Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mothering the Second Time Around: What I've Learned about Sleep

I read. I like to read. I like to be informed. So therefore, when it's time for me to do something new... something important... I read a lot. Motherhood was definitely not the exception. So before I had Sophie, I read books (or online material) on about every different subject to do with motherhood: Natural birth, breastfeeding, cloth diapers, sleep training, vaccinations, starting solids, discipline... Do you believe me now? I seriously covered all of my bases before I even had a baby in my arms. I probably overdid it, but at the same time, I hate to be ignorant on subjects that I have a choice to not be ignorant on.

All of that to say, while I DID read a ton, I didn't have all of the answers. I still felt overwhelmed many times as I had to make decisions for Sophie as a baby. Of course, I still don't have all of the answers, but I do feel much more prepared this time around. I've learned from mistakes as well as relished in victories.

I could talk individually about each of these topics (and I might in later posts), but mostly I want to focus on the sleep training one in this post as that is what Brielle spends most of her time doing these days.

Things I think I did wrong with Sophie:
-I overstimulated her: I didn't think babies needed as much sleep as they do, so I would keep her up way too long to the point where she would be overtired and then become cranky... and then when she started crying, I wrongly assumed that it meant she was hungry, which leads me to my next point...
-I didn't give her full feedings/I overfed her. Since I thought her overstimulation/tired cry was a hungry cry, I would nurse her when she didn't really need fed. This would either cause her to not each much (because she wasn't really hungry) or to be too full, which leads me to my next two points...
-Her small nursing sessions created bad sleep habits. One thing I've definitely learned from reading way too much as well as talking to friends is that one of the best ways to get babies to sleep well is to make sure that they get good, full feedings (as a breastfed baby this is especially important because the hind milk is the fatty milk... the front milk will not be as filling). Since I thought Sophie was hungry just an hour after she had eaten, I would nurse her again, which meant she didn't eat much, which meant that when she did fall asleep, she got hungry sooner.
-Getting too much food gave her an upset stomach. Sophie had bellyaches/gas issues... or at least I think she did, but I'm learning that I wasn't very good at reading her cues. I do think my guess in this area was probably at least somewhat correct though as I fed her when she was actually most likely just crying out because of tiredness/overstimulation. One way I know that I overfed her (other than that I sometimes fed her many times close together) is because sometimes I would feed her, and she would pull off crying. This is often a sign of babies being overfed.
-I nursed her to sleep. As a result of many of the above mentioned wrongs, I would often nurse Sophie to sleep. By 4 months, this was the only way I could get her to sleep. So I would nurse her. It was working, so I figured I would just stick with it even though the Babywise book said that I should give her "awake/activity" time after eating and before putting her to sleep. The problem came at about 4.5 months old when Sophie decided she no longer wanted to go to sleep after nursing... but by that time, she didn't know how to put herself to sleep any other way. So she would spend long amounts of time fighting sleep and eventually would just have to cry to get herself to sleep. This made my heart sad :(
-I didn't let her fall asleep in her own bed. Sophie often either fell asleep on my chest or Ben's chest, next to me on the futon while I rubbed her back and held the paci in, or while nursing. I would sometimes then carefully move her to her bed. I really believe now that it's good and important for babies, from a very young age, to learn to put themselves to sleep in their own beds for at least some of their naps!
-I didn't swaddle her. I thought Sophie hated to be swaddled. So I didn't swaddle her. I thought the same with Brielle, but I decided to stick with it anyway. I really do believe that it's helping Brielle to sleep longer amounts of time. Even though she fights it in the beginning, once she falls asleep, the swaddle keeps her from startling herself and therefore waking up too early.

So, as a result, here is what I am doing with Brielle:
-I try to make sure her day is a steady routine. When she wakes up in the morning, she eats. Then I make sure she stays awake (I talk to her, put her in a bouncy seat, give her tummy time, carry her around, have Sophie talk to her, etc). Then I lay her down for a nap. And repeat throughout the day.
-I give her full feedings. If she eats any closer than 2 hours apart (honestly, I think if she eats any closer than 2.5 hours), then her feeding isn't good. I can tell by how she sucks and how much I have to work to get her to keep eating. To me, this means that if she starts crying before this point, it's for another reason, and not because she's hungry (she needs to lay down for a nap, she needs to poop, etc).
-I put her down somewhere between 50-65 minutes after waking up. She often is still wide-eyed at this point (she is very much like Sophie was as a baby- super alert when she is awake). With Sophie, I thought this meant she wasn't tired yet. With Brielle, I've learned that she IS tired (I keep watch of her yawns- if she yawns twice, I make sure she goes down) but she just needs help. So I swaddle her, hold her for a few minutes while I pat her back and sing to her or "shush," lay her down, and pop her paci in. Occasionally I can avoid the pacifier part, but usually she needs it. She usually doesn't fall asleep for a little bit, but the time before she falls asleep is helping her to wind down (not be overstimulated), and when she does fall asleep, she sleeps well.
-I put her to sleep in her own bed. For most naps, and always at bedtime, she sleeps in her bed. This means I don't hold her or put her in a swing or rocker. Now, sometimes I will hold her, if I'm out or if she's having a hard time going to sleep (which happens often in the evening). But I'm letting her learn how to go to sleep in her own bed, and I think this will reap big benefits later.
-I swaddle her. Like I said above, she doesn't appear to love it, but once she goes to sleep, I think it helps her tremendously.
-I don't give her "props" to help her sleep. I don't rock her, I don't put her in a swing, I don't drive her around in the car, I don't put her carseat on a dryer, I don't nurse her. I DO give her a pacifier. I just don't want her to have to rely on all of those other things later on down the road. Of course, if a little baby occasionally needs rocked to sleep, I think that by all means, go for it. But if a baby is rocked to sleep for every nap, then they will expect that down the road at 6 months and at 10 months old... and I just want Brielle to know how to sleep without having to be rocked every time.

Can you see now why I devoted this post JUST to sleep? I have a lot to say! I'm still processing it all, and since Brielle is just 4 weeks, I'm sure that I will have to adjust and tweak things as we go. But I remember Sophie's sleep habits at 4 weeks fairly well, and Ben and I can both attest to the fact that she did not sleep as well. We had to pull a lot of tricks out of our sleeves to get her to sleep. And I think mostly the blame can be laid on me, because I didn't know how to help her sleep and didn't realize she needed as much sleep as she did! I definitely do not think it's because Brielle is an easier baby. Personality-wise, I see many, many similarities between the two girls.

One book that I've read recently that has really helped me in this sleep category is The Baby Whisperer. While I don't think everything about her approach is perfect (I think all mothers need to tweak the information they get to what fits them and their family), I learned a lot of helpful information as well as was encouraged.


  1. Love seeing what you've learned :)

  2. This is good stuff! With Jessica at 4 months old I have been realizing she doesn't sleep just anywhere anymore, she needs a crib nap routine. So I am reading Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It seems to be a perfect system, although I don't think it will work perfectly with me working part-time bringing Jessica everywhere with me. But it is nice to start some good healthy habits!