Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Help My Baby Sleep!! A Book Recommendation

In the early days of Evs' life she was a good little sleeper. I mean she may have had her days and nights mixed up but she was sleepy like any newborn.

Then she became colicky. She cried. Lots. Inconsolably at times. And she slept very little. She was hard to get to sleep. And staying asleep was difficult for her.

Joe and I started to learn her tricks. And we could manage her. But it took a LOT of time and energy. And it was difficult, even impossible at times, for other people to hold her. I found myself often saying "Sorry, don't take it personally" as I took a crying baby back from whoever was trying to hold her.

All the "tricks" we were doing:

  • Swaddling. 
  • Binkies. 
  • Holding her hand. 
  • Rocking her. 
  • Bouncing her. 
  • "Trotting" around the room
  • Singing to her
  • Sound machine in her room
  • Reflux medication.
  • Feeding...lots of feeding. 
  • Diaper changes, frequent ones, because she liked a fresh diaper. 
  • Cutting the main sources of dairy out of my diet and we've tried SOO many formulas. 
  • And many of these had to be done simultaneously to console her.
And that's just the list of things that worked. We also tried:
  • Letting her sleep with us
  • Not swaddling her at all
  • Wearing her in a bjorn, sling, moby wrap (sometimes effective...sometimes she hated it)
  • Driving her around in the car
  • Taking her for walks in the stroller
  • Swing
  • Bouncer
  • And who knows what else.
It. Was. Exhausting.
Physically and emotionally.

I know people say newborns are a lot of work. But a colicky newborn is an unbelievable amount of work, it can make a normally competent person feel like they are totally incompetent and losing it. I told Joe on a regular basis we weren't having any more children. I just couldn't take it. She was a beautiful adorable sweet baby...and sometimes so smiley...but she was so difficult too.

Well meaning friends would make recommendations. And I know they recommended them because they worked so well for their babies, but a lot of them didn't work for Everly. And that's the thing I've learned since...colicky babies are just different. And for the first few months its all about survival--do whatever you have to to get through it. And even after those first few months pass and the colic gets better they can still be very difficult babies.

Anyway, when a friend of mine (and also my pediatrician, and also another girl at church) recommended the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" it was just one in a long list of recommendations I'd been getting. You can understand why maybe it took me a while to get around to it. I wish I'd gotten there sooner.

Reading that book was life changing. It's hard to describe. I was raving about it to my mom but she didn't understand until she browsed through it when babysitting and said she wished she'd had a book like that.

It explains why babies need sleep, how they sleep, how their sleep habits/needs/rhythms change as they age. The author, a doctor and father of four educates you and gives practical advice gleaned from extensive studies of many MANY babies.

Reading this book:

I felt relieved when I realized that 20% of babies have "extreme fussiness/colic" and that for them all you can do is get through the first 3-4 months.

I felt justified that it wasn't that I wasn't trying the right things, it was that there was no magical thing that would make her act like other easier babies. She was just difficult.

I felt hopeful that it could/would get better.

I felt empowered that as she got a little older (16 weeks) there would be something I could do to train her to sleep. And I knew, I just KNEW she'd be a happier baby if I could help her sleep better.

We've been following the advice about sleep training after 16 weeks (I think you can start earlier with regular babies). It has been difficult. But she's getting so much better. She sleeps for LONG stretches at night. And she takes naps...though they vary in length.

On Friday she took 2 naps, each more than 2 hours. I felt like a new woman. I can cook, I can clean, I can work and I can see a light at the end of the tunnel where I can do projects again!

At night she goes down early--ideally between 6 and 8pm. And we (are supposed to...still working on consistency) only take her out of her pack n'play during the night if we think she's hungry...right now that means once during the night for a feeding (the poor girl is only 11lbs...I just don't think she's ready to give up that middle of the night feeding yet). Then she goes back to bed and wakes up in the morning around 7.

And when she wakes up in the morning now it's so cute. She's just sitting there babbling to herself. She doesn't wake up screaming like a banshee. And when we go in and get her she smiles at us and when we unwrap her from her swaddle she stretches out and it's super adorable.

Anyway, so I won't give you a total synopsis of the book here (this post is long enough!), I'll just recommend you check it out from the library or buy it.

In closing, I know parenting technique is controversial. I'm not saying this is the solution for everyone (notice I didn't compare it to other parenting/sleep books). I think the reason people argue so much about parenting is because babies/children differ so much and what works for one child may not work for another. This book gave me back my sanity and has allowed me to enjoy my baby so much more. And she seems happier too. So I recommend you add it to your list of methods to consider if you are expecting a child (or already struggling with one).

Disclaimer: If you go to you will find, not surprisingly, some reviews of people who hate this book and say it tells you to just let your baby cry and cry and cry. But actually one of the things I found to be a relief about this book was that it gives you different alternatives for putting your baby to sleep, one of which, admittedly, is letting them cry it out. But another suggested method is to soothe them completely to sleep every time. The importance for most babies seems to be consistency.

4 little remarks:

painty (Melinda) said...

I am so happy for you that you found something that is helping! It is sooooo hard dealing with a baby who won't sleep (I also made the vows that we would have no more children after Dessie) And I would have to agree that sometimes it's just about surviving those first few very difficult months knowing and trying to accept that you are not really in control of how your baby sleeps. You have an adorable little girl!

Tiff said...

Yay! I'm so glad you found something that works for you. I think that's the hardest part... sifting through everyone's advice and finding something that both you and your baby like.

And I'm glad you'll be back to craftiness sometime soon - both for you and for me. :)

Tannie Datwyler said...

I couldn't agree more about parenting books. I always say, take a parenting book with a grain of salt because you will NEVER NEVER NEVER find a book that suits your philosophy 100%. ALL babies/kids are different. So read alot, take what you like, listen to advice, and leave out what doesn't work for you.

Linus wasn't colicky - not at all. But he was a TERRIBLE sleeper. It's hard for people who aren't in your shoes to understand. I can't say I know how you feel because like I said, I didn't have a colikcy baby. But what I did have was a terrible sleeper. And I was TRULY irrational. I cried so much because I was so tired and I knew I was being stupid. But it didn't matter - I complained so much and hated that I was complaining, but it was truly painful to not get the rest I needed. I can't imagine how hard that was compounded with colicky baby too.

I used to give moms advice when I just had Claire. She was relatively easy - an EXCELLENT sleeper and mildly grouchy in the daytime. I didn't really understand some other mom's problems and tried to give well meaning advice. I apologized to a few moms after I had Linus. :) It put me in their shoes.

Advice is good - it is just annoying when it comes in the form of "oh well... your baby is grouchy because of something YOU are doing."

I checked out that book and started reading it, I'm not too far, but I like it so far. Thanks for the recommendation! Like I said, I've read so many sleep books, but not this one.

Leilani said...

I love this book. I wish I had known about it with Bryant. I felt like I was going insane with his nightly cries. I'm glad it's helping you!

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