Sunday, February 19, 2012

Babies and sleeping

Full question: When your babies were about age 2-10 months, did you 1) intentionally teach most of them to sleep through the night (if so, how, and did it include several nights of crying?), or 2) get up and feed them until they naturally slept through the night on their own (if so, at what age did this occur)? Also share whether you think it best to 1) have babies about age 2-10 months "cry it out" to learn to fall asleep on their own or 2) assist them to sleep via nursing, a pacifier, or your arms.

Summary:

Pro "cry it out" and anti "cry it out" was about half and half, so it seems at least from these responses that kids aren't going to be messed up either way, which is comforting. :)

Many contributors used pacifiers to help their babies sleep.

From contributors who let babies cry it out:
"We’re big believers in helping babies learn to put themselves to sleep....Occasionally, if they seemed really upset, I would go in and gently lay my hand on their chest (but not take them out of bed), as a signal that they were okay and should go back to sleep....It’s good for them to learn as early as possible their parents can’t be there every minute, and they can put themselves to sleep.  (It reminds me of the car seat battle at first, but once they know they can’t get out, they adapt.)" "When I clearly felt they should be sleeping through the night and they were not, we let them cry it out a night or two.  That’s all it took.  The first night was the worst, I about had to tie my husband down, but I knew it was the right thing to do and that if we 'gave in' it would only prolong the process." "I hated it but we let him cry it out.  My husband stayed in the room with him and would occasionally rub his back to calm him (he was a tummy sleeper).  After one night he was much better." "Sometimes we let them cry, in fact my doctor husband would hang on to me so I wouldn't jump up and go rescue the crying child....We let them cry as long as half an hour before we checked for new reasons for distress."

From contributors who did not let babies cry it out:
"I was not much for letting them cry it out when they were that young." "I would always get up with them if they cried too long (10-20 minutes)....I know what all the books say: after 3 nights of crying, they'll sleep through; don't pick them up - just soothe them.  I think that may be okay when they are closer to the 10-month age, but my personal opinion is that the younger babies need to be fed, loved, checked on." "I thought it was cruel to let them cry it out."

From contributors who used pacifiers:
"I intentionally gave the newborns a pacifier.  It saved me a lot of grief many times.  After the first few weeks, when they would wake up in the night, I would first try the pacifier to see it they would go back to sleep.  I figured that if they were REALLY hungry, they’d wake up again shortly." "We were big believers in pacifiers." "The others would take a pacifier and that helped a lot."

From one contributor who did not use pacifiers:
"My children were not pacifier fans for which I am now grateful....I was just glad not to have to address the issue of having to take them away.  I think they are being used longer and longer and that's a bit distasteful to me.  Some of our children just give the pacifier at nap or bedtime after they are a year or so and that makes it very easy to put them to bed.  At some point it still must be eliminated.  I guess I just prefer not to be dependent on outside things."

Additional helps for babies and sleeping:

Separation:
"Do not put your baby in your room or so close you have no choice but to hear every little whimper.  I think my kids slept through the night when I was finally too tired to wake up for their little restless spurts." "From our very first baby, after the first couple of weeks, my husband would push the bassinet into another room, so I wouldn’t wake up with every noise." "I never let my children sleep in our bed. If they woke up at night and came into our bedroom, I had them lie down on the floor by our bed near me."

Teaching:
"Occasionally, if they seemed really upset, I would go in and gently lay my hand on their chest (but not take them out of bed), as a signal that they were okay and should go back to sleep." "We did make an effort to talk to them until they calmed before we picked them up out of the crib....I think that the soothing talk and touch before picking them up helped them learn to sleep longer without as much holding and rocking."

Routine:
"I truly believe routine is important to children.  Patterns can be developed through routine.  It’s worth the sacrifice to see that naptime and bedtime are at a pretty consistent time." "I did try to keep them awake for the few hours before they went down for the night."

Bottle feeding:
"At about two months we added cereal to the bottle in the evening and they all slept through the night from then on." "I did supplement most of them with a bottle just before bedtime.  I always felt that it 'topped them off' a little and might help them sleep longer."

Sleep aids:
"Our married kids now say those fleece swaddlers with Velcro fasteners that wrap babies up warm and secure are lifesavers.  And most of them turn on a fan in the room when it’s time to go to sleep, to help signal it’s bedtime." "We used swaddling, pacifiers, nursing, rocking, singing..."

Encouragement:
"Seems like every baby is different and some have a temperament that needs much more soothing." "I think every baby is different.  You try to adjust to their needs, without leaving yourself cranky and sleep deprived." "Maybe it’s like childbirth, I can’t really remember the pain being that bad." "There may be some tears (yours and theirs) but do what feels right for you.  Each child will be different and you will change as you have experience.  Ask for confirmation from the Lord as you make each of these decisions."

Answers:

Anna (and Gerry)
Every baby was different, but I didn’t have a terrible time getting my babies to sleep through the night.  I feel like I was pretty lucky with their sleeping habits.  I had one baby who actually slept through the night before we came home from the hospital, and continued to do so forever.  Most of the others were sleeping a good long stretch at  night by about 6-8 weeks old.  (On the other hand, I had one baby who had spent 6 weeks in the NICU with some serious problems, and when he came home I had to set an alarm to feed him every 2 hours day and night for a few months, so don’t think I had it totally easy.)  Most of them had bouts of sleeplessness for short periods, but none that went on for months at a time.

I was not blessed with an overflowing milk supply, even though I nursed all of my children, and so I did supplement most of them with a bottle just before bedtime.   I always felt that it “topped them off” a little and might help them sleep longer.  I did try to keep them awake for the few hours before they went down for the night.  (I put the other kids to bed, and that was my time with my new baby.)

After my first baby would not take a pacifier, I intentionally gave the newborns a pacifier.  It saved me a lot of grief many times.  After the first few weeks, when they would wake up in the night, I would first try the pacifier to see if they would go back to sleep.  I figured that if they were REALLY hungry, they’d wake up again shortly.  Most of the time it worked, and they’d go back to sleep, but if not I would feed them.

I was not much for letting them cry it out when they were that young.   On bad nights, if I was exhausted, I sometimes took them to bed with me (I know that’s a naughty), or would nurse/rock them back to sleep.   

Maybe it’s like childbirth, I can’t really remember the pain being that bad.

Samantha (and Thomas)

We’re big believers in helping babies learn to put themselves to sleep.  From our very first baby, after the first couple of weeks, my husband would push the bassinet into another room, so I wouldn’t wake up with every noise.  I don’t remember babies crying for long periods of time.  (Our kids have always been heavy sleepers.)  But I never tried to rock them to sleep in the middle of the night or stay up with them.  Occasionally, if they seemed really upset, I would go in and gently lay my hand on their chest (but not take them out of bed), as a signal that they were okay and should go back to sleep.

Our married kids now say those fleece swaddlers with Velcro fasteners that wrap babies up warm and secure are lifesavers.  And most of them turn on a fan in the room when it’s time to go to sleep, to help signal it’s bedtime.  That makes it easier to put them to sleep away from home too, when they have the swaddler and a fan.

We were big believers in pacifiers.  (I seem to remember we’d heard they were good brain development.)  And some of our kids were very attached to them.  At the same time, I never got up at night to give them the pacifier.  They had to be able to find it themselves or go without.

While we didn’t have a lot of trouble with this, I know others who tried every trick in the book without success.  I think every baby is different.  You try to adjust to their needs, without leaving yourself cranky and sleep deprived.  It’s good for them to learn as early as possible their parents can’t be there every minute, and they can put themselves to sleep.  (It reminds me of the car seat battle at first, but once they know they can’t get out, they adapt.)

Jane (and Samuel)
Sometimes we let them cry, in fact my doctor husband would hang on to me so I wouldn't jump up and go rescue the crying child. We did make an effort to talk to them until they calmed before we picked them up out of the crib.  Seems like every baby is different and some have a temperament that needs much more soothing. We used swaddling, pacifiers, nursing, rocking, singing, I know that I nursed in the night past 3 months with all seven. If they were fed, changed, burped, and snuggled we let them cry as long as half an hour before we checked for new reasons for distress (like poking diaper pins or sudden bowel explosions).  I think that the soothing talk and touch before picking them up helped them learn to sleep longer without as much holding and rocking.

Mary (and Robert)
I only remember our first baby being a sleeping challenge.  He started in the little hospital where he was born.  He was the first baby in a long time to be born there and we were the only patients in that wing of the hospital.  (This was a very small town area.)  The nurses played with him whenever he woke in the night and he had all the attention he needed during the day as well.  By the time I took him home he had no idea of night and day and just wanted to be up whenever the mood struck.

I hated it but we let him cry it out.  My husband stayed in the room with him and would occasionally rub his back to calm him (he was a tummy sleeper).  After one night he was much better.  We were down to every 3 to 4 hours waking and that helped. 

The worst was when he was a year old and decided to not go to bed at all.  We tried letting him cry but it was summer time and the windows had to be open.  The neighbors were very close and objected to our methods.  It was a confusing time.  But eventually he learned to sleep. 

Our other kids just got with the program in their own good time.  My daughter slept through the night the day she was born.  Our youngest got up every night until he was 5 years old just to let me know he woke up.  That only changed when we moved and let him sleep in the basement.  I guess it was just too long a journey to let me know he "waked up." 

My conclusion about my own experience is that if mom and dad just relax and let it happen, the child will eventually learn to sleep.  There may be some tears (yours and theirs) but do what feels right for you.  Each child will be different and you will change as you have experience.  Ask for confirmation from the Lord as you make each of these decisions.  He know you and He knows you little one.  That's always the best advice anyway.

Marsha (and Richard)
I firmly believe an infant’s needs must take priority, especially the first three months of his life.  I fed them, held them or did whatever they needed to get back to sleep.  Usually my babies were sleeping through the night by then or soon after.  I didn’t press the issue until even a little later than that, even as much as 6 months.  When I clearly felt they should be sleeping through the night and they were not, we let them cry it out a night or two.  That’s all it took.  The first night was the worst, I about had to tie my husband down, but I knew it was the right thing to do and that if we “gave in” it would only prolong the process.  After a shorter cry the next night, the child slept.  The child’s pattern sometimes was interrupted by a period of illness, then when he was clearly well and capable again, he sometimes had to go unattended for a night or two to get back into the sleeping mode. 

I nursed my babies so would sit in a rocking chair in a quiet room, nurse them and put them to bed.  My children were not pacifier fans for which I am now grateful.  I truly believe routine is important to children.  Patterns can be developed through routine.  It’s worth the sacrifice to see that naptime and bedtime are at a pretty consistent time.

A child develops “trust” in those early stages and letting them cry unattended before they are old enough undermines their trust development or can create a “discouraged child”, depending on his personality. As a mother we know when they are manipulating us and we must take a stand, but we must be sensitive and willing to sacrifice our own sleep or plans when necessary.  In the long run it pays off.

Follow-up question about pacifiers:

About pacifiers.  I don't know that I am opposed to them, I was just glad not to have to address the issue of having to take them away.  I think they are being used longer and longer and that's a bit distasteful to me.  Some of our children just give the pacifier at nap or bedtime after they are a year or so and that makes it very easy to put them to bed. At some point it still must be eliminated.  I guess I just prefer not to be dependent on outside things.  Our grandchildren do enjoy a favorite blanket and I love that some of the baby quilts I have made for the grandchildren have been loved to "rags". Not having a favorite blanket or pacifier saved us some of the drama that comes when these items are misplaced, lost or forgotten. I really think it's just personal preference and what the parent wants to deal with. 

Danielle (and Jake)
Do not put your baby in your room or so close you have no choice but to hear every little whimper.  I think my kids slept through the night when I was finally too tired to wake up for their little restless spurts.  My 4 married children swear by the book "On Becoming Baby Wise".  It is an amazing resource book to get babies on a schedule and get mom some rest.

Karen (and Lance)
When we had our first babies I did a no no, I rocked them gently in their cribs and they finally went to sleep. That was no good as they depended on that. Our first child slept really well and then he wanted to be rocked. The others, I can't remember that well, but I think since the first one wouldn't take a pacifier that that was what went wrong there. The others would take a pacifier and that helped a lot. Some I gave bottles to and they say that is not good for their teeth, but they seem to be okay with only a couple of cavities in their second teeth. I thought it was cruel to let them "cry it out" but maybe that's good too, who knows. I'm not much help on this one, but I don't remember them keeping me up that much. The bottle seemed to be the best solution :). I did nurse them to 7 months and then put them on a cup. The first two had bottles too long (until 1 yr).

Brianne (and Spencer)
Our oldest didn’t sleep thru the night until kindergarten.  He did okay off and on.  When he was 3 or 4, he was up most every night.  We tried letting him cry it out, per Dr– worst 3 nights of my life.  Didn’t work.  I let him sleep on the floor next to my bed so I could reach down and touch his hand or pat his shoulder and he would go right back to sleep.  Then moved him to the foot of our bed, then just outside our door, then across the hall just inside his door.  This took weeks.  Then there was a period when he woke us up but he was not awake - “night terrors” - it would take about 20 minutes of wandering and crying before he woke up and could be comforted and put to bed - But he was worth it - a wonderful child, wonderful adult.

Can’t remember anything about the younger kids waking me – maybe because they were so easy by comparison.

Tamara (and Lewis)
I am a sleeper, and luckily so were my babies.  I think they all started sleeping through the night around 3 months--going down around 11:00 p.m. and waking around 6:00 p.m.  My challenge was to get them to sleep longer in the morning!  I would always get up with them if they cried too long (10-20 minutes) to check on them, give them a pacifier, feed them, change them, whatever they needed when they were still fairly young.  I know what all the books say: after 3 nights of crying, they'll sleep through; don't pick them up - just soothe them.  I think that may be okay when they are closer to the 10-month age, but my personal opinion is that the younger babies need to be fed, loved, checked on.  Thankfully, this was never a real problem for us like it is for others.

Kenneth (and Catherine)
We bottle fed all of our babies and then at about two months we added cereal to the bottle in the evening and they all slept through the night form then on.

Rachel (and Bennett)
Back then I didn't know very much about how to get your babies to fall asleep, except to rock or hold them.  I spent untold hours walking the floor, and dancing with my babies until they fell asleep. The good thing about that was that at church or elsewhere my babies would fall asleep in my arms, and then I could put them in the baby carrier, and they would sleep for a while before waking up again.  Not until my daughter had her babies did I know much about teaching your babies to fall asleep on their own.  Once my babies started sleeping through the night, if they woke up at night, I would hold them for a little while and put them back in bed.  We slept our babies on their tummies then and I think they were happier, and went to sleep easier.  Sometimes I would lay them down and rub their backs until they fell asleep.  The downside of teaching babies to fall asleep on their own, in their beds, is that they won't fall asleep anywhere else, and you have to be home for their naps or bedtime.  As my children got older, and I was driving everywhere, my younger ones learned to fall asleep in the car seat.  I never let my children sleep in our bed.  If they woke up at night and came into our bedroom, I had them lie down on the floor by our bed near me.  I always had pretty definite bedtimes at night, but naps during the day discontinued fairly early.  That was hard on me, the mom! I believe that children are happier when they get plenty of sleep, but I'm not sure my daughter's children, who have learned to fall asleep on their own, in their beds, are doing any better, than some of our other grandchildren, who have not had such strict sleep rules.  I think it's all about what the parents can tolerate, and what make their lives happier with less frustration.  My daughter has survived her five little ones because she has taught them to go to sleep on their own, and they have definite sleep times.

Next week's question: What do you think were the best things you did to help your kids live the gospel and desire to believe?

1 comment:

  1. It's a fuzzy line...our babies' needs for comfort and dependence, and independence. I sleep lightly and was constantly checking on them in the crib, but often resisted the urge to pick them up while they cried, often a gentle back massage soothed them to sleep. I am sure our apartment neighbors were kept awake and I was overly apologetic! We didn't practice the habit of babies in our bed, I tried to keep bedtime routines consistent but not rigid, and they had favorite comfort blankets.

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