Ask SIFTW: Windy minxes and dream feeding

March 4, 2008

Simone has a question about dreamfeeding:

How does it work? My nearly 10 week old, sleeps really well from 6.30/7 pm until about 11pm, feeds and thinks it’s playtime. She doesnt settle again till about 12-12.30am, sleeps and wakes at 3.30-4 am, and at this point it really is playtime, and she is so fidgety and frantic and takes forever to settle. When she does it’s till 7-7.30 am, she feeds and then we are ready for the day.

Should i dream feed at 11pm? Will it make her stay asleep and settled till 3.30?Also why does she not fall asleep after her bottle, but fidget and frantically thrash about for an hour? do you think she may be windy or just a minx?

Simone, please feel free to slap me for this because I totally know you are in sleepless hell at the moment, but it sounds like your little minx (do you mind if I call her that, affectionately of course!) is doing quite well in the sleep stakes. 10 weeks is pretty early days and babies are still working out the difference between night and day and I figure if they can do a couple of 3-4 hour stretches at night, then they are already starting to figure out that nighttime is for sleeping. 10 weeks is probably too early to be expecting much more in respect of sleeping (or in respect of anything really), so go with it, do the best you can, and get the sleep you can in the meantime.

3 or 4 hours doesn’t seem like much when you are craving 7 or 8 hours in a row (or perhaps 24 hours straight as the case may be), but take what you can get and hopefully you’ve been blessed with a good sleeper who will get into a nice pattern as she gets a little older.

As for dreamfeeding, my feeling is that you could give it a try and see what happened. I think dreamfeeding can work well when the reason that the baby wakes up is because of hunger. Unfortunately there are a myriad of other reasons babies wake and can’t settle back that dreamfeeding just won’t fix. I tried dreamfeeding with the Imp a few times and it really did nothing other than to give him an extra milk feed in the night as he still woke up at exactly the same times even after the dreamfeed.

Probably the reason she doesn’t fall asleep straight after her bottle is to do with the day/night distinction thing and also your scintillating company. Babies don’t see the imperative of sleeping at particular times, so if there is something more interesting to do at 4am than sleep, then likelihood is, they will do that instead. Over time, you can try and teach them that nighttime is for sleeping, but for the moment, just keep the mood chilled and the lights off and see if you can coax her back to sleepyland.

If she’s crying a lot after feeds, maybe she’s windy, you can try to bring up some burps, but again, as they get older, they are better at dealing with wind. And as for being a minx? I’ll leave that to you to decide.


Ask SIFTW: Early wakers rejoice at the imminent time change

March 3, 2008

Kirsty and Myk write:

Our lovely son is turning 1 year on the 25th of February. He has been a very good baby with the exception that he was a terrible sleeper. We say “was” because after many months of compassionate sleep training – He seems to be sleeping better. However, it’s only been a few weeks. We’re sure some awful sleep regression is heading our way.

His bedtime used to be 9pm, and after reading every baby sleep book decided to try for the early bed time. We made it 8pm and then when the last time change occurred, we used it as an opportunity to make his bedtime 7pm. All the books said he’d probably sleep just as long, if not longer. Ha! Of course that was not our case. He just woke up earlier. So now that he is sleeping better he is averaging 10.5 hrs a night (It used to be 11 hrs with frequent night wakings). So we put him to bed at 7pm and he wakes at 5:30am. If we’re lucky we can get him to sleep until 6am. But not usually. We hate the 5am wake ups! They are the worst. We’d like to push his bedtime back to 8pm.

With the time change occurring in March we are thinking of keeping him on the same schedule. He’ll feel like its 7pm when we put him down at 8pm. Then *hopefully* he’ll sleep until 6:30am and if we’re lucky 7pm. In your opinion does this seem like a good idea?

You know what – there is a reason it’s been taking me FOREVER to respond to this question.

The universe works in mysterious ways.

The Imp is now going to bed at 7pm (that’s as late as he can stay up without having a stellar meltdown performance) and getting up at … you guessed it … 5.30 bloody AM.

And guess what my first thought is … Kirsty is onto something with the March time change.

Frankly, I don’t really have the energy or patience to make changes any other way.

I love an email that says “all the books said”. What the hell do books know? They never knew my son. Or at least the Imp had never read those books. I guess yours hasn’t either. This bedtime thing seems to be a juggling act. My considerations seem to be – how long can they survive in the afternoon/evening before having a major meltdown? And what time does this mean they are going to wake up in the morning? Seriously, if I could put the Imp to bed at 5pm and have him sleep through until 7am the next morning, I wouldn’t have a problem with that! I sure would get a lot done in the evenings.

I would say that if your son is waking up at 5.30am happy and ready to play and making it through the day ok without having tired- related meltdowns, then he’s getting enough sleep and that is his rhythm. Of course you can try puttin him to bed a little later and see if it helps, and by all means the time change may work in your favour.

But also be prepared for the scenario that it may not work. An interesting thing happened when we travelled half way around the world. I thought to myself: Wonderful! Since the Imp’s body clock will be messed with anyway, I’ll just put him to bed around 10pm each night and that way we can take him out to dinner with us each night and he’ll just sleep in each morning. It worked like that for a few nights, but as he adjusted to the local time, he seemed to NEED to go to bed around 7pm. So maybe it’s something to do with the daylight, the sunrise and sunset or whatever.

So just in case, you are still getting up at 5.30am next month, try and get earlier nights yourself, and maybe get a coffee maker that switches itself on in the mornings. Best of luck. I hope it works for you (and us!)


55 weeks and the Imp can’t get back to sleep

January 21, 2008

Whatever bad patch  you are going through, someone has always been through it before. I take a little comfort in that thought during these marathon night wakings. Just as well we are going on another holiday next week which would have sent the sleep haywire anyway. Might as well enjoy the sleep regression as best as we can by enjoying the snow and building lots of snowmen.

So I would be completely justified in bringing the Imp downstairs and watching TV at 3am? Better load up on some dvds that I would love and would bore the Imp to death ….


Never say never

January 14, 2008

I have a confession to make.  For the last few nights I have been using controlled crying techniques to get Loudboy to sleep a) in his own bed and b) through the night.  Now I was against using CC when he was young, because I didn’t think it was a good idea with young babies (and I didn’t think it would work).  But we got to the magic age of 15 months and rather than his sleep improving it was getting worse.  Not only was he waking lots at night, he was refusing to go to sleep at all, despite the fact that he was sleeping in our bed and I was feeding him down.  No, he was certain there was interesting stuff going on in the other room (probably involving telly and biscuits) and he was going to find out, even if he couldn’t stand up without falling over.  Who needs sleep anyway?  And when he was in bed with us he was kicking and squirming so no-one was getting much sleep.  Changes needed to be made.

If there were one thing to change, I would have tried other methods first.  In our case, we needed to alter several things at once: getting Loudboy to sleep in his cot rather than our bed, stopping night feeds (an increasing problem for all sorts of reasons) and (ideally) stopping night waking.  Gradual changes would take weeks and would still upset us all.  Drastic measures were needed.

We decided to try something different.  I had been reading Toddler Taming by Christopher Green and his suggestion that CC could give us more sleep within a few nights was an extremely tempting one.  My main objection to CC for babies was that if Loudboy cried during the day, I would find out what was wrong and deal with it, so why not at night?  Dealing with a toddler, I discovered, is rather different.  There are times during the day when I ignore his crying, usually when he is throwing a temper tantrum because he isn’t allowed to play with knives or chew the power lead to the laptop or other child-friendly activities.  I can also tell the difference between angry and upset.  So with great trepidation I re-read the relevant chapter, did our usual bedtime routine and then instead of feeding Loudboy to sleep (and preventing him from escaping), I put him in his cot, said goodnight and left.  He was not impressed.  I had pegged myself as a wuss, so I left him for only two minutes at the beginning, went back, cuddled him until he was quiet, and left again.  It took just over half an hour of tears before he was asleep.  It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t upset crying, it was ‘Why am I in this ******* cot? Get me out!  Getmeoutgetmeoutgetmeoutgetmeout nownownownownownownownownow!’

We’ve done this for about five days now and guess what?  It worked!  Loudboy now takes five minutes or less to get to sleep and the protest has reduced to ‘Great.  The cot.  I’m sure this is infringing my human rights.  Get me out zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…’

Not only is he going to bed at a reasonable hour (and it’s an earlier bedtime than usual, which means we have some adult evening time again), he’s only waking briefly at about 11 and again at about 1 or 2.  Each time, he settles himself in a few minutes.  Then he goes through until about 7am, when we have a feed and a cuddle.

I always said I wouldn’t rule out anything when it came to sleep training and I’m glad I tried this method.  Of course, he may have improved on his own.  Many babies do at 15 months, but for us it was a good window to nudge him into better sleeping habits.  The problem with sleep training is that it isn’t a permanent fix: when the next teeth come through or he gets another cold he’ll be waking up again.  For now, we are actually getting some sleep.


Bad bad bad bad bad bad bad things

December 3, 2007

So I made a start on night weaning.  Then stuff happened.

Things that are bound to mess up your well-meaning efforts at sleep training:

1. Illness (me).  When you’re struggling with a cold, cough and other unidentified bugs, you are not in the mood for spacing feeds, checking clocks and all the rest that goes with sleep training.  Feed the baby and go back to sleep.

2. Illness (him).  If your partner is ill as well, you’ll definitely be taking the easiest route.  He will also not appreciate an exposition of baby sleep habits at 3am.

3. Illness (baby).  Colds are not good for sleep.  Neither are coughs that wake the baby up 30 minutes after he’s reluctantly gone down for the night.  The worst one is the tummy bug that leads to 3am baths and much swearing when locating the last clean sheet in the house. (Tip: if you can’t face changing the bed, small amounts of vomit can be dealt with using baby wipes and a clean muslin over the damp spot).

4. Immunisations.  I forgot to mention that Loudboy had his MMR last week: the effects should start kicking in, ooh, tomorrow or the next day.  Fun.

5. Temperature.  Room too cold? Bung baby in pjs and a vest.  But then he’ll be too hot if you’re co-sleeping so you have to take off some layers when you go to bed (if you think you can do this without waking the baby up you’re on the wrong blog).  Then when he’s kicked his way out of the duvet in the early hours he’ll be cold again.  Have you tried searching for those pj bottoms at the end of the bed at 3am?  In the dark?  The sooner they invent automatic retractable baby clothes the better.

6.  Teeth.  Molars.  No need to elaborate.

To sum up: winter is BAD NEWS.  Or maybe just November.  Or maybe just me.  At least December holds the prospect of time off work and presents and sherry and the possibility of family babysitting.  Roll on Christmas (and the hope, some time, somewhere, of a good night’s sleep).

 In the meantime, put your feet up and have a listen to the man himself, Fela Kuti.


Ask SIFTW: Baby waking at 7 months after sleeping through

November 30, 2007

David writes:

Our 7 month old has been sleep trained for about a month (what took us so long?) and now he goes to sleep at 6:30 or7pm and is fine. But today he had an odd day and had an extra nap. So, although he went to sleep fine, he has woken up. What should we do? Let him cry it out or go comfort him, take him out of bed, play for a while, night feed and then put him back? Or something else?

Firstly, sounds like you’ve been getting a bit of sleep in the last month David, so well done, that’s not an easy achievement in itself. Firstly, crazy nap days are going to happen. We’re off on holidays tomorrow and the Imp does not nap so well in the pushchair, so I think we are in for an interesting time with loads of overtiredness. For some babies, naps really do seem to dictate the flow of nighttime sleep, for others the connection is somewhat dubious at best.

Your baby has woken up in the night after sleeping through for a month or so. There’s a couple of ways you could take this (off the top of my head). Hopefully it is a one off for you and he will go back to sleeping soon.

  1. Baby had too much sleep in the day and is now awake at some ungodly hour thinking about playing and entertainment. As tempting as it is to play a bit of hide and seek at 3am, I tend to think keeping the mood dull and sleepy with the lights low is key. Even if baby won’t nod off straight away, at least you may be instilling the message that nighttimes are very very boring and it is way better to keep sleeping. When the Imp really insists on doing stuff at ungodly hours, I usually lie down and feign sleep while he climbs over me, pulls my hair, pokes my eyes until he lets out a little yawn and then I try to rush him off to bed again.
  2. Since Baby has been sleeping through for a month, I would consider whether there is something new that might be waking him up, teething, illness, that kind of thing. He might need a little more comfort than usual until this passes. The Imp is a terrible co-sleeper, but will happily sleep with us if he’s sick or teething.
  3. At this age, you might want to consider if Baby is going through some developmental spurt, such as learning to crawl as this can cause them to wake up at night rocking on hands and knees and such and such.
  4. Concede that you don’t know what the hell is causing this night waking and get your baby to sleep by any means possible and hope that it’s just a phase.
  5. If this waking becomes a habitual night after night, then you are back to considering the way forward. Can you live with some interrupted sleep for a bit, or do you need to revisit the sleep training?

What do our readers think? Post your thoughts/advice in the comments.


The Ninja is back and this time it’s workable

November 21, 2007

It’s been a while I’ll grant you and no it’s not because we’ve been getting loads of lovely sleep (actually we have had one technical sleep through but it was only until about 5 o’clock so personally I don’t think it counts, I mean who the hell thinks 5 o’clock is an appropriate time at which to get up?) no, we’ve been away basically because I’ve returned to work and there has just been no time to get all poetic about lack of sleep.

Two things have arisen since returning to work though, well three actually. Firstly, baby Ninja and I are both enjoying our new arrangement despite initial concerns, last minute changes to childcare arrangements and a couple of weeks of learning to be without one another. Secondly, worrying about how I’d cope without a full night sleep and having to work was, like so many things, a waste of my energy because you just do cope.  And thirdly, because I’ve been busy with work I’ve had less time to worry too much about sleep and have consequently, well, just not worried about it.

We’ve also just accepted co-sleeping again and instead of fighting it we’ve bought baby Ninja her own double bed which we can join her in during the night. Her wakings are (teeth and illness aside) less frequent and shorter in duration. This is something age and maturity have given her. So on the whole it’s feeling pretty positive at the moment. Although she is still an unsociably early riser but one thing at a time and all that.

So sleep habits in the Ninja household have become workable after all this time and we’re working on them getting even better with time.