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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Sleep Lady

So...we've been trying a new approach to teaching Aiden to sleep better at night. I haven't written about his sleep much lately. For those of you that have been reading the blog for a long time, you might remember me posting about all of his sleeping troubles earlier on and some of the things we did to try to help, mostly taking tips from the No-Cry Sleep Solution. We had some successes with that approach during different times (sometimes developmental milestones would interrupt and making things harder, as would be expected), but it's not currently working. In fact, Aiden has been having more and more difficulty getting to sleep at naptimes, and he has still been waking up at least every two hours at nighttime (after sleeping for about three hours the first stretch). Sometimes he wakes more often, even hourly, and once about four am or so hit, he was almost always waking hourly or more often, wanting to nurse a lot from that point on. I do appreciate the NCSS approach. Even though Aiden hasn't been a great sleeper, we wouldn't change much about how we worked with him. I think a lot of it is just how HE is (esp when Camden was a great sleeper, and I've tried to do things similarly with both of them). From birth, he would fall asleep after nursing for five minutes. No matter what we tried, we couldn't get him to stay awake to nurse and go to sleep on his own afterwards. I think that hurt him and set him up to want to nurse to sleep even more. We haven't been nursing him to sleep for a very long time; we've always tried to ensure he does not fall asleep that way. But I think his personality has not been very conducive to being an easy sleeper. I have changed my way of thinking about babies and sleep a lot since this little one arrived!

In case you're wondering, I've been against Cry-It-Out from the start for many reasons. I just don't think it is good for a baby to be left to cry, raising their stress hormone levels (which isn't good for many things), and reinforcing an idea that you are not responding if they cry out to you. As a child gets older and can understand more, that might change some, but I still don't feel it's right for us. Do I think CIO is necessarily going to scar a child for life? No, not really (depending). But I'm not comfortable with it, so I choose not to do it.I know many people like that approach or feel it's right for them. I'm not here to argue against it or say it's the "wrong" way. It's just not our way.

Well....I actually did recently try it. And it totally backfired. I tried it for two days for naptime because things were getting so difficult, and I was at the point where something had to give. And when Aiden got to the point he was really crying, not just fussing or crying a little bit, I went into his room where he CLUNG to my neck and would not let go. He was nearly impossible to get back into the bed, screaming when he saw me putting him into it and just holding me tighter. If I mentioned going bye-bye for the next few days, he would grab onto me and cry. He totally got what it meant, and he letting me know that he was NOT ok with it. I was not ok with it, either. So, for a week or so, his mattress was moved to the floor so that I could be nearby and he could still fall asleep. It worked better, but we didn't want to leave the mattress on the floor.One thing I noticed during that time, though, was how uncomfortable the crib mattress is. Have you tried laying on one of those things? Aiden has gotten used to sleeping on our tempurpedic mattress every night, so I can see how going from that to his crib might not be the most fun experience. You try it. I wouldn't want to do it. So, we're on the lookout for a crib mattress topper made from memory foam. That might help even more. (Maybe he'll sleep straight through once he has a comfy bed...who knows!?) And yes, I am aware that would not be safe for a newborn to use (there is a reason those mattresses are so firm), but it's perfectly safe for a child his age.

Enter The Sleep Lady. A friend of mine, Melissa, who feels similarly about teaching her little one to sleep (without crying), told me about this approach, and I was very interested, to say the least. Google "The Sleep Lady" (Kim West) - you'll find all kinds of wonderful things said about her! I requested the book from the library, and we've been working with Aiden based on what she recommends. Basically, you gradually make changes in how you put your little one to sleep. You start by sitting next to the crib, reassuring the child that you are nearby, touching them if needed (but not constantly or consistently). If they cry and you need to pick them up, you do it - but then put them back down when they are calm. After three days, you move the chair farther away, to the middle of the room. Three days later, even farther. Etc, etc. Eventually, you are out of the room and baby is going to sleep on their own. It's not guaranteed the baby won't cry, but he certainly isn't left to cry on his own, and you are there for reassurance. You just don't rock the baby to sleep.

Night one.... It took nearly an hour for Aiden to fall asleep. He played for a while, walked from one side of the crib to the other. When he started to really get tired, he tried to fall asleep standing up. He stood right in front of where I sat and placed his head on the crib railing, trying to sleep just like that so he could be as close as possible to me. It was rather endearing. I finally put him down after he almost fell over a couple of times (he was seriously falling asleep standing up!), and he went right to sleep. There was a little fussing, but no actual crying. That night, he woke a few times but went back to sleep on his own. He nursed once in the middle of the night. In the early morning, Ryan brought him to the bed. I had conflicting feelings about how we should handle that. On one hand, he wakes often to nurse, and we both need our sleep. We also want him to learn to sleep in his own bed all night. On the other hand, oh how we love having him there to cuddle. (Yes, Ryan, too.) And it's nice waking up with him and being able to relax in bed together for a while before having to get up (versus getting up to get him out of the crib). Anyway, Ryan brought him to the bed this first night...and I quickly decided that was our last night co-sleeping. I'm not sure if it was because he hadn't nursed much that night and was suddenly next to me, being reminded that milk was within reach...but he demanded to nurse for the next two hours, getting very angry if I stopped and unlatched him. So, that was that. From then on, he has stayed in his bed.

After that, Aiden actually got sick, so we didn't stick to moving the chair away. She even recommends staying where you are if the child is sick and not moving until they are better. And we weren't comfortable pushing something new on him while sick. But he has continued to do really well. We've had some nights where he was up at 4am and had a hard time getting back to sleep (as in up for an hour or two), but on average, he might wake once around midnight and go right back to sleep as soon as one of us shows up. He wakes to nurse around 3am and goes back to sleep after that (in his crib). We thought about stopping the night feedings altogether, but Aiden insisted he nurse once. I mean, he actually is HUNGRY, and it's obvious the way he eats. But then he will typically be back to sleep until around 6am. He is waking a bit earlier, but he is also sleeping a lot more, so he feels more rested earlier. If we get to sleeping straight through, waking an hour early won't be as big of a deal. Now, like I said, not every night is like this, but he has improved so much - and it happened immediately! He might fuss a bit some nights, but he is not actually crying at all. (If he does cry, we get him and comfort him, but that's rarely needed.)

We also haven't been doing well about staying at the "designated" spot when he wakes up during the nap or during the nighttime..but this is mostly because of him being sick and uncomfortable. Part of him being sick has to do with a really bad rash, and it's made it hard for him to sleep some nights/naps, so we have been standing by him if needed. He's still doing remarkably well, though.

Naptime is improving, as well. As I type this, I am sitting in a chair outside of his bedroom door...and he just layed down and went to sleep. I have been sitting here for about half an hour, but that's fine. It's not expected that he immediately goes to sleep. That's not the point. The point is for him to learn to do it on his own, as I gradually get farther from his room and eventually am not needed nearby. (Do you immediately fall asleep when your head hits the pillow? I know it takes me much longer than 30 minutes... And actually, since he's in his room now, my insomnia has kicked in, and it's becoming harder for me to get to sleep. But that's a different issue.) When I put him in bed for naptime, he'll play some. Then he usually dirties his diaper (thanks). Plays some more (with a new, clean diaper on, of course). Drops his Bunny and blankets onto the floor. Walks around - sometimes jumps around. And then goes to sleep. It's such a nice change from the frustrating routine before where we would both almost be in tears before he fell asleep! And naptime length is getting better. He will often wake after an hour but go right back to sleep when I show up. He's actually had a few naptimes that lasted about two hours with no waking. Shocking!

Another amazing improvement? Sometimes at night, while Ryan and I are still awake, we have heard him wake up over the monitor...and then put himself back to sleep. No crying or fussing at all. THAT is incredible.He's never done anything like that before.

Some things I really like about this book and the approach...
  • Kim West (The Sleep Lady) is an LCSW. I like that she has a social work background and this isn't just based on her opinion or made-up nonsense.Me having a background in social work doesn't have anything to do with this, except for the fact that I get that her background actually has merit and is relevant to this topic.
  • You do not have to read the entire book! You read two intro chapters and then skip to the chapter based on your child's age. Three short chapters. That's all! She has chapters for various ages up through five years, I believe.
  • She encourages you to reassure your child and do what you are comfortable doing with your child.
  • If the child cries and you want to pick him up, do it! You don't have to cut any of the snuggling or close parts of your routine out. You might just do things at different times so that you aren't doing too much for the child once he's in the bed.
  • It's a gradual process so that the child learns you are nearby and he can still go to sleep on his own. While it is stated that there might be some crying...we have not experienced actual crying. My friend, Melissa, hasn't either.
  • We have learned that Aiden can do much better than even we expected. We have been very pleasantly surprised with his abilities to go to sleep on his own.
I'll keep you updated. We've been doing this for a while, but like I said, Aiden's been sick, so we haven't been as firm in the approach as we might have been if he wasn't. I plan on posting some about what all he's been dealing with the past month of being sick soon. We have an appointment with his dermatologist today, where we hope to find out some more, and I'm waiting until after that to post. But regardless of all of that...we are beyond thrilled with the results and Aiden's improvement in getting (and staying) asleep so far. (Thanks, Melissa!!!)


Becky said...

Congratlations! So glad you guys are getting some sleep. I can TOTALLY relate to the insomnia. Colin has been mostly sleeping through the night for three weeks but I still have MAJOR trouble falling and staying asleep. I'm not comfortable taking something in case he wakes up I want to be able to hear him but it is pretty frustrating. We tried the Sleep Lady but it just didn't work for us. He would just cry and cry to be picked up and would wind himself up instead of down. As you know I also resisted CIO big time, but it got so bad that we needed to try it. Apparently all Colin needed was to be left alone. Now if he wakes up in the middle of the night (which has happened the last two nights since we got home from traveling) Sean goes in and tells him we are still here and it is still 'sleepy time'. Sean walks out and he stops fussing the second the door is closed. I love it. Each child is different and you have to do what works for you. I'm so glad this method is working for you guys!!

Kacy said...

I was just forwarded your blog by a friend who reads it regularly because she said your sleep issues sounded a bit like mine with my son. As I was reading your entry I could have been writing it myself. I dont know how old Aiden is, but my son is almost 17 months old and still wakes up every 2 hours to nurse. At that point he just stays with me in bed, becuase it's easier... and I'm tired. Nap times are a challenge - and short. We are against the CIO method and have tried some No-Cry Sleep methods and have failed. Your blog has given me encouragement. Thank you. I'll keep reading and if you have any more tips - please send them my way! Thank you thank you for sharing your son's sleep story.

Daisy and Ryan said...

Becky - You're right. Each child is different, and we just had to find out what worked for each of our little boys. Aiden quickly showed me that we couldn't just leave him alone. I'm not sure if the co-sleeping made a difference with that. He's so used to me being right there when he sleeps at night. I know you didn't want to go the CIO route - we seemed to get to the same point where SOMETHING had to give. I'm glad that Colin responded so well and easily learned to go to sleep. Sounds like he is really doing a great job!! And yes, the insomnia thing is crazy. I used to take meds but am not comfortable taking them again quite yet, even though they're dubbed the "mom's" sleeping pills b/c you can still easily be woken while taking them. I'm sure I'll be on them again when Aiden is consistently sleeping through the night, and I don't have that weighing on me. For now, I guess I'll just deal! Even sleeping a little more during the night is better than what I was getting, right?! Ha.

Kacy - Aiden is about to turn 16 months old, so they're about the same age. I feel ya!! (And Becky's little one is the same age as your little one.) I would recommend at least looking into this method. We just got the book from the library instead of buying it before we knew if it was worth it. And you really only have to read a couple chapters, which is great! It's worth a shot to try it for a week or so, at least. I like that it's working and that I still am picking Aiden up if he ever needs it. Not that I feel I have to follow the "program" in exact detail. We do what we are comfortable with - but we really have been comfortable with this program and how well Aiden has done with it. He has really surprised us. The first night was kind of tough, but he wasn't actually crying - just trying to stand up and be close to me, even though he was falling asleep. It was rather endearing! I'll be posting updates - and hope to blog soon about why we waited this long to do something else. I'm sure many people wonder why - esp with his sleeping habits being so poor. Thanks for reading!! Isn't it encouraging just to know others are in the same boat as you? ;) It's nice to know we're not alone!