Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thoughtful Thursday: Developing a Sleep Plan

On Thoughtful Thursday I share thoughts on ways I'm working to improve myself as a woman, wife and mother.

About forty minutes ago, I finished the nap routine with my daughter and left her room. She was still awake and about five minutes later, she was sleeping peaceful. Ahh, so easy.

Well, it hasn't always been that way. In fact, only in the past four months has it been that easy, with big bumps interspersed in those four months (whenever something big happens, things get hard). And it's only been that long that she's slept through the night.

So with a second baby on the way, I'm hoping things will be a little easier this time around. But I'm not just hoping, I'm educating myself. I feel like I've learned a lot along the way, with my daughter, but I know there's more to know. And I want to have a plan (and a back-up plan or two). I know I can't be prepared 100% - who knows what this baby will be like - but I can try to be as prepared as possible.

I read/skimmed two books this week: Sleep Deprived No More and The No-Cry Sleep Solution. I'll give you a brief review of each, then share with you my thought process as I read them, and finally, my plan!

I only picked up Sleep Deprived No More at the library because I was looking for the other book and happened to see it. It was a super easy read; I skipped a lot. It probably had good information for those who specifically have sleep problems while pregnant (like restless leg syndrome), but I don't so I didn't read a lot of that. Also, for each trimester and after birth, she gave basically the same 10-12 tips, which were mostly common sense things that I already do. She had some helpful comments about getting sleep with a newborn, but mostly talked about how hard it really is and ways to cope. So, I didn't learn too much (except some about sleep patterns) there.

I read The No-Cry Sleep Solution before when Sweet Girl was three or four months. It really has a lot of great ideas! I wanted to review it mainly to refresh my memory about how much sleep a baby really needs at different stages. I was also curious as to what she said about the newborn-four month stage. I remembered she said that during that time babies just sleep when they are tired. I can't say I agree with that, but really the whole book is great! She's an advocate of co-sleeping, but doesn't make you feel like an unloving parent if you don't (which we don't, except for the first month or two). She has a lot of great tips and ideas and information I hadn't read in any other books.

With Sweet Girl, my whole approach was very rigid and structured (thanks to taking The Baby Whisperer to the extreme). I was trying to put a newborn on a schedule! I didn't think of it that way (it was a routine), but I was. I stressed if she didn't fall asleep on time or sleep long enough and I was NOT going to let her nurse to sleep (except at night).

This time around, I plan to have a totally different approach. One thing I learned from both books is that from newborn to three (or four) months, the biological clock (which regulates our sleep) is really not developed. In fact, it doesn't totally develop until close to 10 months! But, these first three months are really a time of adjustment. My sister-in-law said she heard of it as the "fourth trimester". I plan to be much more relaxed, especially in the beginning. I will still try to implement routine, but I will give it time and I will be more flexible!

Before I read the books, I decided I would just plan on nursing the baby to sleep. After all, it's the most natural, simplest way. I don't mind being the only one to put the baby to sleep for a while (this is my job), and the baby won't be crying, which is what I want to avoid (for me as much as for the baby!).

While reading Sleep Deprived No More, she said it is best to have a Eat-Play-Sleep routine (just like The Baby Whisperer says). She said if a baby learns to fall asleep while nursing, then when they have brief awakenings at night (which are common and normal for everyone), the baby will not be able to go back to sleep unless nursing again (or having a bottle or pacifier). Yikes! I also want to avoid waking up every couple hours with an older baby, like I was with my daughter. The way to put the baby to bed, she said, was to have a routine and put the baby in the bed while he is awake but drowsy and let him self-soothe to sleep. I remember getting this advice from a nurse and pediatrician with my daughter. It didn't work. (Granted, we didn't try it but a few times, but knowing her, I doubt it would have.) But the author made it sound so simple, I decided this would be my plan A.

Then, as I was reading The No-Cry Sleep Solution, she was talking about how natural and special it is to nurse a baby to sleep. And how quickly the baby stage goes... And I thought, "Yeah, I don't really want to put my 3 month old down for a nap and let him fend for himself. I want him to need me; it's natural for him to need me. He won't forever, why start so early?" So I was back on the nursing-to-sleep plan. But how was I to do that and help him learn to sleep on his own too - gently and slowly? Ah, she had that answer too! She too suggested putting the baby down when not totally asleep. To take the baby off from nursing before he's completely out. And if it doesn't work, then try again another time. This helped me to look at it as a process, not a one week training boot camp.

She has a great plan outlined in the back of the book for this newborn-four months stage. Here's what I came up with:

1. RELAX for the first six weeks. Let a pattern happen.
2. Around six weeks or so, lay him down almost asleep or very sleepy. If it doesn't work, try next time.
3. As baby gets older, try to do more and more. Sleep train over time!
4. Be sure to always swaddle! (We stopped early on with our daughter and I think it would have helped a lot if we'd stuck with it.)

Of course, I plan to do the things I have already learned: have a nap/bedtime routine, have a basic day routine, make the room dark (and we will have a sound machine too!), don't let him sleep too long during the day, do not change the diaper every single time he wakes up at night (yeah, I did that!), and to wait when I hear a noise to see if he's really waking up or just making sleep noises.

My plan B and C? Well, I'm not sure yet, but I could always try putting him down awake and see if he's one of those rare babies that prefers that or I could try rocking or "shh" him to sleep. My last resort would be to wear him in a wrap like I did with my daughter for the first three months.  I put her to sleep about three different ways over time, so I will most likely pick the one I think will work best and try that.

Maybe I'm being too presumptuous to have a plan, but I don't want to be scrambling when I'm sleep deprived with a crying baby (and toddler) and hormones all over the place! My main goal is to be flexible and take the time to step back and make clear decisions. And if I make a bad decision, to let it go. Over all, I really want to STRESS LESS!

And now I need to go - she's up! Short nap, but what can you do??

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