Sleep Success: Baby Steps*

Oh my. Where does time go?

Life just keep flying by at breakneck speeds and most days I feel like I can barely keep up. Apparently it’s July already, but I’m not sure how that happened.

A lot has happened since I last posted. I celebrated my 27th birthday, and my Mom, Dad and I took Ruby on her first big trip to the great white north. I was terrified to take her in the car for that long–it’s a seven hour drive without stops. Her longest trip prior to this was 2.5 hours, and memories of her major highway meltdown a few weeks back were still very fresh in my mind.

(Picture this: I am driving home from visiting my parents after dinner on a Saturday evening. Ruby is usually a little fussy during this time of day, but she also always sleeps for 90% of this hour and fifteen minute car ride. Ha.

Thirty minutes into the trip I could hear her waking up in the backseat. Five minutes later she was wailing while I sang to her from the driver’s seat, trying to calm her down. When it became apparent that this was not working, I pulled into a service station. I climbed into the back seat with her, fed her for a few minutes, and once she was calm I put her back in her seat and continued on my way.

I was on the highway for less than a minute when she started screaming. She was crying so hard that it sounded like she was gasping for air, and of course there was no safe turnoff for me for several minutes. I finally reached an exit for a mall I knew, and by that time we were both sobbing. I ended up walking her around the parking lot while she cried, then feeding her while she cried until she fell into an exhausted sleep… forty-five minutes later. Home was still 30 minutes away, and I have never been so afraid to get on a highway again in my life. Thankfully she slept the entire way home. It ended up being nearly a 3 hour trip when all was said and done.)

So. I was nervous, but it was all for naught. She traveled like a champ, and the little DVD player I bought for the car was a total win. She slept and watched Elmo the whole way. :)

It seems like so much of my life is centered on sleep these days, and so little of it is my own. A while back I mentioned that Ruby was having some sleeping issues, and I’m happy to report that we are beginning to see some small successes. As I’m sure I’m not alone in this, I thought I’d share what’s working for us so far.

We co-slept with Ruby until she was just shy of 3 months, when I transitioned her into her bassinet. The move went perfectly–she had no issues initially and actually began sleeping longer stretches once she was in it. For a few weeks I was only waking once a night to feed her.

Then her 3 month growth spurt happened. My super sleeper began waking up every hour at night, and she basically gave up napping. So, I did what any exhausted new mother would do: I pleaded for help on Facebook. So many of my mom-friends came to my rescue with so many suggestions of things to try and books to read. I went to Value Village and bought a few books about teaching babies to sleep. I learned about the sleep regression that so many babies go through when they are approaching their fourth month. I learned that everyone tells you something different about what you should do for your baby, and that I have to do what feels right for Ruby.

So I started trying things.

The first thing I began was trying to break Ruby’s negative sleep associations while creating more positive things for you.

Right–sleep association? What the heck? (My response exactly when I first read about it.)

I had always nursed and rocked Ruby to sleep. It seemed like such a positive, relaxing way to settle, and it worked so well. And then I realized that Ruby had come to depend on being rocked and nursed to sleep, so when she woke herself up, she didn’t know how to settle herself back to sleep without me. I immediately stopped rocking her to sleep, and have been working on breaking her association with “sucking” and sleeping. (For my non-mom friends, the sucking reflex is very comforting for babies. Who knew?)

1) The Lovey. To replace this, I introduced a “lovey”. One of my books suggested finding a soft blanket or toy that she likes and putting it with her every time she goes to sleep. I had a soft pink bunny blanket  that sat in her bassinet, so I began nursing her to sleep with it, then placing it next to her as she slept. By nursing her with it, the bunny always smells a little like me so she feels like I’m never far away. It wasn’t long before her little arms began wrapping around the bunny and now she hugs it while she sleeps. It took a little while, but now I just place the bunny in the bassinet, and she will roll on her side towards it and fall asleep. WIN!

2) Dark Room. I also read that sleep improves when the room babies sleep in is very dark, to signify nighttime and longer stretches of sleep. I replaced my bright night light with a much dimmer one, and put dark curtains up in my bedroom. I immediately began seeing success with this, as the two hours it was taking me to settle her to sleep at night began to get shorter.

3) White noise. I moved a fan next to the bassinet to block out all the household and outside noises.

4) Routine. I learned that it is never too early to begin a good bedtime routine. I began bathing Ruby at night, followed by a story, songs, then nursing and sleep. She has begun associating these activities with sleep, and will often let me know that she’s ready for bed shortly after her bath.

5) Consistency. She sleeps so much better if I am consistent with not only the routine, but what time it takes place. I try to stay within the same hour window every day, and she is so much easier to put down if she is not overtired.

6) Early bedtime. In my head I thought that if I kept Ruby up later she’d become more tired and sleep longer. Makes sense, right? WRONG. I read a phrase in one of my books that changed how I thought: “sleep begets sleep”. The more babies sleep during the day, the more they will sleep at night, and vice versa. I moved her bedtime from 9 – 10pm, to 7 – 8pm. It took me a long time to put her down at first, but her internal clock is shifting and for the past two nights she let me know she was tired by 7 – 7:30, and was asleep in her bassinet by 7:45.

She isn’t sleeping through the night yet, but she is no longer up every hour. Most nights I am only up once or twice with her, and I am continuing to phase these night wakings out. Right now I’m teaching her to settle herself to sleep by putting her in the bassinet while she is drowsy, but awake. It doesn’t always work–sometimes she wakes right up and is upset that I put her down–but more and more she just rolls on her side, hugs her bunny and goes to sleep.

I’m still working with her as far as naps go, but I’m also beginning to see some success there. I have a few more tips up my sleeve if your baby is a non-napper / sleeper like mine!

To those who came to my rescue with suggestions and help–thank you. I think it’s working! :)

 

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3 Comments

  • Faith

    YAY!!  So glad you’re having success and getting more sleep!  It’s hard work trying to figure out what works for you and your baby, especially when you’re sleep deprived yourself.  I know it’s heartbreaking to have to break the habits that YOU enjoy, but the good news is that maybe when she’s a little older you might be able to reestablish some of the parts you really miss without affecting her sleep.  Leah and I get to have a good cuddle time every night and before naps now, and she still sleeps through the night (most of the time… even at two years old, she’s still not too old for sleep regressions, as I was reminded this last month).  As long as I don’t let her fall asleep in my arms more than once in awhile, everything is golden!

  • Faith

    Oh also:  Don’t kill yourself that she isn’t sleeping through the night yet.  This is a milestone that takes different babies different lengths of time to achieve.  I was lucky with Leah and she did it pretty quickly, but then friends of mine have dealt with one middle of the night feeding until 7 or 8 months.  Hopefully Ruby gets there sooner than later!

  • pinkflipflops44

    Be aware she will wake 23432434 times tonight because you posted this on the internet. ;)  j/k! I’m glad you are getting more sleep.

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