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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sleep Training Infants

Before our third baby was born earlier this year I read another couple of books on sleep training and, for lack of a better term, "baby scheduling." Our first child did pretty well with sleeping, but our second threw us for a loop. In the very long process of figuring out what was wrong and how to fix it, I read an excellent book back then that helped immensely. Third time around, I didn't want to leave anything to chance if I could help it!

In the years between baby #2 and baby #3 I'd learned about the Babywise method and read up on it on a friend's exceedingly popular blog. I have a cousin who used this method with her first son, and seeing how well it worked, I wanted that! So before my baby came I read On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. I didn't agree with all of it, but I felt it had some good information, and overall, it definitely seemed worth trying. I liked how it took the middle road between being slave to a rigid schedule, and having no predictability by letting baby determine everything all the time. I felt that that middle road fit my personality and my family's needs.

The second book I read was the Secrets of the Baby Whisperer: How to Calm, Connect, and Communicate with Your Baby. I was quite impressed with this book and particularly by the woman who wrote it. It's no wonder she's called the "Baby Whisperer"--she's amazing! I read several parts of the book numerous times, trying to ingrain them in my head, since I had to take the book back to the library. My problem was that the book is built around the premise that you know your baby and therefore know which personality type he/she is, and thus how to approach sleep training. Since my baby wasn't born yet, I could only guess and try to imagine different scenarios and how to handle them. All I was asking was that our experience with #2 just not be repeated!

In case you haven't noticed, I'm one of those people who likes to have things planned out beforehand as much as possible. So I was doing my best to be prepared in this case too, but of course I knew that babies have their own agendas and their little personalities aren't always very moldable (at least in my family). I wanted to know as much more as I could about how to foster good sleep in infants, but realized that sometimes new babies are just difficult.

After the first couple weeks with my newborn, I began trying different techniques with these two methods that I thought might work. Some things worked better than others, but I kept being frustrated by my baby's inability to be molded into any schedule whatsoever for more than a few days at a time. I was trying to be as flexible with him as I could and sensitive to his needs while still trying to help him maintain a schedule that his body could get used to. But it was hard to be consistent because I have other children who need me. So it was frustrating, as many of you understand.

Finally, after deciding that my baby wasn't made to be "Babywise," and even doubting that he could ever learn to nap on a semi-regular schedule (fortunately, he slept well at night almost from the start), we gradually fell into a routine that works for both of us most of the time. Now that he is almost 7 months old he has learned how to put himself to sleep and doesn't hate his bed like child #2 did. What blessings! When baby sleeps, Mama gets some downtime, which means that when baby wakes, Mama is glad to see him again, and he her. Both of us are renewed and able to cope with the other stuff in our day.

So...what I re-learned from this experience is that I can learn a lot from books and other people's experiences--gaining a knowledgeable foundation on which to build--but my children and I have to find our own groove. I still feel that this approach is different from ignorantly winging it, since that often leads to bad habits (like sleep crutches). We were able to find our own groove because I knew what the signs of sleepiness are, how much sleep my baby needs for his age, and whether his cry is hungry or tired (which is a big one to figure out with each child), among other things.

Sleep is such an important factor to one's health, no matter how small the person! And, especially after reading Kurcinka's book, we make our children's sleep a priority. (If bad behavior is frequently an issue with a child, I would check the amount of sleep they are getting before anything else.) I know I certainly can't function properly or maintain my health if I'm not regularly getting the hours of sleep I need!

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