Kerrigan is now just over 5 Â½ months old. Yet, for some reason, heâ€™s never managed to sleep solid through the night. Weâ€™ve been feeding him on a average 3 – 4 hour cycle, usually whenever he wakes up from his nap. After the late evening feeing at 10 or 11 pm, he then wakes up between 2 and 3 in the morning for another feeding. Because of the predictability of his routine, we just expected him to start sleeping through the night on his own, sometime after three months. Well, it turns out that just didnâ€™t happen, and we started racking our brains thinking about how to change the pattern.
Finally, about a week ago, Zuzana attended a seminar by Kim West, otherwise known as the â€œSleep Lady.â€ Zuzana picked up her book, Good Night, Sleep Tight: The Sleep Ladyâ€™s Gentle Guide to Helping Your Child Go to Sleep, Stay Asleep, and Wake Up Happy. Iâ€™ve been kinda busy the past week, but I decided to start reading the book a couple days ago, and I was blown away at how closely her method dovetails with our own approach to parenting: providing an environment of structure, predictability and consistency. She advocated a flexible feeding schedule of Sleep – Feed – Play, and she warns against some of the tenets of attachment parenting, such as co-sleeping with your baby. Her main point is teaching the baby how to put himself to sleep by eliminating various techniques that can become â€œcrutchesâ€ the baby depends on to go to sleep, especially nursing him to sleep. (Check out the Sleep Ladyâ€™s web site: http://www.sleeplady.com.)
So how do we break the pattern of waking up and eating in the middle of the night? (Iâ€™m talking about the baby here, not me J.)
First, consistency is real important. A consistent wake time and a consistent bed time. Weâ€™re aiming for waking up at 6 am to start the day. (Iâ€™m an early riser, so I usually take that shift.) Bedtime will start about 7:30 pm with a special ritual (such as a bath followed by a song and a story), with him going down in the crib to sleep around 8 pm. Then we wake him up – thatâ€™s right, wake him up – at 11 pm for what the Sleep Lady calls his â€œdream feed.â€ After feeding him, we put him right back to sleep and donâ€™t feed him again until his wake time at 6 pm. That should give him a solid 6 – 7 hour stretch of solid sleep.
The key here is absolute determination not to feed him during this timeframe. If he wakes up, the best scenario is for him to settle himself back to sleep as quickly as possible, perhaps with some soothing music to calm him. Itâ€™s important to realize that, when he wakes up in the middle of the night, heâ€™s not fully awake. Unless absolutely necessary, you donâ€™t want to pick him up and wake him up even more.
So how did it go for us? Last night was our first night of â€œre-training.â€ It started at 7:30 pm with a bath and bedtime ritual. We gave him some baby Tylenol to help relieve teething pain, turned on some music, swaddled him and placed him in the crib. From 8 – 9 pm, he pretty much cried. But we held our ground and by 9 pm he was asleep. Then at 11 pm we roused and fed him, putting him right back to bed. This time, he went to sleep right away. We went to bed and didnâ€™t hear him stirring until 2 am, but he quickly resettled. Then at 3 am he actually started crying again. Not a full-fledged wail, but more like a sustained whimper. That lasted until 4 am when he dosed off again, sleeping until 5:30 am, at which point he woke up with a more determined cry. We decided it was close enough and got him up to feed for the â€œofficialâ€ start of his day.
The Sleep Lady says it should take a few nights like this one to get him on track sleeping from 12 – 6 am without waking up. Then after a week or two weâ€™ll start moving the dream feed back closer to 10 pm, provided he goes to sleep fairly soon after we put him down at 8 pm. After a while, weâ€™ll try dropping the dream feed altogether, which should give him 10 hours of nighttime sleep – and us too! J