Dealing with baby sleep issues isn't exactly unchartered territory for me. Addison, although she was an incredibly happy baby, was a pretty terrible sleeper until she was about 9 months old. She was getting up anywhere from 2-5 times a night. It would only take me about 2 minutes of nursing to get her back to sleep each time, but as you can imagine, 9 months of broken sleep was not fun. For anyone. Obviously...something had to be done. I had already purchased almost every sleep book on the market, spent hours on the computer googling every sleep strategy you can imagine, asked my pediatrician for advice several times, and finally came to the conclusion that the only way my child was going to learn to sleep was to just let her cry. I didn't want to do it. I kept searching for a no-cry solution that seemed doable but after several failed attempts...I knew we only had one option.
The night Eric and I started sleep training was a scary one. I dreaded bedtime the whole day because I knew I was going to have to listen to her cry and I didn't want to do it. It made me sick just thinking about it. But she was tired, I was tired, Eric was tired and hell...even Howie was tired. It was time to at least try.
When 6:30 came and it was time to start her bedtime routine, I started to freak out. I wasn't ready. I looked at my precious baby girl splashing around in the tub, completely unaware of the horrible night she was surely in for, and I started to change my mind. I could handle getting up to nurse her for a few more months. I mean, she would grow out of it right? Luckily, Eric made me stick to my guns and we laid her down awake at 7:00 p.m. She didn't cry at first, which was the only reason I was able to keep going. But then, about 5 minutes in, the crying started. And it got louder and louder and louder until I could hear her all the way at the other end of the house. It was horrible. I wanted to just rush in and save her but I couldn't. I knew I would just have to start over the next day and I didn't want to do it again. So we let her cry...
32 minutes later, Addison was sound asleep. She slept 10 hours straight that night. It was incredible. I wish I could say I slept all of those 10 hours, but I was too busy checking on her every hour because I couldn't believe she was asleep. The next night, she cried only 25 minutes. And then the next night, it was about 5. She still had several nights here and there that would require a little bit of protest crying, but overall, she was going to bed awake and sleeping 10-12 hours straight.
I am happy to say that even at 2 years old, Addie is still a fantastic sleeper (aside from the occasional nightmare). On average, she is in bed by 7:30 or 8:00 and sleeps until 7:00 or 7:30 in the morning. If you would have told me at 6 months old that Addie would be this good of a sleeper, I wouldn't have believed you. But I know I owe it all to sleep training. I can't imagine how long it would have taken her to learn to fall asleep on her own if it weren't for those few difficult nights.
So...after Addie learned to sleep, I was able to breathe a sigh of relief knowing that my second child would have to be a better sleeper then her. Right????
Umm...not so much. Turns out Blake is JUST like his sister when it comes to sleep. For a while I thought that Blake was worse, but when I looked back at Addie's baby books I realized that he is in the exact same boat. A boat that I, and I alone, put him in. I promised myself that I would not let him get addicted to nursing at night. I promised myself that I would put him to bed awake each night. I promised myself that I would use swaddles and every other technique that the sleep experts swore by. And I did follow some of these "rules" for a while, but then I started to slack. It was just so much easier to nurse him to sleep!! And honestly...I like easy around here :-)
But now we have a problem. My little Blake is right where Addie was...waking 3-5 times a night. The difference is that Blake is only a week shy of 5 months old, whereas Addie was almost 9 months when we trained her. She was perfectly capable of going a whole night without eating, but Blake is not quite there yet. Because of this...I was planning on waiting to sleep train until Blake reached 6 months. But, given the exhausted state I am in, I just don't think I can wait that long. When Addie had a bad night, I could lay around all day and nap when she did. But life is a little different now. I have two kids to take care of during the day, which leaves very little down time. The night is all I have and I need to get that back!
So...project "Get Blake to Sleep" is about to start. I have spent the last week doing what most of the sleep experts suggest...charting Blake's sleep patterns. I have used an AWESOME iPhone app called Baby Activity Log and it has been incredibly helpful.
Not only does this app keep track of sleep patterns, but it also converts data into bar graphs so you can see the variation in sleep from another perspective. Again...totally awesome. What I learned from charting this week is that Blake is getting the amount of sleep he should be getting for his age (around 15 hours total in a 24 hour period), but it is all broken into an average of 8 different sleep sessions a day! 3-4 of those are naps, and the other 4-5 are NIGHT WAKINGS! His longest average sleep duration for the week was 2 hours and 45 minutes. Yes...that means that he got a few sessions that were a bit longer than that, and a few sessions that were much less. So technically, my longest sleep duration over the past week is the same...2 hours and 45 minutes. And I wonder why I feel so tired :-)
Now that I learned a little more about Blake's natural rhythm, I am setting his nap schedule at/or around 9:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m. (give or take a half hour). Because all the sleep experts insist that he be put to sleep for all of his naps in the same place he sleeps at night, it looks like I am pretty much house bound until this sleep thing is under control. They say that getting naps under control is the first step and once they are getting more rested during the day, I can begin night training. Blake will still need to eat once a night, so based on my sleep log, it looks like I am going to feed him at his usual 2:30-3:00 a.m. wake-up. Essentially, this means that all other wake-ups occurring before or after that are to be "avoided". This is in the hopes that he will gradually push that night feeding closer and closer to morning until it can be eliminated all together at 6-7 months or so.
Wow...are you totally bored yet? I am sure this sleep talk is incredibly fascinating to all of you. I am just the type of person that needs to talk things out...or rather write things out...when I need to wrap my head around them. Plus, I wish I could have come across more personal stories when I was looking for sleep solutions the first time. So hopefully, this post will at least interest one tired mama out there :-)
Anyway, the last and final step in all this is to get Blake to fall asleep on his own. Without nursing. Without a binkie. Without being rocked. Those are his 3 favorite things. This of course is going to involve some crying, but I am determined to stick to my plan, especially since I know how well it worked for Addie. Please say a little prayer that this transition is smooth for Blake. I really hope that in another couple of weeks, I will be posting another sleep training success story :-)