Sunday, June 04, 2006

Listen and Repeat ... Sleep Begets Sleep

For those that don't know (I, for one didn't), beget means: cause, bring about, produce, lead to, result in, make happen, create, be the cause of.

I had read that between the age of 15 to 18 months, most babies will drop their second nap. And since I'd read that tid-bit of information, we've been fiddling with the babies schedule. A smidge of fine tuning, if you will.

Our "old" schedule (i.e. a month or so ago) was that the babies would wake for the day at around 7 AM. We'd feed them breakfast, let them play, and put them down for their first nap at around 9:30 or 10:00 AM. They'd snooze for a solid hour, maybe two ... and be awake just in time for lunch at noon. They'd be fed lunch ... they'd play some more ... and go down for a second nap at around 3:00 PM. Between the hours of 3 and 6, we'd have more fun playing, dancing, singing, going for walks and just rejoicing in life. Dinner was at 6 PM, bathtime was at around 6:30'ish ... bedtime was between 7 and 7:30. Clockwork. Everyday.

This was a good arrangement because we had well rested babies throughout the day. They ate well. They played well. They slept well. Everything was good in our world.

And then I had to go and mess it up ... all because of what babies at this age are suppose to do. Serves me right for reading.

Gradually, I started pushing the first nap back to 11:00. And then, 11:30 ... and then noon, immediately following lunch. This transition kind of complicated the afternoon nap, because as the morning nap was pushed back - so was the afternoon nap. I was finding that I had extremely fussy babies at 5 PM ... which is WAY too late to start an afternoon nap, if you still plan on putting your child to bed before 10 PM.

Once I was able to keep the kids asleep on their feet awake until noon, I ditched the afternoon nap, altogether. At first, this seemed like a great adjustment because it allowed us the morning to do stuff, outside of the house. Because the babies would sleep from about noon'ish until about 2'ish ... we had our afternoon wide open, to do stuff, outside of the house then, too. Such freedom!

But as any veteran can tell you - freedom comes with a price.

It seems like the adjustment in the babies' schedule ... although well received at first ... has finally taken it's toll. Sleep deprivation is one of those things that eventually catches up with you. There isn't a parent with a newborn in the whole wide world - who will disagree with that fact.

For the past week or so, I've noticed that the babies aren't as happy as they use to be. At "this" age, it's hard to tell whether they are feeling their oats as they approach Hurricane Level II status, battling the remnants of this most recent bug, or, if they are simply overtired.

What clued me in to the fact that these children NEEDED more sleep, is that when they were sleeping, they weren't sleeping well. We'd put them down for their first and only nap at noon ... maybe 12:30 ... and after a whole lot of fussing before going to sleep, they'd be awake by 1:30, or 2:00. Instead of waking up happy and refreshed, they would wake up crying and spend the rest of the afternoon driving me positively batty. I'd have babies hanging off of me and laying down in the middle of the floor having full-blown tantrums at a rate of 6 per hour. That's a lot.

The icing on the cake was when their bedtime, at 7:00 PM, turned in to "nursery social hour". The kids would hang out in their cribs, chatting it up until 8:00 PM, everynight. Last night, they were still gabbing at 9:45 PM and I heard babies waking up randomly throughout the night and wee morning hours.

The point is ... our children - who once embraced their crib - were having an increasingly harder time going to sleep and staying to sleep. Here I am, a "self-proclaimed sleep expert" wondering what the heck is going on with our adorable, yet cranky, and "rapidly driving their fuzzy eyed parents to the absolute brink of despair", kids.

So, what did I do?

This morning, the babies were awake at 7:30 AM. We fed them breakfast and then the crying started. Almost immediately. I resorted to letting them "help me" unload the dishwasher, which I never do, because it was the only thing that seemed to keep them relatively happy. (For inquiring minds - I don't let William sit on the dishwasher door, but if I didn't snap a picture of it, I know I'll forget these "days" as he grows older.)

By 9:00 AM, I put the kids in their cribs for the first nap. Charlie was amazed that I was putting the babies to bed, after they'd only been awake for an hour and a half. But, after the difficulties I've been experiencing with our sleep routine ... I needed to "test" a theory. Aside from which, Carolyn was tossing out some "hints" that she might be tired. Only a trained professional might be able to pick up on these clues. Can you spot them?

William wasn't too thrilled with being put back to bed after only being up for 90 minutes. He hollered for a few minutes - - maybe 10 - - and then, silence. They woke up 2 hours later. We fed them lunch - ran some errands - and let them have some playtime in the backyard. At 3:30 PM, I put them down for their second nap. Again, William wasn't too thrilled with being put back in his crib. He hollered for another 5 minutes - - and silence, once again. His sisters didn't protest going down for their first OR second nap. Everyone woke up from this second nap at 5 PM. William woke up screaming. Very unhappy. No amount of holding or food offered seemed to help. So, I turned on the sprinkler. (If you didn't know, running water begets a happy baby.)

After playing in the sprinklers, eating dinner, and having a quick bath - all three babies were put back to bed at 7 PM, tonight. For the first time in several days - there was silence, immediately. Most importantly, I haven't heard a peep out of them, since.

Going forward, we'll be sticking with two naps a day. At least for now. When the babies are ready to give up their morning - or afternoon nap ... I'm sure they'll let me know. With any luck, they'll all be ready to give up the same nap, at the same time. Might I be so lucky??

I was a sleep dictator today, but it seems to be paying off - and - the old addage was once again confirmed. SLEEP causes, brings about, produces, leads to, results in, makes happen, creates, is the cause of BEGETS SLEEP.

One thing is for certain. As soon as I think I've got something "figured" out ... it inevitably changes. Have I said that already? It sounds oddly familiar ...


  1. I love reading how you work through issues like this. Even though I'm on my fourth toddler, I still have to keep figuring things like this out. Mothering is an art not a science, I think. And no book knows how to do it better than a Mother's instincts.

  2. I anxious to hear how the next few days go fo you. I'm experiencing the exact SAME issues with my little guys. My fiery tempered one always wakes up GRUMPY from that late afternoon nap. Sometimes I wonder if it's worth it, but that usually means that bedtime won't be too far off.

    BTW....I cracked up with the telltale sign of your little girl being tired. TOO FUNNY!

  3. hey jen.. my favorite part of this post is the pic of the kids in the sprinkler.. not that the kids are there.. but that pink bunny is there!

    jen aka fourjmh

  4. Sounds like you worked everything out great. Triplets, how fun!! I always wanted twins, but never got them. Instead I got 4 in 4 1/2 years. That works too! I love being a mom, although many times we have our crazy, crazy moments that we have to work out to. I loved your pictures too. The babies are darling.

  5. You always have said that the babies need their sleep and they have been happy and content with that sleep. No crying and not a bit fussy. I could be predeujice, but I doubt it. Go with your gut---you are doing a great job so far.