Welcome to Educated, Common Sense Parenting! This is my parenting education/commentary blog. Start here and read About This Blog.

I believe too many parents today have let their children rule their households. Their children dictate their daily lives, demand every ounce of their attention and do not show any respect for their parents. This needs to change. The only way to do this is if parents start letting good old common sense start dictating their parenting practices and stop letting their children run the show. You're the parent. Act like one.

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Friday, July 2, 2010

More Newborn Sleep Help: The Sleep Window and Rituals

The Baby Whisperer outlines several variables on why a baby may not be sleeping "well." One of them is "lack of an inadequate sleep ritual." Some tip-offs may include:

1) Baby doesn't settle down to sleep easily.

2) Baby falls asleep but then is suddenly awake, ten minutes to a half hour later.

In order for baby to have a peaceful sleep you need to help her get there. You do this two ways. First, you need to recognize and figure out your baby's "sleep window." You also have to have a good sleep routine in place.

The Sleep Window
You need to learn when baby is ready to go to sleep. Ask yourself, "Do I know what my baby looks like when she's tired?" If you miss a baby's sleep window, it's MUCH harder to get them to sleep. When Will was under 5 months he had a VERY delicate sleep window. If I missed it by more than 15 minutes, it was extremely hard to get him settled down for a nap because at this point, he was overtired.

There are a couple of things you can do to figure out what the "window" is. First, look for "sleepy cues." Sleepy cues a young baby can give can be: yawn, fidget, fuss, squeak, turn their head away from you or a toy, burrow his head in your neck when you're carrying him or....nothing at all! Some babies just don't give good sleep cues. Particularly "textbook" or "angel" babies--they just always seem content. So if you have a baby that is not giving you the signs, you are going to have to figure it out on your own. Below I have outlined average, possible "optimal waketimes" for each age range. Note that your child may vary up or down 30 minutes or so. But this will give you a good idea of where you should start:

Optimal Waketimes (note: the time indicated includes a full feeding)

0-4 Weeks: 30-60 minutes

4-6 Weeks: 45-60 minutes

6-8 Weeks: 60 minutes

8-12 Weeks: 60-75 minutes

3-4 Months: 60-90 minutes

4-5 Months: 90-120 minutes

5-6 Months: 120 minutes

6-12 Months: 120-180 minutes

As I mentioned before, these times will vary from baby to baby. Especially as they get older (6+ months). This gives you a good starting point. Remember, when baby is having a hard time going to sleep or staying asleep, first try cutting back their waketime. I used 10-15 minute increments when finding Will's optimal waketime. It does take some trial and error, but it is so worth doing!

So now you know when baby is tired. That is half the battle. But you're not done yet!! Next, you need a solid sleep ritual or routine that you are going to use every time you put baby down for bed or for a nap. I love The Baby Whisperer's 4 S routine. I did this consistently with Will and even my husband says, "that stuff really works!" Here's what you do:

The 4-S Routine

1. Set the Stage: Whether its bedtime or naptime you need to prepare baby for sleep. You simply remove them from any stimulation. Go into their quiet room, draw the curtains, walk around a little. I used to carry Will around in his room for a minute or so and we would say "goodnight" to everything.

2. Swaddling: I can do a whole post of the importance of the swaddle but for now I will just tell you it's necessary. This is another way we help remove stimulation from baby and promote sleep. Don't bother with the Swaddle Me. I found that thing worthless!! You need a good, TIGHT swaddle. I used The Miracle Blanket with Will and it was awesome. It's lightweight and long--it's easy to get a good, tight swaddle. He wasn't able to bust out completely until about 5 months. Swaddling--it's important. Do it every time baby sleeps.

3. Sitting: I love this one!! After baby is swaddled, you sit quietly with him, upright (his face in your shoulder/neck). You don't move. You don't rock or jiggle him. You don't pace around. I know, that is what our instinct tells us--to pace, jiggle and rock! You should have seen my pacing and jiggling with Brooke! I was an expert! All of this stimulates baby--it doesn't calm him down. So just sit still. You do this for about five minutes. I have to say, 5 minutes of just sitting seems like an eternity. Especially if you have another child in the house! But try your best. I learned to love this sit time because it gave me a break! It's so awesome--after a few minutes, you can actually feel their little bodies relax. The Baby Whisperer book said that would happen, but I didn't believe it! But yep, almost every time, I could feel Will's body relax. As soon as I felt that, I knew it was time to put him down in his crib. He was still awake, but headed towards sleep.

After this, put him down (awake) in his crib. Tell him "night-night" and leave the room. Allow him to settle himself to sleep.

4. Shhh-Pat: So he's not asleep yet, huh? He screamed his head off when you put him down? Time to move on to the 4th S--Shh-Pat. Note--once your baby is accustomed to this sleep routine (it does take some time)--you won't have to do the 4th S very often! This step is critical if your baby is not going to sleep. It is a sleep training tool to use so you don't get into Accidental Parenting. It's also kinder and gentler than the Cry It Out (CIO) version of sleep training, for those people who don't believe it CIO. Shh-Pat should be used on babies up to 4 months. After 4 months, I personally recommend incremental CIO.

Here's how shh-pat works. You don't pick up your baby. You simply whisper "shh, shh, shh" into their ear while at the same time, patting their back. Did you know that babies under 3-4 months cannot hold more than 2 "thoughts" in their mind at once? This technique works because they are concentrating on the shh and the patting, so they can can't continue to cry. Eventually, baby will stop crying and concentrate on the shh'ing and the patting. Sometimes this happens right away, sometimes it takes 20+ minutes. If it doesn't work after 10 minutes or so, you can also pick baby up and do the same thing holding her. When you feel her relax, put her down.

I will tell you that 20 minutes of shh-patting, hunched over a crib feels like 20 hours. No joke. But believe me when I tell you: It works and it's worth it. Teaching your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep is one of the single most important things you can teach them at this age.

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