Friday, August 20, 2010

Sleep Training

I've been reading as much as I can about how to take care of an infant. Once our baby is here, we won't really have much opportunity to consult the books!

A friend of mine recommended the book, Heading Home with Your Newborn. It's been a decent resource for me, with some topics being more in-depth and helpful than others. I know I'm dorky, but my plan is to create laminated, half-page reference cards for myself on different topics, so the information is easy to access when we're inundated with life as new parents. I'll be sure to share them, once I have time to create them.

My midwife also gave me the book, Attached at the Heart, which seems to be one of the mainstays of the attachment parenting movement. It's got me thinking a lot about co-sleeping. I definitely want to co-sleep in the beginning (I believe in the benefits of co-sleeping, as well as the major perk of being able to breastfeed our baby during the night without getting out of bed). We'll probably get something to put right next to our bed, since we barely have enough room for the two of us as it is, and I like to sleep with lots of pillows and blankets, which isn't good for babies.

But at some point, Matt and I will want to transition the baby to her/his own room. Our lives are going to be so centered on the baby all day long. At night, it will be nice to reclaim a little of our own space and to have a little time to ourselves. I feel selfish writing that, but I'm being honest.

A friend of mine (whose baby seems to be amazingly well-adjusted and happy) swears by the book: Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child. It's a "step-by-step regime for instituting beneficial habits within the framework of your child's natural sleep cycles." I know I'm the kind of person who is drawn to routines and regimes, so I need to be cautious that I don't try to exert some kind of unhealthy control over a child in order to benefit me, but I'm at least going to read the book. I'm really interested in cultivating independence in children, since I believe that independence is the root of healthy self-esteem and a high sense of self-worth. My guess is that sleeping with children for years and years can actually undermine their independence. (Of course that's easy for me to say now; I don't have any children yet!)

What Matt and I really need to do is come up with a parenting philosophy about the kind of child we're trying to nurture and the kind of environment that is aligned with that end. Again, I need to be careful not to expect the child to mold itself into a super-specific vision, but I think we could do it in a general and broad way that would allow us to think through smaller decisions in the context of the bigger picture. I'll try to work on that when I get some spare time!

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Katie R. said...

You are not selfish for wanting your baby to enventually transistion into their own room. Here is my philosophy:

I am raising my children to independant people. I should be teaching them by example rather than coddling them.

I do baby my daughters in many ways but learning to self soothe and sleep alone is important. I slept with both my girls when they were infants and moved them into their own rooms when they were around a year (they were just ready at that point, all babies and parents are different). I have a stirct rule to have nothing related to my daughters in my and my husband's bedroom. That may seem cold but that is our place to be a couple. The rest of the house is scattered with toys and decorated with pre-school art projects...... our bedroom is a sacred place where we remember who we are and what our relationship is about, which is easy to lose in the everyday shuffle of jobs, kids and school. I believe that we are teaching our girls so much by nuturing our relationship and giving them the example of a loving couple to emulate.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Hi, Katie: Thanks so much for sharing your experience! I really like the idea of keeping our bedroom "a sacred place where we remember who we are and what our relationship is about." Also, how did your girls indicate that they were "ready" to move into their own rooms around a year? I'm afraid if I just wait for clues from our child that the child might decide to sleep with us for years!

bklyn76 said...

such a teacher: laminated cards! haha, i would do the same!

we co-slept for the first 5.5-6 months in a DOUBLE BED! we did have the arms reach cosleeper for naps, but he really only napped while being carried [the ergo was so great for that!].

we read hshhc and loved it! our son took to sleep training and has slept like a champ since then! we feel the schedule he has helps him know what to expect in a day, making for a happier baby.

don't worry about being too rigid; you'll quickly learn that's not really possible when this tiny person enters your life b/c everything is on his/her terms! ;)

Carrie said...

Just as a different perspective, we put our son in his own room at age 2 weeks. I had no desire whatsoever to co-sleep in our own bed, and it was simply too cold in our bedroom in an old house to have him sleep in the cradle next to our bed. His room is super warm in the winter.

With this choice, he has never had a problem falling asleep on his own (I really do NOT recommend nursing or rocking your kid to sleep--get him or her drowsy, then let the kid fall asleep on his/her own, as Katie wrote, and as those books will tell you. Plus our son will hang in his crib for 30+ minutes in the morning talking to himself, playing with his stuffed animals, lovey and blanket (he's 18 months now so he can have all those things in the crib with him). HE needs alone time (in a safe place) just as much as we do. Plus, assuming you'll be going back to teaching and trying a similar schedule to what you now have, you'll appreciate some time in the AM to work on school stuff or relax or whatever else.

I truly believe that if you set all these habits very early on, your kid will never know otherwise and will be just fine. If you're going for an independent child (as we are), give him or her a LOT of credit early on for what he or she can accomplish by him/herself. Babies are quite amazing.

Oh, and there will be long stretches where the baby will just not sleep like you want him or her to, regardless of what book you read or what index cards you've made. Go with the flow. The stage will end.

Finally, I'm TOTALLY with Katie on having the parents' bedroom be a special couple place. It was always that way in my house growing up, and we are doing the same thing.

Stacy Marie said...

You're not being selfish by wanting nights to yourself! I think that when Ryan and I have kids, I am going to do my best to put our relationship first so that we can be the best parents possible. But then again, this is a childless woman talking, so we'll see what happens when we get there!

Sara said...

As a long time reader of your blogs (and a habitual lurker), I just wanted to pop in to congratulate you on your healthy pregnancy and to thank you for inspiring me to be more mindful of the fact that careful planning can affect positive change in our lives. I started a "life binder" after your post about yours, and I have found that planning my days and weeks by "beginning with the end in mind" has dramatically affected my ability to make progress towards my goals. I've been using it all summer! I applaud your application of this approach to pregnancy and childbirth as well,and I think you are awesome for thinking ahead of time about taking the next steps so that you'll be prepared. I am so inspired by you, Sara! :) All the best to you and your growing family.

Rachel said...

Sara, You might check out the book Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. It's a big/long book, but covers a ton of topics and all are arranged in alpha order, so very easy to reference. It might have a lot of the topics you are planning to make cards might save you some trouble! Also, in regards to baby's and parents' sleep, another resource to consider is Nighttime Parenting by William Sears. I'm happy to have read it. In some ways, I think you will need to wait and see how things feel once baby arrives. You might think you know now, but your thoughts and feelings might change after you have your baby! :)

Rosalie said...

ELizabeth Pantley's No Cry Sleep Solution I liked. In terms of a book celebrating co-sleeping "Three in a bed" is lovely. We planned to co-sleep and had a co-sleeper cot but things didn't go to plan with my daughter's severe reflux meaning we had to hold her upright all night for the first 16 weeks, taking half the night each! So self settling was never something we could do and still can't as she has to be held upright for 30 minutes after feeds in which she inevitably falls asleep! So we'll be tackling this later on once she grows out of it.

Christy said...

Don't feel selfish at all about that. For both of my children, they slept in a bassinet beside my bed for the first 3-6 months. This made feeding in the night easier, and when they started eating more it made soothing in the night easier. Plus honestly I was always afraid that my hubby or I would roll over in our sleep on top of the baby. Plus I had nightmares about SIDS so it was comforting to reach over and make sure the baby was still breathing. When we moved them to a new room, we had a monitor that we slept with ... you'd be amazed at the smallest sounds that wake you up when you become a mommy.

Books are wonderful and offer many good suggestions to consider, but my advice to you is to not become set on the ways that you read in books. Be flexible for sure. Some babies take to sleeping different ways than others, and I've seen that even in my two girls.

Good luck! I know you'll do great when the baby comes :-)

Marina said...

I'm a big proponent of doing what's right for the individual child, but not a big proponent of "[X parenting choice] will create [Y type of] child." I know people who co-slept with their parents well into school-age and are quite independent, and people who are completely clingy who never co-slept. (In fact, it could be argued that some of that clingyness may come from not having their needs for touch and care met when they were younger.) There are some kids who just plain sleep better on their own, and some kids who's parents may think they're being "trained" to sleep on their own, but are actually being "trained" to believe that the support they need isn't there for them when they need it. I really, really think every parent has to take it as it comes, and that sweeping statements about one choice being better than any other choice for every kid are very rarely true.

lisa said...

I offer the concept of benign neglect: It is fine if you aren't there every moment for the baby, because your goal is a self-amusing, resourceful child. It is fine if the baby cries for a bit, because how else will it learn to calm itself down---I said a bit, not an hour!

It isn't needful to fix most situations immediately. In the first place, given a week, new skills are learned, consolidated, and fit into a routine. The first 3 days of a new skill, you usually feel like crying. This doesn't mean you are doing it wrong. It is just different.

In the second place, some discomfort is the impetus for growth. A toy 6 inches out of reach will prompt the baby to reach it. 10 minutes of fussing--which is different from screaming--will get a thumb into the mouth or help the baby figure out how to watch its fingers.

Miranda said...

I love that your actually taking interest in this. As a family life educator, this is something that we harp on a lot so it's nice to see someone doing this.

I agree with you that you should look into what kind of characteristics you want your child to have. Co-sleeping is an excellent bonding moment for a child and it's parents - and if you're looking more into a collectivist family unit, this would be a great start. However, you mention that you want your child to be independent - this is not something co-sleeping is really for.

I would suggest looking into actual text books for your information - a lot of the self-help books out there are just plan wrong in their information. Good luck with your pregnancy!

Anonymous said...

Our philosophy is that independence is something the child takes when he/she is ready... and not something the parent gives or even "teaches." If the environment has been properly prepared to encourage exploration, and the parents have established themselves as warm, trustworthy "go to" people whom their child can turn to as he/she needs... our experience is that children naturally try to take "the next step" -- whatever that next step is for them.

So, we are currently co-sleeping with our 8-month-old and have no worries about her being well-adjusted or independent either now or in the future. Her crib is waiting for her if she ever wants it, and she naps there at times. But she's a snuggler at heart and loves the extra time for just curling up by mom at night, when she has a cold, or during days when she's teething, going through a growth spurt, etc. The very fact that she used to nurse when she woke up at night, but now merely reaches out to touch mom's arm and make sure she's still nearby, indicate to us that she's moving towards the day when she'll be ready to sleep in her own bed... not away from that day.

As far as a sacred space goes, we prefer to think of a "sacred time." Our bedroom is a sleep space. That means no story time happens there, no toys, only brief conversations, no reading, and no TV. Sleep happens there. We put our daughter to sleep and then leave the room. We return when we're ready to sleep. In the meantime, we have the whole rest of the house to ourselves. The living room for reading, the porch swing for conversations, the kitchen for a cup of hot tea, etc. etc. And the baby is asleep. It's hard to feel like she's invading anything -- especially since she now knows we'll be along to bed soon, so we almost never have to go running to her side. Ahh! We've gotten 7 or 8 hour nights of sleep since she was 2 weeks old. That -- and the trust we see building in our daughter -- makes us fans of co-sleeping!

Lindel said...

Re: reference cards - My advice is to save yourself the trouble (get Matt to give you a massage instead). You will not know what specific things you need to read about until your little one arrives. Your baby might be a perfect sleeper and feeder but have awful crying fits or an ugly rash pimple thing for weeks. You just won't know until you are there. And you will have PLENTY or time to read these books while feeding. For the first weeks/months breastfeeding can take hours! keep the books handy and flick through them while nursing.

Co-sleeping: don't feel guilty about transitioning. Your mental health and your relationship with matt are also very important. I always imagined I would co-sleep (I love love and totally support the idea) but when it came down to it I really needed my own space and also if I didn't actually get up and sit in a chair to feed, I/we didn't feed properly and it would take longer and I would be more tired and moody. So, like I said, you just never know what will happen and in the end you can only do what feels right for your family.

Enjoy the journey! (and relax!!!)

Jessica said...

I agree with Marina that there are clingy kids and independent kids, despite co-sleeping habits. I haven't seen this with my own children (only on the verge of parenthood, not there yet!) but I have seen it in many of the children I've cared for over the years. I decided I was going to co-sleep and agonized for a while over how long, when I should transition, the best way to go about it, etc. When I brought this up with my midwife, before she could even respond, I realized I didn't need to know the answer. Perhaps just bringing it up out loud made me see the problem: I cannot tell what will be best for my child because she's not here yet! I'll know more about what to do for her when I get to actually know her. In the meantime, I bought a Snuggle Nest. I really wanted an Arms Reach Co-sleeper but we did not budget the $150 into our baby needs and found this snuggle nest for $50. I do not believe that either the arms reach or snuggle nest are necessary for successful, healthy co-sleeping, but it does make me feel more confident about my decision and that makes all the difference in the world to me. I also suggest reading the books by Dr. Sears, he and his wife are the leading advocate of attachment parenting and have some excellent, common sense books about a variety of parenting topics.

Linda said...

I've been wondering your opinion on this Sara... are attachment parenting and Montessori philosophies compatible? I don't know a tremendous amount about either and am curious about both, but it seems to me that one is a proponent of creating a dependent child (attachment) and the other cultivates independence (Montessori). Do you have any insight on this?

Jessica said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jessica said...

Linda, the goal of attachment parenting is not to create a dependent child. It cultivates a high-touch and high-response environment in which the child can learn to trust that she/he will be taken care of. Studies show that children raised in this environment are actually more independent because of it. I suggest reading Dr. Sears Attachment Parenting book where he more fully explains the concept and the science behind it.

*Edited for spelling error!

Married In Chicago said...

Just wanted to quickly chime in here and add that I think it might be a bit of an old wives tale that co-sleeping leads to dependent children. Children who have a strong, trusting bond with their parents are more likely to be independent! That being side, most children develop a healthy attachment style with their parents - regardless of cosleeping, breastfeeding, etc. Just do what feels right!

mama mia said...

Sara, I am a little late in reading your blog post about the Healthy Sleep Habits book. Erin and John used this with Owen and again with Marcus (each child was ready at his own time for this) and it definitely helps everyone get a good nights' rest to recharge and have lots of energy for the day ahead. Except when the boys are sick, they sleep in their own rooms and have a white noise machine that keeps the traffic outside their busy home from waking them too soon. Just thought I'd throw my two cents in.

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