Sunday, October 21, 2007

When Do They Start Sleeping Like a Baby?

Pebbles has never been a good napper or a good go-to-bedder. Loyal readers will remember her three-plus-hour nursing marathons every evening in her early months. But in the past week, since we returned from our latest Wisconsin trip, she has been simply awful. I don't think she has napped a full hour one day this week. Either she skips her nap altogether, or she sleeps from 5 to 40 minutes and she's done. Bedtime -- which we had managed to move to the 7-to-8-p.m. range as per the "No Cry" book -- has been between 9 p.m. and after 11 p.m.

I am so burned out. I have that thousand-mile stare. I'm not sleep deprived -- once she's down for the night, she'll have a few short wakeups but nothing I lose sleep over. I'm just frustrated and annoyed and not having any fun. I had just tried to start writing professionally again and with a schedule like this you can imagine I have had no time to write. I'm too busy buying red wine and Ritter Sport bars. It's called self-soothing, people.

So, after a good friend suggested it many times, I picked up a copy of Dr. Marc Weissbluth's book, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child." I would never have bought it based on the title alone, because I already have a happy child. So, so friggin happy, for 14 hours a day sometimes. Our problem here is we do not have a happy mama.

This book is a lot fatter than most of the other sleep advice books out there, for two reasons: 1) It's disorganized and badly written and 2) Dr. Weissbluth, being a child sleep researcher, actually has a bunch of studies to back up his theories. Unlike a certain Dr. Sears, which good Doc Weissbluth is not shy about pointing out.

Being a brainy girl, I liked the research. But then I didn't like it. Because every study Dr. Marky Marc quoted said that if I don't solve this problem, my kid was going to get in trouble in school, have a lower IQ, and, I don't know, bad stuff. I would have liked to roll my eyes and say, look, I never followed your protocols with Nutmeg, and she turned out ok. Except I recognized some Nutmeg in his case studies: Nutmeg would wake up from a long nap crying and screaming, and sometimes still does. He says that's a sign of a chronically sleep-deprived kid. Also, it does seem like being stricter about an early bedtime helped Nutmeg's behavior problems in school. She's been doing great, by the way.

Anyway, Dr. Weissbluth's message is pretty simple: If your kid is having trouble getting to sleep, it's probably because she's already overtired and wired. You should get them on a regular nap schedule and put them to bed verty early in the evening -- as early as 5:30 p.m.(!). You should achieve this regular sleep schedule by first soothing them to sleep, then letting them cry it out alone if you're worth your salt, but if you are a pathetic ball of post-season melon you can try checking on them every few minutes.

Now, the "too tired to sleep" method is nothing new -- most mothers know this and it's actually also one of the main pieces of advice we got from "No Cry." What was new to me in Weissbluth was the idea that babies -- especially sleep-deprived ones like mine -- are usually ready to go down for a morning nap just an hour or two after waking up in the morning. And, he says, by the time they're giving you warnings, like when Pebbles rubs her ears, it's TOO LATE. Duh-duhnnn!

I've observed Pebbles the last couple days, and he's right. Not that I have succeeded in getting her down for a nap within two hours of waking up, but I'm still trying. And starting tomorrow, we will be trying for an ultra-early bedtime, probably 6:30. That has always seemed crazy to me -- father doesn't see baby at night! -- but Weissbluth puts great stock in the early bedtime, and it's the only thing we've never tried, so maybe it's the holy grail. It does make sense that your baby should be able to go to sleep as soon as it's dark out, and it's winter now.

Now, on the cry it out stuff. I've always been opposed, although much more so in babies under the age of 6 months. But I am also wearing thin, which makes me quite susceptible to Weissbluth's arguments that he has yet to see evidence of the emotionally-damaged child whose parents' worst crime was to let him cry himself to sleep. And the truth is, we do let Pebbles cry it out -- in the car, when we can't safely pick her up. Then again, we are with her at those times, and what bothers me most about the cry-it-out thing is that your baby is crying all that time alone.

We'll see. So far I will let her cry for 10 to 30 minutes, which usually seems to tire her out enough that she will nurse right to sleep when I finally go get her. It just kills me when I read about babies who "cried for a few minutes" and then went to sleep. Where are these babies? Not in my house, I'll tell you that.

Oh, and finally, I wouldn't say that I have given up on "The No-Cry Sleep Solution," only that that book is kind of short on suggestions for getting your baby to sleep to begin with. It's full of good ideas about eliminating hnight nursings and wake-ups.


Notta Wallflower said...

Hmm... it's hard to know which advice to follow. How is a person supposed to decide which is best? It's not like your baby can tell you, "hey, you're causing psychological damage by letting me cry". So are you saying that you'd not recommend either book?

Anonymous said...

my babies went to sleep peacefully after a full tummy.. a nite bottle with some cereral or a meal of the same did it.

Kori said...

I really hope that the book is of some use to you. As with all of these "expert parenting" books, sifting and winnowing appears to be key to making them fit with your own kid and your own situation.

On a lighter note, let me say this: When I read Dr. Sears' book (and website), I thought my poor daughter was doomed by her formula-drinking ways. "Let's throw this one out and start fresh, she's clearly ruined!"

On the flip side, Weissbluth's method seemed to work really well for EJ---it met her needs and matched her personality, and quite frankly, it was a good fit for her parents, too. So, when I read his research and claims, I was much more able to say, "yes, of course you are right, oh guru Weissbluth!"

So, if nothing else, EJ can eventually become a delinquent and enter therapy because of the bottles of liquid terrible I fed her, and Nutmeg can become a delinquent and enter therapy because of chronic sleep deprivation in her early years.

Pebbles still has hope, though. She can be the one to drink liquid gold AND achieve sleep nirvana. Thank goodness for that---she can monitor the other two.

As for you and I, we'll be together on some cruise drinking daquiris and talking about the good old days, back when we thought parenting books could really help us raise our kids.

Carrie said...

Notta -- Seriously, it's harsh because one doctor is saying you will damage your child permanently by letting him cry, while the other doctor is telling you you will damage him permanently if he does not get enough sleep. And I'm beginning to feel that Pebbles will NEVER get enough sleep if we do not let her cry. For instance, tonight, I started getting her ready for bed with a bath at 5 something. It's now 8:50, and she has slept about 40 minutes so far this evening. She's awake right now. That was with a combination of letting her cry and going in to soothe/nurse.

I would not say both books are useless. I would definitely recommend "The No-Cry Sleep Solution," as it has a lot of good tips for getting your child back to sleep in the night, especially if you are trying to gradually teach them to sleep without a nipple in their mouth, which of course they must learn eventually. I would recommend Weissbluth on the strength of the research on sleep alone, and for the advice on the importance of early bedtimes and schedules. There are things in there that despite two kids and countless parenting books, I had never heard before -- like why on earth some parents like to put their babies to bed at 6:30 p.m. I always thought that it was crazy talk, but he actually believes babies are biologically programmed to prefer sleeping at that early hour and if you keep them up until 8, they're bound to be overtired.

Mommylu -- Oh, they're all ruined already. Can we just go on that cruise now? I could use a daquiri.

Anonymous said...

I also liked Weissbluth's book for the research part, but agree that it was so disorganized I was always like, so exactly WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO??? That said, we mostly followed this book as well as we could for our 2 girls, and brought it out again when new problems would creep up. I think they're pretty good sleepers, but the older one (3.5 y.o.) still schemes about how to stay up longer.