Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sleeping like a Baby

"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one." -- Leo J. Burke

I haven't posted an update on sleep primarily because it went from bad to worse and I've been relatively beside myself about it for months now. Now that we've made it through the last few tough weeks, I am able to reflect and share the story (disclaimer: it's a long one).

As I mentioned, Ella's sleep has never been great, and it actually got worse instead of better right around the 3 month mark.  Out of necessity, I began co-sleeping with her because I was just too tired to deal with all of the night wakings. I kept telling myself that once she started sleeping longer (like Jake did), I would move her out of the bed.  It was not the best sleep I've ever had, but really the best sleep I could get at the time. Up until 3 months, she had been going to bed around 7 PM and not waking until around 11 PM to eat, then would go back to bed easily.  Then she would wake again around 1 or 2 AM at which point I would bring her from her bassinet (in our room) to our bed where she would eat several more times as we dozed until morning. At around 3 months, Ella began struggling with bedtime as well.  I would put her down at 7 PM then she would be up again around 30-40 minutes later.  She would need soothing (nursing, rocking, paci, etc.) and then would go back down, but only for 30 minutes or so.  This continued over and over until around 9 or 10 PM when she would seem to fall into a deeper sleep finally.  I know I don't have to say this, but the routine was ABSOLUTELY EXHAUSTING, not to mention IMPOSSIBLE when I had to get her and the boys to bed by myself (which I had to do on several occasions).  Something had to change!

So, I hit the books.  I looked to the books which I already owned (but never needed too much with Jake), and I also checked out several books on the topic from the library.  After A LOT of reading, it was very clear that Ella had developed several negative sleep associations (which are basically things she associates with sleep and must have to fall asleep/fall back asleep).  The biggest culprits: nursing to sleep and sleeping with mommy/nursing to sleep!

obsessed with sleep books
The biggest challenge of reading so many different books and philosophies on sleep and sleep training was that there was a lot of conflicting advice.  On one end of the spectrum is the cry-it-out method (CIO) which basically leaves the baby to cry with no comfort until they cry themselves to sleep.  And the other end of the spectrum was the co-sleeping/attachment method where by you comfort your baby in your bed and wait for them to outgrow the night wakings. And many methods in between.  It was sort of an agonizing decision, but I finally came to the conclusion that all the methods probably work for some, and you have to pick the method that works best for your baby and family (and what you yourself can stand!)

In our case, we decided on a method that did involve crying, but also allowed us to check on her as often as we wanted and was not too strict in the middle of the night (when I am at my weakest).  Ultimately, I decided on a book I already owned called Sleeping Through the Night by Jodi Mindell.

I decided to tackle the two sleep issues separately as not to lose my sanity.  First on the list was to create new positive sleep associations and help Ella learn to fall asleep on her own at bedtime.  According to Mindell, once a baby learns to fall asleep on her own, she will stop waking so much (or, rather will easily fall back asleep when she does wake naturally during the night).  So we began by changing up her routine to nurse first, then change into PJs/book (Good Night Moon), then rock with mommy/paci until she's sleepy (but not asleep) and lay down in her bassinet awake.

The first night was tough.  She cried for about an hour before she was able to fall asleep.  John and I checked on her/comforted her every 10 minutes or so until she fell asleep.  The second night was better, we only had to go in a few times and she was asleep in a little less than an hour (with less crying than the night before).  The third night, we were shocked to see her go to sleep with NO crying at all in about 15 minutes.  And it was DONE!  Now, she goes to bed, falls asleep on her own, and falls back asleep when she wakes slightly.  I have to say, this in and of itself is an absolute RELIEF to me and is so much better on me and the whole family at bedtime!  I can now engage with the boys again before they go to bed and have a conversation with my spouse (which I had not done much of in the last 4 months!)

After she was sleeping well for about a week (during this time, I would bring her to bed with me when she woke to eat in the middle of the night), I was ready to tackle the co-sleeping transition.  I decided that she should move to her crib for this transition instead of the bassinet in our room because as mentioned before, I have 0% will power at 3 AM.  Much like the sleep training at bedtime, the first few nights were brutal.  She woke up for her first feeding around midnight, I fed her in her room and put her back in bed.  She woke up again at 2 AM, then at 3 AM, 3:30 AM (at which point I waved the white flag and asked John for help).  He got her back to bed at 4 AM, and she was back up at 4:30 AM at which time I finally fed her again and got her back to bed.  She was up again at 6 AM and since the sun was starting to come up, I decided to throw in the towel and bring her to bed with me.  I was definitely feeling defeated and very worried about the next few nights.  But, night #2 was slightly better than that (with fewer wakings) and every night since has been a little bit better.  We're currently on night #8 and she is only waking 2 times to eat (AMAZING from where we started!)
I'm not sure about this mom!
My baby wanted to sleep, she just didn't know how to do it by herself.  It was my job as her mom to help her learn.  The best part of this all is how much happier Ella is during the day.  She is smiling a lot more, content to play on her own, and way less fussy.  Oh HAPPY DAY!

Ella in her crib


  1. Bles, I love the motto and the pic of the books... So type A... Leslie...

  2. I don't care how much or little she sleeps as long as she does it looking this cute!