Monday, December 2, 2013

Sleep Strategy

I know I said in a recent post that it was my last post about sleep. I really meant that when I wrote it but then I had a request to post about our strategy. I thought that was a good idea, so here it is. :) Then for real I will be done with sleep posts-unless any other requests come along.

We started our sleep journey with Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. It was terrible. I'm pretty sure it was the book that got her so out of whack. We didn't gradually introduce the schedule to her and instead of sleeping more, she slept less. Way less. I thought we would never get back on track.

I researched online and read so many sleep forums and articles. I would read for hours just trying to find one new piece of information that might do the trick. Nothing worked.

Then we moved. And things got out of control. She refused to sleep unless I was holding her. I was taking naps with her three times a day and then had her in bed with me at night. And she was still waking up a bunch.

I had tried laying her down awake a lot, but it never worked. I figured since my mom rocked all her kids to sleep and we all did fine, then it was probably okay to do it with Ellie. And I was desperate, so I would rock and bounce and force her to take a binky (which by the way, she hates now) and after a really long time, she would fall asleep, but not for long. I would lay her down as gently as possible but as soon as her body hit the mattress, she would wake up screaming. I thought I was never going to get our things unpacked. It was horrible.

I didn't want to start any sleep training too soon after moving because she was already adjusting to so much. She was having withdrawals from not having my parents around. I'm sure she could sense my depression about our house. The poor girl was so sleep deprived and exhausted, I felt terrible, but I was so tired and I felt like I couldn't do anything about it.

On the drive to Oregon, I read Sleeping Through the Night and loved it. I thought for sure it would work. Once I felt like she was settled enough we tried it. It was terrible too. We let her cry for an hour before Mathew couldn't take it anymore and went in and rocked her to sleep. So we fell back into our old habits of rocking and bouncing and nursing just to get her to sleep.

Some friends from our ward here invited us over to dinner soon after we moved in. Of course the topic of sleep came up because it was ALL I could think about.  They offered to let us borrow their book, The SleepEasy Solution, after it helped their son learn to sleep. I gladly took it and we began reading as soon as we got home. This time Mathew was fully on board too. I read chapters out loud to him this time and so he was much more supportive and proactive about getting started. However, when it came right down to applying the method, I was scared and put it off. I didn't want yet another method to fail.

One night, Ellie was up every hour. We tried everything and she would not sleep. Poor Mathew, he bounced her like crazy and tried to lay down with her in our bed and she still would not stay asleep. He tried I think for two hours one time. That was the night we knew that things had to change! So the next night we started.

Okay, now I'm finally to the actual strategy. Sorry that took so long!

The first night, we gave her a bath, then I fed her, then read a story and sang to her while rocking. We put her down awake and left. She of course cried and cried but we had a specific plan! We checked on her after five minutes and gave verbal encouragement. No touching! Then we waited another 10 minutes, and then every 15 minutes after that. I think it took about an hour and a half before she was out but she slept so much longer!

The next night we did the same thing, 5 minutes, 10, then 15 (to the minute, we had timers going each time) and it took her half the time to fall asleep this time, just 45 minutes! Then the third night it only took 5. For naps, we used the same plan and there were a few that she didn't even cry for, just rolled over and went right to sleep. The first day I let her cry for naps, she took two hour naps, it was glorious! For her nap schedule, I put her down two hours after she wakes up in the morning, then wait 2-2.5 hours between the next two, then she is in her crib by 7 every night.

It's not perfect. She still wakes up once, often twice at night. But last night she had an 8 hour stretch! It was so amazing. Some nights are still rough and she gets up quite a bit, but it's usually because of a specific reason-like going to bed too late, not enough naps during the day, etc.

Right now, she is phasing out the third nap, so that is creating some problems, but I now know that she can put herself to sleep. She still cries for every nap and when she goes to bed, but she is so much happier when she is awake. I was so against letting her cry it out. I was just sure that a no-cry method would work, but she is just not a self-soother. Some babies are naturally able to self-soothe but that's just not a gift Ellie was given. It's a struggle for her, but she is conquering it. I had to tell myself a lot that her sleeping problems were not because of anything I did or didn't do when she was a newborn. It's just her temperament.

Oh and we also bought a jumper to help her get out her energy during the day. I think that helped a lot too. Aaaand, she sleeps on her tummy. Never thought I'd let that one happen! But that's the way she likes it, so whatever.

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