Who could resist this face? Aurora, 3.5 months @ Cape May
She didn't have problems sleeping a lengthy 6 hours or more until she turned 4 months old. Suddenly, it was like she was the little infant all over again. Neither one of us was getting any sleep. She once cried for an hour and a half straight. She wouldn't nurse or let herself be comforted. She finally just had to tire herself (and the two of us) out. It was this night that I had to let Daddy hold her while I went into the TV room, cried, and started searching online for magic cures to make babies fall asleep. What were we doing wrong?
I didn't find any magic, but I did find a lot of helpful knowledge and advice. The first was this: when babies are going through key developmental stages, they often have what is termed sleep regression. Aurora really was regressing back to just-born infant phase! What's so interesting to me is that the sleep disturbances come from the fact that the babies are focusing on learning a new task. They are trying to work something out, so they can't sleep--so adult, isn't it?
The second thing that jumped out at me was one word: overtired. I thought you didn't impose bedtimes until your child became a toddler, that sleep was just sort of freeflowing. But it turns out there is a method to the madness. Aurora definitely got very fussy and engaged in a lot of thumbsucking around 8 o'clock or so. Sometimes she would have a total meltdown--nothing could soothe her. Another suggestion for bedtimes that I read about was to create rituals. Whether it's a bath, a story, a lullaby, a walk, a feeding--as long as you do the same thing each night, your baby will come to expect bedtime. Rituals are calming for baby (and parents!). They're also signs to baby that it's time to wind down--when we do this, it means that it's time for bed.
The first night, we kind of did everything: bath, diaper, pajamas, rubdown with baby lotion, nursing, story, lullaby. She went right down, thumb in mouth. We thought we'd hit the jackpot...until she was screaming an hour and a half later, and every two hours after that. Check that ritual off the list.
The next night we didn't do a bath and eliminated the lullaby (since Aurora loves music, we thought it might have gotten her too jazzed up. The ritual also took way too long, so she probably got overtired again). Daddy read three stories from Frog and Toad while I nursed. She was nearly asleep when we laid her down. She woke up two hours later, but rather than think she needed fed (or allowing her to get to the point of screaming), we took her out and patted her back to sleep. In a matter of minutes, she was back down. She still woke up every two hours, but she also went back down more easily.
The third night we did a diaper change, rubdown with some Vicks Baby Rub (she has a little bit of a summer cold right now, thanks to me!), pj's, and one story while nursing. She went right down, thumb in mouth, other arm wrapped around her "softie," light cotton blanket on. And she slept for six hours!! Granted, that means she still woke up at 2:30 in the morning, but we just patted her back to sleep, and she woke for her usual feeding at 4. It felt like I got twelve hours of sleep! I was so proud of her--and of us for sticking with it. We found our ritual and we're stickin' to it.
No, she doesn't sleep with her bow in--just captured this as she fell asleep while playing.
Some of our favorite stories for bedtime so far:
-The Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel (I love these books so much more as an adult!)
-Anything by Sandra Boynton, especially The Bellybutton Book
-Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney (This was a gift from a dear friend--she said it contained her life philosophy for her children...it made me cry the first time I read it to Aurora! Highly recommend it.)
-One of Each by Mary Ann Hoberman (one of Daddy's first presents to Aurora while she was still in the belly! Great story, fantastic illustrations.)
...and the classic Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
What's your favorite children's book? Let us know in the comments so we can add to our libary!
Speaking of bedtime, I have a fussy little girl who's ready for her morning nap...someday I'll write about naptimes, which are as essential as bedtime (if not moreso!).