Friday, February 03, 2012

Sleep and babies

Sleep seems to be an obsession with all parents.  It's amazing, because I was not that concerned about sleep until about five months ago when Olivia was born.  Before that, I rarely suffered from sleep deprivation or insomnia.  When we announced we were expecting, all the parents we knew told us to enjoy our sleep while we could.  I was skeptical about this advice because I wouldn't say that I've ever valued my sleep, but instead took it for granted.  As soon as she was born, I finally understood what the hubbub was about.  Those first few weeks of delirium and sleep deprivation certainly taught me to value sleep as I never had before.

Now that I am not as sleep deprived, I have become more focused on Olive's sleep patterns.  According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), infants need about fourteen hours of sleep a day.  Last week, after several days and nights of fussiness and interrupted sleep, I started tracking how much she slept using an app on my phone called Total Baby. I quickly realized that she wasn't always getting enough sleep.  (The worst day, shown below, coincided with swimming class, and I do think that's related.)  

When she was younger, little O was really good at falling asleep in the moby, in her car seat, and in the stroller.  Now that she has become more aware of the world around her, she is generally wide awake in all of those places and I've realized I actually have to put some effort and thought into getting her to nap.  Sleeping at night hasn't usually been a problem and I think that's because we generally have a routine.  This involves a bath (sometimes), changing into pajamas and a night time diaper, swaddling, singing and then one last night time feed in a dark nursery.  (Sometimes a few books on sleeping and saying good night will be added in.)  She generally does fall asleep at the breast, and then sleeps through the night or wakes up once on average.  My mom, a pediatrician, chides me for feeding her when she wakes up (usually around 1 or 2 a.m.), but when you're exhausted and the baby is wailing, it is a fast and easy fix. 

Last week, Olivia began waking up more frequently, and I started to regret not heeding my mom's advice.  Some sources I've read do say that by sometime between four to five months, babies should be able to sleep "through the night."  (This means about five to seven consecutive hours.)  I asked local baby guru Ann Keppler about it, and she said that she felt it was appropriate to still feed babies in the middle of the night up to about six months. When she cries in the middle of the night, I usually wait a few minutes to make sure she doesn't just fall back asleep on her own,  If she doesn't, I try to keep night time feedings efficient.  I don't change her diaper or unswaddle her.  I just feed her and put her back down to sleep.  Once I do this, she has slept anywhere from one to eight hours more, with the norm being somewhere in the middle.  

I am also trying to pack more calories into her during the day to try and prevent the mid-night wake ups.  She's so easily distracted now and I realize that she isn't always eating as much as she used to.  (Seeing our cat or hearing her dad's voice will stop her eating.)  This means I need to make a conscious effort to go to a darkened room and not interact with her as she eats.  (Ann also recommends not feeding solids after 3 p.m., something to keep in mind for the future.)

As I logged sleep times, I realized the biggest place where Olivia was not getting enough sleep was during the day.  The first two days of trying to promote a proper nap time were tough.  She and I endured more than forty-five minutes of on and off crying, as I tried to teach her to nap.  I only did this once each day.  During the other nap times,  I let her sleep in my arms after falling asleep nursing, which sometimes lasted two hours.  (This meant sore arms, but a peaceful baby.)  On the third day, the crying only lasted about fifteen minutes, and she began napping for 90 minutes to two hours.  Mirroring the night time routine of a fresh diaper, swaddling, singing, a darkened room, and white noise also helped signal to her that it's nap time.  

The one downside to increased naps is that we are no longer as mobile and I'm finding it's harder to make plans to socialize outside the house, especially since her naps aren't yet at a regular time, but fall 90 minutes to two hours after she last woke up.  The up side is worth it though, since it means a happier, less fussy baby.  It's also giving me more time to get stuff done around the house.

1 comment:

  1. Julie Park10:20 AM

    Ahh yes...sleep! It's so variable and she's about to embark on a whole new skill set...crawling, sitting up, pulling up, all which may interfere with her sleep. Natalie ate once overnight until she was 11 months and then she just didn't need it anymore (but she still wakes up for various other reasons - loneliness, being afraid, reassurance...etc) so that is variable too! That's really hard about naps. Some kids are just SO aware when they are out that they just cannot fall asleep and trying to figure out when it was nap time was always tricky. Good luck, it sounds like you are exploring lots of options!