Friday, February 26, 2010

Dr. Weissbluth, I Am Onto You. No I'm Not.

Yes, people, it's that time again. Time for boring obsessions with baby sleep schedule. But take heart: I barely told you anything about Pebbles' potty training. So you've sort of got it coming.

I'm sitting here at 5:30 a.m. sipping my coffee. Yes, these children have now aged me to the extent that I get up at 5, play shuffleboard all afternoon, eat dinner at the Early Bird Special and hit the sack by 8:30.

No, that's not true. The truth is that Toth gets up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m., and today he hit the early end of the spectrum. Naturally, on the day that I volunteered to take over the a.m. shift from Epu.

5 a.m. sounds bad, and even worse is the fact that he spends the last half hour to hour of the night nursing on and off, meaning that I've been partly awake since 4 or 4:30. But the truth is we're making progress on the sleep front.

Last night Toth slept 10 hours before the a.m. nursing. I woke him at 10:15 p.m. to nurse and that was the only time we heard from him before dawn. At nearly 8 months old, I think that's pretty good.

That's the good news. The bad news is 1) We had to let him cry himself to sleep, which is against our parenting principles but we caved, and 2) 5 a.m.

Now, the sleep guru we've been reading this time around (he helped somewhat when Pebbles was learning to sleep through the night), Dr. Marc Weissbluth, would say that to get him to sleep longer we just need to put him to bed earlier. Last night I started his bedtime routine at 6 p.m., laid him down at 6:15, and he was done crying and asleep by 6:30 or 6:45.

So the Weissbluthian move would be to have the kid in bed by 5:30.

Know what? We tried that before, and that's the first time the kid got up at 5 in the morning.

But Dr. Weissbluth is like a bad boyfriend for me. I keep going back to him, even when I don't think it's going to work out, because his promises are so good. And since Toth was obviously still tired when he woke up at 5 this morning -- he's now back down for a morning nap at just 6:30 -- I may actually try putting him down at 5:30 tonight.

If Toth was like all the babies featured in Dr. Weissbluth's book, "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child," he would sleep from 5:30 p.m. to 7 a.m. with maybe one wakeup to feed. Ever since I first read that helpful-yet-infuriating baby sleep book, I've suspected that the parents and babies featured in the book's anecdotes were either completely invented or space aliens from outer space.

In anecdote after anecdote, the same thing happens. Baby's not sleeping well. Dr. Weissbluth advises that parents lay their baby in his crib at 5:30 p.m. and close the door. Baby cries "for five minutes," or just for a couple nights, or not at all, then proceeds to sleep through the night until 7 a.m. It doesn't matter how many times per night the baby was waking before, or how late the baby was staying up at night, if only the parents listen to Dr. W and lay them down on the strike of 5:30, all is well.

If only that dream would become reality for us! I've tried the 5:30 p.m. bedtime with two babies now, and never have I had those results. But just as I was about to dismiss Dr. W. for good as a fabricator, I recently met one of these parents. No, they weren't in the book, but they did pony up $600 to see Dr. W. in person (he doesn't take insurance) to hear for themselves that they should put their baby to bed at 5:30. They did it, and it worked.

Hmph. I guess my babies are just defective, then.

Dr. Weissbluth says that babies are naturally programmed to have certain sleep and wakeup times. Like, they will go to sleep easiest between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., and will take a morning nap best at 9 a.m. The 5:30 p.m. thing is just a temporary bedtime for sleep-deprived babies to help them get back on track.

My experience actually backs up the 6-8 p.m. bedtime. And yet, this dogma has always troubled me. Because, if there is an optimal time to go to bed, what about daylight savings time? What about the babies in California -- should they be going to bed at 4 p.m. when it's 6 here? Is it just optimal to go to bed around when the sun sets? Then, in summer, shouldn't babies be staying up until 9 p.m.?

More perplexing yet is Weissbluth's assertion that babies' wakeup times are independent of their go-to-bed times. I have tried to believe this for years, but after multiple trials of putting Toth to bed a little earlier, a little later, it's become obvious that he always wakes up 11-12 hours after he's put down. He'll sleep 6-5 or 7-6. So if I try 5:30, I am probably setting myself up for 5:30 to 4:30. Yay.

I recently went back on this blog to compare how Pebbles was sleeping at 7-8 months, and I found that she had almost the exact same sleep patterns as Toth, except later. Down at 7:15, up at 6:40.
On the other hand if we want to start putting Toth down later in hopes that he sleeps later, that will be tough to do as well. Even if he takes a late-afternoon nap, which is tough for him to get, he is very tired by 6. Keeping him up until 7 would be torture and would probably result in an overtired baby who can't fall asleep.
So, 5 a.m. Oh well. Once I had my coffee in me, it was actually nice to be alone with Toth, who I barely get a good look at during a normal hectic day. While playing in the living room, he found Pebbles' music player and managed to activate it. When it started playing songs -- it plays regular mp3s, not annoying electronic "children's" music, he got on all fours and did some awesome dance moves. And don't you love when babies do that? Like, who taught you to dance? He hasn't had as much "dancing around in Mom and Dad's arms" time as his sisters did, because, you know, of his sisters keeping us busy. Babies just come with Dance Mode preloaded.
If it takes getting up at 5 a.m. to notice stuff like that, then 5 a.m. is a good thing. Of course, I'll like it better when Epu's back on the 5 a.m. shift.


Erika said...

I love "helpful-yet-infuriating" - that is exactly how I felt about Weissbluth's book. I got mad at him but kept coming back to it, re-reading and hoping I would find some other nugget to help. I recently broke out the book again for how to carry out the threat of a lock on the door for my 4-year-old. Mean mom.

Marketing Mommy said...

I called my copy of Dr. Weissbluth's tome "the sleep-Nazi book," but it does work. I never had to resort to a 5:30pm bedtime with my kids, but before age 1 they were definitely asleep by 6/6:30pm. Zero to 1 middle-of-the-night feed and awake for the day around 6am. Which is for some reason strikes me as way more acceptable than 5am.

Carrie said...

Oh yeah - 6 a.m. would be ideal for us because I really want him to be back down by 8 or 9 a.m. so he can be done w/ a.m. nap before we leave for Parenthesis at around 9:30. And it's nice for Epu to have an hour w/ him in the a.m. since he doesn't see him at night. But 5 a.m.? With the waking up to nurse thing before that? Too early.

Maybe we just have to put him to sleep in a different room, which would involve nighttime crying because right now he will cry after the night feeding until he is snug in our bed where he believes he belongs. Then I could let him cry yet AGAIN in the a.m. until he gets the idea we don't come in until 6. I dunno. We'll see how things go. That's a lot of crying. Maybe things will improve on their own since we seem to be on the right track already.

Sara said...

ok, you're kinda inspiring me to go the CIO route for a few nights just to see. seems like it might be the only way to make it over this sleeping hump. and oh, i am so tired.

LWWB said...

ARB was a horrible sleeper but for 5 months, she was on set schedule. regardless what time she wakes up, she naps/eat at the same time. If she woke up early, she still naps at the same time. If she woke up from nap early, I would rock her so she goes back to sleep for the amount of time I wanted (of course i didn't have other babies to watch when I was rocking her for 1 1/2 hours. If she slept longer than usual (which never happened), I would wake her up when the time is up...eventually, after 5 1/2 months, we let her cry it out for a week and since her body was use to the schedule, she adapted and slept/eat at the time she was ready....of course we started her young and I think that helped b/c she wasn't set in her ways

Kori said...

Good ol'W-bluth is the same for you as Sears and kellymom were to me, so although I found Weissbluth pretty on-the-money w/our specific kiddo, I can completely relate. Every friend in my circle turned to Sears and kellymom as their first source of advice, so they would always point me in that direction, and try as I did to convince myself that "this time it will be different---this time breastmilk will not be the magical elixir the cures all ills," each time I went there and thought, "what on earth is going on with all these moms and kids and breastfeeding happiness?"

For us, the sleep thing was more gradual than a few nights early in, then late out. It was more like a week or two before the rhythm he describes started to take hold, and that had as much to do with naps as it did with bedtime, in my estimation.

But you know what else helped? Watch out Dr. S and Miss Kelly, because I know you are going to throw lightning bolts my way, but I'm just going to say it: bottlefeeding formula. Now, you know I am not in any way suggesting that you bottlefeed that sweet boy formula. I'm simply saying that, in retrospect, as much as I mourned and cursed and generally put myself into a guilt chamber about our failure to breastfeed exclusively, and as few benefits as I found in having to cart around/clean/prep/purchase bottles of formula, there were some advantages. Sleep, for us, was one of them. I didn't have to worry about switching her from "falling asleep on the breast" to "soothing herself" since she NEVER fell asleep on the breast. From the start, formula fills them up longer, so they sleep in longer chunks. You get the idea. Which is all to say, what you are doing for that wee one is so wonderful, it will all make up for itself in the end, but please know that a lot of other factors than Dr. W states go into the sleep habits of these pesky kiddos.

Oh, and breastmilk is a magical elixir, so you have that going for you. :)

Hugs, chica. I missed a few days reading your blog (bronchitis around here--FUN!), and man, you have had some illness drama. Hope you are all feeling good and that this sleep thing will resolve soon. For what it is worth, I'm glad coffee and dancing make up for the wake-up, and yes, we are actually hardwired for rhythm (according to my other job). :)

Bert said...

Girl, great post. It's nice to know others are working on similar issues in such a human, honest, hopeful way. And the baby Dance Mode made me laugh out loud. Here's to spending uninterrupted (albeit very early morning) time with the baby.

Rachael said...

I realize this is an old post but I have a 7 mo old waking up at 5am. It sounds similar to your son. I am now putting him to bed at 6 pm b/c he can't make it any longer. I just can't bring myself to let him CIO in the morning until 6am like Dr. W says. He also still wakes up at 11 pm and 3/4 am to nurse. Any sage advice based on your kiddo? What worked for you and how is he sleeping now?

Carrie said...


I feel like the 6-9 month period is just the hardest time for sleep. Toth's sleep improved, then relapsed again, and now it's so-so but I've gotten so used to it that I'm sort of fine with it. Here's the schedule:

Dinner and bath between 6 and 7
Nurse (tonight we finished that by 7:05 p.m.)
Put in crib -- sometimes he's fallen asleep while nursing or rocking, sometimes not, but it doesn't matter because lately he almost always cries whether he had been asleep or not. Tonight he cried from 7:05 to maybe 7:55? I've noticed that he quiets down very quickly after I bring the girls in to bed, so I guess he misses them? I'm going to try maybe doing stories in the room with him to see if that stops him from crying.

Then he will be up twice most nights, once around 11 and once around 2. Sometimes -- getting more and more often -- he skips one of those. Or maybe sometimes I don't wake up when he cries. I could purposely start ignoring night wakeups at this point but it has been very hot and I worry that he's thirsty.

Then he'll sleep until 6 or 7. If he got to bed later he often but not always will sleep a little later. Things haven't been as regular as would be desired lately.

He's napping at around 9:30 or 10 a.m., then again at around 2 p.m., for about 1.5 hours each time. He usually cries at naptime too but not for very long.

Valerie said...

I typed into the google search bar "I used Dr. Weissbluth's advice and put my baby to sleep earlier, now he wakes up at 5 am!" And I got your blog ( : yes, its an old blog, but its exact,ly what I'm going through with my 5 month old. Up until 2 wks ago, I worshipped Dr.W, sleeping 10 to 13 hours in a row without waking (I was letting him cry it out at night for a couple nights and then he jkust slept for those long stretches, granted I was putting him to bed at 8, not 6) and then my little guy got sick... all downhill from there. I'm going to try my own method with a little bit of Weissbluth action and see how it goes!

Carrie said...

I hope it will encourage you to hear that a year after writing this post, sleep troubles are a distant memory at our house. I attribute this not to any particular method I tried along the way, but to the fact that my kids just got older.
After doing this 3 times, I've come to believe that it almost doesn't matter what you do. Babies will have excrutiating sleep ups and downs. Yeah, I think Dr. Weissbluth helped a lot, and putting them to bed at 6 p.m. instead of 8 p.m. makes a big difference. Even at 20 months, 4 and almost 7, my kids are put to bed before 8 p.m. -- around 7:30, now.
Best of luck! It will all work out in the end.

Anonymous said...

About the 6pm rule.Babies know when its 6pm? Really? In our hemisphere , the light is continually shifting. How would they know? One shoe does not fit all.Our 5 mo old goes to sleep at midnight and gets up at 10 am, with 2 quick feeds interspersed thru the night.I do not think midnite is unreasonable. Why does she follow this routine? Because since she was a month old, we introduced this routine. Why? Because this is the rhythm of our family, Dr W. not withstanding. Baby is getting the required hours of sleep, except not at the suggested times of 6pm-6am.She is never "overstimulated".She will probably never grow up to be a chicken farmer, rising at the crack of dawn, but she is happy and well rested and a very interesting little baby. We only know about the 6pm rule, because people routinely judge us for having our baby "stay up so late". But I wonder to the extent that sleep times are cultural. My spouse is from a country where children stay up late, and are routinely incorporated into their parents' evening lives,parties, etc with no ill effects.There isnt that moralistic "early to bed early to rise " judgment where he is from. Children and infants are in restaurants at 10 pm and no one complains or frowns. Children are taken to parties and gatherings-no questions asked. Are all the people in these countries defective in some way?No.Are their children abnormal, or sick or delinquent? No. Honestly, when my spouse came to North America, he found the culture here odd and rather "severe" and frankly a bit sad. Instead, we have incorporated our baby into our lives as we have seen fit-she comes dancing with us at night, is taken to nighttime artistic events, beautiful night walks and so on.And frankly, we enjoy having her around. I want to emphasize that we still follow routine, and she sleeps well. There will be a time when I will need to return to work and I will see less of her, so I am enjoying these moments now, when I am optimally awake , not sleep deprived at 5am. Now I am sure, that for some of you, the 6pm rule is a must ,and I do respect that, but I feel it may be arbitrary for many, and my sense is that routine is more important.On another note, my mother pretty well described me as a late sleeping baby as well-no ill effects, no later problems with behaviour, or school, I guess my point is, every baby is different. If Dr. W's method works for you, then use it! If it doesnt, then drop it! We are all different-there are lots of babies and adults to prove it.

Carrie said...

Anon --

It's interesting to hear that little ones stay up so late in other cultures without apparent ill-effects. Are you talking about Spain or someplace latin? I wonder -- do kids in those cultures have late school start times, or nap more, or what? Just wondering how they are able to get the amount of sleep they need.
As for your baby, I hope things work out smoothly. I was in about the same place 7 years ago when my first baby was that age. I thought there was no reason to adhere to some schedule that would disrupt my husband's and my life as a couple. What happened with us is that, when the baby turned 6 months old, she stopped falling asleep easily while nursing and for the next year at least we had terrible struggles getting her to fall asleep and stay asleep for bedtime and naps. It was harder with her than it was for any of the others, and in retrospect I would have tried an early bedtime from the outset because I think I could have saved us all a lot of trauma.
I hope this doesn't happen with you. Maybe my problem was that I was not regular enough with the evening bedtime and naptimes, as you are.
Another concern that pops up for me is that your 5-month-old is only sleeping 10 hours a night. That's not the equivalent of a 6-6 or 7-7 schedule.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carrie-Baby takes two naps in the day-so her daily amount of sleep is roughly 15 hours. Also, I put her to bed , independent of nursing, so she does not make that association. We have a clear bedtime routine with her, consisting of lighting change, soothing sounds, and a special sleep sack etc.. She does not depend on falling asleep in my arms and goes to sleep quickly on her own.It takes her on average 15 min or less to settle. She is not a clingy overactive fussy baby. She is really quite sociable and happy.By the way, we also do not subscribe to "letting them cry it out".You are right however, we will have to monitor her needs as time goes on,and if her requirements changed to earlier bedttimes, we would go along with it. Having said that, I was exactly like her as a baby and I had no later problems with sleeping thru the night. My husband's son was pretty much the same. Obviously, when our child approaches school time, we will need to change her routine-but that is 5 years away. I guess my point is, if I changed her bedttime to 6 pm and subsequently had to rearrange mine, I feel we would be missing out on wonderful moments with her, as neither my spouse nor
I function optimally early on, and we love to and want to include her in our evening activities. We live in and own a dance theatre studio-we do not have conventional lives. As to the cultural question, my spouse is from a latin country-they have siestas, and everyone takes a nap in the afternoon. Granted, it will not work in our society-but thats exactly my point.I suspect bedttimes are culturally driven. In N. America, it is convenient to get kids to bed early-in other parts of the world, it isn't necessarily so, and cultures tend to view kids participation in life a little differently.There is more acceptance of kids being included in all aspects of life and an expectation that that will happen, whereas here, there tends to be more of a separation between adult life and child life. Its just different.Incidentally, our next door neighbour has a new born and a 3yo and his 3 yo pretty much followed the same routine as us. She is a happy well adjusted little girl and it works for them, but i agree it may not work for all. I guess my point ultimately was , Dr. W. works for some but not all, and I suspect culture plays a big role.

Carrie said...

This is very interesting, and I can see how what wouldn't work for many people can work for you. For instance I would find it very inconvenient to have my baby napping 5 hours a day since I would be stuck in the house all those hours, but if you and your husband both work at the same location where you live, I imagine that works smoothly.
Still, I would worry about having a baby nap for 5 hours and sleep for only 10. Dr. W. asserts that nighttime sleep is fundamentally different than naptime sleep, based on brain research, and if that is correct I would worry that substituting naps for a longer nighttime sleep may not be good for the baby. Personally, I feel it's best for babies and adults to follow the sun as closely as possible when sleeping/waking. Of course it's not possible to get all _that_ close in the extremes of a northern climate.
But you are probably right that the most important things are the regular schedule and getting those sleep hours in. Even though I would worry about swapping nighttime sleep for naptime, I have to think 15 hours that way is better than only 12 or 13 hours total which is all, sadly, a lot of babies get these days.

Anonymous said...

Just to clarify, she doesnt sleep 5 hours at once-she has two naps where that time is broken up into 2 or 3 hour stretches. In any case , my understanding was that 10 hour stretches for nighttime sleep are normal for this age. Whatever normal is, there is an expression "treat the patient, not the lab test." If we had issues with her indicating that she wasn't doing well with this schedule, then we would worry and consider changing our routine. We will continue to watch her and adjust accordingly. And you also make the valid point that how the couple functions is an important consideration. For us,this routine does work smoothly but it will not agree with others.For us, the early routine would be pretty difficult. I also agree with the idea that following the sun is ideal-for everyone.Sadly, our modern age and the expectations that come with it means many people go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, especially in winter. Bright city lights means drawing the blinds, but it also means you cannot wake with the sun. So I guess we all do the best we can..

caespitosa said...

I know this is an old blog, but I typed in "early morning waking Weissbluth" to see if there are any other moms who have sabotaged by faithfully following his advice, even when the proof that it isn't working is right in front of you (at 5:00 AM, unable to make it to a decent naptime and completely toast by 6:00 PM). I have been following him since my son was 5 months old. Now he's 20 months. He has slept 12 hours approximately three times in his life, never longer, and usually 10.5 to 11.

And yet, he is so dang convincing that I keep trying the 5:30 bedtime. My son has never seen the stars because he is trapped in the house after 5, where he is rushed through dinner and put to bed before he melts down. He's so set in this early routine that trying to keep him up past 7 backfires badly. He can't make it to a normal afternoon naps, being ready to crash by 10:30. Two naps are impossible to get in. We are a mess.

I would kill for a 5:45 wakeup. I used to wish for 7:00, then 6:30, then 6:15, then 6:00. But I keep lowering the bar.

I curse the day I ever picked up HSHHC. The only advice he ever gives is "move the bedtime earlier".

And yes, like a bad boyfriend I keep going back, sigh.

Anonymous said...

So this post is over four years old now, but I'm going to comment anyway in case anyone comes here looking for info about babies waking too early with early bedtimes per Weissbluth's advice. We employed his method religiously from 3 months on with our twins. When we encountered the problem of them waking at unholy hours such as 4 and 5 am, we simply let them cry, which is what he recommends (do not go to them before 6am). Chances are, the babies are just rousing from one of the last sleep cycles before they wake and will continue to sleep a little longer once they settle. This was the case with us. After only a day or two of ultra-early waking and being left to settle, they slept longer and did not have the issue again. Might not work for everyone, but perhaps worth a try.