11 April 2006

Look for the easy solution first

Kathy wisely reminds us to check the obvious, low-tech solution first:

Our daughter Brigid just reached her three-month milestone. A couple of weeks ago, she started to flirt with the idea of sleeping through the night. Some nights she'd go five, six, or even seven hours on that first stretch, which was like heaven. But like all babies, not known for their consistency and predictability at this (or any other) age, she had other nights when it seemed she stirred every couple of hours. Those nights, she didn't even always seem hungry or wet when she awoke--she usually just needed to be held for a minute or two and calmed, then she'd go back to sleep (unlike me).

Well, this drove me crazy. I had to know what we were doing right on the days prior to the long sleeping nights, or what we were doing wrong on the nights when she awoke over and over for no reason. I enhanced her already-established bedtime routine and stuck to it, trying to give her cues that it was nighttime and time to sleep. I had charts. I had lists. I wrote down everything. Nap frequency and duration. When she ate, how many times per day, and how much per feeding. When we did tummy time and how upset it made her. How many diapers we changed. Whether we got any time outside that day or not. What her temperature was each afternoon and evening. EVERYTHING. I couldn't find a correlation, no matter how hard I tried or how far I stretched the gargantuan amount of data I'd collected.

Then one night when she was having a wakeful night, I felt the bed shake as my husband shifted around on his side of the bed. I looked at the bassinet (she hasn't quite moved to her crib yet...ironically, we've been waiting for her to sleep longer through the night consistently first) and it was shaking too. I had pushed the bassinet right up flush with the mattress of our bed when we'd gone to bed that night. I pushed it just a bit further away, giving it a little buffer space, and laid her back down. Well, she went back to sleep for a nice long stretch after that. Since I have been aware of keeping enough space between the bassinet and our bed so that our movements in the night don't give her a shake, she's been sleeping really well.

[Great advice, as long as you remember that sometimes there is no solution, especially when it comes to newborn sleep. Tangent: one of the biggest challenges for me has been knowing when there's a "fix" and when I need to just accept certain difficulties in parenting. It often takes a while before that distinction becomes clear. -- Ed.]

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EC comment --
from when he was six weeks to now that he's five months, whenever our co-sleeping son wakes up in the middle of the night I carry him off to the bathroom to pee in the toilet. (I sit on the toilet seat, facing the wrong direction, holding him over the hole.) He wakes up dry and ready to pee 95%+ of the time.
He's just this past week starting to consistently sleep from 9 PM to 5:30 AM.

It's really handy enforcing a "pee before you feed" routine, because then his bladder doesn't distract him while he's feeding.

We usually found that feeding my son almost every hour from about 5 PM until 10, until he was 4 months, and then putting him down for the night meant he slept longer and uninterrupted. Worked from the time he was 3 weeks old. He slept at least 6 hours at a stretch and that set the pattern. Now, almost 2 years old, 9 out of 10 nights, he sleeps from 8 PM until 6 AM. And my husband and I get to have some quiet time, watch TV and relax. If he has a rough night, it is usually an indication that he has an ear infection or something more serious.

As an Uncle to many babies, I would advise all new parents to openly beseach their close friends and family for relief, especially in the form of late-night bottle-wielders. The ability to sleep five or six hours in a row is not to be overlooked, and your inner circle will be honored to serve.

I agree with the editorial comment. As a parent of a formerly-colicky infant, 99% of the time there was no discernible reason for his ability to sleep or not. Reading the books, and listening to the conventional wisdom, you get convinced that there is one "magic thing" that will make a child fall right asleep -- swaddling, feeding them right before, rocking just so, etc. It'd be the middle of the night, and, we'd be beating ourselves up trying to find that magic thing that would make him fall asleep. But usually, there wasn't one. It's up to the child. And often, you just have to tough it out.

I had the baby sleeping technique down perfectly. My son slept great and was well rested, calm and happy. Seemed to me that if everyone just did what I did we'd have less fussy babies, less ADHD in the classrooms and happier adults. THEN I had baby #2. None of my tricks worked. He slept very differently, had very different moods and reacted to me very differently. In his two years he never has slept well. I learned a lot from him, but it wasn't that I knew how to get other people's babies happy. Each new parent will learn new tricks, and sharing ideas is helpful, but be careful assuming that another baby- even your's!- will react the same way. My two cents.

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