Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sleep (This one's for you, Tendersoul!)

A while back, Tendersoul posted a comment on my entry about our overnight roadtrip with G:

How on earth did you get her to sleep so well?

Funny you should ask.... A few weeks ago Dooce reminisced about sleep training her daughter who is about the same age as G. After reading it I thought maybe I would write a similar post since we have similar stories.

Well, if you read Dooce's post, that's about my experience with G, except that I did it at 10 months and it only took 3 nights.

I read a lot of books before G was born and I was convinced that sleep would be one of the most important issues for both of us. I think my most favorite book was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child because that's where I learned the 2 hour rule. Basically, if your child has been awake 2 hours, it's probably time for some type of sleep. Somewhere around 14 months G started to be able to go a little longer, but she was a good 18 months before she could really stretch to 3 or 4 hours. If I could impress on you the one most important lesson I've learned about sleep, Tendersoul, it would be that Golden 2 Hour Rule. Live by it. Set your clock by it. Everyone will be happier, I guarantee it.

So, for the first year or so of G's life, I lived in 2 hour increments, because that's about how long her naps would be. The advice I neglected to follow from the book was to train your child to be able to fall asleep on their own. I will admit it: I nursed and rocked G to sleep for every single nap and every night and all points in between. And I let her have a binky.

Life was pretty hunky dory until about 9 months. Then things started going South. My previously cute, adorable, good sleeping baby was suddenly waking up in the middle of the night and NOT GOING BACK TO SLEEP. Or when she did it would only be for 3 or 4 hours. Things got progressively worse. I vividly remember The Night. G woke up a little after midnight. I duly nursed and rocked her to what I thought was a sleeping state. I got up to put her in her crib. She protested. I sat back down. Repeat ad nauseum until something like 5 am. When she finally allowed herself to be placed in the crib, but only for 2 hours. When she woke up at 7 again I knew that things had to change.

That's when I implemented Ferber and we've never looked back. Ever since then, she's gone down willingly for naps and at nighttime. In fact, many times she will finish her lunch and inform me that it's time for nap-nap. Heaven forbid I ask her to wait a moment because then she will burst into tears. Generally speaking, she sleeps anywhere from 1-3 hours in the day and 10-12 hours at night.

Yes, I know I am blessed.

I know that part of it is that G is a pretty adaptable baby. But I think a larger part of that is the Routine. I'm a stickler about it. We do pretty much the same thing every day and she knows that lunch is ALWAYS followed by a nap. Yes, it cramps my style sometimes. There are days when I'd like to do something else. But then I remember those awful nights of sleep training and decide that sticking to the routine is more important. Much more important!

I will disagree with one point of Dooce's: they use the crib as a time-out area. I'm glad it works for them but it seems counteractive to me. In G's early days I would put her in the crib while she was wide awake and talk to her and play with her. I wanted her to get used to the idea that the crib was a safe, relaxing place. It seems to have worked. Most mornings I can get a good 30 minutes to an hour to myself after she wakes up because she's having fun playing with all the stuffed animals in the crib. Seems to me that using it as a place of punishment would go against that.

If the fates allow me another child, I will definitely follow the 2 hour rule again. I will also nurse and rock to sleep. That was probably the most enjoyable and memorable time for me from G's baby days. Even at 3am! But I will start much earlier getting the child used to making the transition from lap to crib in a half-asleep sort of state. I would still use the Ferber method but I probably wouldn't do it any earlier than I did with G (10 months). So much would depend on the child but I'm not afraid to let a child cry in the short term to achieve long-term good.

This is probably a pretty rambling post because I've been scrapbooking all day and I'm tired! So let me sum up the one most important rule: 2 HOURS OF AWAKE TIME! I highly recommend the Healthy Habits book (in your spare time, you know!) and I would also suggest the Ferber book. Even if you don't have the stomach for CIO (cry it out), he has some good information about sleep stuff in general. The first time I read the book I didn't have any intention of ever letting my child cry for any length of time but by the time we reached the impasse at 10 months I began to understand the wisdom of the necessity of sleep and achieving it by whatever means necessary.

I don't think sleep is necessarily a panacea but I do know that I have a daughter who's never had anything more than a cold or two, developed advanced verbal skills very early, and never ceases to amaze me with her range of knowledge. Is it sleep? Is it genes? Who knows but sleep is golden in this house!

1 comment:

Tendersoul said...

Oh, thank you! I will certainly pick up those books. I have read about the Ferber method, but it scares me. I always come running as it is. All is all, she is a very good baby. I do have to rock her to sleep at night. She naps rather well, and even falls asleep at the breast sometimes. She's actually starting to sleep for longer periods of time at night, for which I am quite thankful. Thank you for thinking of me!