Wednesday, February 20, 2008

sleep in heavenly peace

Sleep is really quite simple. You lay down. You relax. You close your eyes. You slip in to a blissful slumber. In my book: you stay that way until a child hovers over you and tries to wipe their nose in your hair.

When we first arrive in this world, we don't know how to fall sleep by ourselves. The fine art of falling asleep unassisted is a process that must be learned and until a person knows how to go to sleep on their own, the whole "sleep/bedtime" thing can be a terribly stressful event for everyone involved.

Take for instance, my seven-month-old son Henry.

When he came home from the hospital, he slept in a bassinet next to our bed. He would wake every two hours, give or take an hour and a half (usually, take) and I would nurse him. I would then return him to his bassinet where he would continue this sleep / eat pattern all night and throughout the following day. Gradually, he began sleeping for longer stretches and I could see a rudimentary nap pattern developing.

Although he is sleeping for a longer period at night and taking naps during the day, he is still not sleeping nearly as much as he should be for his age.

The reason that Henry is not sleeping very well at the moment is primarily a function of our small house. He is rooming with his big brother, William, who still takes one nap a day. When Henry wakes up crying from his afternoon nap, or in the middle of the night, I will rush in and pick him up because the absolute last thing that I want to have happen is for Henry to wake William and ruin his sleep. Because then William will wake up Carolyn and Elizabeth and with four tired children, I am quickly on my way to hell in a hand basket.

When I rush in and pick Henry up, he is not learning how to self soothe and fall back to sleep unassisted. As a result, I have an overtired and fussy baby. However, if I don't rush in and pick him up, William's sleep is inevitably interrupted and my exhausted son can usually be found with his pillow over his head; or - will call out "It's OK Henry. It's OK. You go sleep now. OK?"

More recently, as Henry has grown older - and hence louder - William might come staggering out of his room with his blanket in hand and say "Mom. Dad. Henry is hurting my ears. Can I please sleep on the couch?"

It is during these times that I have seriously entertained thoughts of installing sound-proof padding all over the walls of our tiny laundry room and moving Henry in there.

Currently, Henry goes to bed at night around the same time as our triplets ... which at around 8:00 PM, is too late for the little guy. This is my fault, but he is always content (and I love to watch him) crawling around on the floor until his siblings are all tucked in to bed.

He will typically wake up at exactly 5:15 AM, although some mornings he wakes up as early as 4:00 AM. Either Charlie or I will bring him in to bed and I'll nurse him back to sleep.

He is up for the day by 6:30 AM.

His first nap - that he resists - is around 9:00 AM, and generally lasts between 30 and 45 minutes.

His second nap - that he resists - is around 1:00 PM, and usually does not last more than an hour. When I pick him up from his crib, he will nurse and then fall asleep in my arms. But if I even THINK about putting him back in his crib, he is wide awake and cranky.

His third nap - is around 5:00 PM, and usually lasts for 15 minutes.

He goes down to every nap crying and wakes up from every nap crying. The only exception is if he fell asleep in the Bjorn with a boob next to his face and woke up in the same position.

What his sleep and behavior pattern tell me is that he is overtired and sleep deprived. I know this because with our triplets - who were on the most regimented sleep schedule imaginable - they would nap for a solid two hours during the morning and afternoon; around 45 minutes in the late afternoon, AND they would sleep for a solid 12 hours at night. (Elizabeth might have woken up to be nursed in the middle of the night, but she was a tiny baby and when she was Henry's age - she weighed about as much as one of his thighs.)

Our triplets would go to bed smiling and cooing and fall asleep without nary a peep and they would wake up happy and laughing. They were doing this from the time they were four-months-old and they are, for the most part, still doing that now. Especially since I've split everyone up in to separate rooms at bedtime.

Henry, the happy baby that he is - does not do very well sleeping. I think it's because he is overtired, but also, as he has grown older, he resists sleep that much more because he doesn't want to miss a thing and instead, wants to be a part of the action. There's a lot happening in this house.

But I know that once we get his sleep issues dialed in, he is going to go down without resistance, sleep better, sleep longer, and wake up happy.

Me, the happy lady that I am - am getting really frustrated that her bouncing baby of loving joy is depriving her of precious sleep at night and wreaking absolute havoc on her nerves with his abbreviated naps during the day.

So, here's how this thing is going down.

Henry is in his crib for his morning nap by NLT 9:00 in the morning. If he wakes up before a solid 45 minutes of restful sleep, I am not going to pick him up until he either 1) goes back to sleep or 2) cries for an hour.

Henry is in his crib for his afternoon nap by NLT 1:oo in the afternoon. If he wakes up before a solid 45 minutes of restful sleep, I am not going to pick him up until he either 1) goes back to sleep or 2) cries for an hour.

Because his late afternoon nap is so short - and close to bedtime - he typically falls asleep while he is being nursed in the Bjorn as I prepare dinner, or chat with Charlie when he gets home from work. I then transfer him to his crib where he will sleep for around 15 minutes. Status quo on this front, because this nap is so short and will disappearing soon, anyway.

Henry will be in his crib for the night by no later than 7:00. If he wakes up before 6:00 AM, I am not going to get him. Because, I know babies program themselves to wake up at a certain time every day. Just last month, Henry was programmed to wake up at 1:00 AM. It took two nights of him crying before he stopped waking up and sleeping through until 5:00 AM. The first night he cried for a solid 45-minutes straight. The next night he cried for less than 5 minutes.

Until we get our little guy sleeping better at night, I will move William on to an air mattress in our room. This might sound crazy - or cruel - but I think it's crazy and cruel that our whole family is suffering from sleep deprivation because Henry is waking up prematurely from naps and not sleeping through the night. I also know that this isn't going to become any easier as Henry gets older. If anything, it will become more difficult to teach him that sleep is a good thing.

Although this is the routine I'm planning to implement, I will watch for Henry's sleep cues. I will do my absolute best to not keep him awake for more than two hours between naps and I will do whatever I can to make sure that he sleeps in his crib and not his carseat. So help me, this baby is going to sleep well - even if that means our lives revolve around his schedule until his sleep patterns are better established.

I feel justified in this approach. Not just because I did this same thing with our triplets and it worked, but because I just re-read Dr. Weissbluth's book and I was reminded that everything he writes is fact.

Now, I've just got to persuade baby blue eyes who sat on my lap while I wrote this entire post because his afternoon nap was only 30 minutes and I didn't want his squawking to wake up William.

But get ready Henry.

Sleep school starts tomorrow.

Edited to add: William has been sleeping in the same room with Henry during nap time because I have been splitting the girls up >> one sleeps in their room, the other sleeps in our room. One day last week, I moved William out to the couch for his nap because he is the best sleeper in the group and even though I'm doing dishes or folding laundry three feet away, he will take a solid nap. I can't have him sleep in our room because it would defeat the purpose of splitting the kids up and nap time would (again) turn in to social hour.

Once sleep school starts, I'll move William out to the couch as necessary. Henry will stay in his crib. Carolyn will be in the girls room. Elizabeth will be in our room. And that pretty much takes up every room in the house.

Except - the laundry room.

Or the bathroom.

See? We've got room for two more children!


  1. I could have written this post! My singleton is 8 months old and my twins are 5. The twins are/were PERFECT sleepers. They were great nappers, went down happy, woke up happy and ALWAYS got the exact amount, or more, of the recommended amount of sleep for their age. They used to get soooo excited at bedtime, they would run in their room and climb IN their cribs!

    My singleton is a different story. Two months ago in a sleep deprived, desperate attempt to get my then 6 month old to sleep I bought HSHHC and read it in one evening (which in my sleep deprived state was no easy feat).

    Things are MUCH better now. We have a schedule. She isn't napping as long as my boys were yet, but her afternoon nap is hard because I HAVE to leave the house everyday to pick up my 5 year olds from preschool (next year they will ride the bus home from Kindergarten and I am giddy at the thought of an uninteruppted afternoon nap for the baby!!!). Nighttimes are great...she goes down at 6:30 pm and wakes at 7:00 am with no nighttime wakings.

    And, it doesn't matter how big your house is. I have 3100 sq. feet and I can put my boys at the opposite end and upstairs of where the baby is and they can still manage to wake her up! Forget about soundproofing the laundry room, I want my whole house done!!!

    GOOD LUCK!!!


  2. Every time you post something William says, it makes me LOL. Such a sweet and funny little guy.

    I am totally facing 30-45 minute naps with Jack (who is 9 months now). Weissbluth's strategies worked wonders for night sleep, but I've been reluctant to try it with naps. You have to let us know how Henry does! If it works, maybe I'll be inspired to tackle our situation.

    Good luck!

  3. We are big Weissbluth fans here too, but one of my trio would not nap b/c of being overtired (cried for the entire hour of both supposed naps at 9 and 1) until I started putting her down 2 hours after she awoke in the am, then nap again 3 hours after waking from first nap, and then bedtime 4 hours after waking from the afternoon nap. She didn't cry when I put her down early enough in the am, miraculously. Hope that makes sense, and good luck to you both tomorrow! Sleep is so important!!

  4. I too could have written this post. Ethan is still in a crib in our room at 13 months old. We have been waiting to have another room enclosed for him. When we get home from vacation tomorrow it should be done and the big move will be this weekend. Sleep school starts for him next week.

  5. I have two ideas for you:

    1) try putting Henry down for his naps a little earlier, he may just go right to sleep. I dealt with the crying before every nap for a while, and this was my dh's idea. IT WORKED!! lol!!

    2) How about letting William nap in your room too? This way Henry learns to soothe himself at naptime too.

    Hope this helps and doesn't come across the wrong way. It does sound like you are willing to work at trying to get Henry to be a good sleeper! So I thought I'd pipe up, sleep is so important to me too! :D

    Good luck! I hope he is sleeping longer soon!! It will differently help you all out!! (especially you! :D)

  6. I used the No Cry Sleep Solution once The Boy turned 9 months because I couldn't take the sleep issues any more...and I can (and will) not (absolutely) CIO. However, we co-sleep, and now The Boy wakes 1 time/night (different time most every night). I can live with that and actually think it is quite normal. Anyway... sorry for the tangent. I just wanted to wish you "Good luck."

  7. Putting William in with you does not sound crazy at all. When we had sleep issues and limited space? We put my youngest daughter's pack n play in the BATHROOM. That's desperation.

    Fight the good fight!

  8. Dr. Weissbluth would be so proud. I used this book with my little girl too. It works WONDERS!

    Stick to your guns!!...and good luck!


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  10. Ugh, I know we're on our way to having to enforce the nap schedule, but with a five and two year old, I'm afraid that if I have to stay home all the time (all summmer!?!) while the baby naps and not go to the park and friends' houses I'm going to DIE. I mean it, perish from the earth. I'll look forward to seeing how you handle it, since you're my total inspiration...much like Jon and Kate with their 8 children (on TLC, I'm sure you've seen it), if they/you can do it I must be able to also. Without perishing.

    Anyway, A GREAT TIP on getting kids to SLEEP IN (if 7:00 is really 'sleeping in'). I've had two awful sleepers--little larks who are up chirping before daybreak. The darkened windows are a must, but also, what really worked for me is to set a CD alarm clock to turn on at 7. Within a minute or two I come in. VERY QUICKLY they learn to be quiet/go back to sleep until that music turns on, even at six months. Good advice on conditioning your child from me, a trained developmental psychologist.

    Oh, and whatever happened to the carpet cleaners up the street? My engineer of a husband thinks you really kick ass!

  11. Good luck! I am a huge fan of that book, and of that method of 'sleep school'. It's not always a fun process to implement, but I hope that you reap large (and fairly immediate) rewards! My fingers are crossed for you!

  12. Wow girl, you're brave and must have nerves of steel. I'd have a hard time looking in those baby blues with tears dripping out of them

    Good luck to you. Even though I'm not a parent I know you're making the right decision. A friend of mine let both her kids rule the sleep roost and neither one of them are good sleepers to this day at 10 and 7!

  13. I'm very proud of you and wish you all the luck in the world. They CAN learn good sleep habits! Good luck!

  14. Jen, I feel for ya. I don't have three, but one little one 5 1/2 months that doesn't sleep well either. Like clockwork he goes down at 6:45 or 7 each night. Which is good, but we have to dreamfeed him around 11 or he wakes up at 2. As it stands, he wakes up promptly at 5:30 and if he doesn't take a catnap by 8:30, he's up for the morning. THIS BOY DOES NOT NAP more than 30 minutes at a time. So come 5 when I get home from work, he's a major crankster. The only diff from Henry, is that Jon Kai wakes up with ear to ear smiles, even if it's been a 5 minute nap. He's like the dog when you went out to the store for an hour. He acts like seeing you is the best thing that's happened to him all day. It makes the sleep deprivation worht it. I'm a sucker. Can't do the crying it out thing. You are a brave woman.

  15. Hi Jen,

    I hear you on the 45 min thing. I was a firm believer in Weissbluth, but my son was not. So, it didn't work for us. What worked for us was time.

    Anway, he's 2 now and sleeping all night and having a 1.7 5hour sleep during the day. Nothing we did worked, it just took him some brain maturity to get there.

    I hope Henry gets some sleep soon! There's nothing quite so sad as a little bubba that you know is a happy soul, but who is grumpy from lack of sleep.

  16. You need to get Charlie to have one of those little "father to son" talks with Henry, like he did with William! :)

  17. I didn't quite follow: Have you moved William out of the William/Henry room during naptime, too? He could sleep on your bed then. One of my boys sleeps on my bed during nap time. I never need that room during the day for me. On the rare occassions that I nap, I'll use the couch downstairs.


  18. I'm looking down at my chest, imagining wearing the baby in the bjorn, and trying to figure out how the heck you nurse in it while you're cooking?! That would be a handy trick to have! Although my little one is at and has been at that distractable stage, where she'll whip her head sideways while still latched on, so maybe it's best I not handle hot stuff while nursing...

    My nearly-year-old daughter developed into quite a sleep monster and it's only in the last month or so that we've really worked on it. The No-Cry Sleep Solution worked very well for me. I've always had a hard time getting myself to fall asleep, and the book helped me understand sleep cues that we both needed.

    Perhaps it would be less disruptive to the other kids to try the no-cry solution? It's not a truly no-cry solution, or at least the toddler version isn't, but it's not long-drawn-out crying. I'm thrilled that my daughter has regained the ability to self-soothe (sometimes)! And this was much easier on all of us...the husband who works all sorts of shifts and needs his sleep, the mom who didn't want to CIO and can barely stand to hear it, and the baby who vomits after just a short CIO attempt and only gets more worked up. I swear it took days to get her back to where we were before we tried CIO.

    Every child's personality is different. Henry isn't used to *having* to share your time in the same way the triplets were. I'm a firm believer in their being different strategies for different children and different families.

  19. Go for it, Jen! You are armed and ready with a great plan. You have potty-trained napping 3yo triplets --- Henry will be a piece of cake :)

    I have all the confidence in the world in you.

  20. good luck!! as you pointed out with your trips bahaviour, you WILL be doing william a favour by teaching him to sleep. hang in there.

    and please PLEASE give us regular updates to inspire us who are in similar situations with our little ones. You are my guru.

  21. Wow, good luck with that. My 2nd (dd) is about the same age as Henry, and we have *just* got her sleep on the straight and narrow - most of the time! I did CIO (with a pitchdark room) with my first (son) and it sent me spiraling into PPD, so am not doing THAT again! Having said that, he is now a 7-7 guy, on the dot. He has a 'RaRa Ticktock'( as a nightlight/wakeup indicator now, and it rocks.

    With No.2, I put a DVD on in the next room for no.1 so that I know they are distracted and close by. Harder with three, I bet! No.2 naps at 9 and 1 like Henry, but hardly ever does the 5pm nap any more, as it's a hard one to enforce when I'm trying to sort dinner out. She is good at sleeping for about 1.5hrs - if she squeaks after 45min I go in and resettle her. It took about a week to get her to resettle consistently, patting her bottom until she goes back to sleep! (she sleeps on her front). It takes about 10 pats and then she is out - for me a lot easier than CIO!! I am lucky my son (2.5) sits and watches the DVD like an angel in the morning, or sleeps like an angel in the afternoon whilst I settle no.2.

    One tip I learnt re consistent early morning waking, is to go in about 1hr before they usually wake up, stroke them til they stir slightly, and then soothe them to sleep. They then are deeply asleep during their normal wake-up, which breaks the cycle. I learnt this from the site, which has all sorts of useful sleep tips for this age.

    Hope you have a short semester at Sleep School! It's a killer, but it's so worth the heartache. Last night no.2 slept 7pm til 6am. Result!

  22. Good luck with sleep is always hard to sleep train, but it pays off in the end.

  23. Weissbluth rocks! I wish you the best of luck. Sleep training is hard, but as you know, SO very worth it.

    Sarah in Ohio

  24. Sounds like a great plan. We are big Weissbluth fans here as well. Stay strong!!!

  25. I've been trying to figure out how we'll work out this whole sleep thing as the triplets get older. Our four year old is JUST outgrowing his one remaining nap, and I know that he's old to still be taking a nap, but it's all good. Anyway, the point is, I'm amazed that you had your triplets so well trained on the sleep front. I hope we do as well!

    Good luck with Henry! (And hey! We've got the same outfit that he's wearing in that first picture!)

  26. Now, see, we're looking at doing something similar...we'll let our son sleep with us in our room while the little one learns to sleep in the nursery. That's many months down the road, tho. I'm interested in seeing how it goes for you first. :-)

  27. We did the No-Cry Sleep Solution here too and it really helped. I hope Henry starts sleeping better soon!

  28. LOVE that book.

    We are having the same problems you are because my Henry's naps start and end at a slightly different time than his big is constantly waking up the other.

    I need to follow your lead and split them up further apart I think until they are on the same schedule for their afternoon naps. Then they can scream at the same time.

    Henry's naps got a lot better when I moved his bedtime up to 6:00 and started waking him at 7:00 (if he's not up at 5:15). They still keep waking each other up though. AARGH.

  29. I am in my own version of sleep hell. My girls are 2.5 now and have always been easy to put down for naps and at night and sleep 11-12 hours. One of my girls has started to wake up in the middle of the night and will SCREAM until I come and get her. She is so loud that there is no possible way I can sleep through it if I try and let her cry it out. My girls sleep in separate rooms and we have the humidifier fans going so I think they will sleep through it. Now, she is refusing to go down at all in her crib at night and will cry/scream for over an hour...she is sick now with a respiratory virus so I have put the bedtime battles aside right now, but it is going to be worse than ever to get her back to sleeping in her crib once she is well. Sleeping with mom is much more enticing to her. Anyway...any words of advice or encouragement. I just bought a book called the No-cry sleep solution but haven't gotten past the first few pages with her illness. Today, she refused to go down for a nap in her crib, which was still okay before she got sick. She's feeling pretty miserable so I didn't push it. Anyway, sorry for the long post, but I am feeling pretty stressed/defeated and any advice is appreciated:)

  30. question:
    why are you separating the girls.

    we are remodeling and will have one big room for the trips. you are bursting my dream that they will continue to sleep peacefully together. will that change as they get older?

    the baby will have his own room. and we will have an office that another could take over for naptime if need be.

  31. Sleep school at our house, too. One less child, but same exact problems (our baby has a bedroom in our closet:)). Weissbluth is the only parenting advice book that I think applies to every has saved my family's collective life and my sanity. Best of luck with Henry - I'll be thinking of you as we're establishing our naps around here!

  32. Food for thought for some of the commenters...

    Many studies have shown (you can find links to some on that at 12 months more than 50% of babies still wake at least once per night.