Friday, July 18, 2008

Best Sleep Advice

You love every minute of sleep you can get so it's hard to understand why your little one is so resistent to it. I realize eveyone has their own rules when it comes to what they will and won't do when it comes to their children's sleep, so I'm going to stick to the expert's advice that has helped me. I found this article years ago that really made sense to me and I still refer to it often (mostly the sleeping chart). I used this method with my son and he is a great sleeper! Keep in mind that the lady who wrote this article has a 10-month-old and is consulting an expert, so this is geared toward her 10-month-old but most of it can work for younger babes (and should be introduced much earlier). Here are the highlights:

-"If a child doesn't go to sleep at the physiologically appointed time, his brain will say, 'Fine stay up then,' and secrete a chemical called cortisol to help keep him awake. As result, it takes him longer to go to sleep when you finally get him to bed and thanks to residual cortisol in his brain, he'll wake up earlier than usual the next day, be overtired, and have trouble napping. It's a downward spiral. Sleep deprivation is cumulative-the less you sleep, the less you sleep."

-"Why can't I get my baby to sleep or back to sleeping through the night? The answer is simple: I'm not supposed to be getting him to go to sleep-he should be putting himself to sleep. All that nursing and rocking and back rubbing is not only useless, it's also detrimental. Putting yourself to sleep is a learned skill."

Babies should:
1. take naps in their cribs, not the carseat (this is hard for me). This teaches them that cribs are a place to sleep

2. be drowsy but awake when put down, fall asleep on their own, and if they wake up during the night, be able to drift back off without help

Babies need:
1. a room of their own while learning to sleep. Then teach siblings good "sleep manners" if they're moved back in.

2. room-darkening shades and insulation from household noises (white-noise machine or fan) are helpful

3. one true lovey (security object)-a blanket, doll, or stuffed toy to make the transition to sleeptime. Have an intended object of affection on hand while nursing and encourage baby to squeeze it instead of you. (for my boys this is their "woobies" little knit blankets my mom made. They snuggle them and wrap their fingers through the holes. For my duaghter it's "Sam Bear")

4. a consistent routine that will cue their brain that it's time to go to bed. Have the same series of things before every nap and at bedtime. The entire nursing and bedtime routine need to take place in one spot/room. Do not let them fall asleep while nursing; if they start to drift off , it's time to put them down.

Here's the steps the author took:
Days 1-3
: After reading and nursing, put him in crib and sit right next to it while he cries for however long it takes to go to sleep. You can talk to him and pat him through the slats, but you can't pick him up.
Days 4-6: Move chair halfway between the crib and door and reassure him verbally from there.
Days 7-8: Sit right by the door and talk to him
Day 9: Leave the room as soon as you put him in crib.
(me personally, it's easier to leave the room right away from day 1, than to torture him by sitting in there not holding him, but I understand why that's hard on some people)

How much sleep does your child need?

age *night sleep hrs. #day sleep hours ^daily total
1 week *8 1/2 #8 (4 naps) ^16 1/2
1 month *8 1/2 #7 (3 naps) ^15 1/2
3 months *10 #5 (3 naps) ^15
6 months *11 #3 1/4 (2 naps) ^14 1/4
9 months *11 #3 (2 naps) ^14
12 months *11 1/4 #2 1/2 (2 naps) ^13 3/4
18 months *11 1/4 #2 1/4 (1 nap) ^13 1/2
2 years *11 #2 (1 nap) ^13
3 years *10 1/2 #1 1/2 (1 nap) ^12
4 years *11 1/4 #0 ^11 1/4
5 years *11 #0 ^11

Hope you find this helpful. I didn't follow this religiously, I had to adapt things for our house and family circumstances. As I mentioned, this writer started this when she was struggling with her 10-month-old but it is recommended that you start much earlier than that. Newborns can't be spoiled. They need to eat at night and take awhile to learn when it's nighttime. But once they turn 3 months they have the memory to be spoiled and know how to work mom. This is a good time to start teaching them how to sleep before they start developing bad habits you'll have to break. If you wait until they can stand up in bed it becomes even more difficult for them to learn to sleep on their own (you lose the advantage that they're already laying down). It may sound mean, but they'll learn much quicker earlier and it will be a lot less stressful and healthier for both of you! Feel free to enter a testimonial or completely disagree with this.

P.S. I had this lined up nicely but it decided to center on it's own and I can't do anything to change it's mind. Sorry. If you would like the nice-looking chart e-mail me and I'll send it to you, then I won't feel bad I took the time to make it only to find it wouldn't post.


Megan Dougherty said...

Great advice. I follow a lot of it with my kids except for the "letting them fall asleep on their own". We usually let the swing do that up until they outgrow it and then they tend to do fairly well without it. I know a lot of experts are sooo against swings, but hey it works for us and my 2 year old goes to bed just fine and has no big sleep problems just the occasional "I'm scared" in the middle of the night.

shayla said...

This is the one area where I feel like I've been successful! Aside from occasional struggles at nighttime and naptime, my son has been pretty good at going to asleep. Except for when he was a newborn, I've always put him into his bed before he falls asleep. I never did the "gradual" approach like the one you mentioned that lady used, but I did have somewhat of a system. While he was still in his crib, I'd let him cry for a little bit then go in and give him a kiss on his forehead and put monkey's tail (his lovey) back in his hand. He'd usually go to sleep after that on his own. I may have had to go back in one or two more times to do the same thing, but I never picked him up.

When he transitioned to his toddler bed a few months ago, I would simply just lay him down in it, give him a kiss and his monkey and walk out, closing the door (with a childproof handle) behind me. At naptime, he will still get up and play sometimes but he usually always ends up back in his bed and falls asleep on his own.

At bedtime, we have the same routine each night:
1. Mom changes B's diaper and puts on pajamas
2. Daddy brushes B's teeth
3. We congregate in B's room, dim the lights and have a family prayer.
4. We turn on "sleeping music"
5. Daddy gives B hugs and kisses and leaves the room
6. B climbs into bed himself and Mom reads him 3 or 4 "sleeping books"
8. Lights go off, Brighton whines a little, and Mom leaves.

Unlike at naptimes, Brighton never gets out of his bed to turn on the lights and/or play with toys. Thank goodness! Overall, our approach has been pretty successful. I think it has mostly to do with having a routine. Either that or we're just super lucky!

Jodi Jean said...

i know that advice was for me ... and i would have found it helpful when i was trying to get aidan to sleep on his own (which he does) and i follow along something very similar ... i bought an e-book (you can read about it here: -- if anyone wants a copy email me and i'll send ya one ... it'll save ya $50)

he just decided recently he no longer needs to nap ... oh well i guess i'll just keep on truckin'!

Marne said...

do y'all think that using a binkie hurts sleeping on their own? (do you like I've added my southern flair?)

Tara said...

I am not the one to give advice in this department. My 2 1/2 year old just started sleeping though the night about a week ago. My 2 month old however will sleep about 7 hours. I didn't do anything different with either one. I think sometimes you get a sleeper, and sometimes you don't.

Gina Rochelle said...

I think a binkie is like a wobbie and as long as they're eating okay I think it's fine. I think the point is to get them to sleep without other people doing it for them, a binkys comfort objects are fine. (Or maybe I'm just justifying my kids binkie addictions.) My kids all used binkies as babies and just gave them up on their own and slept fine without.

lindy cannon said...

The advice was great for babies but Chris and I have entered the whole new world of the toddler bed. Back in his "crib days" Our son used to go to bed at 8pm and sleep through the night until 8am. If he woke up in the night he would cry for a few minutes and fall back asleep. Now he gets out of bed and comes in our room. The walk across the house seems to wake him up and he doesn't go down unless we lay with him (usually untill he is asleep)

He is too young to explain the need to stay in bed and he doesn't understand bribes yet. We have tried locking him in his room but he has gotten so hysterical that he started choughing and choking and we got scarred. After a half hour we we finally did unlock the door it took a loooooooong time to calm him down. My husband and I take turn with our son in the middle of the night but his wakings are frequent and often he seems to want to play rather then sleep. Nap times and betime have become irregular. We miss the nice routine we used to have. I'm nervous because in four months we'll also have a newborn. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

Gina Rochelle said...

I remember this transition being hard on Emma too. It's so hard to stay in bed when there's nothing keeping you in. I think it's good to think of their room as they're new boundary. Keep locking the door to let him know he needs to sleep in his room and stay there all night. If necessary go in his room to sing him a song or give him some water and then leave and lock the door behind you but don't let him leave the room. We found Emma sleeping on the bottom bookshelf, the footrest of the rocking chair, by the door, but she was staying in her room. Eventually she just stayed in bed.
If you can't bear locking him in you can do the Super Nanny method where you pick him up and put him back in bed every time he comes out. The first time you say "it's time for bed." And each time after you just take him straight to bed without a word. A lot of kids that "break out" are looking for attention and it's important not to talk to them and just treat it very business-like. This method can be very difficult, espeically if you have to take him back 10 times at midnight. But if you're consistent, he'll get the message.
Emma was on the bottom of a bunk bed so I started putting glow-in-the-dark star stickers on the bottom of the top bunk for her to look at (no bunk bed? stick on ceiling or wall or make a mobile). I put up a couple to start with and added one each night she stayed in bed. I know Carson's a little young to bribe but this is a fun way to teach him and he'll get the hang of it.
My kids love listening to stories on CD or tape when they go to bed. It gives them an adult voice to listen to and distracts their minds long enough to drift off. You can check them out at the library and try different titles to see what holds your child's attention. Our CD player has a repeat feature that's great (if I can remember to sneak in to turn it off when the kids have drifted off). Good luck! Sleep issues can be the hardest because you're too tired to think about it and put in the extra effort but don't give up, the pay-off is worth it!