sleeping, his tummy felt better, and he took cues from me on when to sleep (figured out day and night). But then around 3 months old: he got really wiggly. I don't know why. That's when I decided to go to the babywise way at night too. But from 3-8 months old, he might skip one feeding, but that was it. Around 6 months it actually got worse. But, since I wrote him the letter begging him to sleep thru the night, he has finally starting doing it...because we figured out what was wrong.

Chandler was mildly tongue-tied. Tongue-tied means that the little piece of flesh that attaches the tongue to the bottom of the mouth was too big. It prohibited him from sticking his tongue out very far = not being able to suck strongly. So when he nurses, he's only getting the watery milk, not the "hind milk" which is like the meat and potatoes of breast milk. So of course he was hungry all the time! It caused me to start him on solids sooner (also due to his reflux/ spitting up which is still terrible! I cannot wait for him to outgrow it. He's earned the nicknames "little volcano" and "Old Faithful," poor guy!). I had noticed that unless I really filled him with solids (a lot more than I fed the other boys at his age), he would not skip a feeding at night. I had a hard time letting him cry it out at night because I could tell he was really hungry. So finally I asked the doctor to look at him, and he said he's borderline tongue-tied. He could get by with his short tongue if he had to (Chuck has a short tongue, too). But, for a baby, the procedure is quick, in office, so the doctor said he'd do it if I wanted him to. So that's what we did, and I am so glad! It was 2 weeks ago, and he's been nursing better, and sleeping longer on his own!! He's been going 8-12 hours at night!!! He had never liked taking bottles much, and now he'll even take a bottle well. I am SO happy that's over.

And with Chance, I had tried the babywise method at night, and was a zombie for the first year because he had recurrent ear infections. He didn't really sleep thru the night until he got tubes in his ears at 12 months! If I had it to do again, I would've co-slept with him.

So the moral of the story: Babywise during the day, enjoy the co-sleeping at night. And know that every child is different, so do whatever works. There's no right or wrong in this area, so don't let anyone make you think there is.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I hide baby wise books in the stores and library. i really am so not a fan. I co slept with all my babies and all of them are now sleeping in their own beds all night.
i miss the morning cuddles too.