Sleep Training – The Result

Life has been extremely manic since my last post. Moving flat, establishing the business, general domestic stuff as a wife and a mother, and on top of all these, the unplanned pregnancy.

While I have so much things to share, I would like to continue on the subject I last wrote about earlier this year, baby sleep. I looked back on the note I made on how we sleep trained our then 13 months old son. He is now 23 months and we have the best sleeper in the house. I remember how I really was against the idea of cry it out to sleep, hence I tried alternative ways around this sleep business. I don’t have to go into details on every strategies I used for more gentle approach, all I could say is that in the end I had to find a method that worked for us.

I started with a lots of reading and researching on baby sleep and I draw a conclusion that sleep is just as important as eating for young babies and children. It is the food for brain growth as well as eating is for physical growth. I am so interested in this matter perhaps because my husband, according to his parents story, had never sleep through the night all the way to the age of 5-6 years old. I have no idea if that could be linked to his history of epilepsy, dyslexic and learning difficulties that he later had to deal with at school age. I will have to dig more into this when I got time, just out of curiosity. Anyway, my in-laws told me how they gave up and just let him up all night. They even joined him by doing the decoration at 2 am in the morning, and obviously as the result none of them couldn’t function during the day at work place. Imagine the situation they experienced for years.

I resolved there is no way the same thing would be repeated with our son, despite of the comment of “Clive never sleep through the night when he was young”, giving me the impression of it is very common. I just cannot accept that! So there was I, doing whatever it takes to establish a good sleeping habit. I co-slept with J for the first year despite the complaint from my husband, there was a little invader on our marriage bed. I remember how I was very reluctant to let his grandparents looking after him for the first year because I knew they wouldn’t co-operate with the nap schedule I asked them to do. I had to do everything my own to make sure that good sleep habit is maintained.

I had so many negative comments with my mothering style of carrying J a lot in the sling. “Oh you are damaging your back” or “you are spoiling him, now he will be very clingy and won’t let you go” or “you are not helping with his motor development by carrying him a lot”. And the comment of “you must stop breast feed him now he is a big boy” – J was only over 7 months then, or “how long are you going to carry on breast feeding?” comment with cynical tones.

I didn’t give up. I didn’t want to. In the end of the day I’m the mother and I have the instinct and the knowledge of what my child needs the best. I enjoyed every moment I spent with J nursing him to sleep and having him right next to me sleep through the night. I enjoyed every moment of carrying him in the sling while I did the housework. I enjoyed the little rest I had when he nursed and fall asleep for a nap during the day. As he gets older, the bed routine was gently established; bath, PJ’s, prayers, and then nursing to sleep.

And then the time came for a big change. Time for him to learn to fall asleep on his own and to stay asleep. He reached the stage where he didn’t need to wake 3-4 times at night for milk (which 9 out 10 he was looking more for sucking for comfort). At the same time there was a need for me to work to help our finance. I chose to work in the evening. I didn’t feel right to leave J during the day with anyone else to look after him. I was actually more worried about his daytime schedule being ruined if it wasn’t me myself looking after him, especially with his heart condition.

My husband had to step in. He was the one who complained a lot about J’s sleep anyway so I insisted him to play parts. We kept the bed routines but nursing to sleep. I had to go out the house every evening for two weeks before the bed routine starts. We gave him cow milk instead of nursing to sleep and my husband would just leave him in the cot. At day 3 he finally went to sleep without any moan. After 2 weeks then I started to stay at home and doing the new routine with him. He was fine. He didn’t ask for nursing. We changed the nursing time to early morning and he accepted it.

10 months later since we sleep trained him, his sleep is brilliant. There are times when he was unwell and needed reassurance and company at night, and that’s absolutely fine. We fulfilled that need. One of us would stay with him in his room, slept on a fold up mattress on the floor next to his cot bed. Not to mention the sleep regression as he reached certain milestones, which is fine too. We can tolerate and let go the routine for a little while until we feel it’s the time to get back to the routine. But it has been easy to establish back the routine because he’s familiar with it already.

I agree with an article I read awhile ago (I can’t remember the source now) that young children have no concept of day and time. They only know it from their parents. J know that bed time is coming when we said to him “Telly off, it’s bath time”. He would grab his towel and drag it to the bathroom. He would drop his bath toys in the bath while we run the water. He knows every sequence that follows after bath. And when we say “It’s time for bed”, he would run to his room, get on to his bed, turn his lullaby music on, look into our eyes expecting his nighty nite kiss and watch us walk out the room before he lay his head on the pillow.

Looking back, I’m so glad that we did the sleep training. I’m glad that I insisted to respect his need of a good sleep. He only nap once a day now at predictable time. I respect that need so I work my daily schedule around his feed and nap. If he happen to fall asleep in the car while we were out, one of us would wait in the car with him so he could finish his sleep properly instead of force him to wake up when he wasn’t ready to wake up. If he happens to fall asleep in his buggy while we are out and about in the town, I would stop whatever I was doing, find a quieter spot and I would wait for him until he wakes up his own. I hate dragging him with me when he’s tired and need rest. He’s more co-operative when he is well rested, less tantrum and whinge.

Finishing this blog, I’m just making sure that sleep training isn’t a harsh thing to do to a baby or toddler. My definition of sleep training is to establish a good sleeping habit. The goal is to help a child to rest well rather than merely to make them sleep through the night. J’s first year was all about co-sleeping, breast feeding, and carrying him in the sling most of the time and I don’t think those practices were harsh. His second year is more about routines and setting up boundaries as he’s now able to test us and our rules. And he knows for sure that bedtime, amongst few other principal things, are something his Mum and Dad would be very firm about.

Another Go at Sleep Training

Yes! Another go at sleep training – and this time it WORKS!

This is the right time too. J was ready for it and I personally think that is the key factor of the whole thing of sleep training. Some babies ready for it earlier but fot some, like mine, does take longer. J is a creature of habit and combined with his thoughtfulness and considerate nature, it takes awhile for him to decide that he would be fine sleeping on his own. I notice that ever since he became more aware of his surrounding, he likes to assess his environment first before deciding whether he likes it or not.

And exactly the same approach this time. His sleep association for a year was me! It was all lovely and sweet to start with; his little body curled next to mine feeling so safe and secure all nights (and unlimited access to the milk as well). I too benefit from the old routine; I had the rest I desperately needed because we both “slept through the night”.

Unfortunately, things need to move on. As I decided to do full time work of tutoring which consequently I have to work longer in the evening, going cold turkey was the only way for sleep training. It was an idea I dreaded to do few months ago yet ironically the only one that works.

Clive had to step in. He started with gaining J’s trust and reliance on him by looking after him during the day. And then gradually into sleep routine as I step back as the sole association to sleep. It was an extreme turn for J. It wasn’t Mummy who bathed him. It wasn’t Mummy who put his pijamas on. There wasn’t Mummy in the room he meant to sleep in. And no Mummy means no bed time milk. Mummy’s singing has now been replaced with Daddy’s reading.

“He cried for 50 minutes” said Clive on the first night of the training. And I’m sure it was a proper screaming cry. In a sense I’m glad I wasn’t in to listen to it.

J was confused and alarmed and tired. The day after we had tantrums; a show of disagreement and protest. We expected that and it lasted for a week. He would test our patience to its limit but we were prepared. We allowed him to be angry and upset and to be emotional. It is a big change for him.

We persevere and he gets the message now. He sleeps through the night (or at least 95% through the night) in his cot.

I miss him. I miss our cuddle through the night. I miss our bedtime nursery rhyme we used to sing together when we lay down. I wish we did the sleep training in another way but I couldn’t think of any other idea that would work. This sleep training business has forced me to let go but the memory will last forever. The memory of my first year with J with plenty of cuddle and closeness that I will and already miss terribly. Why do they grow so quick?

Difficult Baby or Easy Baby?

It was all started with a desire to solve the “problem” of my newborn baby sleep. I was still in recovery mode from giving birth and added to that the excruciating pain of breastfeeding, a newborn who would wake up EVERY hour was, to my consideration, a problem. Not to mention the pressure to keep the baby hydrated every 1.5 to 2 hours because he was a bit jaundice. I said to myself surely there must be a solution to this; some tips that would make life just a little bit easier.

My newborn at that time, as any other newborns, had the day and the night mixed up which was a shock to my system. So I did what they said to expose him more to the sunlight during the day. It was a bit challenging because Jonathan was born in England’s winter which means no sun! Anyway, it did nothing to improve his night sleep.

Then there was the advice to formula feed him, supposed to last him longer than the breastmilk. The logic behind it was that breastmilk was easier to digest and therefore easier for baby to get hungry. Apparently there was a connection between hunger and night waking (funny that it isn’t the case with day waking). I did try it though but did it help? Nope!

Next one was that baby strives on routine, that you could start bedtime routine as early as 6-8 weeks old. So I waited patiently and eagerly. I persevered with the bedtime routine for a week before it went out the window. The stumble block was, Jonathan’s daily schedule was so unpredictable and his waking time was too short even for the shortest set of routine.

And then a nurse told me that the quality of my breastmilk probably wasn’t good enough to keep my baby going. I musn’t get stressed out and had to try to rest. It was easier said than done. I walked home feeling like a complete failure.

Up to this point our sleep situation was like drawing lottery everyday. We would do whatever it takes to survive the day. J would only fall asleep on the breast and stay asleep in the arm. It would be a miracle if he stayed in his moses basket for more than 30 mins (actually it was long enough to have my supper). Night sleep was either on me or in bed with us.

And that was his sleep routine for months. He would also nap only in his sling. I had all these well intentioned friend and family saying to me that I was too soft on him; allowing him to be a clingy baby. I wonder if I am too soft at him but didn’t feel right at the same time that I had to be firm on a 4 months old baby and to show him who was the boss. He was only a little baby who knew nothing about the world and his security was in my arm. My first respond even to his slight noise is to prevent it builds up to an upset cry. It means picking him up, rocking and singing to him or nursing.

Now he is 9 months old, there isn’t much change to his sleep. Rocking, singing, and nursing are still his sleep association. Now he takes solid food on top of his milk (I still breastfeed him) yet it doesn’t make him sleep through the night. He prefers to sleep with us than in his cot even though he doesn’t mind sleep in it for few hours at night before he wakes up asking to join us in bed. Sling has been replaced with buggy for nap time but I suppose that’s better than sleep on me otherwise I wouldn’t have any housework done. I have to make sure that I spend time playing with him during the day otherwise he’d start the high pitch screaming. Oh and at least 30 mins walk everyday for a fresh air otherwise neither of us would stay sane by the end of the day. None of his toys would keep him happy for more than 10 mins so I’m challenged to be creative with our daily routine; different routine everyday.

No-Cry to Controlled-Cry to Cry-It-Out; trust me I’ve tried them all. Whether any if it works I don’t know what to say. It is good to have the knowledge of course but then the bottom line for me is how to survive the day. Let him cry for his good might be for his own good in a long term but then how can I be sure? J won’t be a baby twice and next baby will be a completely different story.

So then, would I say J is a difficult baby? I can’t tell. I must admit I fell into thinking that he was a difficult baby especially when I saw other babies who would fall asleep and stay asleep without help, or those babies who would be happy enough watching the TV for hours in their bouncy chair or those who would stay amused with toys in their playpen.

For quite sometimes I felt sorry for myself until J thaught me something very important. At 8 months old he started giving me his sloppy wet kiss. Not in a gentle way mind you, he would grab my cheeks with his little hands and pull almost bang his head on my face and then the kiss. He would smile and giggle in delight afterwards like he was telling me “I love you Mommy, thank you for looking after me and thank you for being patience at me too. I know I can be difficult at times but it is just me being me”.

I come to a conclusion, there is no such difficult baby or easy baby. They’re all the right baby in their own way. What is the measurement anyway to label a baby low maintenance or high maintenance or fussy? It’s different for everyone. Besides I don’t want unintentionally giving J the “difficult” tag that he would carry all his life. He is my gorgeous smiley little fella and he is such a blessing.

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Milestone, Cold, and Baby Sleep

Last time I journaled J’s sleep we were in quite a good routine. Predictable nap time 3-4 times a day and it made feeding predictable too as well as fitting other things in between (chores, shopping, Mum and Toddlers, e.t.c). Unfortunately the routine didn’t last for long and that is the thing about having a baby; just when you think things are settled down, a new thing starts!

J will hit the 9 months mark in a week time and it is such a big milestone for him. At the moment he is busy practicing his all four position ready to make his first crawl anytime. He is still moving around though by shuffling his bump or slithering backwards. And this learning new skill thing has somehow affected his sleep.

He wouldn’t mind if I put him asleep in his cot but between his sleep cycle sometimes he would wake up and practice his all fours. Quite funny to watch actually because he would whine while rocking himself on his knees and palm. It seems like he doesn’t know what to do with himself. Sometimes he would just drop his head and went back to sleep on his tummy (after moved from one corner of the cot to the other) but other times he would get so frustated that I had to nurse him back to sleep.

Another big milestone he is on now is less nap (longer waking time) and less meal time too (gone down from 4 meals a day to 3 meals and one snack). I notice lately he refuses to be put down for nap at normal time. He’d rather stay awake a bit longer for playing. He’s gone from 2 hours awake time to 2.5-3 hours. I think he’s ready for less naptime. I might be able to stretch him just to have 2 long naps during the day but it means we have to stay at home for at least a week to get him used to it (and to avoid overtiredness it means even earlier bedtime until he copes with the change).

Talking about night sleep, last week J would wake up in his cot with piercing cry. Moved him in bed with us didn’t help, he was still restless. It turned out the wet nappy was the culprit. We got him the next size nappy to stay dry all night. His restlessness decreased after we changed nappy size but he would still wake up every two hours. It took time for us to realize he was underdressed for sleep. He settled down easier now ever since we dress him in his sleepwalker suit. He wasn’t keen on sleeping bag because it is on tog 1 while his sleepwalker’s tog is 2.5 (which means thicker).

He wouldn’t stay in his cot though because the sheet was stale cold. I had to put a fleece blanket on it and he would accept sleeping in the cot. And just when I thought I cracked it all, I was wrong! J caught the cold and here comes a clingy baby. Calpol and lots of cuddles do help but he ends up in our bed again just for comfort.

I seriously don’t think his sleep will ever get settled!

God Bless,
Merlyn

My Thoughts on Baby Sleep Training

I have so far read three books on baby sleep training and countless of articles and forum posts on the internet. The books were by Elizabeth Pantley, Marc Weissbluth and Dr. Sears (well the last one was more on parenting style). I read them not because I wanted my baby to go by a textbook but because I knew nothing about parenting and baby and I don’t want to go by my headknowledge alone (and maternal instinct sometimes isn’t enough). I suppose I can give Gina Ford’s a go to be fair and to gain more perspective.

Anyway, there are loads of things about baby sleep involved. They are all started with how important sleep for baby’s (and adult’s) brain; as important as food to the body. And then sleep theory revealed, from the amount of sleep a baby SHOULD have at certain ages. After all the theories then come the strategies to put baby to sleep.

I won’t go into details of any strategies or theories here. All I want to do is to share few points that I agree with and things that I discovered as well.

I set my mind on baby sleep ever since J was only 2 weeks old (because he would wake up every 2 hours at night for nursing). I read somewhere that by 6-8 weeks you can start bedtime routine but it was difficult to decide what time in the evening shall I start the routine. I left it till he was 3 months old, still it was difficult to find a perfect time for bedtime routine. I was so desperate for good night sleep so I started co-sleep till he’s 7 months. I attempted to sleep train him again for 30 days and this is my thoughts on it.

First and most important thing, there’s no one-rule-fit-all. Family lifestyle, parenting philosophy, and baby temperaments (I think) are the key factors in sleep training.

Parenting Philosophy

I come from south eastern Asia culture background and so-called attachment parenting fits more into my parenting philosophy. My attachment parenting is to be sensitive and to get myself in tune with my baby’s need. It takes time and practice and it also a lifetime process and I’m sure all parents try their best to meet their baby needs.

Family Lifestyle
Probably more of family situation. When Jonathan was a newborn, Clive was off working for 2 months and he was marvelous (he still is), helping out looking after Jonathan. But ever since he gets back to work, all childcare and housework responsibility is down to me. It because his work is physically demanding and by the time he got home all he wants to do is to relax and to recover for next day’s work. This particular part here that make me put the sleep training on hold because I just can’t do it myself.

Baby Temperament
I believe that a baby does have temperament don’t you? My Jonathan is such a persistent and determined person. He knows what he wants and how to get it. There’s no in-between or grey area for him, it’s black or white, everything just got to be right or he would complain. And these personalities have to be considered when it comes to sleep train him. I learned that he would accept change, gradually and gently.

The second point I’d love to make is what is the expectation from sleep training? If it is so that life (and sleep) gets back to the way it used to be (before a baby come along) than it’s unlikely to happen. One needs to accept the reality life change when children arrive.

It also depends on how much one can tolerate sleep deprivation. When I was in Indonesia I had to leave house 6 am for work and didn’t come back until 10 pm (I had two jobs). I stayed awake till 1-2 in the morning chat online with Clive (he was in the UK) everyday. On the weekend I went to the college. I only had 4-5 hours sleep at night. Compared to normal adult sleep around 8 hours at night, I could categorize myself as sleep deprived that time.

I can’t see the difference with my situation now that I have a baby. It’s just the same thing although I must admit it is more tiring now. It is right that one cannot function well during the day when they lack of sleep but I think the solution to that is to minimize daytime activity. House cleaning and washing can wait!

Finally, the last point, my baby grows so quick. I was so frustated about Jonathan’s sleep when one night I nursed him and suddenly realised how big he got since he was a newborn. I felt so terrible. I have focused so much on making him sleep through the night that I have probably as well missed him growing. I won’t nurse him forever, one day he will refuse to take it. One day he’ll shut the door behind me and go to bed his own. One day he will stop needing my help to get him to sleep.

Imagining him growing bigger and become more independent makes sleep deprivation more bearable. Creating healthy sleep habit is important and it’s for J’s own good. But when the focus is how much sleep do I get, I think that’s when thing could go wrong. Baby sleep training is mainly for the baby, parents come second. Parenting is about sacrifice anyway.

God bless,
Merlyn

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Jonathan’s Sleep Training – Day 30

Day 30 and I finally made a conclusion on this sleep training business.

1) I am the only one who know what would or would not work for Jonathan, for myself, for Clive, and for our family lifestyle and situation. And therefore

2) No more sleep training for now! No more expectation of sleep through the night (even if it’s 5 hours straight) and no more expectation of Jonathan falls asleep unassisted; it because

3) I don’t have the patience to carry on! My baby is such a character and he would only accept changes gradually and gently. He is such a persistent and determined young fella. He falls into this high need baby categories and it explain his needs of Mummy at night are probably more than other baby.

4) All things that I have read and put into practice they all aren’t going to be wasted. I’ll just have to pick up which strategies that work and fit into our life. I’ll keep in mind too that my baby is growing and so does his need of sleep and feed. I’ll have to stay flexible.

5) At the moment I’m quite happy for him to have his nap in his buggy because it gives me time to get on with chores. I know some would say it isn’t ideal but it works for us. Occasionally he fancies napping on breast and I’m fine with it too. All I have to do is waiting patiently and then get on with works when he wakes up.

6) I learned that for now he can only stay awake for 90 minutes before he starts grizzling. I’m to finish anything I plan to do in 90 mins before I start his nap routine. Let him stay awake no longer than 2 hours at time!!

7) For bedtime (now we talk!) I’m to do everything to minimize cry because letting him cry would only lead to more problem (extreme fussines, fight the sleep, refuse to stay asleep and so on). I learned that when he fall asleep peacefully, he’ll more likely to stay asleep longer and there’ll be no outburst cry in the middle of the night (and it’s NOTHING to do with teething!)

8) Wake up time shorter before bed time and start the bedtime routine earlier. By 18:00-18:30 he is to be ready for bed (bathed and PJ’s on). Oh and no nap after 17:00. If he refused to take his last nap it means very EARLY bedtime!

9) Now for night snacking, I normally go to bed at 10 pm every night and from that time till morning I normally wake twice or three times to feed him. I’ll just take him in bed with me, he’s nursing and I carry on sleeping. Normally when I wake up he’ll be fast asleep and I’ll be able to move him back in his cot. If I don’t wake up till morning then it means both of us have fallen asleep and sleep through the night (YAY!)

10) All these plan are to be reviewed in a month time because he’ll be 9 months by then and I’ll have to do something about his night snacking. By then Clive would probably work less and be home more to help with looking after him.

I think that’s all for now.

God bless
Merlyn

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