Sunday, February 20, 2011

On sleep training . . .

To a friend with twins . . .

Wow... you have twins. I've only had singletons. If you have resources at your disposal that offer ideas for twins--run with them!! (How's that for a cop-out?!)

My little ones have been better able to "sleep-train" once they've crossed the 9lb threshold. Don't know what it is about that weight; but lighter than that and my babies just didn't have enough fat to hold them for over-night sleeping.

Somewhere around 2-3 months, things just start falling into place. Daytime naps go longer (2-3 hours instead of 1-2), and sleeping "all-night" starts happening spontaneously (all night being defined as 5-7 hour stretches). In our house "all night" usually means starting between 10pm-midnight and lasting til 3-7am depending on how recently they ate before falling asleep for the night, whether they're in a a growth spurt or not, etc.

For me now, going through this for the 4th time, it's been a convergence of those two factors (weight and age) that have been pretty sure-fire indicators that "sleep-training" was a possibility. (It just never worked well for me any earlier/younger/lighter than that.) And yep, this is where we are with BD#4 right now.

Growth spurts are the bane of sleep-training!! :-) 3 wks, 6 wks, 9 wks, 3 mons, 6 mons, 9 mons... watch those time frames (maybe by adjusted dates for you b/c of prematurity???), but you'll notice a couple days of NON-STOP eating (or it sure feels like non-stop anyway!) followed immediately by a couple days of extra sleep---always fun on the breast-feeding/engorgement side of life! Why can't they sleep extra *before* ramping up Mommy's milk production??? ;-)

Don't worry though, those patterns of sleep and eat (habits?!?) that seemed to be emerging before the nursing binge?? They DO come back, and even seem more stable/apparent after each growth spurt. It's pretty cool.

"And when we do actually start sleep-training and they wake up in the middle of the night, how do I know if they're hungry or if they just want comfort?"

That my dear is the $10,000 question. :-) In short, I'd say you know by whether/how long they nurse, because *typically* once they're asleep for the night they won't wake up *unless* they're hungry. If their comfort level is such that they were able to fall asleep, they'll likely stay asleep.

This is where parenting philosophies can start throwing monkey-wrenches into life.

When I was "doing" BabyWise, sleep-training meant getting baby to sleep by his/her self. Alone. With no going-to-sleep props/aids, i.e. no cuddling/rocking/nursing to sleep. Lay baby down while sleepy but still awake. Make sure baby goes to sleep by his/her self. Period. No exceptions. Cry-it-out is acceptable if you have to (until the baby gets the idea); but baby MUST fall asleep alone. You CANNOT be "slave" to the whims of your baby. It sounded so good (at least the mom gets sleep part!!!) . . .

And this is where, in the interests of friendship and full disclosure, I tell you I do things very differently now than I did then; and I really have NO idea if what I do now will work with twins.

In my mind (because of the experiences we had with BabyWise) I tend to hear "sleep training" and think "cry-it-out." I know they're not synonymous, and I do think it's possible to sleep train without forcing the baby into "self-soothing" . . . but/also I try to be circumspect in what I say to sleep-deprived new moms (especially when I can only imagine how little uninterrupted sleep you've had lately).

With our kids...
BD#1-slept in his crib. Always. If he needed to eat, I went and sat in a chair in the living room. Even in the middle of the night. Fortunately or unfortunately, he preferred sleep to food so he was *really* hard to keep awake to nurse at night. I wound up having weight-gain issues with him between 2 and 3 months of age. He was never diagnosed with failure to thrive or anything that severe, but I did start setting my alarm & waking him up at 2 am to get an extra feeding in. It was torture... but his weight gain picked back up after a month or so, and I dropped that dreadful 2am feeding like a hot potato.

BD#2-REFUSED to fall asleep by herself. REFUSED. Loudly!! ;-) I finally got tired of nursing her to sleep in the chair only to have her wake up the instant I laid her down and tip-toed away from her crib (which is why Ezzo/BabyWise says to lay them down while they're still awake--you don't have to tip-toe away!) I just couldn't handle hearing her cry-especially when I *knew* she'd sleep if I held her. So I started bringing her to bed with me. Not nursing, just laying in the crook of my elbow beside me; she'd drift off, I'd drift off, only to wake in a panic about 45 minutes later (the "co-sleeping is dangerous!" & "the AAP says back-to-sleep ALONE!" & "what will my friends think?" all rolled into one). But by then she'd be sleeping soundly enough that I could move her to the crib & she'd stay asleep. Kept that up til she got attached enough to a pacifier that she was willing to go to sleep by herself---I think it was between 6 & 8 months?? Maybe not that long though. 'Cause she was sleeping through the night by 3-4 months. But she did *stay* asleep through the night (like 7-9 hours) before she'd *go* to sleep by herself.

BD#3--loved to eat. loved to sleep. Mommy loves to sleep too. So I just brought him to bed with me, nursed him to sleep, slept myself. Yeah . . . um . . . co-sleeping! Never thought I'd do it. Wouldn't/couldn't have done it without the husband being OK with it. (Not going to tear down our marriage over baby's sleep arrangements!!) Slept great. BD#3 nursed when he wanted to throughout the night & I didn't have to get up out of bed to feed him &we both slept great, partially because neither of us had to wake up all the way to make the feeding happen!

It's amazing how much less disturbing to mom's sleep middle-of-the-night feedings are when the baby is sleeping closer to mom. Even having the bassinet near mom's bed is a HUGE help. Not having to stumble down the hall in the dark/cold--which completely wakes you up.

But, you know, even "down the hall" can work. 'Cause I remember with BD#1... Even though he was down the hall in his own crib from day 1, I was forever waking up in the night just about a minute before I'd hear him start fussing [just enough time to get up and go pee--'cause you know how you HAVE to pee like 2.5 seconds after you start nursing!! ;-) It's uncanny--the whole wake-up-just-before-the-baby thing. I suspect it's because our bio-rhythms have been rather closely synced for the previous 9 months.... ;-)].

Keeping the babies up/awake more during the day so they'll sleep more at night--not usually a good idea. Tends to back-fire. Over-tired little ones do NOT go to sleep easily. (And they tend to wake up at "regular" time in the morning too, so you don't get to sleep in if they've stayed up late either.) Now if I've had a busier-than-usual day and/or BD#4 hasn't gotten his usual lineup of naps in; he's more likely to sleep all night--so long as I've still eaten properly!!! If I've been busy enough that I've skipped a meal, it seems that he's *more* likely to wake up to drink in the night.

Other stuff for middle of the night?? Dim light, little eye-contact, low/quiet voice...boring as possible!! (Same stuff they tell you for helping babies differentiate between night and day--it all helps with sleep training too!!)

And now........... I'm going to go tuck in bed! :-)

It's a horrible thing to say to someone who is over tired & hasn't had a decent night's sleep in months (especially since good sleep is elusive even before the babies are born) but try to treasure these moments. Baby A and Baby B will never be this dependent on you and your DH again. And now that they're smiling?? :-) Sweet returns on all your hard work!! Hang in there!!! It does get easier. Maybe just a little bit at a time, but it gets more manageable, less daunting. Sleep helps--which is why sleep training is so... helpful!!! :-)

My new slogan: Sleep--it's not just for babies!!! ;-)

Much love & best wishes!!!
The Savage, the long-winded