Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Frayed End of My Sleep Rope

I've gotten varied responses as to how to approach Limelet's sleep, even some from non-parents. (If you are a parent yourself, you will quickly guess which is the non-parental response.)

One type of suggestion is that I should basically just wait until he falls asleep on his own, instead of spending so much frustrating time trying to "get" him to sleep. Which is tempting, since that is the frustrating part after all. Unfortunately, this would be analogous to my deciding that instead of going to bed, dimming the lights, and closing my eyes, I will just stay up doing stuff until I fall asleep in my tracks.

While some babies just fall asleep in their cereal bowls (you lucky person who told me that, you), most of them need their sleep to be facilitated, just as we facilitate our own sleep by going to bed and so forth. Some babies seem to need a lot more facilitation than others.

Limelet -- I don't know what his deal is. I really don't. I'm not a dumb or unobservant person. I watch him for even the tiniest signs of sleepiness, so I don't miss that "window" of sleeportunity. He nearly always goes down for his morning nap just fine--often with very little parenting-to-sleep, in just minutes. But that's often the only time. (And I can't predict if it'll be a 20-minute nap, or a 90-minute nap, anyway.)

So anyway. I digress. The other sort of advice is on the opposite end (comment from my two-time-mother friend Karen quoted here:)

I wish you lots of luck in the getting-baby-to-sleep department. I've found that
my kids sleep best when their sleep times are regular and they don't skip naps
or stay up past bedtime. When they're too tired, it takes them much much longer
to get them to fall asleep.

>sigh< .... Oh Karen, you're preaching to the choir here. I totally agree with you; I believe in sleep routines, I really do. I recommend them for my (adult) clients with sleep problems. I even recommend them for myself! I know that establishing a regular sleep rhythm is very important. So he does have a schedule, and it's based on his natural sleepy rhythms as charted very scientifically in a spreadsheet and everything (and what he does looks very much like what most people's babies do, according to the examples I've seen.)

He gets up at the same time every day, he goes to sleep for his first (9:00) nap every morning (for some reason), he has a very regular evening bathtime & bedtime (also established by the circadian observation method) etc.

The problem comes in the afternoon, when he either won't take his second nap, or takes it and then wants a third, or -- who knows. I have been trying for months to establish regular sleep in the afternoon for him, and he just won't go along with it. It's like he can't decide whether he's a two-napper or a three-napper, and it's been like that since he was about 4 months old. His afternoon just usually "messes up" his evening schedule.

I do have to say that the 4-months to 8-months teething bout didn't help at all. It's almost like it established a bad precedent, because afternoons were when the teething became more painful (and disruptive), so his chance to get good sleep habits was undermined. He's teething again lately, but it doesn't seem as bad as those four months were.

As far as sleeply laissez-faire, I've never "skipped" his naps--but I have spent every day for months and months and months trying to actually get him to have those naps! I even use labor-intensive nap-extension techniques (like listening closely to his breathing on the monitor, and running in to nurse him in his sleep before he actually wakes up, which occasionally works.) Obviously, I can't just keep him up all afternoon, because then he's miserable and overtired and would just cry at bedtime.

I have heard so many times and from so many respected sources that overtiredness is the cause of sleep woes, that now I think I've actually been overdoing it the other direction for a long time, maybe from the beginning. I think I have been trying to catch all his sleep windows too early, and then lulling him into too many naps (which end up being too short because he's not that tired). Of course I don't know this for certain, but this making-him-go-to-sleep-all-the-time thing is not working for any of us, so I have to try something different.

So as of this weekend, I've decided that it's going to be two naps. That's all there is to it. He's been teetering on the cusp of two versus three naps for months now, and he's nearly 9 months old. Plenty old enough to be out of the three-nap stage. So I'm making an executive decision to make an afternoon sleepytime and then accustom him to it.

I really want to get him firmly napping and sleeping before I have to go to internship and Daddy has to start staying home, as that will be enough of a big shock to Limelet's routine as is. I guess I can't force him to sleep, but it just seems like this will be a better chance of there being more regularity. We have eight weeks.

If I hear you wishing me luck, then thanks!

I'll need it.


Blogger Unknown said...

Any luck since your post? (I hope so!)

4:45 PM  
Blogger liz said...

Yes, his schedule is shaping up. Just had little computer time lately...meaning the past few months, I guess.

7:34 PM  

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