Sunday, January 21, 2007

Sleep Improvement

Last week I decided to give up and no longer try to get my son to go to sleep at any particular time. It seemed like we spent hours every night trying to get him to sleep -- we'd walk him around, he'd fall asleep, we'd put him down, he'd wake up and cry, we'd pick him up and start all over again. It seemed easier to just not fight him, wait until he conked out, then we would both sleep late the next morning. After a few days of this he was so overtired he was just crying and crying and I could not even get him to take a nap (usually he naps pretty well). It turns out that if left to his own devices he will not sleep as much as he needs to, he needs some parental management of his sleep, but what we were doing before was not working for him, it didn't help him sleep.

The first thing I did was create a bedtime routine and a shorter nap routine. I had always heard that this was important, but I didn't really know what my routine should be and I was a little skeptical of it -- the routine will only work if he associates it with going to sleep, but I have no idea when he is going to go to sleep, so how do I know when to start the routine? I needed some help, so I got the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (HSHHC). That helped me figure out more of the details of what I needed to do: regular naps, a much earlier bedtime and letting him fall asleep on his own. So far it has been working pretty well. We do the routine and then I put him in bed and he falls asleep on his own. Usually he fusses and fidgets around in the crib for between 10 and 30 minutes, then he falls asleep. He goes to bed between 7 and 8 and gets up between 6 and 8. I nurse him once in the night and he may wake up one other time (usually around 4am) but he falls back asleep on his own without needing to be fed.

The only hitch we had was one night when he woke up 45 minutes after he went to bed, he cried but it had been less than two hours since he ate, so I was pretty sure he wasn't hungry. I think some noise had woken him up and he was just tired and not having an easy time getting back to sleep. We went in to rub his back a few times, but that wasn't helping. Finally we had to just let him cry himself back to sleep. It took a lot longer than I expected (two hours :( ), but I knew that our picking him up was not going to help matters, and after a certain point I felt that if we went in to get him then he would have cried all that time for nothing and we would be taking away his opportunity to learn how to fall back asleep on his own. That was really the only time he has cried for more than five minutes since I started letting him fall asleep on his own. I am actually amazed at how easy it has been.

So now we have a daily routine, a much more well rested baby, and me and hubby have evening time to ourselves. Things are much better all around. I also think it is really good that we have gotten my son on an earlier bedtime now so it won't be a struggle when I start law school and he starts daycare. And now that I have time during the day and am not exhausted I can get back to doing some reading in preparation for law school. I think my next post will be about preparation for law school, so stay tuned!

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