Sleeping…a Work in Progress

Perfecting Stella’s sleep routine is definitely a work in progress, but oh my gosh thank the Lord she is sleeping so much better than she was when I wrote this post two weeks ago. Both of the books I read said that you needed to have a few weeks to be really consistent when starting a new routine, and since I knew that we were going on vacation for a week (Aug1-8) I haven’t made any drastic changes yet or followed any certain program to a T. Also, we have decided to frame in the loft that is serving as Stella’s bedroom to make it an actual bedroom. This will help to keep out the light from the skylight over the stairwell, as well as let us shower/get ready in the morning without worrying about waking her up in her crib. In the meantime, there are a lot of little things I am doing differently that are already making a huge difference in our lives and Stella’s sleeping habits. Here is what we have done…
Sleeping in her crib during an epic two hour nap today.
(1) I had no idea she liked to sleep on her side/belly.
(2) My child normally sleeps for 20-40 minutes. Two hours is unprecedented!
You all came through with so many great suggestions for me. Many of them I had heard before, but I needed the reminder..some tips I had never thought to try, and they also came in handy. I wasn’t ready to do full on CIO, but I also needed faster results than something that would take weeks and weeks. 
The books were actually incredibly similar as was the core message of them both (and, I’d assume) of most sleep books ..
I needed to teach Stella how to fall asleep on her own. 

Yep, I knew that. I just needed the reminder.

Also, both books stressed the importance of preparing them for sleep by teaching them predictable sleep  cues, and then (and only then) letting them cry if need be. Also, neither book says you should set your baby down in the crib and walk out and let them cry – both have methods that allow you to sit in the room at first and gradually move farther away from the crib, which I really liked. 
I don’t regret keeping Stella in our room for the first six months, and I don’t regret co-sleeping with her (either in her co-sleeper or in our bed) one bit. I have loved every second of those cuddles, and I truly felt like I got pretty good sleep. I didn’t mind nursing her every 3-4 hrs while she was so little, and I wasn’t concerned about getting her to sleep through the night at that point. However, when we transferred her into the crib in her own room at six months, I should have also used that as the time to eliminate sleep crutches before object permanence kicked in…namely, the crutch of me nursing and rocking her to sleep. 
Lesson learned. 🙂
Small changes we have implemented over the past couple of weeks:
(1) Trying to follow more of an eat/play/sleep routine to start to break the nursing to sleep crutch
I still nurse her before naps/bedtime sometimes if I can’t get her to calm down any other way, but if I do, I make sure to pop her off when she is still slightly awake and put her down drowsy. Sometimes she loses her mind when I put her down, and when that happens, I will try to pat her butt, *shhhh* her, and calm her down (without doing any of those things consistently b/c I don’t want to create yet another sleep crutch!), but often times I’ll still need to pick her up, rock her or nurse her a bit more, and try again. And again. Eventually, it works, and it’s getting easier to put her down every day.
(2) Letting her cry a little more in the crib
I’m not talking CIO, but I’m letting her fuss longer. If she starts crying in a tone that’s going to turn hysterical, I go pick her up before that happens, because otherwise she is so worked up that she is awake forever. Otherwise, I let her fuss and see if she can get herself back to sleep. More and more often, she does! The first few nights I did the “sleep lady shuffle” described in the first book I linked to above, and that helped me feel better about letting her fuss a little louder and longer than usual, and it gave Stella more time to calm down, all at the same time.
(3) Following a more consistent bedtime routine.
Baths almost every night (we had only been doing 1-2x/week).
PJs and brush her hair.
Read a couple of books (usually ending with Goodnight Moon – her favorite.
Nurse and sing until drowsy but awake.
Say our prayers.
Lay her down to sleep.
Sometimes I try to nurse before books, but I usually end up nursing again afterwards, so for now, we’re pretty much following the routine above. It’s about 30 minutes from start to finish, depending on how tired she is acting. I speed things up if she’s acting really sleepy, and take the time to do a longer bath/extra book/etc if she needs more wind-down time.
(4) Earlier bedtime.
Before all of this, she was going to sleep around 9pm. I initially switched her to 7pm and skipped that last nap she was taking around 6pm. However, it was a long battle to get her down that early, so we switched to 8pm, and that’s a bit better. However, asleep at 8pm means up at 7am, and with my work schedule, it was WAY better for us to have her sleep at 9pm and up at 8am, because it gave me more time to shower/pump/get ready while she was still snoozing away. We are headed to MN on Wednesday (which is 1hr ahead of us) so I might switch back to 9pm-8am while there, and if that goes well, switch her back to 9pm-8am when we return to CO after a week. We shall see. I’ve read that as babies grow up, it’s more important to move towards 7pm, but for now, we like the 8-9pm, and she is still getting 11 hrs of sleep at night. That being said, an earlier bedtime means more time for Charlie and I to reconnect as well, so I’m not sure what we’ll do.
(5) Napping at home
Stells still naps in the car or stroller every once in awhile, but I’m trying really hard to get her to take a good nap in her crib first before taking her anywhere. It’s more restorative sleep, and it’s eliminating the sleep crutch of needing to be moving to fall asleep. I’m also going to start asking her daycare provider and my sis-n-law and mother-in-law to follow a more consistent nap routine moving forward. 
After not even two weeks, we are all getting so much more sleep. With me being more insistent on putting her down awake so that she had to put herself to sleep, she reverted pretty quickly to waking 2x/night (1ish and 4ish – her old normal before the every 45 minute b.s. that precipitated my whole breakdown!)…and the last few nights we have had a couple incidences of the first feeding being at 4am. YES! Eventually I want her to sleep through the night, but I’m willing to giver her some time to adjust to not eating in the middle of the night.
An upside to Stells sleeping better at night and getting more used to her crib is that she is actually sleeping better during the day as well. Naps have been getting longer and longer (usually at least one good naps of 1-1.5 hrs and then two 20-45 minutes naps)….and today she actually woke up around 7am, nursed, and was so sleepy we put her back down and she slept 1h45…then a 2h nap….then a 1hr nap. That is the best she has ever slept!
(6) Blankie in the bed
My Mom bought Stells a soft little blanket that’s maybe 12″x12″ that is incredibly soft in the middle and has as satin edge. She used to love having it on her face when she was in the swing, and I’m making a point of always putting it into the crib with her now as well. I also just read that kids should really only have one blanket and one toy in the crib b/c it’s easier for them to form an attachment with a certain object, so I’m going to pull the rest of the toys out of there asap.
I know this is still a work in progress, and I am sure that I will be updating again, but I wanted to say a huge THANK YOU to all of you that wrote with suggestions and commiserations. I hope that all of the comments from that post will help other Moms in sleep battles to come as well. 🙂

Our daily sleep regimen that I’m going to be shooting for when we return from MN next week:
7:30 a.m. Wake up, eat, playtime.
10:00 a.m. Begin 1st nap
11:45 a.m. Wake up, eat, playtime.
3:00 p.m. Begin 2nd nap
4:45 p.m. Wake up, eat, playtime.
7:30 p.m. Bedtime (eating right before)
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11 comments

  1. I'm so glad to hear that Stella is sleeping better these days! It sounds like you've made some really good progress since your last post! A couple things: 1. I think framing out the loft for Stella will help a LOT. Sofi sleeps much better when she is in her own space (this is true now, but remember she slept with us until 9-10 months). When we are vacation together we try to hide her crib behind arm chairs or other pieces of furniture so that if she does wake up she doesn't see us (and then of course want to play). 2. A more structure routine during the days with other caregivers is also surely going to help. Daycare was a godsend in this respect for us. They got her on a good schedule from the very beginning (4 months) and, in general, even when she was sleeping horribly at night she was still getting good daytime sleep because she was just so used to that routine. Routine is another of those things that all sleep "experts" agree on.Good luck and ENJOY your vacation!!!

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  2. So wonderful to hear that Stella is sleeping better and that many of the tips given helped out! 🙂 I am sure after you get back from your vacation, she'll continue to do even better as she gets more and more used to her routine and going to sleep on her own. We do the same with Alidia at night in letting her fuss a bit but don't let her actually start crying crying… the length of fussing is getting less and less, many nights it is more like talking to her self, then bam, asleep! Oh and that is a good idea about one animal and blanket in the crib. Alidia has a few other toys in there but her donkey is the main one we give her for naps and sleep. Maybe I'll have to take the others out… although she loves to play with them if she wakes up early and isn't hungry yet. Oh it is all so complicated!! ;)Where are you heading for your vacation? Have such a great time!!! 🙂

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  3. Yeah, I wasn't against letting her fuss before, but it was always escalating into hysterics. Now that I'm working more at putting her down awake, she has been a little calmer(?) when she wakes up in the middle of the night. That being said, last night there were a couple episodes of hysterics 😛 but overall things are going better. We are headed to MN to visit family. I can't wait!

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  4. Ya, framing out the loft has been an idea for a long time, but we really liked having it open and didn't want to spend the money on closing it in if we were just going to open it back up some day when we hopefully put an addition on. However, it is becoming more and more of a priority b/c of Stella's sleeping habits, so hopefully Charlie is going to frame it in next weekend while Stella and I are in MN.

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  5. Congrats to all of you! Gracie's bedtime was 7, just switched to 7:30, and those couple hours at night without her are crucial to my sanity and our marriage. It's completely different for us bc I'm a SAHM so those are the ONLY hours I get to myself/my husband. I can see how the later schedule works better for your family right now though. You still have a while until Stella's a manical toddler, like Gracie :), but I'm willing to bet at that point, you might need that alone/adult time a little bit more haha. Lyla's still just going to bed when we do, so I'm craving those quiet evenings right now!

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  6. And the side/belly sleeping is amazing, isn't it?!? I knew all along that Gracie would sleep better that way, and I know Lyla does too, but I was/am too scared to let them bc of the SIDS back to sleep campaign. When Gracie was abou Stella's age, I started to put her on her side and she'd eventually roll to her tummy and slept so much better! Now we swaddle Lyla so I won't put her on her belly, but I've been thinking seriously about what to do when she learns to roll and we stop swaddling her

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  7. Great news!! It gets easier after the first few weeks. I couldn't let Caro.line get to real crying or screaming either. Even now when she wakes up I wait until I hear her pull herself up to standing to go in there.Have a safe trip!

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  8. I'm so glad to hear it is going better for you. Not getting sleep is the worse! I defnitely am an advocate for routine. My 21 month old sleeps from 8p-7a. We both work full time so this time works for us to have some "couple" time and us not have to wake him in the morning to leave for the sitter. He wakes on his own. But, I won't lie I wish he would sleep later on Saturday & Sunday for this momma! =)

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  9. Yay! I'm going to try and borrow the books you mention from the library. I *know* Baby G needs more structure when he is home with us, but right now his crib is in the living room because I can't sleep in the same room as him. We're all on top of each other here 😦 Luckily, we'll be moving into a two bedroom apartment in a week or two and it is my #1 goal to get him into a more consistant sleep schedule when we're settled and he finally has his own space. I haven't really been trying too hard because I know we need to be consistant and I think moving is going to stress him out too much (just packing up stuff to take to storage resulted in NO NAPS one day a few weeks ago — OMG it was stressful). I hope things go well on your trip!!

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  10. […] is what I was going to shoot for after my last post six weeks […]

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