Turning lemons into lemonade

I’m about 47 pages into Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth because, well, I’m desperate.  Several nights in the past few weeks I have been up every two hours with Avery.  It’s getting out of control and has been going on way too long.  Even Eirinn, who was a horrible sleeper herself, was a better sleeper by 8 months than Avery is.  She was only up once or twice by now.  Not Avery.  If she’s up only once or twice I’d consider it a vacation.

So I’m reading this book, and even though I’m only on the second chapter I’ve had several Ah-ha! moments (thank you, Oprah). 

First of all, two naps a day at 8 months is a must.  One long nap midday does not have the same rejuvenating effects as a morning nap and an afternoon nap.  Sleep begets sleep and sleeplessness begets sleeplessness.  Therefore, having two good naps during the day should make the night sleeping better.

Second, sleep while being rocked, or held, or in a car seat, or in a stroller, is not the same as sleep in a crib.  The motion and noise makes for a lighter, less effective sleep than the quiet, still sleep had in a bed.

Third, by the time you can see that your child is tired, it’s past the optimal time to put them to bed.  The signs we typically associate with being ready for bed – crabbiness, eye-rubbing, yawning – are all, in fact, signs of being overtired.  Signs we should actually be looking for are calmness, quietness, and that glassy stare.  Those indicate that it is the perfect time to lay them down.

The problem I have, and I’m surprised it isn’t a problem for more people, is that allowing her to simply “cry it out” at night and during her night wakings, is impractical and impossible.  Eirinn sleeps directly across the hall from Avery.  A few seconds of squawking doesn’t wake her up, but letting Avery cry for 15 or 20 minutes (or longer) several times a night would, surely.  That’s not fair.  Not fair to Eirinn to have her precious sleep interrupted, and not fair to AH because he needs his sleep to function at work.  I have yet to find a book or article or message board addressing this.   Maybe The No Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley would help for this situation, but it wasn’t available at the library.

What I’m hoping is that if I improve her naps, it will in the very least improve her night sleep.  Sleep begets sleep, right?  And teaching her that she can put herself to sleep during the day might, hopefully, teach her that she can put herself to sleep when she wakes up at night.  Hopefully. 

My other problem is that I have gotten myself into the bad habit of nursing her to sleep, both initially and when she wakes up in the night.  It’s the calmest, fastest, easiest, quietest way for her to fall asleep.  I’ve tried two or three times to not feed her when she wakes up, but she’s stubborn like her mom and, lucky for her, her mom is lazy at 3:30 in the morning.  Imagine that.  So I’ve caved every time and eventually nursed her, feeling like I’ve just wasted a half an hour of perfectly good, and rare, sleep for no reason because I gave in anyway. 

From the time I was pregnant, I’ve always said that I would breastfeed for nine months.  I breastfed Eirinn for six months and I kind of wanted to go longer for financial (way cheaper to just produce the milk yourself), logistical (way easier than making a bottle), health (obviously better for the baby), and competitive reasons.  Had to out-do myself, if no one else.  We’re coming up on nine months and I think that it will force the sleep to improve.  I refuse to make bottles in the night; I never made a single bottle for Eirinn.  When I was done breastfeeding, she was done with night feeding.  I need for this to happen now with Avery.  It’s sad, as I’ve enjoyed breastfeeding this time; much more than with Eirinn, but it will be for the best for all of us.  I hope.

Starting yesterday, I’ve done a soft Cry It Out for Avery’s naps.  I let her cry for 15 minutes, go in and soothe her, let her cry for 15, etc.  First nap she cried for an hour.  Second nap she cried for just over a half an hour.  Third was twenty minutes.  The naps themselves have been short, between a half an hour and an hour, but it’s a start.  She’s learning, I think.

So the plan of attack is this:

Two naps a day, no excuses

Cry to sleep until she learns to fall asleep on her own with no fuss

Wean her to formula in the next month


Hopefully all of this leads to better sleep for the both of us.  I think this is all I can do.  God gave me lemons for sleepers.  I’ve just got to somehow find the lemonade recipe that works.  I cannot wait to get there because, God knows, lemonade is my favourite.


Last night’s sleep was the worst I’ve ever had.  Ever.  Avery fell asleep at 8, I put her in bed at 9 (she takes a while to get into a deep enough sleep for me to put her down) and she was up at 9:45, 11:30, 12:30, 1:15 (and was up until 2:45), and 5:30.  I’m not sure how I’m going to function, but it has to be done.  I predict I’m going to be about an 11 on the grumpy scale today.


9 thoughts on “Turning lemons into lemonade

  1. Is Avery on cereal yet? You might want to try giving her a cereal feed right before you lay her down for the night. It’ll fill her tummy and might help with the weaning to formula …

    Also, does she nap in the evening? I know you said you want her on two naps a day which is absolutely correct at this age. Their wee little brains are taking soo much in at this point, it’s very tiring. If she naps in the evening, move it closer to the afternoon so she’s more tired when bedtime arrives…

    Lexy was a bad sleeper, she still rises pretty early. Caity will sleep through the second coming now. Luckily she’s been great from the get go.

    I hope some of the above helps. Interrupted sleep is sometimes worse than no sleep at all. Good luck.

  2. Avery gets cereal and baby food now; since 5.5 months. She gets some at lunch time and some at dinner time, which, for us, is about 6:30. I’ve tried giving it to her later, but it didn’t seem to do much for her sleep. Although, she fell asleep once sitting up while I was feeding her. It was so cute.

    Her last nap is in the afternoon, so not a lot of room for movement there.

    By the way, last night was HORRIBLE. The worst night’s sleep I’ve ever had with either kid.

  3. Oh dear, Jen. I’m so sorry. I was up at several of the times you were (1, 3, 3:30 and 4:30). We shoulda chatted.

    Last night aside, you shared some great tips here. I’d never heard the signs of tiredness being too late. So this morning I wrapped Alice about 15 mins. earlier than I expected her to start getting sleepy (she usually has an a.m. nap 1-1.5 hours after waking), and she fell asleep in, like, 2 minutes. I hope she stays down for longer than the half hour/45 mins. she has been doing during the day.

    Sounds like weaning her will be the best for both of you (if you’re not comfortable CIO @ night). Then you won’t have anything to “cave into.”

    You are so VERY right about books/tips not addressing the older sibling issue. I feel so fortunate that Lucy is so good at entertaining herself and is comfortable if I have to leave her for 15-20 mins. to get Alice to sleep. I don’t know how parents with closer-in-age kids do it. Thankfully Alice has not once woken Lucy up at night. That should come in handy when we start weaning her off her night feed this summer.

    I’d also highly recommend some white noise. A fan or recording or machine or something.

    Good luck, Biffy. I’m thinking of you. Be strong. Stop making life so interesting for Avery so she’ll want time away from you!

  4. p.s. I highly recommend Moxie’s info on sleep. She’s amazing, and just a regular parent like us: http://www.askmoxie.org/2005/12/quick_and_dirty.html

    Have you heard of the 2-3-4 schedule? That a surprising # of kids follow this pattern: Morning nap around 2 hours after waking, an afternoon nap around 3 hours after waking from the morning nap, and into bed around 4 hours after waking from the afternoon nap.

    I’d forgotten about this, but it was a lifesaver with Lucy. And now Alice makes so much more sense.

    Hope this helps.

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  6. Sorry Jen, I feel your pain. I caved way long ago and stuck the baby in the bed. I’m too tired and lazy to do anything else. We make it as safe as possible (never smoke, never drink, no loose clothes, we tuck the covers in the bottom of the bed so they come up to ours and her waist only). It’s the only way I survive. She head butts me to tell me to feed her, I roll over, latch her on, and we both fall back asleep. After the feed, we both just naturally fall onto our backs. My kid (6 months) won’t sleep in the pack-n-play which is the only crib I have right now.

    I’ll let you know when I make the desperate plea for help on how to get a baby out of my bed (about 4-6 months from now). My plan is to dump her into her sister’s room at some point.

    Oh and in small quarters, my kids can each sleep through the other’s crying quite effectively. Maybe Eirinn would sleep through it.

    I figure I don’t store very much breastmilk since my other daughter also woke up to feed once per night until she was weaned (~ 15 months old). Sorry, that information didn’t help much, did it?

  7. Jen,

    I can sympathize with you. My son often nursed through the night and I never really thought twice about going in and feeding him. I nursed until about 6.5 months. When he first started formula, he was still feeding on pretty much the same schedule as nursing, but quite quickly he started to sleep longer at night and would have one about 9pm, 2/3am and then the morning. It took him a while to give up the 2/3 am one though.

    I think you might be surprised how much Eirinn can sleep though, if you have the heart for trying the “CIO” technique. My friends kids are older now (8 and 6), but the older one hardly woke up through her brother’s episodes in the middle of the night.

    Good luck with the weaning and the sleeping!

  8. The best thing that worked for Owen was putting him to bed earlier. He was going to bed at 8pm and Nanny Robina (not sure if you’ve seen her on TV) but she came to Keswick and ran a semiar. I surely went!!! She told me to try putting him to bed sooner. I didn’t think it would work but it honestly did. I put him to bed at 7:30, sometimes even 7:15 and he wasn’t even showing signs he was tired. BUT he went right to sleep and stayed asleep longer. I think you are onto something with putting them to bed before the signs of sleepiness sets in.

    Also, Aleah shocked me in what she could sleep through. She is a light sleeper but for some reason she was able to sleep through Owen’s crying in the middle of the night and AH could wear earplugs.

    White noise in her room is worth a shot too!

  9. I agree that trying to let her cry in the night is worth a shot. You’re up anyway and a couple nights dealing with two (with help from AH if needed) could be what turns things around. And I wouldn’t worry too much about AH and his sleep. He gets to go to work and have a break!!!
    As for the feedings. If it’s going well I say stick to it. If formula doesn’t improve sleep than you are both losing something you enjoy. We managed to get rid of night nursings around 10 months. The fight involved much help from Shawn because I was sick and simply could not participate. Just before his first birthday Greyson figured out how to drink from a straw and weaned himself and we were both happy and ready for it.

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