Friday, January 24, 2014

The No-Cry Sleep Solution & A Sleep Update

A little while ago I wrote about some of the struggles we've been having getting Reagan to take regular naps. She had been doing pretty well at night, never put up a fight when it was time to lay down, but for most of her naps would wake up after 30 minutes. I had tried a handful of different things- laying her down earlier, laying her down later, swaddling her, not swaddling her, putting her to bed in her crib, putting her to bed in the co-sleeper in our room... you get the idea. None of those things changed her pattern for the better, some made it worse.

Feeling frustrated, I decided to check out The No-Cry Nap Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. As a practitioner of Attachment Parenting, I knew I wanted to try solutions that were as gentle as possible and didn't involve abandoning her to cry until she couldn't cry anymore and just passed out. So, I read the book and loved it. I decided to go with The No-Cry Nap Solution instead of The No-Cry Sleep Solution because we were struggling much more with nap time than bed time at night, and I thought it might have some insights that were more specific to our issue.

As far as the book itself, I thought it was great. I liked the way it was broken down by various different struggles and solutions so that if you knew what you were having trouble with you could go right to that section and see what was suggested. I personally decided to read through the majority of the book anyway just in case I found ideas that we could use. The advice was practical, which I appreciated. There was also enough variety of solutions offered that you could choose what works for your family. Personally, we live in a multi-level house, so pushing the baby around in the stroller until she fell asleep and then parking her in her bedroom (where you eventually want her to sleep) was not an option for us.

On the other hand, we hung blackout curtains and downloaded a white noise CD right away. We began using her bedroom for nap time {instead of the co-sleeper in our room where she slept at night}, and with the dark curtains and white noise, she was taking 2+ hour naps in less than a week! It was pretty miraculous. Just when we felt like we had tried adjusting every variable and nothing was going to convince her to sleep, three simple changes made all the difference. I can't say for sure if one of the three was the real key or if all of them together was some magic formula, but finally something worked.

And just like in the movies when you think, "well that was easy, everything is resolved and we're only 20 minutes in!" ...the plot thickens.

On New Year's day Carsen came down with a cold, and by the weekend Reagan had it. It was a pretty nasty cough complete with sneezing and runny nose. Of course, this interfered with sleep. Reagan started waking up after napping for only a short time again. I knew she was having a hard time breathing even with the humidifier in the room. This is where I made the crucial mistake. One day she woke up coughing and crying and I couldn't get her calmed down enough to go back to sleep. When I brought her downstairs with me she fell asleep in my arms. I didn't have the heart to take her back upstairs and put her in her bed {knowing it would wake her right up}, so I did what I think most moms would do and snuggled my sick little baby. She slept for another hour. Unfortunately, from that point on, naps became hit or miss. I figured it was partially due to her cold, and partially because she was just out of rhythm from being sick. Then a few days later we were going to visit grandparents for dinner and she had skipped a morning nap, then woke up after a 30 minute afternoon nap. Knowing that she really needed the rest, I decided to hold her and let her sleep a little longer. After that naps became a huge struggle. She woke up after 30 minutes every time and refused to go back to sleep unless she was being held. Now that our reforms were no longer doing the trick, I was kind of back at square one and wondering what to do next.

Here's a confession: I began to realize that the No-Cry approach might not cut it.

As I tried desperately to get her to fall asleep and stay asleep, things just got worse and worse. She went from taking short naps, to waking up as soon as I put her in bed, to not even falling asleep after nursing like she always had. She would start crying and wiggling as soon as she finished nursing because she knew the next step was the bed. I tried holding her for 20 minutes to make sure she was good and asleep, but the screaming started again as soon as I'd lean forward even the slightest bit to put her into the crib. I tried staying with her, rubbing and patting her back, shushing and soothing. She eventually wouldn't even stay laying down for me to help her fall asleep. It was hold her or nothing. Every nap had become this traumatic, hour-long screaming event. Hardly a no-cry situation.

To make matters a little more complicated, this was all happening right before Josh took a trip with his brothers for 4 days during which the girls and I stayed with my mom. While our nap schedule and routine was falling apart, we were about to really start over in a new house, new room, new bed. Cheers! That was a week ago {Thursday-Monday}. I can say it didn't go terribly. She slept better at nigh than she did for naps. I just decided to power through and get back on track when we got home.

We returned home on Monday afternoon. Both girls conked out right away in the car on the way home even though it's less than a 30 minute drive. I was prepared for a rough night, but was resolved that if it was going to be a rough night anyway, we were going all in. Reagan was going in her crib in her room, for nap time and bed time, and we weren't looking back.

Here's another confession: We kind of cried it out... and it worked.

I realized that going into her room every time she cried was just encouraging her to cry. At 9 months old, having previously taken stellar naps in her crib, during which I had witnessed her stirring and going back to sleep on her own, I knew this was not a matter of her needing my help to fall asleep, or being frightened or uncomfortable in her room. For the record, the case Attachment Parenting makes against CIO is that the baby is crying because they need comfort from mom or dad and assistance falling asleep. Only because I knew that was not the case for her, was I willing to leave the room. I remain a firm believer in Attachment Parenting and strongly disagree with CIO for younger babies. So Monday night began a new routine that I was resolved to stick to. I nursed her, rocked her, kissed her and put her in bed. The only reason I'd go back in was if she dropped her paci out of the crib. In that case I went in, gave her the paci, laid her back down, and left. She cried, but not for long. I knew that she knew she was in there to go to sleep, and that's what she did. She woke up once or twice during the night and after a few minutes of fussing went right back to sleep. Tuesday we did the same thing for naps. Again, she cried when I left the room but then took nice long naps. Tuesday night she only woke up once. She took great naps the rest of the week and by last night {Thursday night} she slept through without waking up at all- or at least without crying.

In less than a week, she is barely crying as I leave the room and quiet by the time I make it 3 steps down the hall to the stairs. She and I and my husband are all much better rested. She is more content throughout the day and has even been more adventurous exploring the house like never before. I can't say enough about the difference that extra sleep has made for the whole family. There has certainly been extensive research on the health benefits of adequate sleep, and everything I've read about health from losing weight to balancing hormones to clearing acne cites adequate sleep as a recommendation. In the No-Cry Nap Solution, Elizabeth Pantley explains in great detail the reasons why naps are vital to children's growth and development. She describes the "gifts" of nap time- the benefits children get during naps that they miss otherwise, even when they get adequate night time sleep. To say the least, this has been a major positive change in The Luckiest household.

As I have often said, more than anything I'm a believer in doing what works. I love AP. Love it. I will continue to use it forever and ever. But I have to do what works for my family and my children, even if it's not what AP recommends. If there is one thing we all must be as parents, it's flexible. In this case, flexibility paid off. We tried something new and scary, something I thought I'd never do, and we were rewarded greatly. I think the take-away message here is to never say never, and trust your gut. Despite what my philosophy-of-choice recommended, we branched out because it wasn't working for us. I knew leaving the room would teach her that bed time was bed time, no games. I listened to that mom-voice, and here we are!

I'd love to hear from others if you had sleep troubles with your little ones and what worked for you! I'd also enjoy hearing stories from others who had to depart from their parenting philosophies when something just wasn't working. Have you ever tried something you thought you'd never do as a parent??

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