Tag Archives: sleep

Counting my blessings through bleary eyes

I mentioned last week that we’ve begun working with Judah on his sleep schedule. Now that he’s four months old, I think he’s ready for a routine. Because he’s still so young, I want to be gentle in its implementation. Unfortunately, gentle for the baby is still pretty brutal for his parents.

He’s responding incredibly well to his bedtime ritual. He gets his reflux medicine first, then in his dim room I change his diaper, give him a sponge bath with some nice smelling baby wash, put some nighttime baby lotion on him, dress him in pajamas and a sleep sack, nurse him, turn on his white noise machine, and put him down in his crib. Then I stay by his crib until he’s asleep. For the past few nights, it’s taken fewer than 5 minutes for him to drift off.

He sleeps well after that for about 2 to 3 hours in his crib. When he wakes up hungry at 10:30 or 11, I bring him into my room to sleep in his bassinet, and we go to bed. The problem we’re having is that he continues to wake up every 1-3 hours throughout the night. It’s not because he’s hungry. He does nurse, but it’s generally just for under 5 minutes, which makes me think it’s more a comfort thing than a hunger thing.

Now that I’m trying the methods in “The No Cry Sleep Solution,”* I’m tracking his nighttime waking schedule. I’ve found that he’s waking up completely during the normal “brief awakening” periods that we all experience throughout the night. The problem is that I’ve always nursed him to sleep, so he doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep. So he wakes up fussing, I nurse him (typically for only 5 minutes), and he goes back to sleep. I’m not sure how to break this cycle, and I’m not willing to let him cry it out, so I don’t know what to do. I haven’t finished the book, but I’m hoping it’ll have some ideas.

The bigger problem is naps. Judah isn’t on a predictable nap schedule. He generally sleeps 15 to 30 minutes at a time here and there throughout the day, only if I’m holding him and only when he’s utterly exhausted. As soon as I try to put him down, he wakes up and starts to cry.

For the first four months, I didn’t mind holding him during his naps. The problem is, he understandably wants to be held and engaged when he’s awake. That means I’m holding him all day. This was fine in the first few months, but now I’d like to get him on a napping schedule so I can get to the laundry and the dishes and the other chores that pile up during the day.

He loves his sling, and I can run errands and shop while he’s in it. Household chores like laundry and dishes? Not so much. The jostling wakes him up, and he’s even more grouchy. Not to mention any bending with him in the sling is brutal on my back, which occasionally suffers post traumatic stress syndrome since the pregnancy. I’m also not very efficient with 13 pounds of baby right in front of me.

My first plan was to put him down every time he fell asleep in the hopes that he’d eventually get used to it. The problem with that is that he wakes up when I put him down, and then he doesn’t go back to sleep. So I end up with an extremely crabby, exhausted baby.

After a restless day yesterday, he fell asleep at 6:30 in the evening. Then he kept me up from 4 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. I nursed him at 4 a.m., and he fell asleep. When he woke up again 15 minutes later, I put my hand on his chest and soothed him from my bed, but I left him in the bassinet. It took 30 minutes, but he finally went to sleep. Usually when I try that, his crying escalates, he wakes up Tony (who I try not to disturb on weeknights, because he has to get up at 6 a.m. to earn the money that pays our bills), and Judah and I both end up upset. That method never works when he wakes up during daytime naps.

On top of all that, ongoing (minor but annoying) health issues for Judah and me have led my doctor to put me on an extremely restrictive diet. No sugar, no dairy, no gluten, no caffeine, and no artificial sweeteners for at least a month. So basically I’m starving and tired, and I can’t even drink a caffeinated beverage to perk me up.

Anyway, between my extremely restrictive diet and our recent sleep struggles, I woke up feeling pretty bleak. I’m frustrated. I’m exhausted. I’m starving all. the. time. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself, as I have a tendency to do.

Then I read this article in the Chicago Tribune about how crib bumpers are more dangerous than we think. It broke my heart and reminded me how lucky I am to have a healthy baby. I decided to take a break from nap training so I can hold my baby today, listen to his quiet little snores, feel the gentle rise and fall of his chest, and remind myself cherish every moment, even the challenging ones, because some parents aren’t so lucky.

I also wanted to share it, because crib bumpers are one of those controversial items that aren’t recommended, but most people believe to be harmless. The truth is, they serve absolutely no purpose, and if there’s even a slight risk, they’re not worth it.

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Simple ways to sleep better naturally

sleep betterI’ve struggled with insomnia my whole life. Anyone who’s ever had sleeping problems knows that without enough sleep, you’re less productive and less happy. Recent studies have even shown that poor sleeping habits can increase your risk of obesity and all the health risks that go along with it.

In the past, I’ve made the mistake of relying on over-the-counter medications to fall asleep. It was never a habit, but every once in a while I’d be desperate for sleep and believe I had no other options. It turns out I was wrong.

Here are the simple ways I improved my sleep (and my health):

Take a serious look at your diet

It’s possible your diet is keeping you awake. Back when my sleeping problems were at their worst, I was drinking 2 or 3 diet sodas a day (to be fair, this was college). I never drank soda in the late evening, but it turned out I was more sensitive to caffeine than I thought. When I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages after noon, sleep came much easier. Examine your diet closely to make sure you’re not sabotaging your sleep.

Are you getting enough exercise?

If not, you may not be tiring yourself out enough. Once I started working out daily, not only did I fall asleep more easily, but I slept more soundly.

Stick to a schedule

We’ve all heard it before, but it’s really true: those luxurious Sunday mornings when you sleep until 9 or 10 can throw off your schedule. If you’re a problem sleeper, try setting a bedtime and wake-up time and sticking to it throughout the week. It may be tough to give up sleeping in, but you’ll feel better rested throughout the week.

Add a calming ritual to your nighttime routine

Whether it’s a bubble bath, stretching, relaxing music, a cup of herbal tea or a book, do something before bed that puts you in the most relaxed state possible. Avoid stressful activities in the last hour before bed, and give yourself some “you” time.

Disconnect before bed

Though I addressed some of the physical reasons I couldn’t sleep, I still struggle with mental roadblocks. While living during the age of constant connection has its perks, all that electronic stimulation can interrupt your sleep cycle.

We’ve all been there. You log on to Facebook to check up on your friends before bed, and five minutes turns into an hour. You start channel surfing and end up staying up way too late. Or a quick call to your best friend turns into an hour chat.

To avoid these distractions, force yourself to tune out at least an hour before you want to sleep. Put away your laptop, turn your cell phone to vibrate, and yes, turn off the TV. I used to think I needed the TV to help me sleep, but a book turned out to be a much less distracting, more relaxing bedtime companion.

What’s your advice for getting a better night’s sleep?

Photo credit: neaners