I'm passionate about philosophy, but after having my girls I'm even more passionate about Mommy Matters

Monday, March 25, 2013

Scheduling a Sleepless Baby

     Squeaker is a very fickle baby. One day she hardly naps at all (only sleeping around half an hour at a time), becoming fussy and difficult to console. Then there are days when I have to wake her up to feed her. 
     The nights have even more variation, sometimes she only sleeps 4 hours altogether. There was one night, however, when she actually slept for 6 hours in a row! This variation became even more unbearable when Husband, Squeaker, and I traveled to visit family. The long drives went well, she slept the whole time while in the car, but these drives also lead to her staying up all night! (I do not recommend traveling with a baby younger than two months and will try to never do it again) Husband and I spent the night trying to help her sleep, finally achieving the goal around 1am - only to be awakened 2 hours later. We were completely exhausted and I hated seeing how miserable Squeaker became as well, not getting the adequate rest she needed. 
     So, I began some intense research and found many sources advocating for demand feedings, while others demanding a strict feeding schedule that entails constantly watching the clock. On one hand the baby decides when he/she eats (and subsequently sleeps), but on the other hand we (the parents) decide and set a schedule for him/her to live by. I didn't, and still don't, feel completely comfortable with either of these strategies.  
     Up until almost 2 weeks ago I was taking the advice of the currently more popular view, demand feeding, which the La Leche League and WIC advocate for. I felt like I was constantly feeding Squeaker, if she wasn't asleep then I was pretty much feeding her. This is because I thought that whenever Squeaker was being fussy she wanted to be fed, I would of course check her diaper and try holding her for awhile as well. This then, I believe, inadvertently induced more issues because Squeaker would become too full and gassy. I didn't understand why she wouldn't sleep, she actually fought it (and still does sometimes). She would start to drift off, but then suddenly become more alert, crying, and act as though she wasn't tired at all. I didn't want to put Squeaker on a strict schedule, because I didn't want to tie myself to an inflexible schedule or watch her become hungry without feeding her if it wasn't time yet. Something I found in my research was a lack of explaining how to help a baby sleep exactly anyway, the articles made it seem like feeding the baby on demand or on a strict schedule somehow just magically made the baby sleep better too. They said things like, "Your baby needs adequate rest in order to learn and grow properly", but left out how to actually do that in explicit terms. 
     I was voicing some of my frustrations to a couple of friends who have toddlers and they recommended a book called, On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep. One of them lent me this book and I read it as closely and quickly as possible, praying that it held the answers I needed. This book recommends a feeding schedule that is flexible and includes parental assessment, it is called PDF (Parent Directed Feeding). I am much more comfortable with this method because it includes helping my baby to get onto a schedule, but it isn't a strict one and includes parents watching for signs of hunger. If baby is obviously hungry then he/she should be fed! So far this approach has worked much better and I follow this general agenda:
  • Between 6 & 8am Squeaker wakes up- I feed her and change her diaper, which takes about half an hour (the book says this first feeding should be held at a strict time and I have yet to get it down because I hate waking her up when I still want to sleep to haha)
  • I then keep her awake, play with her, let her play in her bouncer while I get ready, have tummy time, etc. I then put her down for a nap (which lasts between 1 and 2 hours)
  • When it has been between 2.5 and 3.5 hours since the beginning of her last feeding I feed her again. 
  • This routine is repeated all day, until her last feeding around 10 or 11pm, after which I don't keep her up but lay her down to sleep for the night. If she wakes up during the night (Squeaker usually wakes up between 3 and 4am) I feed and change her, then lay her back down without keeping her awake again. 
     This method, like the others, does not magically make Squeaker sleep immediately when I lay her down for a nap or the night. However, I do not try to keep her quiet or console her crying by immediately feeding her because otherwise she won't ever learn to sleep on her own. The PDF method encourages the parents to let their baby fix their own problems, but also to not leave the baby crying longer than 15 minutes. If she does cry longer than this I go in and give her a pacifier, hold her and tell her she is OK, then lay her back down to try again. It is hard to do, but in the end I've decided this is the best for Squeaker and me. 
      I hope this arrangement will help us when Squeaker becomes a toddler as well, because she will be used to living on a schedule - listening to her parent's direction when it comes to feeding and sleeping (although her needs will be met and not ignored either).
      So far Squeaker is becoming more predictable and seems to be thriving better, even becoming more alert during wake times. It all happens in small steps, but at least it is happening at all. I also have been able to sleep more, getting into a routine of my own and having more energy.

      I plan on updating how Squeaker is sleeping when she is a little older, letting you know if this method has proven worth it in the long run. What have you done to not go insane and help your baby sleep better?

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