Sleep Training — the other plunge

Day time naps have been a bit of a battle with Peanut. He didn’t seem to like sleeping during the day, and would sleep for 30 minutes 2 or 3 times a day. At 2 months, that didn’t seem quite right, but then, every child is different, right? Plus, at 7 months, he was still getting up every few hours at night to nurse. Talk about tiring for a mama.

I am a reader, so I read lots on this. My three primary resources were
Breastfeeding Made SimpleBaby Wise, and The Baby Whisperer.

And I got to talk with one of Hubby’s cousins who is a pediatrician with 2 kids of her own. Her youngest is only 5 days younger than our Peanut.

I received Breastfeeding Made Simple at a baby shower (Thanks Susan!) and really enjoyed reading it. It walks the reader through 7 “laws”, which are the basic principles of how the breastfeeding relationship between mom and child works. Principles like ‘the more you nurse, the more milk your body makes’. So, when Peanut wanted to nurse, I let him nurse. And, to be honest, I was worried about my production at first (which I shouldn’t of been). I learned from this book that the first 40 days is when your supply is established, letting baby demand-nurse helps increase your supply to match his needs, and babies know when they are hungry, thirsty, or need comforting… the clock doesn’t.

When I read Baby Wise years ago, when we were first trying to get pregnant, I though it was a great idea. When I re-read it a month or so ago, I thought… what was I thinking? The author starts with presenting all these testimonial’s about mothers giving up breastfeeding from exhaustion, and that his system solves that. so, he says, nurse your baby by the clock. (he doesn’t say it quite so bluntly, though)

Though the Baby Whisperer says her method is different, its still a nurse by the clock. She does talk more about routine and less about schedule though. Eat, play, sleep… repeat is her thing.  Yep, looks a whole lot like the Baby Wise method. Anyhoo, we are more of  eat, play, eat, play, eat, sleep kind of family, even Peanut.

Though I think both Baby Wise and Baby Whisperer ignore some basic facts about babies and nursing, there are some other principles that both present that seem to make sense. First — what I think is wrong. Do you always get hungry and thirsty at the same time each day? I don’t. My hunger and thirst schedule can vary depending on activities and even weather. Add in the facts about nursing, baby’s appetite, and baby’s stomach size and maturity, and you realize that some of these methods just don’t fit what I understand reality to be.

At the same time, I know I craved a schedule, which is the main idea for both Baby Wise and Baby Whisperer. I wanted Peanut to be more predictable for my own sanity. What to do!!! So I cried at times, and I thought, and I prayed, and I thought some more. Then I realized I was being anxious in my own way, so I tried not to think about it too much. Then I made a decision. I really just wanted to be able to put Peanut down for nap without spending 30 to 45 minutes doing so (nursing) and then him only sleeping 30 to 45 minutes. And I wanted to get more than 3 hours in a single stretch at night.

Hubby’s cousin pointed out that its likely Peanut is waking up so much at night (which is normal), but doesn’t know how to go back to sleep on his own, so he cries to nurse. Start with bed time, she said, and let him put himself to sleep.

Here’s what I did… I took what I thought was right from Baby Wise and Baby Whisperer and left what I thought was wrong. When Peanut was nursing, I worked hard to keep him awake. That did take work, as we were in the habit of nursing to sleep. At first, I did this only for day time naps. Hubby was still finishing up school, so I didn’t want to mess with bed time yet, as that would disrupt his evening work hours. I tickled his feet, I talked to him, I scratched his back, I rubbed his head. Then, if I could tell he was sleepy, I’d change his diaper, pray with him, and put him down. But if he wanted to nurse, I let him nurse. Sometimes, it meant he nursed every 30 to 40 minutes, especially in the late afternoon. He decided when he wanted to nurse, but he didn’t nurse himself to sleep. Often this was an eat, play, eat, play, eat, play, sleep cycle.

For first few days, the day time naps were a tad rough. He cried. I went in every 5 to 10 minutes and comforted him as best I could. Sometimes he calmed down, and sometimes he just wailed harder. But I persevered. I used my nifty flylady timer to keep track of how long it had been since I put him down and decided that after 1 hour, if he wasn’t asleep, we’d call that nap time a wash. By the third day, it was all much easier. Peanut  was falling asleep on his own within 10 to 20 minutes of me putting him down! I started telling him that it was okay if he wanted or needed to cry for a bit, but that he needed to go to sleep.

A very nice side affect is that Peanut is more focused when he nurses, so we spend less time nursing.

At the grandparent’s house over Christmas, we went back to nursing to sleep, which was a big mistake. About 2 or 3 days in, we switched back to going down for daytime naps awake. At night, Peanut was waking up at least every 2 hours. We played with ways to keep him warm, which helped some, but it really came down to 2 things: (1) it was a new place and he just wasn’t used to it, and (2) at night Mommy was right next door, could hear any noise made very clearly and jumped at each noise.

When we got home, that very first night, Peanut was put down for bedtime awake. We went through our normal routine, but then I brushed his teeth after nursing, then put him in bed. I think he cried a bit, but it was late (we’d just driven in that evening), and nothing too difficult.

Plus, I wanted him to sleep longer at night, which meant letting him learn to go back to sleep without nursing. That meant crying.  In the middle of the night. I decided no nursing between 12 am and 5 am. Hubby and I would suffer together.

So, that first night, I let him cry 5 minutes when he woke up around 1 am, then I went in and let him nurse for a bit. The next night, I let him cry 10 minutes before going in to him. Third night? easy-peasy, he never cried more than 2 or 3 minutes when he woke me up. Night #4, though… I let him cry for 15 minutes before I went in to him, and then I didn’t let him nurse. That was a hard night. He woke up around 1 am and I let him cry, but he fell asleep within 10 minutes, so I didn’t go into him. The he woke up around 2 am, and cried and cried. I recognized the cry was different, so I went in to check and he was on his front. He does not like sleeping on his front and though he rolls fine, he won’t/can’t do at night. I picked him up, comforted him, rocked him, tried to help him calm down. After about 10 minutes, he was still upset, but I put him back down and went back to bed. He went back to sleep about 5 minutes later (I’m pretty good about checking my phone for the time).  And last night? I nursed him about 9 pm — a “dream feed”. And I heard him about 4 am, but he fell back asleep within 10 minutes. Then I heard him about 5 am, and went into nurse him. I got about 6 hours of most uninterrupted sleep!

So — I still let Peanut lead on when he wants to nurse, but he goes to sleep on his own. And its not been as hard of a transition as I imagined it to be. Goodness, I love being able to pick and choose from various theories.

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