The realities of baby/toddler sleep habits

Right before starting, I would like to emphasize that all parents have their own choice and we have no right of judging them!

The world is divided to two groups when it comes to sleep training of a baby

  1. Supporting CIO (cry it out) method
  2. Supporting No tears method

These methods divided to several methods too:

  • The Fading Sleep Training Method.

This is a very gentle, no-cry (or very little cry) method of sleep training. With the Fading method, you continue to help your baby fall asleep (by rocking or feeding to sleep, for instance), but over time, you gradually do less and less of the ‘work’ to put your baby to sleep, and your baby does more and more.

  • The Pick-Up-Put-Down Sleep Training Method.

This is another gentle technique. The PUPD method works just the way it sounds: when it’s time to sleep, and your baby is fussing in his crib or bassinet, you pick him up and comfort him until he’s calm and drowsy. Then, you put him back in his crib to sleep, repeating this cycle until your baby is finally asleep.

  • The Chair Method for Sleep Training.

This method involves more tears than the previous two; however, you don’t leave your baby unattended in the room at all. Here’s how the chair method works: start by doing your normal bedtime routine. Then, put a chair very near the crib and sit on it while your baby falls asleep. The goal is neither to help your child fall asleep, nor to help her calm down. You are generally not supposed to give your child any attention. The reason you are in the chair is only to reassure them that you are there with them. Each night you move the chair farther and farther away from the crib until you are right outside the door, until eventually, you no longer need the chair at all.

  • The Check-And-Console Sleep Training Method.

This is considered a ‘cry’ method of sleep training. This technique entails allowing baby to cry while checking on him at intervals. The goal here is to reassure him every so often that you are nearby, and to reassure yourself that he is okay. When you go to check on baby, you are not supposed to pick him up nor engage him much, but simply reassure using your voice and a loving pat for 2-3 minutes, tops (watch the clock!). With this method, the goal is NOT to help baby fall asleep – that is what he is learning to do on his own! Instead, the idea is that he falls asleep on his own, in the same “environment” in which he will awaken periodically throughout the night.

  • The Extinction Sleep Training Method.

This sleep training technique involves lots of crying on your baby’s part. The way it works is simple – you do your bedtime routine, put your baby to bed awake, and then leave the room without returning for checks. If your baby cries, you do not go in to check on her; instead, you let her ‘cry it out’ on her own. The thinking here is that if you allow your baby to cry for a period of time, but then go in and ‘rescue’ her, you have all but guaranteed that she will cry for that amount of time the next night, because she will expect you to come and rescue her again.

I personally believe that sleep training should start way before the baby is actually born! Yes, you have to train yourself and establish good sleep habits first, before demanding it from your baby. Most of the people leaving in Middle East are used to night life and enjoy it when they are just a sweet couple. All of a sudden, when they have a little angel who actually replicates them, they start sleep training the him/her. Why? There is no point training the baby/toddler if parents don’t follow the “healthy” sleep timing. The reason is that, baby imitates parents in all ways, including the sleep habits. There you have a baby up till 1-2 a.m. every single night. Parents start training the baby knowing the harm of late sleep habits.  However, they fail, not realizing that they need to have “healthy” sleep habits first for the baby to imitate or learn.

Observing all these in different families, I started “healthy” sleep habits during my pregnancy. Most important one is 10 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. sleep time strictly! There were no – “it is fine, tomorrow is Friday” excuses at all. When my naughty boy was born, I made sure to follow his routine regardless to anything. He had excessive colic that disturbed his naps and sleeps. We carried, rocked, and swayed during those painful colic to let him sleep in my/daddy’s arms, for him to understand and habit the nap and sleep times. I was judged by relatives that I am addicted to routines. We were exhausted in pick of colic “attacks” that happened mostly from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.  There were times I even slept sitting in a sofa, with my little angel on my arms, so did my husband during his duty. We never regret, as we see we could establish healthy sleep habits for our son:

  • Afternoon nap:

Babies tend to have many naps till age of 6 months old, so will not go into these details. From 6 months till 13 months, my son had regular two naps a day, each for 1.5-2 hours long. From 13 months till date (19 months old) he has regular 1 nap that longs for 2-2.5 hours.

  • Every evening we follow the same routine that starts at 7 p.m.: Potty time. Bath time (every other evening).  Teeth brushing time. Change to pajama. Breastfeeding to sleep. Deep asleep by 8 p.m.
  • Mornings start at 6 a.m. (every morning). Hence, I never wake him up, instead he wake us up. Fixed alarm that has no off button, would say 😉
  • We don’t break the habits even before/on weekends.

Please don’t think that my son mastered sleeping, yes he has a routine with healthy sleep habits, but we went through many difficulties by all stages of his growth.

Let me start from beginning. I was terribly tired by 5th month and decided to co-sleep. Why? It is obvious for many mothers, especially to those who breastfeed and haven’t offered pacifier: night feedings of 3-6 times a night. Co-sleeping “saved” my nights till age of 13 months old (the time he started walking). I didn’t have a good straight sleep, but at least I could continue sleeping while nursing. We both enjoyed undisturbed sleeps with several feedings a night. However we still had sleepless nights when followings happened: teething (3-7 very disturbed nights); vaccinations (1-3 difficult nights); accomplished milestones (1-3 disturbed nights); viruses that affect nose, throat or stomach (blocked nose or sore throat discomfort/pain the baby, virus in stomach cause vomiting). These are sleep disturbing factors of my son.

There are many other factors causing sleepless nights for you and your baby: room temperature (babies keep on waking up if feel hot or cold); stress; air quality; illness and etc. Also, some babies are too demanding. I rarely compare the babies, but I felt a link between character and sleep patterns and noticed that most of quiet and calm babies tend to sleep better than loud and demanding babies. Nothing bad about being loud and demanding I would say, in defense of my son, this is just a character that can’t be changed.

Sleep patterns started changing from 13 months old and I linked it to a new milestone, walking. He was too excited about it, he wanted to keep on walking while ignoring the sleep routine. This was the first time he rejected going to bed by 8 p.m. The time changed to 9 – 10 p.m. He became hyper even while asleep, this was the time he first fell from our bed (good I had sofa’s huge pillows around the bed). This period was over by time he mastered walking. He went back to his routine and started having good night sleeps again, though he still had 1-2 night feedings with closed eyes while co-sleeping. I was about to celebrate 3 days of “enough” sleep, but it was too early.

First molars started coming through. We were welcomed back to 2 months of “dream about sleep” period, until all 4 (two uppers and two lowers) came through. What we went through? Sudden, loud, heartbreaking cries. Sudden, loud, terrible screams. Breastfeeding demand on hourly basis. All of which caused sleepless nights. We had a break to gain energy for a month or so, when the canines started coming through and all started over again.

My experience shows that babies/toddlers are affected by different factors. All we can do is help them to go back to sleep by soothing them from pain. I don’t believe in “habits” that lead the baby/toddler waking up on purpose. What purpose? I have seen my son struggling from being not able to fall back asleep. If you established good bed time sleep habits and your baby keeps on waking up through night, there is certainly a reason!

How can you “avoid” those factors disturbing your baby’s sleep?

You can never avoid them, they are unpredictable and uncontrollable. All you can do is reduce effect of the factor on your baby.

  • Teething?

Try different ointments. The best way of applying the teething pain relief ointments is by using the silicone toothbrush (see the picture). Gently massage the gums while applying the ointment.

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My trouvaille was the syrup “kid’s relief teething” that can be used from 0-9 years old. (see the picture). Note that it is not magical syrup that helps any baby/toddler any time. It can help one and be useless to other. I can be effective today and not help tomorrow. download

Always try different ointments/syrups to relief your baby/toddler from teething pain.

I also used to give cold fruits, cold yogurt during teething.

  • Running/Blocked nose.

My son was born in Dubai’s hottest season: summer. We had the air conditioner on all day long. Air conditioner dries the room air, also exhales the dust and other air pollution. I never knew these facts. We struggled from congested nose since birth. Until unless we purchased the air humidifier/purifier.

For you to know: air humidifier humidifies the air. Air purifier cleans the air. Better get two in one.

Make sure to have no dust at home. Regularly clean the carpets and mattresses, soft toys, book shelves. Try to refresh the air in house twice a day (Open the windows for a while. Certainly when there is no sandstorm) .

Try to take your baby/toddler outdoors several times a day. (It is too hot in summer season in Dubai, but I found a solution. I take my son outdoors from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and before the bedtime.)

Avoid malls on weekends. As you know malls are packed with people on weekends, closed and crowded places are the best for viruses to circulate. Avoid the crowded places.

  • Vaccination pain.

When we had the second boost of vaccination (2 months old) doctor prescribed “Adol” (syrup)  in case of pain/temperature. I was silly enough to avoid “Adol” (syrup), thinking that it is prescribed only for temperature. This resulted 3 sleepless days and nights, as my son went through unbearable pain. Since, I give “Adol”(syrup) after every vaccination (as per prescription). Always follow the prescriptions of your pediatric doctor.

Breastfeed more often.

Skin to skin touch with your baby more often. Let your baby know that mama is there for him to go through pain together.

  • Accomplished milestones or overwhelming conditions.

Sooth your baby before the bedtime. Massage is perfect for calming down the babies, however some babies don’t like massage, know it from my son.  Read a story. Bath time is a great choice. Play quite games. Total of 45 minutes of interaction with your baby is required to calm him/her down to be ready for bed.

  • Room temperature.

Right room temperature 18-22 °C. depending on a baby, though experts prefer 16-20 °C

  • Never break the routine.

This is the most important. Babies/toddlers orient on pattern of occasions happening around or with him/her. Always follow the same routine for meals, naps, play times, bed time preparations, sleep time and etc. Any change can overwhelm or confuse your baby/toddler.

When and how my son has started sleeping through night?

He turned 17.5 months old and went through a new stage of sleepless nights. It was different. We could feel he had no pain. We tried everything, but nothing helped. He started simply waking up by middle of the night and trying to wake us up to play. Once (after 2-3 weeks) my husband decided that he needs a space and we are the ones actually disturbing him from good sleep. My husband offered to have a trial of putting him in his room in a single bed that we usually use for guests.

Our first step was to prepare the room. I have changed the bed sheets. We moved the bed towards wall. We placed a boarder on open side. There is still a little open part of bed, under which we place huge pillows from the sofa and the bed pillows. We didn’t use the crib, as he gets disturbed by nonstop bumps. We placed a night lamp stand with deemed lights on.

We followed the same before bed time routine.

We established the rules and explained to our son in a gentle and casual way:

  1. We chose the Fading Sleep Training method with tapping, rocking, lying next to him for a while. We both are against to cry it out method. However it is a choice of every parent. There is nothing bad about preferring particular method. All parents know their child better than anyone, according to which they make a decision.
  2. Daddy is responsible to attend each and every attempt to wake up. This is the most important part. The person that has an authority should attend, not the mother. Mostly it is a father, as most of the babies look after fathers and respect in a different way. Babies/toddlers know very well that mother can never refuse, hence can break the rules.
  3. Breastfeeding only at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. for first two weeks. 11 p.m. breastfeeding automatically dropped off by end of second week. 6 a.m. breastfeeding changed to 3/4 a.m. All changes adjusted casually. This was his choice.
  4. We keep the water bottle next to him.

Surprisingly, he slept way better in his own room. First three days he woke up 4 times: two times I breastfed at 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. (6 a.m. is a time we wake up anyways) other two times my husband attended him and it took maximum 1 minute for falling back asleep each time (unlike previous 20 minutes or so).

Nowadays he wakes up twice only, one of which is for breastfeeding.

Little more on cry it out method:

This method was very famous. Lately, psychologists and parents started considering the psychological effect of it. I have taken the below from, because I don’t want to use my own words to avoid the feeling of judgmental post: http://www.phdinparenting.com/blog/2008/7/5/cry-it-out-cio-10-reasons-why-it-is-not-for-us.html

“1. Cry it out can cause harmful changes to babies’ brains

  1. Cry it out can result in decreased intellectual, emotional and social development
  2. Cry it out can result in a detached baby
  3. Cry it out is harmful to the parent-child relationship
  4. Cry it out can make children insecure
  5. Cry it out often doesn’t work at all
  6. Even if cry it out does “work”, parents often have to do it over and over again
  7. Cry it out is disrespectful of my child’s needs
  8. Deep sleep from cry it out is often a result of trauma
  9. Our World Needs More Love”

These are the reasons most of psychologists and parents oppose this method. Some parents started even judging or looking down at parents who use this method.  I questioned most of the baby raise helping coaches in training I attended and got almost the same answer from many of them:

“Psychologists and all the studies considered the baby only, no one considered the mother. If mother has sleepless nights, she will be affected by hormones of stress, she will be losing the temper on the baby, which will lead to more dangerous psychological effects. It is most important to consider both – the mother and the baby. If the mother is fine by co-sleeping with many breastfeeding sessions, all are totally happy. If mother gets depressed which affects entire family and mostly the baby, the best choice is to teach the baby to sleep through night, even if it requires using the CIO method, as no-cry method might not suit certain baby”

Overall, I want to give a message that sleep is not the skill the baby is born with. It is a skill the baby learns step by step with hard work of parents. It is not easy to raise the child. We must be ready for at least 2 sleepless years. Never think that it is only your baby who has insomnia, 99% of parents go through sleepless nights! The best choice is to be close to your baby as long as you can and start nurturing the sleep skills when he/she is ready. You can “listen” to your baby/toddler to understand if this is the right time or not, you can always try and go back to “old” ways anytime. If this is the right time, try with no-cry methods first and keep the CIO method as last choice. However,  if you feel it is hard for you, you have a full right to choose the time and method suitable for you, because only happy parents can raise the happy child!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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