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.

9 little remarks:

Andrea said...

I love that book! I have recommended it to many fellow Mamma's.
I did notice that you said you've tried reflux meds. Did you try different types? If not, it might be worth it. My Dr. said that 90% of "colic" babies have reflux and each baby responds differently to the meds. and/or combination of meds.
Just thought I would throw that out there, even though you've probably tried everything. Good luck!

Kaela said...

Sleep is such a tricky thing for moms and new babies to figure out. Thanks for the book recommendation! I am glad it is working for you!! She is adorable!!!

Beazer said...

I'm so glad you found advice that worked for you and that things are going better. I love that just-released-from-the-swaddle stretch!

Brooke said...

What a wonderful thing to find a baby sleep book that is working for you! That's what Babywise is for me, a lifesaver, but it's true it's not for every mom. And as for the letting the child cry it out, I feel that some children just don't know how to get to sleep on their own, and until they figure it out everytime they wake up at night, they will need YOU or milk to get them back to sleep. I hear that smaller babies also have a harder time sleeping, so I guess that is a blessing that my babies are ginormous! I'm SOOO glad little Everly is sleeping better for you. I was just telling my friend the other day that after your kid/kids take a good nap you feel so rejuvenated and refreshed, it's amazing.

emily said...

Congratulations on a sleep-through-the-night night! I'm SO glad for you, Joe, and Everly. What a relief!

Ali said...

It is NO fun having the hard and different baby...yes, there are sweet perks and your baby is wonderful, but when you're sleep deprived and frustrated, it's so so incredibly hard. I remember feeling so many of these things when we had to sleep feed Evan and I got so jealous and almost resentful of all the Mothers that just had it normal. I'm glad things are starting to level out for you guys and you're seeing more smiles:) Their poor little tummies can be so sensitive! (i used to tell Jeff "never again" too!)

Henderson said...

I am going to be leaving Olivia with Dave overnight soon as I am on the interview trail the next few months, so I have been thinking about getting her on a better sleep schedule (and ideally out of our bed). I have this book, have even started it twice, but just keep forgetting about it. This is another good reminder for me to get the book out and put it to use! I am glad you found something that works!!

Malinovka said...

I'm so glad you found that book to be SO helpful! I would also recommend that book, but know that each child is different and one thing doesn't work for everyone. Yes, life is incredibly different when your baby is actually getting the rest she needs! I hope sleep training continues to go well and that you can all feel rejuvenated after getting some well-deserved rest!

Meghan said...

I'm reading this book too, and so far I like it. Ethan is still little to try the techniques out, but it's so interesting learning about sleep. I'm so glad this book worked for you! It's nice to find something that works. Good luck!!

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