Friday, October 12, 2012

Sleep: 13 Month Update

I thought I'd update you once in a while on GI's sleep patterns, in the hope of creating a sort of historical record of sleep his evolution. My previous sleep posts regarding NJ and SB (part I, part II, part III) were based largely on my own fuzzy memories and the occasional LiveJournal post I had made when in the moment and wanting to scream (or rejoice).

A couple of things I know for sure are different this time:
1) SB was O-U-T out of my bed around 12 months. And then back in. But also out. His crib was in NJ's room, and I at least attempted to get him to sleep in there for the first part of the night.

GI, on the other hand, is still sleeping with me every night. His crib is snugged up right next to my bed, with the side off, because I had intended to at least try to scoot him over into his own space after nursing him. That...didn't work, but moving the crib or putting the side back on or any other option just seemed like too much trouble. At least it acts as a safety net should he roll off in that direction. It also acts as an excellent place to store clean laundry, hang wet things, and toss various items into when I don't have anywhere else to put them.

2) SB and NJ both had a bedtime by this age. We had a bedtime routine, I was consistent about bedtime, and both were down and out before 8:00 p.m.

GI, by contrast, hasn't settled into a predictable sleep routine, despite my efforts. He participates in the bedtime routine, including having a nightly bath, being with us while we read books and do the bedtime Shema, and he happily waves "night-night" and comes to my bed to nurse. This does not always translate to falling asleep, though. He seems to have an alternating schedule that goes something like this:

a) He's tired in the morning and takes a one to two-hour nap around 10:00 a.m. He is then extremely tired by 4:00 or 5:00 p.m., and my choice is to either put him down for a second nap or lose my mind because I have an overtired toddler following me around and screaming. I usually choose the former, and he sleeps for about 45 minutes and is up to eat dinner with us around 6:00. He is then not tired until after 10:00 p.m., but goes to sleep very easily at that point. On these nights, he usually sleeps reasonably well (comparatively, of course), and so I tend to think this is supposed to be his sleep rhythm right now. However...

b) If he goes to sleep after 10:00 p.m. he sleeps past 7:30 a.m. and then isn't tired for a morning nap. This means he goes down for a nap closer to lunch time, or even after lunch, and usually sleeps for about two hours. This means he's tired around 7:30 or 8:00 p.m. and goes down for the night right after I finish putting his brothers to bed. This is great! He's in bed by 8:00 or 8:30! Unfortunately...

c) If he's asleep by 8:30, then he sleeps more fitfully (I don't know why) sometimes, and then is up before 7:00 a.m. This means he's tired for a morning nap around 10:00. And back to (a).

I don't quite know what to do about this strange cycle, except to force him to stay up and take just one mid-day nap. I feel like 13 months is too young to be on a one-nap routine, although it would make my life easier if it works. The problem is that if he gets overtired, he's just impossible to deal with and I can't get anything done. I have to decide between having a happy and rested baby during the day so I can get work done while he's awake (and get him down for a morning nap and work while he sleeps) or having an overtired baby at 10:00 and just deal with him until I'm comfortable with him going down for a nap. I'm leery of messing with his sleep needs just yet. I'm leaning toward giving it a few more weeks or months and seeing if it resolves itself. He may just be in a transition period going from two naps to one, and he certainly will get there on his own soon enough.

It is better than it was. For about three or four weeks in September/October, GI was sleeping just horribly. He would wake to nurse, nurse for a minute, roll away, then start saying "eh eh eh," roll back to nurse some more, pop off, "eh eh eh," nurse, pop off, etc., ad infinitum, all night long. I was losing my mind with exhaustion. And then, just as suddenly, he's back to his old ways, waking two or three times to nurse, nursing for a finite amount of time, and going back to sleep. This, I can handle. I can deal with it. I'm used to it. Sure, I'd love an uninterrupted night's sleep, and that will come eventually, but at least I know what I'm up against now.

My number one piece of advice for parents with complaints about their kids' sleep is, "Give it a few weeks." If it doesn't improve on its own after three to four weeks, then you probably want to look into making some changes, but I've found that with babies, you get about four to six weeks of decent sleep habits, then four to six weeks of horrendous sleep, then four to six weeks of okay sleep again, typically. Just when you think you can't take it anymore, it gets a bit better. And just when you think everything's great, it gets worse. So, give it a few weeks, and hang in there.

If the situation is completely intolerable, however, and your baby is over a year old, sleep "training" is always an option, but it's up to you how much "training" you can and are willing to do. There's the old "cry it out" standby, or there are gentler methods.

My plan is to slowly work for improved sleep conditions over the next year, as I did with SB.

The first step will be to get him sleeping in his own bed, in another room. To that end, we are going to get bunk beds for NJ and SB (NJ is turning six, so it seems an appropriate time) so that GI can sleep on a twin bed in their room. A twin bed, because then I can go in and lay down to nurse him at night, which won't change immediately. He's used to sleeping in a bed, not a crib, so I think the transition will work well for him.

The next step will be for him to learn that he can fall asleep without a boob in his mouth. This worked well with SB around 16 months and took only about three nights for him to understand. I will nurse him until I'm sure he's just comfort nursing, and I will talk to him about falling asleep without nursing and that he can do it. Then I will do whatever is necessary to get him to fall asleep without nursing. This may involve some controlled crying. I plan to try this around 16 months, as that seems to be a magic age, and that's when I was able to do it with both NJ and SB.

Finally, night-weaning. Once he knows he can fall asleep without nursing, I'll have to make sure he's getting enough to eat during the day that he won't need to be hungry at night. Then I'll simply have to refuse to nurse him at night. He will probably still wake for comfort a few times a night for a while, but, eventually, he should start sleeping through the night. I will have to wait and see whether this comes at the same time as full weaning or if he will still nurse during the day.

I expect that by the time he's two, he will be mostly sleeping in his own bed at night, and will hopefully be night-weaned. This is a yearlong process for me, but the ultimate goal is that everybody gets to sleep at night and that bedtime is not stressful or scary.


  1. It sounds like on the days GI wakes up early, he has a two hour nap and then later has a 45 minute nap. Then on the other days, he has a two hour nap and fails to sleep through the night. What if the essential thing is that rather than one nap, what he needs is one two hour nap and one 45 minute nap? What if on the late morning days you try putting him down at 8:00 as a nap, rather than as going down for the night? Obviously, that could mean a late night even if it works, but maybe it could even out over time...

  2. It's not that he sleeps through the night on the later nights, just that he seems to sleep more peacefully and wake fewer times. Of course, this could just be because he's overall asleep for fewer hours! It's hard to quantify, because I don't typically wake up enough to record a memory of the time he woke, unless he doesn't easily go back to sleep. He's definitely a kid who needs a certain number of hours of sleep in a given 24-hour period and will get those hours in any combination of nap and night time. So, he'll make up for a late night by sleeping in a little, and he'll make up for a short night by napping longer, which is good. Not all kids will do that. If I put him down for sleep at 8:00, he'll stay asleep - I wouldn't want to try to wake him up at 9:00. If I did, though, he probably wouldn't go back to sleep until midnight or 1:00 a.m., which I don't want to deal with or risk!