Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On Sleep (gentle ideas to make everyone happier)

Where was I ... ah, yes, we were pregnant.  This was a huge surprise and of course wonderful but also terrifying.   I had a 9 month old nursling feeding every 2 hours day and night who was just starting to really swallow solid food.  The thought of having another baby when my first needed me so much was scary - but fortunately our gestational period is nice and long and Saf grew and developed.  He became a much bigger baby who not only nursed constantly and loved to be worn but also started to talk. :)  Just Kidding.  (Kind of). 

We knew we would need to make some changes as I couldn't foresee "rotisserie nursing" two children all night long.  The first few months of the pregnancy were good sleep-wise.  We decided we didn't want to start actively night-weaning Safran until he was 12 months so we just began implementing a few things from Elizabeth Pantley's "No Cry Sleep Solution".  I found a copy for $4 at a second hand shop one day, and later checked out her book for Toddler and Pre-Schoolers at the local library.  I also have her book on naps and separation anxiety.  Yes, I'm a fan.

it's me right now.  I cut my finger while making dinner.
Her techniques are gentle, and when it comes to doing things gently with babies and toddlers who have habits that you want to change, gentle means SLOW.  And if you are blessed with a spirited child like we are, gentle means EXTREMELY SLOW.  (sometimes).  But it's good.  She says to make a little record of how things are going, times of sleep and waking and what you are doing currently to help your child sleep.  Then implement the changes that you want to try for about a month without really keeping an eye on the clock or numbers of wake ups.  Then look again at how things are going and they will most likely be better.  Maybe a lot better.

Here are some of the techniques that we implemented:

1. Consistent Bedtime and Bedtime Routine.  Up to this point we didn't really have a bedtime routine for Saf.  When he seemed tired in the evening we'd put on his pj's and either I would nurse him to sleep or Chris would 'wear him down' in the Ergo.  Often we had friends over or were out, but we were able to get him to sleep fairly easily regardless.  When we were home Chris would lay him in his bed but he'd inevitably wake up, so I would lay next to him and nurse him fully to sleep.  Usually he'd wake up multiple times before we were ready for bed, but each time I would go and nurse him back to sleep, usually only taking a few minutes.

We decided to aim for a bedtime of 7:30 which meant having the hour before be our bedtime routine.  There would be dim lights and hopefully no rough-housing.  Shower/bath, pajamas, stories and either I would nurse him to sleep or Chris would rock/dance or bounce him to sleep while listening to relaxing bedtime music.  (There has been a big range of music: from the children's songs of Kim Thiessen to Bon Iver and currently the mellow tunes from Josh Garrells).  It initially felt like a sacrifice to do the routine, but we quickly came to appreciate it.  Often Chris would lay with us in the dark as I nursed Saf and we would talk about our day as he fell asleep.  It was nice to have an hour to unwrap ourselves from the day, to let frustrations go and reconnect in the quiet.    

2. Consistent Nap time.  Pantley believes that a good amount of day sleep helps to improve night sleep.  Safran probably went to one sleep in the day by 11 months.  He's one of those kids that just doesn't need heaps of sleep - generally 12-13 hours in 24.  I started doing a very consistent nap time, which would vary within 30 minutes on either side depending on when he woke up for the day.  I would nurse him to sleep and he was usually out within ten minutes.   Now if I'm driving home from a morning activity at that time, he'll fall asleep in the car very easily as well.  It's quite rare that he will fall asleep in the car at any other time of day.  His body seems to know it's nap time.

3. Re-settling during Naps.  For a long time Safran would wake after 45 minutes of sleep during a nap, when his sleep cycle finishes and he is too disrupted to fall back asleep even though he is still very tired.  For a few months (maybe 4 or 5?) I would listen closely for the first sound of his waking during a nap and quickly lay next to him and nurse him back to sleep if I could tell he was waking.  I would do this often a couple of times before his nap was over.  It was a lot of work, but he now usually naps 1 1/2 to 2 hours without waking.  For a sleeper like Saf, that feels like a big accomplishment. 

4. Enough Time between Nap and Bed.  Saf could really use 30 hour days.  He needs a lot of time to burn off his energy, and sometimes it feels there are honestly not enough hours in the day for him to have a decent nap and still be ready for bed.  He needs a good six hours between the end of his nap and bedtime, so we try to do ourselves a favour and pay attention to the clock.  If he wakes up at 2pm we aim for him to be sleeping by 8.  If his nap finishes closer to one then we would start the bedtime routine closer to 6:30.  It might sound obsessive to watch the time that closely, but it really works for us and we generally can avoid Saf being overtired or not tired enough to fall asleep.

5. A Good Sleeping Environment.  Our bedroom was right on the main street of our town.  We live across from a pub that had some colourful characters come out in the wee hours.  Huge trucks would start moving through around 4:30 am, which Saf believed to be his alarm clock for a while.  We decided to move to the middle room, which was our guest room and a bit smaller.  But it was quiet.  We put black out material over the skylight, so it became nice and dark.  We got a white noise soundtrack that Chris edited (finally putting his audio engineering education to good use) to meet our needs which helped to even out the sound in our room.  (Saf would sigh and roll over if my ankle cracked.  Definitely a light sleeper.  Definitely his dad's son.)  We would be conscious of Saf's pajamas being warm enough since he always kicks blankets off.  And socks.  Always socks.

6. The Pantley Pull-Off.  This was probably the key to extending the time between Saf's waking.  Pantley explains that however a baby or toddler falls asleep, that's what they will hope for when they are moving into a new sleep cycle (thus why Saf always would wake after 45 minutes looking to nurse).  So the idea is to nurse the child until their sucking slows but they are not fully asleep, then break the suction with your finger and gently remove your nipple from their mouth.  When I started doing this with Saf he of course would protest and start to wake back up, so I would let him suck for another minute or two and then try again.  And again.  And again.  Probably 8 times it would take before he would just relax and fall asleep without my nipple in his mouth.  But then the next week it only took maybe 4 tries.  And after a month only two tries.  And now I usually just say to him, "Nai nai all done, mama's here, you can roll over" and generally he'll roll himself over and get comfortable enough to fall asleep on his own. 

Things started to get better.

More to come ... 


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