Friday, February 25, 2011

Three Simple Rules

Sleep has been a topic of much thought for me for the last six months. Not to go into great detail, let's just say it's been challenging to say the least. After a lot of reading and studying and experimenting, Blueberry suddenly began to respond really well at night and now goes to sleep beautifully in the evening for 12 hours (give or take an hour or so for feedings).

Naps have been a different story. Just as night time sleep became great, her day time sleep (which had improved over the first few months of her life) became less. And frankly, in the last few weeks, it's become exhausting again. 30 minutes (if I'm lucky) was the norm even though I knew she was tired.

The two fold problems with sleep difficulties in Blueberry is that it (a) leaves me tired and makes me less of a mother because patience goes out the window eventually! and (b) Blueberry doesn't function as well. And when you consider how hard babies bodies and brains have to work, that's not a good thing. When I consider how I feel as an adult on short sleep, it can't be any easier on babies, and probably even less so just because of how much they are constantly learning and growing. Thus why I have taken this topic really seriously and have done my best to get a solution.

As I said earlier, I've done a lot of research on this whole topic, and if I had to pick out three rules that have really revolutionized my understanding of how to help her sleep, they would be as follows.

1. Babies have a short wake time. I never realized this until I started reading about sleep. Apparently babies can't stay awake more than two hours maximum for quite a long time (i.e. get them in bed for a nap before the two hours are up). And, frankly, many babies will take quite awhile (think months) before they hit even that two hour wake-time capacity.

2. If you don't get them down for their nap within the right time, they get their second wind and consequently will be up for way later than they should be (or will really fight being put down for a nap), and will probably nap less. In other words--sleep begets sleep. Staying up longer does not mean they will sleep better. In fact, her night time sleep began to improve the most when we started putting her down to bed between 6 and 6:30.

3. Waking up crying (at least for Blueberry) means she hasn't slept enough. Let her cry for 5 minutes or so, and a lot of times (if the first two rules have been met) she'll go back to sleep and wake up happy. I don't like letting my baby cry. I really struggle with this, but this is a struggle I have realized that I needed to deal with (sensibly of course--there's always a level of commonsense that really needs to be applied to parenting!) because sometimes a few minutes of crying won't her and actually can help in the long run.

Now, the dumb thing is that I somehow have disregarded these rules these last few weeks. I guess we thought from some other signs that her daytime wake hours had increased to the two hour mark. Or maybe it was wishful thinking because I wanted to be able to do more/be out longer during the day. I don't know. Either way, yesterday, I decided enough was enough, and in an attempt to fix this no-nap issues, I put her back to bed after only being up for an hour (and then later in the day, after an hour and a half).

End result? Yesterday she took three one-hour naps (an improvement from what we were doing before--and for each nap she went down and was asleep with little or no fuss within 5 minutes). Today, she just woke up from a beautiful two hour nap having taken a solid hour and 20 minute nap this morning. Nope, she's not ill. She's smiling at me right now (I just went and got her) and is ready to go for awhile.

Why couldn't I just remember to follow the rules that I knew? Oh yeah, sleep deprivation! Someone remind me of this post the next time I get tired and frustrated over naps, please?!

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