Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sleep: 16 Month Update

I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's something about 16 months. I was able to make major changes in both N's and S's sleep habits when they were 16 months, and now I've changed G's sleep situation at 16 months, and it's gone amazingly smoothly so far.

We finally purchased bunk beds for N and S, which made room for G to have his own bed in their room. My plan was to introduce his bed (S's old bed) as a new nursing and sleeping place and start to eliminate my bed as a place that he would expect to sleep. I had thought this would be a slow process, but I was surprised at how agreeable G was. I'm telling you: 16 months.

Let me give you a little timeline.

Around five or six months of age, I had started introducing a blankie. I always had it on hand when we'd nurse in bed. He'd play with it, fidget with it, stroke it while he nursed, and he started to associate the blankies with nursing and sleep. Indeed, sometimes when he wanted to nurse, he would go get a blankie and bring it to me! This wasn't exactly what I was going for, but it certainly served one very useful purpose. It meant that wherever I wanted to nurse him to sleep, I but needed to have one or two of his blankies (there are several, actually) there so he'd know that's what was expected.

When we got the boys' new beds at the beginning of January, I left S's bed where it was, planning to slowly start having G nap there and working up to always sleeping there. I had to wait until we reasserted our regular routine, with N going to school all day, vacations being over and done with, and random day outings kept to a minimum. This way, I could be sure that we'd be home for G's nap. On Monday, with winter break over, I put a clean sheet on G's new bed and told him he was going to nap on his new bed! I made it sound very exciting. "Look, here's your new bed! Do you want to nurse here? You can nap here in your room now! Wow!" He giggled and saw that his blankies were on the bed and promptly climbed onto the bed and signed that he wanted to nurse. Okie doke.

I nursed him down for his nap, which went much more smoothly than I'd expected. I was worried that being in this new environment would be distracting for him and that he wouldn't buckle down and concentrate on nursing and falling asleep. Fortunately, he'd spent plenty of time in that room with us and was not overly excited about the new scenery. His nap was shorter than usual, a little under an hour, and when he woke up, he came to find me and definitely still seemed tired. Still, I counted it a success. I put him to bed in my bed as usual that night, but for some reason he had trouble falling asleep, and he didn't end up going to bed until 10:00, much later than usual. There were a lot of variables on Monday, so I'm not sure what happened to make bedtime so difficult. I don't think the new bed was related.

Tuesday, I again enforced a nap in his bed. Again, it went fairly smoothly, but he woke after about an hour and was clearly still tired. I ended up nursing him on my bed and letting him sleep for a while there. He was very tired because he'd been up so late the night before, so needing a longer nap was reasonable.

Tuesday night, he wouldn't fall asleep in my bed before I put his brothers to bed, though that's how I normally handle bedtime. He wanted to join us in his brothers' room for books. He then lay down in his bed, gathered his blankies around him, and asked to nurse. I nursed him to sleep in his bed, and he slept there for four hours straight before waking around midnight to nurse. I trudged from my room to his to nurse him in his bed (the reason for putting him straight into a twin!). He woke three times that night to nurse, around midnight, 3:00, and 5:00 (I think), but spent the entire night in his bed and went back to sleep reasonably easily after each nursing session.

Wednesday, he napped well in his bed, wanted to sleep for the night there, and again woke three times, although this time it was around midnight, 4:00, and 5:00. I'm amazed that he's slept in four-hour blocks at all, as that isn't typical (I don't think). I think part of it is not having me nearby - he doesn't feel me shifting next to him, he doesn't smell me there, so he doesn't instantly wake to nurse. Also, since I don't hear every move or snuffle and immediately offer him the breast, he settles himself down more often. When he does wake, he yells for me.

After that, we went downhill a bit and started waking more often and not settling as quickly, but he's still spent the whole night in his bed each night so far, so I'm going to stick with it. It's certainly harder to get up and walk down the hall, doze lightly while he nurses, then get back up and trudge back to my room when I'm sure he's done than it was to simply roll over and let him nurse, but there are distinct advantages. First of all, if he's sleeping in longer blocks, that's good for both of us. (Time will tell if this remains the case.) Secondly, I'm able to sleep in much more comfortable positions in my own bed! Sunday night, I ended up spending most of the night in his bed because I kept falling asleep with him. Sleep deprivation + getting over the flu will do that to you.

I'm sure at some point, it will occur to him that he can get out of bed and come to me, and I don't know what will happen when he does. I anticipate a great deal of walking/carrying him back to bed.

Now that he has his own space, at some point I can start trying to teach him to fall asleep without nursing. That will probably be considerably more difficult than this first step has been so far. I'll let you all know when I start that process and how it goes, but I'm very encouraged by how easily he slipped into this new sleep routine.

What is it about 16 months?

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