Monday, April 12, 2010

Getting babies to sleep

Tonight, both kids went down with no fussing! Husband was away at band practice so it's always a bit of a challenge to tackle the bedtime routine of bathing/reading/putting down alone. Some nights, it goes smoothly... (like tonight!) but other nights not so much.

When we had our first child, I spent hours reading different sleep books as well as different blogs on the internet. She was not an easy child and at times took extensive bouncing/rocking/shooshing to get her to fall asleep. Then getting her to stay asleep was another story! From Ferber (cry it out methods) to No Cry Sleep Solution... you name it, I read it. At the end of the day, my conclusion was that both nature and nurture plays a role. I think the "cry it out method" works for the most part but it works much better in some kids than others. And in a few kids, it may not work at all. I believe the key to good sleep (in adults as well as babies) lies in routine and healthy sleep associations.

1) Routine: So having a very consistent bedtime routine as well as a consistent nap schedule helps tremendously. Whenever we go on vacation or have some event that throws off that routine, not only does the nighttime sleep get affected, but we also get a very very fussy 2 year old. This past weekend for example, my daughter went to bed 1 hr later than her usual 8:30pm bedtime and woke up 2 hrs earlier than her 8:30am wake time because we were on vacation in Boston. So when 1pm rolled around the next day and we were still sitting at Bertucci's waiting for our food to be served rather than in bed for a very needed nap... she had a total melt down! Unfortunately, our friends sitting at the table with us (who have no kids of their own) had to witness the whole thing. When she is this tired, even Dora can not come to the rescue.

2) Sleep associations: Maintaining the same familiar environment is also key to good sleep. Advice is usually given for nursing moms not to nurse their babies to sleep because an association may form and the child may become dependent on nursing in order to fall back asleep. This is especially true when trying to break the child out of nighttime feeds and when nursing becomes more a comfort and a crutch other than really needing to nurse for food/calories. Now, I have to say I love nursing my baby to sleep! There is nothing more sweet and cuddly than having a little baby fall asleep in your arms. So this is where I understand with my head the logic behind why this may form unhealthy habits but then my heart leads me to do the opposite. I haven't completely figured out the exact answer to this mental struggle I sometimes have between my head and my heart but in the end, I think you just go with the gut and adjust as needed. So for example, tonight I nursed my fourth month old again after her bath as part of her nighttime routine. But when I placed her in the crib, she was awake. I turned off the lights and stepped out and haven't heard a sound since so I'm assuming that she fell asleep. This would never have happened with my first child, so again.. I believe nature plays a big role. Their temperaments are different and therefore I get different results even if I use the same routine/method on them.

Well, since they are both sleeping right now, I better get to sleep myself! Adults get just as cranky and irritable when lacking sleep...