Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Sleep Training

For a while there, I didn't think we'd need to deal with sleep training. The kids seemed to go to bed just fine after a 10pm feeding (so around 11pm), wake up at 4:30am to eat, then sleep until woken up around 7:30am to go to daycare or hang out around the house if it's the weekend. Then two things happened.

1. I realized I wasn't getting to bed until nearly midnight because I'd be doing all my stuff after they went to bed, which made for Zombie Red once I went back to work. I get up at 6am to be at work by 8am. Figure six hours minus the 4:30am feeding equals about five hours of sleep. That's just not liveable for me.

Probably how I look these days.

2. I did a lot of reading and talking to other moms, and their kids were averaging about 11 hours of sleep at night. Ours were averaging about 8. This was likely creating a vicious cycle where they were then overtired the next day, napped erratically, got even more overtired, then didn't sleep as much at night, and so on. And napping does not have the same restorative features as nightsleep. Also, as the saying goes, "Sleep begets sleep." I.e., get your kids napping well and they will sleep better at night. And if they go to bed earlier at night, they will, quite ironically, go longer before waking up and sometimes will actually start sleeping through the night, because they are better rested and thus sleep more soundly.

So, our mission is two-pronged:

1. Get the kids napping more regularly. No more than two hours should pass between them waking and them going back into nap-land. I'm sure the daycare knows this, but judging from their recent naps, the babies are going too long in between naps during the day.

2. Work back their bedtime from 11pm to 8pm. If that works well, perhaps even try and move it to 7pm, which would probably be best for them. It would mean I would never see them, pretty much, until weekends, so that would be a bit rough on me.

So the plan:

I'm going to mention to daycare, as non-judgmentally as possible, that we really want to work on naptimes and wake times.  It also seems that Periwinkle has a tougher time transitioning between sleep cycles and they might be getting her up when she starts to cry about 45 minutes into her nap. Instead she might just need some patting and shushing to help her fall asleep again for another sleep cycle. I'm going to work on this on weekends before I bring it up at daycare. For now we'll have them work on keeping wake times to two hours or less.

As for the second part, it's worked out pretty well that the babies are now eating around 8:30am, 12:30pm, and 4:30pm. Which leads to a last feeding around 8:30pm and a middle-of-the-night feeding around 3am. Last night Periwinkle was out like a light at 9pm. Indigo had a harder time, but he was the one with the worst napping yesterday so I chalked it up to overtiredness. He did eventually fall asleep for good at 10:08pm after a few cycles of us going up to calm him, rock him, and give him his pacifier back. The last time he cried, I could tell it was different. He would cry somewhat half-heartedly for a few moments, then be quiet for perhaps 20 seconds, then cry again. After a few minutes of that he finally quieted for good and fell asleep. I'm hoping he'll get better at calming himself like he did that last time, and that if we just give him five minutes to cry and then self-soothe he'll put himself back to sleep. It is SO hard to listen to him cry, though, and even though I say we're waiting five minutes, we never make it that long. Luckily Periwinkle can sleep through his crying! This part of sleep training is a work in progress. We still need to push their bedtime another hour earlier but I will let them adjust to 9pm first. We'll get there, little by little.

Day 61 of Project365

Then of course last night Periwinkle was crying at 2:15am, and Indigo woke up around then too, which he rarely does. We tried in vain to get them back to sleep before caving at 3am and feeding them. They both then resisted going back to sleep, and it took about twenty minutes of us going in and calming them (they alternated whose turn it was to cry, which was somewhat helpful) to finally fall asleep again. It's pretty rare that they resist going back to sleep in the middle of the night, so I'm hoping that was just a fluke and not a new normal. I'm sure it has something to do with their new, earlier bedtime, so perhaps in a few days they'll have adjusted and will drift back to sleep like they used to. I ordered Indigo one of the Woombie things Periwinkle has been using this week because his size small swaddling sleep sack just doesn't keep his arms from flailing the way the newborn size did, which I think makes it harder for him to fall asleep. I'm hoping, anyways!

Another thing we might try is a dreamfeed before we go to bed. Essentially you get them to eat while they are still in their crib asleep. This might push the MOTN feeding from 3am to 5am or something like that. We'll see if we feel the need to do that though. Just another tool in our arsenal.

Unless you are a parent of an infant, this was all probably horrible boring for you. If you are my parents or in-laws, this might help you understand what we're now trying to do for next time you are babysitting! I promise I'm not crazy (although Blue probably thinks I am) and there is a lot of evidence behind this whole "early to bed means better sleeping, happier babies" thing.


  1. Oh, so many thoughts on this!

    I realized I wasn't getting to bed until nearly midnight because I'd be doing all my stuff after they went to bed, which made for Zombie Red once I went back to work.

    First piece of advice is to STOP doing this. I know how tempting it is to claim those post-bedtime hours for yourself and blue, and I've certainly been guilty of it myself (hence the source of the advice :-)).

    Kinley has been going to bed at 9:00 and I try hard to be in bed by 10:00 or 11:00 at the latest. I get up at 5:00 in the morning to feed her (she doesn't typically get up any other time of night anymore; more on this in a minute) and then I'm up for the day, so that's a pretty solid 6-7 hour block and it's good enough for now. I take naps on weekends to catch up :-)

    But staying up until midnight and getting up at 6:00 (plus your morning feeding) is a recipe for disaster. You're burning the candle at both ends and you just can't do that indefinitely. Take care of yourself! Let some of your things go for now if necessary. There's always the weekends, and they won't be babies forever.

    Second, yes - they definitely need to be sleeping 11-12 hours at night. Kinley goes to bed at 9:00, as I mentioned, and pretty reliably sleeps until 6:30 or 7:00 in the morning (her 5:00 am feeding only takes about 15 minutes and she pretty much sleeps through it). On a REALLY good day, she can manage to sleep until 8:00 or so (this usually happens on weekends when we have the option of bringing her into bed to cuddle with us after her 5:00 am feeding :-)) so we're not quite there either, but we're getting closer. And if she only sleeps ten hours, she usually naps in the morning.

    So the goal is to combine her morning nap with her long stretch of nighttime sleep. Sad to say, the only way I managed to get her off the former midnight feeding schedule was to ignore her when she woke up the first time. Sometimes I got up to guide her pacy into her mouth (if she seemed on the verge of really waking up) and sometimes I'd just let her stir and squirm a little. After awhile, she would fall back asleep without feeding, and that's how we got down to one feeding per night.

    In another couple weeks, I'll start weaning her off the 5:00 am feeding as well and hopefully she'll sleep even longer. But we're doing it in stages.

    1. I should clarify - "my stuff" equals putting together my lunch, showering, and running the dishwasher. I've given up on puttering online and that sort of thing. They do only have one feeding overnight, so that's fine. It's just moved earlier now that they are going to bed earlier. They have to be up by 7:30am to go to daycare so we're working on the earlier bedtime to match that.

    2. Ah, I see. Hopefully moving up their bedtime a couple hours will help with this. I still wouldn't recommend moving it up any earlier than 8:30 or so, though.

  2. Third, another thing that helps is a designated bedtime routine. Even one small thing can really help them differentiate "bedtime" from any other time, as long as you ONLY do it at bedtime and are VERY consistent about it. For Kinley, it's me singing her bedtime song while I'm rocking her next to her bed. I ONLY play her that song at bedtime, I ONLY sing it to her in that one particular spot, etc. Other things we do before bed vary (sometimes bath, sometimes reading, sometimes just cuddling - depends on the day) but that song is SET IN STONE and when she hears it, she knows she's about to go down.

    Fourth, do you let them fall asleep on their own in the crib? That's key as well. They need to practice falling asleep on their own. I know it's easier to get them down when you're holding them, but it's better in the long run if you can leave them drowsy but let them fall asleep by themselves. Kinley's getting to be a pro at this and it makes our lives much easier.

    Fifth, don't bring their bedtime TOO far forward. Aside from the fact that you won't see them at night if they're falling asleep at seven, that means even if they get 12 hours they're waking UP at seven, which is rough on the weekends. And since they probably won't get their full 12 hours right away, you're likely looking at a 5:00 am start to your day. We actually pushed Kinley's bedtime from 8:00 to 9:00 (over a period of about two weeks, 5-10 minute increments at a time) for this reason. We don't want her waking up at the crack of dawn ready to start the day when we still need a few more hours of sleep. It's a trade-off because you do lose some of that "me" time at night, but it's well worth it (in my opinion).

    Last thing is pretty obvious, but feed them as much and as close to bedtime as you possibly can. The fuller they are, the longer they'll sleep. I always try to give Kinley a bottle of formula before bed, in addition to breastfeeding her. And except for the song, breastfeeding her one more time is almost always the last thing I do before putting her down. I try to get her to eat as much as she can hold, and that's been very key in helping her sleep through what used to be her regular midnight feeding.

    1. Right now they only get stories right before bed. And they only go in their crib for bedtime, not naptime. I tell them it's night-night time and sweet dreams. I can't sing for the life of me so that's not happening lol. Maybe I can get Blue to sing to them, but when he's travelling they won't have that.

      I put them down drowsy but awake.

      They have to be up by 7:30 so that would make 7:30pm their ideal bedtime it seems. I'm up at 6 no matter what. And they're up at 7:30 or 8 on weekends which is fine. I usually bring them downstairs and doze while they play on the playmat.

      And yes, they eat their last bottle, now at 8pm, get diaper change, and swaddled and put in their crib. I read to them and often they are asleep or nearly so by the end of the book. Then they sleep about 6 hours before waking for their night feeding around 3.

    2. I'm no prize singer either but babies don't care :-) They like being sung to regardless of skill level, at least in my experience. But that's great that you're putting them down awake.

      Sounds like you're doing everything right - my kiddo IS three weeks ahead of yours, which makes a huge difference. Three weeks ago, I think she was still waking up twice a night. So hang in there! It's probably just a matter of time.

    3. I'll try to come up with a song. I tried to sing Twinkle Twinkle once and couldn't remember the words. What do you sing them? A problem for me is I can't hold them both and sing at the same time. So I'd be singing to them when they are in the crib I guess, much like I read to them now. I guess that's okay. Not as personal though. Or I'll keep working on Blue for his singing chops and we can each hold a baby.

      and I feel like we're on the right track and they are doing better than a lot of babies their age. I should be grateful only one of them usually gives us a hard time at a time.

    4. Oh God, I'd lose my mind singing Twinkle Twinkle over and over again. Kinley's bedtime song is Ho Hey by the Lumineers:

      She's a huge fan of music and always has been - good, bad and in between! :-) She loves to dance and watch music videos. But that one is her special song.

      You could have a special bedtime song for each twin and do them one at a time. Maybe even have Blue hold the one that's not being sung to in a different room so each one gets a special "just me and Mommy" moment before bedtime.

      I think you guys are doing great. Kinley's like the easiest kid in the universe (and there's only ONE of her) and sometimes I still want to pull my hair out! Every day that you survive I am impressed :-)

    5. I love that song but I couldn't sing it without the music playing too. I'm impressed we're surviving too lol.

    6. Do you have a smartphone? I purchased the song on Amazon eventually but before that, playing the video on YouTube worked fine too. I like to play the music while I'm singing to her as well (although sometimes I do sing it a capella if I left my phone downstairs and I'm feeling lazy).

    7. I will have to do that once I figure out what song to use! Thanks!

      Tonight went much better. Indigo napped solidly today so he didn't have any problems other than being a bit wide-eyed at bedtime, but no crying. I did sway and shh him to try to get him a bit drowsier, plus I didn't get much time with them tonight because I had zumba. So he fell asleep rather easily.

      Peri also napped well but was a bit fussy. One trip to replace the pacifier (by Blue), and one to sway and shhh and get her a bit more drowsy (by me). Then a little halfhearted crying we didn't go up for, and she's out. Took half the time it did last night to get them both asleep. I think better naps were key, and them just adjusting to the earlier bedtime. Yay!

    8. I think I thought of a song! Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars." I will try it tonight!

      Do you think I should jump them all the way to the goal of 8pm bedtime? Or get them used to 9pm first then move in small increments? So confused as to what will be easiest in the long run...

    9. Sorry, I just saw this. Definitely small increments. Abrupt changes to Kinley's nighttime schedule seem to really piss her off which is why I'm taking my life in my hands flying her to Pennsylvania tonight, ahh!

      Yay for finding a song!

    10. I jumped them to 8pm already and they seem okay with it, other than Indigo's rough time the past few nights. Last night was much better for him though so I think he's gotten used to it. If we move any earlier I will do it in smaller increments though. Thanks!!

    11. And good luck flying to PA!! My first flight I was about 8 weeks old and my mom and I survived just fine. Not sure how I slept though... and I stayed in the same time zone so that helped.

  3. Get the kids napping more regularly. No more than two hours should pass between them waking and them going back into nap-land.

    Sorry, one more thing. I’m not too sure about this. Kinley is down to three naps a day, tops – one in the morning IF she woke up earlier than 7:00 am, and that one’s never longer than an hour, another sometime in the afternoon – also usually no more than an hour – and one more optional one at night (I call it her pre-bedtime nap, and it usually occurs between 5:00 and 9:00, if it happens at all). She’s definitely not napping every two hours, and her best sleeping nights tend to follow days when she’s barely napped at all.

    So maybe my kid is a weirdo, but she seems to be doing well with limited short naps during the day. Just to further confuse things!!

    Also, is there room in your bedroom for the crib? I know it makes things horribly crowded, but Kinley sleeps best near us. As an experiment, I tried to put the PnP in her own bedroom once. Even though she was sleeping in the same bed and it theoretically shouldn’t have mattered, she slept like crap that night and I finally gave up and brought her into bed with us. She can definitely tell the difference, somehow (smell maybe?) when Mommy’s close at hand and when she’s not. Maybe the twins would sleep better if they were closer to you. Just a thought… and I realize space is an issue so feel free to ignore this.

    1. I want to try the two-hour rule to see if it helps at night, because Indigo is obviously having trouble going to sleep these days. They tend to nap around 10am, 2pm, and 4pm, and then again at night around 6:30. Which might mean they should just go to bed at 6:30, I'm not sure. We'll see what happens with better daytime naps. Seems like you have a child who is the exception rather than the rule!

      No way the crib is coming in our room, but thanks for the suggestion lol. There is room but I wouldn't sleep. And they probably wouldn't either. They slept totally great in their room until more recently. I blame daycare and their naps maybe being off as a result. Plus the cats need to be able to go into our room because their litter boxes are there. And I don't want cats mixing with sleeping babies. They enjoy the cribs too much and I know they'd jump in.

    2. Here is some helpful guidelines. How old is Kinley now? 5 months?

      Maximum wakeful period at various ages:

      Less than 2 month = 1hr, 3 months = 1.5hrs; 4/5 months = 2hrs; 6 months = 2.5hrs, 8/9 months = 3hrs; 10+ months = 3-4 hrs.

      Once the child is on 1 nap (transition usually occurs anywhere between 13-18 months), the wakeful period extends to 5/6 hrs.

      The average daily sleep requirements for the average child in order to be well-rested enough to consistently sleep well are:

      Less than 3 months = 15.5-18hrs, 4 months = 15hrs, 6 months = 14.5hrs, 9 months = 14hrs, 15 months = 13.5hrs, 2 years = 13hrs.

      True some kids will need more while others less, but it will still be within 30mins for the averages above. If your LO is not "sleeping through" (whatever that means for his age), it means that he's need more than what he's currently getting.

    3. She'll be five months on Monday, yes. So weird. Her longest awake period is probably closer to 4-5 hours, although sometimes it's shorter. I guess she IS a weirdo! :-) If she resists weaning off the 5:00 am feeding, maybe we'll have to play with her nap schedule. She's pretty resistant to napping, though. Kid's afraid she's going to miss something.

    4. Does she ever get fussy and upset during these long awake times? That's my cue for both babies that a nap is needed, pronto. I've gotten better at getting them napping before they get that far, but the evening usually the "witching hour" starts before I've got dinner set up and we have to swaddle them and get them in the bouncy seat and swing before they totally flip out. They definitely let us know when it's naptime, even if they might not like it for the first minute or two.

    5. Nah. Her fussy time is between 5:00 and 7:00 at night*. We call it her witching hour(s). Sometimes she's not fussy during the witching hour, but according to Andrew, whether or not she naps has zero to do with it. It's pretty random.

      *Poor Andrew, he's the one who gets stuck with a fussy baby while they wait for me to get home and then she's a little angel the rest of the night. No matter how fussy she is, she lights up like a Christmas tree when I walk in and I know it hurts his feelings sometimes. Hard not to take that personally.

    6. I just called my mom and asked her about Kinley's sleeping schedule during the day (told her about the above guidelines) and we both got a good chuckle. I guess she really is the exception. Today she woke up a few minutes before 7:00 and napped around 11:00, so that right there was a good four-hour block. And my mom says if she takes her morning nap, her afternoon nap usually doesn't happen until like 2:30 or 3:00.

      Weird baby is weird :-) She's getting so damn cute, though. She's almost always giggly and smiling, especially when she wakes up. It's getting harder and harder not to bring her to work with me every day!

    7. Does he try to put her down for a nap when she gets like that? It took us a while to realize that's what Periwinkle needed. Just a thought. And yeah, Blue gets a bit sad when they calm down for me and not him. Although the past few nights Periwinkle has been all smiles for him and hardly makes eye contact with me which makes ME sad.

    8. And yes, K is sooo cute!!! I wish you lived closer to me so we could do playdates!

    9. I think he's just been letting her fall asleep if she falls asleep. I'll suggest that he try putting her down for a nap in her room next time she gets fussy.