Thursday, August 25, 2011
Thursday, August 11, 2011
The biggest change has occurred in the way I parent. I feel much more like an intentional parent now, if that makes any sense. I do more things on purpose, because I know that is what my baby needs. Before, I felt I had little or nothing to do with these needs, apart from simply fulfilling them. Then, I would go back to paying attention to my own needs and wants. That was about it. I felt a little bit separated from him. If I needed or wanted to go somewhere, I would go, taking him along without a second thought. We went to the store, to the doctor's, to Grandma's, to the zoo; as long as I had a way to feed him, change him, and keep him safe, I was willing to take him anywhere. To my knowledge, it wouldn't affect him in a negative way. If he was grumpy or unusually sleepy after our outing, I did not connect it with any influence other than his own temperament.
I don't mean to say that I felt no love for my child, or that a bond was lacking. I only mean to show that this book has changed the way I think about my child's needs a great deal. After reading Dr. Weissbluth's book, I felt much more bound to him. I realized that my actions and activities do affect his needs more than I thought. Not that I feel curtailed by his needs in any way now; it only makes me consider an activity in the light of how it will affect him. Now that I have learned just how important sleep is, and how grumpy and unhappy my child will get if he becomes overtired from a missed nap, I am much more dedicated to helping him get the sleep he needs--even if that means missing a trip to Grandma's once in a while! This has helped me feel even more connected to my son.
This last week, I've focused on simply helping him go to sleep after one to two hours of wakefulness. This involves watching for his signs of drowsiness, spending a period of time soothing him, and then putting him down by himself for a nap. When I began this, I thought that there was no way he would be ready for naps after only being awake for one hour. To my surprise, he responded wonderfully. Usually there were one or two naps when he protested being put down, but a little extra soothing usually sent him off with no problems. I also discovered that swaddling him tightly and giving him his binkie soothed him the best.
I fell into a bit of a trap, though, as far as soothing was concerned. I decided that our little routine would include swaddling, having him suck on his binkie, and rocking him while singing lullabies for a few minutes. Then, when he became very drowsy, I would gently put him in his crib. Dr. Weissbluth didn't give specific instructions when it came to protest crying at his age, however. He says that the parent can decide to let them fuss for five, ten, or even twenty minutes, or that they can decide not to let them fuss at all--that they can go to soothe their child and try again later. He only hints at a suggestion when he says: "...Remember, if your baby cries hard for three minutes, quietly for three minutes, and sleeps for an hour, he would have lost that good hour-long nap if you had not left him alone for six minutes." Keeping this in mind, I at first decided that if Noah decided to fuss, I would let him go on for five to ten minutes before going in to soothe him. I stuck to this for about two days. On the third day, when I went in to soothe him, I inadvertently stuck his binkie back in his mouth, and he immediately quieted. Within a minute, he was soundly asleep.
From then on, I associated most of his protest crying with the fact that his binkie had fallen out of his mouth. As long as that binkie was in his mouth, he would soon go to sleep, I thought. As it worked for the next couple of days, I continued to do it without any worries. As soon as I heard him fussing, I would rush in to his room to put the binkie back in his mouth. If it didn't work, I would then pick him up for more soothing instead of leaving him alone. I'd completely forgotten about how I wanted him to learn self-soothing skills in my eagerness to get him to fall asleep quickly.
Here's what my sleep log journal looked like by days 7 and 8:
By 9:20 am he was crying, wanting to be swaddled up with his binkie and go to sleep. I obliged, and held him and hummed until he got really sleepy, then put him in his crib (first time I’ve put him there for a nap!). I rushed off to blow dry my hair, hoping that he wouldn’t wake up. But when my five minutes of styling was over, he was crying; the binkie had popped out of his mouth. I put it back in, rested my hand on his tummy and hummed some more, which sent him right back to the land of Nod.
10:10 Cork fell out again. He cried again. I put it back in and tried to soothe him…again.
10:15 And again. He seems to have trouble with this midmorning nap.
10:25 And again! This time I thought I would try nursing him. He nursed and then I put him back to sleep at 10:40. I hope he gets the message this time!
11:00 *sigh* Someday we’ll get this down!
As you can see, I was getting a little tired of this pacifier game. The next day, I reread the section pertaining to infants Noah's age, and remembered what Dr. Weissbluth said about letting them fuss for a little bit. I remembered how much I want Noah to learn self-soothing skills, and I realized that if Noah's binkie happens to fall out of his mouth, I don't have to rush in to replace it, just so he'll go to sleep. This has given me immense relief!
So, keeping that in mind, this week I am going to focus on one thing: helping Noah develop self-soothing skills by letting him cry between 10-20 minutes before going in to soothe him. We'll see how this works!
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
A sleeping babe has evoked many sweet poems, songs, paintings, and sighs from countless souls. Who can help envying the peace that rests upon a slumbering baby's brow? But getting them to that angelic state--ah, there's the rub. There's the source of many nighttime battles and tears from both babies and parents.
That said, Noah is a pretty good sleeper. He often sleeps for a stretch of four or five hours during the night, and then he only wakes up to eat. Getting him to sleep again is rarely a problem. He also takes a nice long nap in the middle of the day. When I hear about babies who decide to wake up and play (or maybe just cry) at 2 am, or newborns who keep their poor parents up all night before falling into an exhausted sleep at 6 in the morning, I can't really say I feel your pain. So when I finally picked up a book on sleep habits that a good friend recommended, I didn't think Noah and I had much to work on. As I read through this book, however, I learned that there is more to baby sleep habits than just letting them fall asleep naturally.
The book is called Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. There are many points in his philosophy of sleep that would take a long time to discuss here, so I'll just talk about the points that pertain to Noah.
He takes care in explaining the nature and importance of sleep, and what happens when it is lacking. We all know that babies become fussy and cranky when they are tired. But what I didn't know is that babies, especially young infants like my son, start to get tired only within one or two hours after waking up. This was the first lightbulb that clicked on for me. Noah starts off his mornings in a fairly good mood and becomes progressively crankier and demanding. I usually respond with holding him and giving him attention, thinking that he just wants his mamma. This continues until I can obviously tell that he is tired. This is generally around 11:30 or 12:00. It is usually fairly hard to get him to sleep at this point--though once he does, he'll sleep until mid to late afternoon. When I read HSHHC, I realized that this cranky attitude stemmed from his need to sleep; not, as I thought at first, the need for attention.
I also learned that "motion sleep" does not equal "healthy sleep." Dr. Weissbluth uses the example of falling asleep on a plane or in the car. Would we, as adults, call that really restorative sleep? Of course not. It is not different for children. Putting a baby in the car seat and letting him sleep there while you cart it around running errands does not give him a healthy, restorative nap (notice how they always wake up cranky and bleary when you finally get them out). While he recommends motion as a soothing technique to help a baby get to sleep, he says the motion should stop as soon as they are sleeping.
If you're like me, then your first reaction to this information is, "How am I supposed to take him anywhere?" It takes a lot of commitment--and a lot of time staying at home--in order to ensure your baby is napping peacefully a mere two hours after awakening. Fathers and mothers who spend most of their days working out of the home might also object because they want to spend more time with their little ones--and very understandably so.
Dr. Weissbluth's answer to these concerns is this: "If your baby is hungry, feed him. If your baby is fussy, soothe him. If your baby is tired, put him to sleep. " We would not withhold food from our child, so why would we withhold sleep?
He also says, "Please don't think that it has no lasting effect when you routinely keep your child up too late--for your own pleasure after work or because you want to avoid bedtime confrontations--or when you cut corners on naps in order to run errands or visit friends. Once in a while, for a special occasion or reason, it's okay. But day-in, day-out sleep deprivation at night or for naps, as a matter of habit, could be very damaging to your child. Cumulative, chronic sleep losses, even of brief duration, may be harmful for learning."
Noah, at six weeks, has reached what many books and articles call the "peak" of his fussiness. I have noticed an increase in his fussiness, especially during the late mornings and evenings. I also knew that a great deal of it was due to being tired. But until I read this book, I didn't know that structuring sleep, even at this young age, was possible or even healthy. So, the following posts I make will give a few details about our implementation of Dr. Weissbluth's methods. I hope it works!
Here's to a happy, well-rested baby!