Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sleep Training advice from a Sleep Doula

My first daughter didn't have too many issues with learning to sleep through the night.  We were blessed with her being able to go through the night at 6 weeks.  When she reached 4 months we had a few bumps in the road and by 6 months tried the CIO method for a week (ish) which worked.  I was terrified that I would damage her in some way, however with my doctors approval, I went ahead.  She had some sleep associations that I needed to break her of, in order for her to sleep on her own (feeding to sleep).

Round two with my second daughter has not been as smooth.  I had an opportunity to see a Sleep Doula this week that was provided for free through the Early Years Center.  Apparently, my timing was perfect as she suggested 4 months was the perfect age to start.  She pointed out any training you did before age 4 months, is great, however you may find yourself having to start over.  At 4 months there is a huge developmental stage they go through and babies like to change it up completely at this time (that explains what happened with my first daughter).  I didn't bring a pen or paper to the session, so as soon as I got home I wrote everything I could remember down.  I thought today's blog would be more informative and a cheat sheet for myself and anyone else who reads my blogs (I'm sure its only my parents lol...Hi mom).  Her method isn't quite "cry it out," however she said there will be some crying involved.  I prefer this method as I found CIO was really hard on ME emotionally and would like to avoid it if I can this time.

The easiest time to sleep train your baby is before the age of 9 months, it gets harder by 12 months and almost impossible by 18 months.  The key to having a baby sleep through the night is to make sure the baby is getting enough rest throughout the day and calories.  Keeping a keen eye out for the earliest warning signs that your baby is ready for a nap is also important.  If you wait until your baby is displaying signs of being over tired, such as rubbing eyes, yawning, or pulling at their ears etc.. the body is already excreting a hormone called cortisol.  Once this happens there is a more likely chance for sleep disruption during the night.  Same thing happens to adults when we excrete cortisol, we are also more likely to wake during the night and have a disruptive sleep.

My daughter is in a category, what she termed as an "alert baby".  The best method for a baby like Jorja (who is easily awakened,) is to put her in a room that is dark, have a sound machine on for white noise and no stimulation (no toys in the crib).  This also includes the baby NOT being able to see you.  The baby is more likely to sooth him or herself if he or she cannot see the parent.  If you want to be in the room while the baby is adjusting to the training, its best to lie on the floor or somewhere out of her range of sight.  I have already noticed this many times, if I just leave the room she will stop fussing.

Jorja still is feeding through the night.  Doctors will say by 6 months, a baby should be able to go 12 hours without feeding.  No one is going to tell you however, not to feed your baby, and she certainly did not recommend this either.  Instead try "dream feeds".  This involves taking the sleeping baby out of the crib, feeding and putting them back in the crib.  If you put your baby down at 7pm for bedtime and know they will need a feed during the night, try a dream feed before you are ready to go to bed (maybe 11pm for example).  I haven't tried this yet, as I can't seem to get the nerve up to disturb her while she is sleeping (lol). So instead she wakes me up at 2 and also sometimes 4 :(  I will try this new dream feed approach tonight.

Sleep associations are a big thing that need to eliminated if you can.  Jorja, for example uses the soother, so she recommends that at age 4 months, try to go "cold turkey".  The baby will quickly forget about ever having the soother at this age, compared to trying to do this at age 12 months.  The sooner the better.  If the baby is old enough to handle the soother on his or her own, then hand the soother to the baby, and allow them to put it in their mouth if they are old enough and you wish to continue using it.  Don't put the soother in her mouth yourself, let the baby do it (teaching them how to self sooth).  She recommend a bunch of products that I listed below, for adjusting your baby out of the swaddle habit; such as the Magic sleep suit.  Swaddling is great for newborns, but not safe once the baby is old enough to roll themselves onto their tummy.  Byllee use to feed to sleep, so she recommended for mothers with this association to keep the baby awake until you put them in the crib.  It's OK if they are drowsy, as long as they aren't asleep.  Taking away the sleep association is where you will experience the crying.  She said any crying longer then 45 minutes wasn't something she was comfortable with, however there isn't a set rule with this.  She suggests staying in the room so the baby can see you, but don't pick them up.  If you have an alert baby and this just makes the situation worse, lie on the floor as mentioned and every 15 minutes to let the baby know you are still there and haven't abandoned them (let them see you, rub tummy and lie back down).  She says with young babies, if you are consistent you should have success by night 3, or night 5 for older babies.  They key is being consistent.  If your baby cries for 45 minutes and you come in and hold them and feed them, you have now just taught your baby to cry for 45 minutes. 

She also recommended having a night time routine and a morning routine.  The routine does not need to be half an hour long, it only needs to be 5 minutes or less.  Whatever it is you do for bedtime routine, your baby will expect you to repeat it if he or she wakes up during the night (this is how parents get into that terrible cycle).  She actually doesn't recommend including the bath in the routine, for the simple fact that if you start the bath when you notice your baby is tired, by the time you have them dressed and put them in bed, they will most likely have entered the "over tired" stage.  Now you will have the cortisol issue to keep them up during the night.  Having a morning routine she suggested was important too.  Normal time for a baby to wake up at 4months is between 6-8am.  If its before that, try and put them back to sleep with the least amount of stimulation as possible (no talking, no lights).  Once its time to wake up (they start fussing) turn on all the lights, open the curtains and do a "Good Morning".  They will start to associate when its OK to be awake too.

One last remark about naps.  She suggests for babies 4-6 months of age should only be awake for 2.2 hours at a time, then put them down for a nap.

So 5 days and us moms should have our babies sleeping through the night...We'll see and I will let you know how it works out for me.  I also heard an expert say 1 week for potty training and I am going on 6 months with my toddler.  I wonder if there is a "Potty Training Doula?".....

Some of the products she recommended were:

Wombie blanket - Keep in mind, when your baby can roll onto their tummy, don't wrap the arms.

Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit - Its a compression suit from what I understand and can give the baby that "snuggled" affect without swaddling

Book: Good Night/Sleep Tight

Sleep Sack

Sound Machine - for white noise

P.S.  There maybe stuff I missed or forgot, or didn't convey properly so when you read this blog take it as it  is (with a grain of salt) and I encourage you to do your own research.  I think like everything else, a variation of what the experts advise to suit your own unique baby, is going to be what works the best.  A little tweak here and there and hopefully you will have success...and me too!

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