Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Battle for Bedtime Bliss

Today marks the first day of school for many, the back-to-work for many others, and the unofficial first day of fall as well. It's also a bittersweet day for me, as I booked AJ's 1st birthday party at a local play area. One whole year to celebrate... how on earth did that happen? Granted, we still have two months to go, but I know it'll come before I can blink twice.

It's been a fantastic year of mommyhood, and the only thing missing is some more sleep. Bedtime has been a battle in our house since the day our daughter was born, and if there is one thing I have learned from talking to other moms it's that when your child isn't sleeping well, mom feels alone like she is the only parent who can't get their child to sleep all night long. It's because nobody brags that their kid wakes up every 45 minutes in the night. But really mom, you are not alone.

Bedtime is an art.

It really is. It needs to be timed precisely, choreographed correctly, and executed to a T in order to be pulled off well. That means mom, that you need to be patient. It also means that right when you get the routine down and everything is perfect for say, one week, that it's time to change the show and start all over again!

At two months old, my husband and I started a bedtime routine for our daughter that consisted of a warm bath, lotion and pajamas, nursing, storytime, and rocking her to sleep. She came to understand this routine and understood that it was time to go to sleep. At three months I told our pediatrician that our daughter was still waking 2-3 times in the night wanting to nurse. I was told that not only is this normal, but that the definition of sleeping through the night for the first year is sleeping 4-5 hours at a time. Um... news to me! I don't know who came up with that definition, but my hopes for a solid night's sleep seemed to fade pretty quickly after learning this little tidbit.

Eventually our daughter no longer needed the rocking, and was able to get herself to sleep when we put her in her crib. It did take a few nights of fussing, but we never did let her fully "cry it out." Our method was to let her cry for 5 minutes, then tend to her and calm her down. If she fussed again we'd let her fuss for 7 minutes before tending to her, each time adding an additional 2 minutes. I think the longest stretch we ever went for this process was 11 minutes. It was about this time that AJ started sleeping 4-5 hours at a time.

And then she learned to roll over. With this new skill, our daughter was finding it difficult to get into a comfortable position. And trust me, those two weeks in which she could roll onto her belly but not back onto her back were not fun! Her frustration was growing with each night, but somehow we worked through it, and she discovered that she would rather sleep on her tummy with her little butt up in the air. Sleep became good again.

And then she learned how to sit up. As soon as our daughter was mobile, the thought of being confined to her crib became an unbearable thought to her. She would sit there, so sleepy, and cry because she was so tired but could not yet figure how to lay back down. This stage passed really quickly, and now she was sleeping around 6 hours at a time.

I am still nursing, so one night waking to eat is still expected until the first year,  when I plan to wean. However, now our daughter has learned how to stand in her crib. Whereas before, when she would wake in the night and just lay there until she soothed herself back to sleep with her blanket and musical seahorse, the second she wakes up during her sleep cycle she stands up and starts crying for mom and dad. We have gone from almost sleeping through the night completely, to now waking 4 to 5 times again to a baby standing in her crib and reaching her arms out to the door. And now I know she is to the point where she understands bedtime, and she is being defiant. She knows that mommy and daddy are somewhere on the other side of that closed door. Many times, she is so tired that if I lay her back down she will go right back to sleep, but I need to figure out how to keep her from standing up and crying in the first place.

Like anything else, I find comfort in knowing that this is only a phase. The greatest advice that my OB gave me after our daughter was born was to embrace that everything is only a phase. Our children won't go to college in diapers, they won't always throw themselves on the ground in screaming tantrums, and believe it or not there will come a day when we are begging them to wake up and get out of bed, instead of pleading with them to sleep.

As for the meantime, any bedtime advice would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise this blog may have to go from Holly at Nap Time to Holly Takes a Nap.

Have a great Tuesday, all!

2 comments:

  1. I love love love that you call her AJ! :)

    Unfortunately I don't have any bedtime tips, I'm sorry. But keep at it Mommy! ::HUGS::

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  2. Oh sleep, such a constant struggle with will the milestone setbacks and sleep regressions. We have also had our share of rough periods, from about 3 to 6 months, she would get up 6 to 8 times a night, it was exhausting!! At 6 months we did the same kind of "sleep training" you did and got it down to 3 times a night, then 2 times a night, and now (since about 8 months old) she's been down to 1 time a night. And in the past week and a half we even had 4 nights of NO WAKINGS (but she did wake up earlier then usual)!!! Now if only I could sleep through the night! haha! I really wish I had some advice but I can't really think of anything. It sounds like you have a great routine though and that is the such an important piece of it! It seems like at all of the rough times we just had to wait it our and stay consistent, as hard as that was sometimes. Hang in there!!

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