Sunday, March 6, 2011

Operation Juliana Sleep

By Ruth
Warning: This may not interest you at all. I am writing a whole long entry about sleep, not because it is the most fascinating topic (to you, at least), but because it is the current obsession at our house. And since I spend all day and all night obsessing over sleep and not getting any sleep, I console myself with having an outlet to write about it. But the good news is - if you're not interested, you don't have to read it! Just skip right over or save it for a really boring day. And you can't say I didn't warn you.
Juliana Back in the Day: "Ah, I love sleep."
Juliana is a wonderful baby. She is almost always happy – smiling and laughing and treating everyone like her best friends. She is lots of fun. She just has this one teeny-tiny little flaw: she hates to sleep. I'm not quite sure where this particular trait was inherited as both Kevin and I both love to sleep.

Ever since birth, Juliana has been a poor sleeper. No, that's not true. The first couple of weeks when she was all jaundiced, she slept all the time. We had trouble getting her to wake up! Why didn't I appreciate that when I had the chance? Apparently Juliana felt she wasted far too much time sleeping those weeks, and she has tried her hardest to stay awake ever since.
She would sleep anywhere! (well, as long as someone was holding her...)
There are probably about 4-5 times when Juliana has “slept through the night” (5 hours at one time). I could still count the number of times she's slept longer than 4 hours, and her average sleep length is still about 2 hours, and she is often up several hours during the night fighting sleep. Sometimes she's unhappy, but most times she just seems bored of sleeping. I don't think Juliana has ever in her life slept as much as they say a baby her age “should.”

For our sanity, and Juliana's greater sleep needs, we have decided something needs to change. Thus we have begun Operation Juliana Sleep. This Operation involves a lot of different things, but one thing is notably missing from our strategy: the “cry it out” method.

[Ruth enters, climbs on soapbox, waves fist passionately in air, and begins...]

If you are into the “cry it out” method, you can find lots of support. Most of the people I have talked to have at least tried letting their babies cry it out. It is a widely accepted idea, even considered the norm. So if you are into 'cry it out,' you can find plenty of people to agree with you. I think it is time for the other side to have a say.

I am not going to leave Juliana to cry herself to sleep and here are just a few of the reasons.
  • I believe Juliana has psychological and emotional as well as physical needs. Just because she is fed and dry doesn't mean that she doesn't need parenting.
  • I do not think her cries are manipulative or demanding; I think they are expressing an honest need. If she stops crying when I pick her up, I doubt she is thinking, “Ah-ha! Tricked you!” She's probably thinking, “Ah yes, that is what I needed.”
  • I think that Juliana is learning to trust or distrust people. If the people who love her respond to her, she will recognize she can trust them. She will develop a sense of security.
  • I don't think that Juliana is old enough to understand what is going on. If we go away, she doesn't understand that we will come back. I don't want to leave her alone crying, feeling completely abandoned.
  • I don't think that Juliana needs to be independent of me. She is a baby. She should be treated like a baby.
  • I think leaving your baby to cry totally goes against a mother's instincts. It seems like almost all mothers have had a really hard time with letting their babies cry, even had to be restrained because they want to comfort their baby. Perhaps if something goes so completely against what I believe are God given instincts, it means it's not a good idea.
  • While I would love it if parenting were an 8am-8pm kinda job, I don't think that I should ignore Juliana just because it's dark outside.
I know people have a lot of different ideas of what it means to let your baby cry it out. Many people don't go to extremes, but I actually had someone tell me to let Juliana cry for hours, if necessary. They said, “The worst thing you can do is pick her up after she has been crying for an hour because that will teach her that if she cries for an hour, she will get her way.” Yes, that does sound like a bad idea!!

And one final grievance with this method – it bothers me that “let your baby cry a lot” is the only solution some people seem to have to any sleep problems. It's supposed to be a comprehensive fix-all. Can't we come up with anything better than that?

[Ruth begrudgingly descends from soapbox]

So, we ruled out all the crying, but that still left us with this big problem: We all need more sleep!! I got a book called The No-Cry Sleep Solution and decided to give it a try. I like this book because:
- You never leave your baby to cry
- It has a whole variety of ideas to try
- You create a customized sleep plan based on your babies individual sleep difficulties
- Your goal is to figure out what works best for you and your baby
- It's realistic: no promise of overnight change but rather hope of gradual progress
- A group of 50 moms with poor-sleeping babies tried out these ideas, gave feedback, report on real setbacks and progress, and saw lots of improvement in their babies' sleep!

Juliana Today: " Sleep? What's that?  I've got places to go!  People to see!  Let's get going!"
Step 1: We created a sleep plan. Our plan includes things like consistent naptimes, attempting longer naps (she's terrible about napping too!), a consistent bedtime, a consistent bedtime routine, and getting her back to sleep without nursing as often.

Step 2: Follow sleep plan for 10 days. It was a frustrating 10 days. Juliana and I both got colds. Then I got a stomach bug. Juliana has started pre-teething and seems bothered by her gums. Night after night, Juliana would not sleep longer than 1.5 hours at a time. In between times, she would stay awake for an hour or more. She would wake up every time we tried to put her in her crib. We felt supremely discouraged.

Step 3: Re-evaluate sleep plan. While we hadn't seen much (any?) progress, we want to continue with most of the ideas in hopes that they'll pay off. We tweaked a few that didn't seem to be working. We also decided the biggest hang up with Juliana's sleep is that she will only fall asleep when she is being held. This means that every time she wakes up she wants someone to hold her. So now we are starting a long, multi-step process of getting her to fall asleep on her own, beginning with putting her down while she is just entering the light phase of sleep.

Step 4: Continue for 10 more days. We are now on day 12 or 13 or so, and thing have gotten a tiny bit better. The other night, Juliana slept for 4 hours! And the past couple of nights, though she has woken up frequently, she hasn't stayed awake for hours each time. Baby steps.

So while we don't yet have a success story to report, we are starting to see a glimmer of hope. There may just yet (please, God, please) be sleep in our future!

No comments: