Hmmm….so how are we doing with sleep these days? Good…is what I want to say because I believe it. The fear of course is that things could change any day as most things do with babies. I also fear I am going to jinx it simply by writing it.
Buri Nazar and Kina Hora
In Indian culture, this specific kind of fear is called “buri nazar” or casting an evil eye on something good/positive such that, that evil eye will negate or destroy the very thing that makes whatever it is that is good, go away. As a man of science, Aaron used to laugh at this fear of mine. That is, until his dad, another man of science, told us about the Jewish concept of “kina hora” suddenly legitimizing, in Aaron’s eyes, my perhaps unreasonable concerns. After all, just because a concept exists or is believed to exist does not mean that it is necessarily a fact or a possibility above questioning and a healthy dose of skepticism. The actual concept is known as “Kein Ayin Hora” in Judaism but as Rabbi Burton writes, “When it’s said quickly is [sic] can sometimes sound like ‘Kina Hora'”. In the U.S., one would simply say “knock on wood/touchwood” or maybe even “keeping one’s fingers crossed.”
Newborn night sleep and naps:
When we first brought Baby E home from the hospital, she did not have a schedule. She slept all the time just as she should, being a newborn and all. She would sleep everywhere and anywhere which was great given that she could easily be transferred from her swing to her bassinet without any sense of awareness. During the day, she mostly slept in her swing, in my arms or on my chest. She loved the calming sways of the swing and she stayed neatly tucked into the swing’s embrace for extended periods. At night, she would hangout with us, mostly asleep, waking up only to eat before falling back into a peaceful slumber while the rest of us (grandparents and parents) watched random shows on TV (Bosch and House Hunters, mostly). I would take her upstairs to our bedroom where she still sleeps, around 10:00 p.m. and we would both fall asleep (she was usually already asleep) – me in my bed, she in her bassinet next to the bed.
In those early days, she would wake up often (sometimes every two hours, sometimes more often than that), nurse, and fall back to sleep. I was already attuned to her body’s rhythm so waking up to nurse her wasn’t a problem. I would wake up seconds before she would start snorting and sniffing (signs that she was getting ready to wake up), pick her up, dream feed her, and place her back in her bassinet.
Her naps were all over the place at this time. There really couldn’t be a schedule because sleeping dominated her day’s activity. Still, I would nurse her to nap around 2:00 p.m. just around the time TJ napped too. Other than this one time, she napped whenever she wanted which was usually in the mornings between 9 and 11:30 a.m., then again in the afternoon and evening. She had already started becoming more wakeful by 6 weeks.
Baby Sleep Resources and Transitions
(a) Swing to Bassinet for naps: I didn’t want sleeping in the swing to be a habit so one afternoon, I just went cold turkey and put her down in her bassinet for naps. Before doing that, I hauled the swing up to our bedroom where she sleeps and placed it there allowing for her to nap in the same place (swing) but in the bedroom where she sleeps at night instead of the living room (where she napped in her swing). There was a sense of urgency in my intention to do this – I didn’t want to have to keep scolding TJ to keep it quiet because his sister was sleeping in the living room where he also played. Baby E took to the bassinet napping just fine after a couple days of shorter naps. Now, exactly a month later, she is not able to nap in the swing anymore. We only use it to entertain her when she hangs out with the rest of us.
(b) Bassinet to Pack n Play for all naps and night time sleep: This went off really well like she didn’t even care where she slept. Thank goodness! I was a little concerned since she was used to the small confined space of the bassinet. With her rolling over fast becoming a reality, the small bassinet was no longer an option. Besides, she was outgrowing it with only a couple inches between her feet and the inner edge of the bassinet.
(c) Swaddle to Sleepsack: I feared this transition the most but again with her imminent rolling over coming up soon and the fact that she had started fighting her arms out of her swaddles while kicking the bottom part of the swaddle under her feet, it was time to make the transition. The first night, I left one arm out. She didn’t like that. She struggled endlessly to free her other arm and while she failed at her first and tireless attempt, she must have succeeded sometime in the middle of the night because when I picked her up to feed her, both her hands were free 🙂
The next night, taking a cue from her, I placed her right in the sleepsack (she wears a Sleep n Play long PJ footsie to bed). This way her arms were both free to do as they pleased but her legs were still confined to the space inside the sleepsack. I put her down hesitatingly for the night but everything went great and she slept her usual time. Thank goodness! – In fact, I just pretty much pushed her into everything at the same time. That same night – July 2 – I switched her to a sleepsack and changed her sleeping space from bassinet to Pack n Play AND tried sleep “training” for the first time officially. I did my ritual (see below) and placed her in her PnP drowsy but awake. She whined for some time but then fell asleep. I think this was a lucky one time thing because she must have been really tired. The nights since that one have not been so easy. Today, I left her in her crib at 7:45 p.m. It’s 8:25 p.m. now and I have been in three times so far and Aaron is in there right now and she is still not sleeping….so there is no magic sleep solution or formula here. We try and improvise as we go…
Infant naps and night time sleep:
At 11 weeks, because I didn’t want sleeping in the swing to become a habit, I switched her napping to the bassinet. She was used to having long stretches of naps in the swing. With the bassinet, she was more restless and would wake up more easily even though she did fine at night time. At 11 weeks 4 days, she slept from 7:45 p.m. to 5:45 a.m. – 10 hours!!! but that was that. Never happened again.
By that time, she was already on a night time routine. I decided to get her into a routine after she turned 1 month young. Because her cord had also fallen off by this time, it made things easier. Our routine, which I still follow, included an extra virgin coconut oil body massage followed by a warm bath in a bathtub placed at our kitchen sink. Then I took her upstairs, dried her, diapered her, lotioned her, clothed her, swaddled her, nursed her, and placed an already fast-asleep-at-the-breast baby in her bassinet. She would still wake up every two hours and this had gotten more consistent by this time.
Waking up every two hours slowly turned into three hours, then four, and at 15 weeks now, it currently stands at 6 hours and 3 hours. After I put her down for her night time sleep which is between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m, she first wakes up between 2:00 – 3:00 a.m. followed by a second wake up around 5:30 a.m. until finally waking up between 6:00 – 7:00 a.m. I feel like if it was up to her, she would wake up around 7:00 – 8:00 a.m. but our little TJ wakes up between 6:00 – 6:30 a.m. and immediately starts calling for daddy. At times, he is loud enough to wake Baby E up and once she is up, she is usually up for the day. How can I tell? She’ll sniff and snort like she used to as a newborn and when I go to her and say “Good Morning”, I get presented with the most heart-melting and beautiful toothless gummy smile a mother can ever be so grateful to get from her child. If, on the other hand, she is not done sleeping yet, my good mornings are met with a lukewarm response almost as if she wants to say….”Not good enough of a morning yet.” and wants my help putting her back to sleep. She doesn’t last long after this though and is usually up in 30 minutes.
Naps have become more regular now. She likes a morning nap around 9:00 and sleeps anywhere from 30 minutes to 1.5 hours. How much she will sleep is often unpredictable and seldom at home. It is usually in the K’Tan as I am running errands or dropping or picking TJ up from preschool. Then she has an afternoon nap which may or may not stretch into an evening nap. Sometimes, very rarely, she sleeps from 1:00 – 4:30 p.m. straight. Other days, which happens more often, she wakes up within a couple hours and may or may not be able to sleep again. When this happens, I bring her downstairs, lay her on her activity mat, play with her, and when she shows signs of getting tired, help her sleep again, which may or may not work. On the days that this does work, I wake her up around 5:30 p.m. or she wakes up on her own. On days that this doesn’t work, she becomes tired and grumpy by 6:00 p.m. which I somehow stretch (because that is around when we eat dinner) especially if I need to do her massage and bath (alternate days).
Much as I have an ethical dilemma against using the word “training” when referring to our children’s sleep, I strongly believe that one of the best gifts parents can give their kids is that of a good sleep. What is absolutely essential to successfully doing this is an established routine. At least in case of our son, we have seen just how much a creature of habit he is now. He thrives on structure and a predictable routine makes him assured and comfortable. We allow for flexibility within that routine but the specific steps remain more or less the same.
Baby E night time sleep training:
Since the night of July 4th, I have changed our routine a little. Now, instead of bringing Baby E upstairs to a dark bedroom, I leave one table lamp on. I do my usual – diapering, lotioning, etc in silence or in hushed tones, either describing what I am doing or singing softly. After she wears her PJs, I now have her wear a sleep sack (this was another transition I was worried about – the swaddle to sleepsack transition – see box). Then, I nurse her (with the lights on) which can be a little challenging because she is ready to sleep and can barely keep her eyes open. I encourage her to stay awake by gently playing with her ears or blowing on her hair or tickling her face. Then, I seat her up and read to her.
I have been reading Sandra Boynton’s “The Going to Bed Book”. We had started Baby J with “The Goodnight Moon” but neither Aaron nor I like this book so we picked a different one this time, a switch we had made with TJ too. Then, I turn the light off, rock her in my arms briefly, gently kiss her a few times, and place her in her Pack n Play (we also made the transition from her bassinet to Pack n Play) awake with her eyes open. The first night I did this, she whined for 15-20 seconds and then fell fast asleep to wake up directly at 3:30 a.m. for her first feed. Last night, she whined for about 5 minutes and then fell asleep to wake up at about 2:10 a.m. Tonight, I put her down at 7:45 p.m. and she finally fell asleep at 8:40 p.m. (after I went in thrice and Aaron went in once). I hope to continue to follow this routine and hopefully, she’ll get better at falling asleep on her own.
I don’t know if I am doing things the right way. I don’t know if there is a right way to help your child sleep well and longer. All I know is that so far at least, I haven’t let her CIO (crying-it-out) for too long. I did do one today where I went in at progressively extended periods – first at 5 minutes, then at 7, then 10, then Aaron went at 11 minutes. When she cries (at nap times), I let her fuss it out for 5-10 minutes. She usually self soothes and falls back asleep. This is more challenging in the middle of the night since we treasure our sleep so much more. I also don’t want to be too aggressive with CIO yet because she is still breastfeeding exclusively. I will start her on solids in a couple of weeks and will wait to see how her sleeping pattern develops organically before doing anything. Baby J started sleeping through the night at around 6.5 months when a solid food feeding schedule had been firmly established (I started him on solids at 4 months too).
For now, with both, her nap as well as her night time sleep, I try to place her in her bed awake. This has already been effective in her being able to put herself to sleep. Eventually. The next big thing is to help her fall back asleep when she wakes up between her sleep cycles and as long as she isn’t waking up because of hunger. Before waking up, nursing, and falling back asleep becomes a habit difficult to break, I want to teach her to help herself fall back asleep during the in-between night time wakings. She is too young now and I am in no rush. She already shows signs of being a good sleeper (Kinahora – touchwood!) and I hope she continues to have a good relationship with sleep.
Note: I know that perhaps Baby E is a little too young to be sleep trained but I wanted to start the ball rolling early. I know there will be setbacks (especially if and when a regression hits or she reaches major milestones that disrupt sleep) and I am prepared for that but for now, I at least want to try to get Baby E into a general expectation of what is to follow. I do not plan to do anything more seriously until she is 6 months old. For now, I want to enjoy holding my baby. She is only a baby for a little while longer.