Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Babies and Sleeping

" my question. I was wondering with 7 children, could you possibly do a post on "babies" and how you get them to sleep in your family?"

Why sure! This is quite a diverse area in that it will look very different from family to family. But per your request I will share with you what works for us. I have never been able to embrace the family bed. I am a busy sleeper, tossing and turning most of the night. Plus it has just been that one place that belonged to my husband and myself....our little retreat that we dont have to share. Now having said that our infants until about 6 months old stay in their crib right next to my side of the bed, so that I can check on them often throughout the night.

I have had really great babies, less the first one ;-) who cried most every night until he was 3. So looking back what was the key factors in getting them to sleep through the night? Training. Heres my rule of thumb. Any baby less than 4-6 months depending on their "maturity" (I know that sounds weird) will be tended to pretty quickly if they awake in the middle of the night. I will nurse them in the same room, quietly (we do not get up and walk around or turn on lights, this only arouses them more) then I lay them back down, generally at this age they will be asleep from nursing.

A baby a bit older and more aware I mean that they want to get up at night just to visit with you, gets moved in to the nursery...we have been able in all the houses we have lived in to make this room only for baby and no other siblings. I think this is important in training your little one for good sleep habits, because lets face it a baby that is woken up through out the night by a sibling is just not going to be able to form solid sleep habits. Another reason we have them sleep solo is because this is the time that they are aloud to cry it out from time to time. Which would not be appreciated by a sleeping sibling.

First off to get a good night time pattern you need a good day time pattern. ALL of my children have had the same exact day time sleep patterns (I'm curious if others have found the same thing) they sleep most of the time from birth to 3-4 months, then from 4-9 months they take 2 two hour naps during the day. From 9mo to around 2 they take one 3 hour nap a day. Then our naps go by the wayside around age two. We have always made it a point to not run errands during nap time so baby gets their sleep.

I just laid my 13 month old down for the evening. She did not lay right down but instead will fiddle around until shes ready to lay her head down. She didnt cry because she knows it will not change the fact that it is bedtime. I kissed her, put her in her crib, turned out the light and shut the door. I do not linger, talking and chatting with her, because this only makes her think I am going to pick her up. We save the chatting and laughs for morning, when I burst into her room with a big smile and greet her with much excitement.

So what does this look like starting from the 4-6 month mark, I talked about earlier? After making sure baby is full, and dry and kissed all up, I lay them down and walk out. I will let them cry (loud or hard) up to 20 minutes, if they do not calm down then I will go in and pick them up and we will walk around talk for a while, then I will again lay him down and walk out. If the crying is lite I let them go on until they fall asleep or they begin to cry harder. You will get a feel for your baby and learn when they are in distress or just not getting what they want. Let them cry when they are just not getting what they want. Once your baby realizes that you are not going to come a-runnin at every coo and caa they will learn to rest.

I know most of my readers are smart cookies, but as a disclaimer....letting a baby "cry it out" is an art. Its not black and white. Babies will have bad nights, where their tummies hurt, or they just NEED to be held. When that happens hold those babies. But the next night lay them down walk out and start over again. They will slowly build good sleeping patterns, it doesnt happen over night....but it will happen. Just for fun here is our sleep history:

Baby #1 Cried most nights until he was 3.
Baby#2 Slept through the night at about 4 months old
Baby #3 Was the best baby ever, he would lay down with no qualms and would play in his crib until I came to get him in the mornings....for those of you who are jealous....lets just say that he was not perfect past the age of 2.5 and still is my "challenging" child.
Baby #4 Slept through the night from about 3 months on.
Baby #5 Slept through the night from about 3 months on.
Baby #6 and first girl. Slept through the night from about 5 months on, we did have a 3 week span at about 8 months where she was waking and refused to go back to sleep for a few hours each night. This passed (not quickly enough) and she again resumed to sleeping all night. During that 3 week span I continued to let her cry for up to 20 minutes before I would get her up.
Baby #7 Has been my only child to NOT sleep through the night from an early age. She has woken up 5 out of 7 nights to nurse. I nurse her in a dark room and lay her right back down (I dont talk with her or rouse her other than nursing) Most of the time she goes right back to sleep, sometimes she cries it out. Even at 13 months...if she cries longer than 20 minutes I go get her nurse her again and that usually does the trick.

So as you can see each child varies, but the technique stays the same.


Stephanie said...

Your advice for getting children to sleep is VERY similiar to what I do. We don't do the family bed either, for the very same reasons as you, except that my husband is the one who moves all over the place in his sleep ;-)
Baby and I usually sleep on the couch together (we have a HUGE couch, about the size of a twin-sized bed and it's VERY comfy) until about 4 months old and then baby gets trained to sleep in the crib in the same fashion as you just described :-)
I tend to have milk supply issues and I find that allowing baby to nurse all night long during those early months really helps to establish my milk supply and to adequately suppress much as I love babies I wouldn't want to get pregnant before my baby was a year old, it would be hard on everyone and not fair to either child.
Your baby #3 sounds exactly like my baby #2...he was so good as a baby, but now he's almost 3 (he will be in april) and he's proving to be quite the handful. He has a stubborn streak a mile wide...much like his mother ;-) If he ends up being anything like I was as a child and especially as a Teen, I'm gonna feel sorry for me :-S

Anonymous said...

This is what we do, too. My girl (also #6) started sleeping thru at around 5 months then at month 8 started waking again for a few weeks. Don't know why. She is now sleeping through once again (she's now 14 months).

I was also wondering if you would share what pattern you use for your girls' beautiful dresses. I tried emailing you, but didn't hear from ya; not sure if it went thru. I would like to try to make some. Thanks!


Nina said...

Hi there! Thank you so much for publishing this post (it was my original question). I only have 2 children but have always been reluctant to let them *cry it out* but have been trying it on my 7 month old in the last few weeks. He often nursed-to-sleep but then he would wake up 10 minutes later screaming (and i mean screaming!) with wind pain. So I am trying to get him to sleep without nursing. Thank you for sharing what you do. It is so hard to know what is the right thing. I have always felt guilty leaving them to cry but then again my almost 3-y-o didn't sleep through properly till she was over 2 years old. So I do believe training works, I am just a softie I guess. I do think now he is 7 months old he can learn to sleep on his own. Anyway, you have a beautiful lovely family and I am certain crying it out hasn't affected them in the least. Thanks again for your great post. It was interesting reading all the different sleeping habits of them all!

Blessings, Nina

Oh that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever! Duet 5:29