Category Archives: Sleep

Q&A: Bedtime #2

Emmie writes:

"My twin boys have always been rather fussy in the evenings. They are
now 8 months old, and one of my boys does not seem to be outgrowing
this tendency. We put them down at 7 and the hours between 4 and 6
(when bathtime begins) are punctuated by contant whining and fussing.
It’s driving me nuts. Bathtime goes well, and then he screams the whole
time I dress hime until he gets fed. When he’s not sleeping, he’s
extremely active. I’m pretty sure he’s well-rested, as he takes 2 good
naps per day (about 3.25 hours total) and sleeps 11 hours straight at
night. Please give me some insight as to when this evening moodiness
will end. I’m so tired of dreading that time of day."

Hmm. I know almost nothing about twins. If he was a singleton I’d look at either the nap schedule or something he’s eating.

It may be possible that his second nap is just hitting him wrong,
and he’s waking up before he should be up (even 15 minutes can make a
difference in this) or it’s just hitting him at the wrong time of day
somehow. I don’t know if there’s anything you can reasonably do about
that, though, since I can’t imagine dealing with two different nap
schedules with twins. Maybe Linda or another twin mom can help us out with this one, because I’m a little daunted by the logistics of twin naps. (And I can’t even bring myself, except in a parentehtical way, to suggest that maybe he needs a slightly earlier bedtime than your other son does.)

The other thing is that maybe there’s something about something he’s
eating that isn’t sitting right. Either he’s got some kind of mild
sensitivity or allergy, or maybe it’s giving him heartburn or
indigestion. Is there something he eats every day? If so, see if the
fussiness stops if you don’t feed him that for a week.

Oh, and is it possible that he’s hungry during that time? Have you tried feeding him just a teeny snack right then?

(It just hit me that with twins there’s always a control. Cool. I love the experimental method.)

I don’t know if you live someplace that’s cold right now, but the best thing I’ve ever done to get out from under the anvil of the 4-6 pm timeslot
is go outside. In the warmer weather I’d just go walk around, and in
the colder weather I’d go to the grocery store or another store
(bearing in mind that I live in the city and can walk to the store, so
this was all with the kid in the sling or stroller). The change of
scenery seemed to provide enough diversion to break the fussy habit.

Get back to me and let me know if any of what I wrote was helpful.

Q&A: Bedtime #1

The hilarious Holly writes:

"I have a question, simple really.

My 6.5 month old sleeps really well.   She sleeps with us, usually with a boob in her mouth, all night.  I work during the day, and my husband stays home.  Because they have the luxury of sleeping as late as she wants, she’s gotten into the terrible habit of staying up really late.  Last night I fell asleep on the couch as she played with her piano until 1:30 AM.  Sometimes she falls asleep between 9 and 10.  But I never know if that’s just going to be a nap or the real thing. Any ideas how to scoot her schedule up a bit?  Seems so simple…but isn’t proving to be."

As I see it, you have to make a decision. Do you really want to have her on a bedtime routine and regular bedtime, or are you OK with the floating time? Because, despite what your MIL will tell you, it’s not a bad thing to have a kid with a floating bedtime, as long as it’s OK with you two. (You and your partner, that is. Not you and your MIL.)

It sounds like you really want her to go to bed at a consistent time, though. 1:30 just sounds brutal to me, and I don’t have to show up perky and alert at an office every morning. So the bad news is that you’re going to have to bite the bullet, decide when you want her to go to bed, and just do it.

There are two elements here. One is the bedtime routine, and the other is her sleep sweet spot. The routine is relatively simple (which you know, but I’ll say it here anyway). 30-40 minutes before you want her to go to sleep, start the routine. We did bath, jammies, two books, then singing to sleep while we nursed. Other people do other variations, but the point is to do the same thing every night. (A side benefit of this is that once you have a rock-solid routine, anyone can do it, just using a bottle instead of a boob. Or you can do it in any location. We never worried about getting El Chico to bed on vacation, because as long as we could do the routine he’d go to sleep anywhere.)

The sweet spot is harder to determine. It sounds like she’s not going to be a 7 pm down-for-the-night girl. So the trick is to figure out whether you could get her to go to sleep at, say 8, and then wake up for a little nightcap around 11 pm but then go right back to sleep, or if that’s an impossible dream. If you wait until 10, her sleep cycles might be shifted so that she wakes up for her topper feed at 1 am, which is really not what you want.

So I’m going to say that you and your partner should experiment and keep a log (doesn’t that sound scientific? I mean write it down on the back of an old envelope) of when she naps during the day. That might give you a clue as to when a good bedtime would be. For example, if you guys notice that she always falls asleep at 3 pm, no matter what happened earlier in the day, and sleeps for an hour, then try putting her down at 8. (I’m using the logic that 2-3-4 is as good a starting point as any.) See what happens. If, when she wakes up 3 hours later, she goes right back to sleep, then you’ve hit the right spot. If she still wakes up to play, then try putting her to bed at 8:30 instead. Repeat.

It’s all a guessing game at this point, but most kids do have an optimal bedtime that’s specific to them. El Chico’s was 8:30, but El Pequeño has to go down between 7 and 7:30. If we miss that window, then he’s up ’til 10.

So play around with it, but be intentional about it, and see what happens. Then report back with your findings.

Q&A: Nighttime Sleep #1

Shaynee writes:

"I’ll start with a parenting favorite: difficulty sleeping. My 10-month-old daughter has never been a great sleeper. For most of her life she has awakened every two to three hours, either to eat (when she was younger) or simply by starting awake. For the last couple of months she has been waking every 45 minutes to an hour–essentially, at the end of almost every sleep cycle. Her twice-daily naps have never lasted longer than 45 minutes, and recently they have dropped to 30 minutes.

For a little background on our sleeping arrangement: She slept in a co-sleeper and our bed until she was about five months old. Since then, she has been spending the first part of the night, when we are still up, in her crib in her room and the rest of the night in our bed. (The more frequent waking did not coincide with moving her to her crib part-time–she was actually sleeping for two- and three-hour stretches in her crib for a while.) She wakes slightly less frequently when in our bed but still typically needs to be patted back to sleep every one to two hours. As a result, I have not slept for more than three uninterrupted hours since she came home from the hospital.

She often wakes up suddenly, crying almost immediately. At times I have been lying next to her and watched her start crying vigorously in her sleep even before she wakes.  She will also roll over and start crawling while she’s still partially asleep. This often results in her lodging herself in the corner of the crib, which then confuses and frightens her.

While I don’t rush in to comfort her at the slightest peep, when she truly wakes and cries, I pick her up to calm her down. When she’s in bed with us, I can pat her back to sleep sometimes, but at other times I need to pick her up and rock her.

To compound the situation, she has been very attached to me for the last couple of months and will not relax to fall back asleep if she’s with my husband. Instead, she cries hysterically until I take her. Granted, we haven’t pushed the envelope on how long she will cry when he’s trying to calm her; after half an hour of infant emotional meltdown, she, he, and I are usually so worked up that it just doesn’t seem worth it to keep trying.

Let’s see, a few other random things: She doesn’t have a toy or blanket that she’s attached to which could help her sleep; we’ve tried various items, with no success–she’s simply not interested in them. We give her a pacifier when she goes to sleep; this helps her sleep but she’s not so enamored of it that she seeks it out at bedtime. Nursing her will calm her down, but I try to avoid nursing all the way to sleep so she won’t become  dependent on that tactic. A recent string of viruses and febrile seizures has made her even more loathe to sleep anywhere but on my chest in the last month or so.

That’s about it. I love my little girl, but not having more than an hour or so to myself to do anything not related to her has become trying. Even absent any suggestions, however, simply writing this down has been cathartic. Thanks for the forum."

I suggested propping the head of the bed to see if it would help at all (to see if it was the old favorite, silent reflux). Shaynee replied:

"Thanks for your response. I’ll try raising the crib head,
although I tend to think it’s not reflux. When she was younger and still
spitting up (which she did only rarely, maybe once every couple of days), she
was never bothered when anything came back up. Also, she used to calm down
instantly when I picked her up, but she would not do so for my husband. Now,
with all of the viral goodness that has been going on around here, it takes a
while longer for me to calm her at night as well because she’s congested or
coughing.

A couple of things I neglected to mention in my earlier
message: As you probably discerned, I’m not comfortable doing sleep training
that involves leaving her to cry. I don’t mind if she fusses in an "I disagree
that it’s time for bed" way, but if she’s truly crying I don’t want her to be
alone. Also, about half the time when I pick her up, she has
a lot of gas, so she has a good reason to be crying.

Clearly this has been weighing on me, perhaps more
than it should. My milk supply has dwindled markedly in the last few weeks, a
combination no doubt of cumulative lack of sleep, her increased intake of
solids, and a recent medical procedure that required fasting and really screwed
up the mammary system, it seems. (Perhaps that’s a topic for a future question.)
I’ve also started to question my ability to parent any additional children, not
because I think that poor sleeping is a reflection of bad parenting skills or
even bad parents. Rather, I’m worried that if this somewhat minor issue causes
me such distress, then I would be unable to handle a "difficult"
child, such as a baby with colic. Aside from the sleep issues, my girl is a
mellow, easygoing kid who rarely cries and laughs often (and who seems to
suffer no ill effects or moods from a lack of sleep)."

I don’t think sleep is a "somewhat minor issue" at all. I think sleep is a major major (did I say "major" yet?) issue, and is the thing that causes parents the most stress (aside from serious or chronic illness in their children). Someone once mentioned to me that she thought sleep was The Issue for our generation of parents, the way feeding was in the 80s (when breastfeeding started to come back), and the way toilet training was in the 40s. I don’t know why this is, but I agree. Maybe we have so many more issues with sleep because our kids don’t sleep on their stomachs anymore? Who knows. But I do know it makes most of us feel completely, worthlessly incompetent at worst and totally fried at best.

Anyway, Shaynee, if I were That Kind Of Lady I’d give you a hug. (I’m not That Kind Of Lady, although if I knew you IRL I’d bring over a sixpack and talk trash about celebrities with you while our kids rolled around on the floor together.) Reading through all of this, I think it sounds like you’re just the unfortunate victim of a shitstorm of separation anxiety, sickness, and a tough sleeper. You’ve thought through everything, and I can’t think of anything you haven’t tried or ruled out. Did the waking crying thing start after a round of vaccinations? I’ve heard of some kids having what sounds like sleep apnea for a few months after some shots. The only issue I might try to pursue is the gas one. Can you give Beano to babies that young? Will she sleep on her stomach? She’s old enough to roll into whatever position she wants to sleep in, but I wonder if starting her out on her stomach might give her a longer stretch. (She’s out of the SIDS range, so I, personally, wouldn’t worry about stomach sleeping at this age, but I’m not a professional, so use your own judgement about your own child.)

Now for the good news:

The only-being-comforted-by-you thing sounds like classic separation anxiety, which she’ll grow out of in a month or two. At which point you won’t have to be the sole comforter. It’s also a sign of good attachment, so you know you’re doing a great job.

She’ll sleep through eventually whether you let her cry it out or not. There are millions of us who couldn’t/wouldn’t let our babies cry and our kids eventually slept through the night. Probably not at 10 months, but by 15 months, yes. There will absolutely come a day when you’re annoyed that she only slept 9 hours in a row instead of her usual 10-11.

I think the most immediate problem that you can take steps right now to fix is getting yourself some sleep. Because that’s a separate but equally (if not more!) distressing problem. Since she only accepts you as the comforter at night right now, you’ll have to figure out a way to sleep during the day. Can your partner take her for 5 hours one (or two) day(s) this weekend so you can sleep? Do you have a babysitter that she already likes and feels comfortable with? (Now is not the time to try to introduce a sitter for the first time. Not that I made that mistake myself or anything.) If so, can that person take her for 5-6 hours one or two days in a row? I don’t know if you WOH, but I would sit down with your partner and talk about the lack of sleep problem and make a plan for you to be able to get 5 hours of sleep every day for three days running. If you could do that, then you’d be caught up just enough that you wouldn’t be so brittle and it wouldn’t feel like someone was scraping the inside of your skull with a spork every time your baby wakes up in the night.

As for not having another kid, well, I’m not going to be the one to tell you it’s a piece of cake, because I find it challenging. But the sleep thing isn’t as awful the second time around. I think it’s because you know what’s coming and you know it’s not your fault, and you have a bigger kid and know that eventually the little one will sleep through the night like the big one does.

In the meantime, hang in there. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water, and sit down tonight to make a plan to get yourself some sleep. You’re doing a great job.

Q&A: Naps #1

Heather writes:

"I have a 10 month-old son who has never been a terribly greatnapper.  There have been times where he seems to have settled into a
routine of 45 min. or longer naps, and then we will have weeks on end
where he naps for only 30 min. stretches.  I was able to avoid him
getting overtired when he was younger by keeping short intervals and
always watching his sleepy cues, but as he has gotten older and much
more mobile, he is much more difficult to read.  I’ve been told by
numerous people to either just go with the flow and put him down when
he needs it, or to schedule him strictly and he will eventually learn
to be tired at the same time.  I’ve been leaning more towards reading
his cues, but as I said previously, it doesn’t seem to be working
anymore.  I have somewhat of a bias against scheduling because I don’t
want anyone telling me when I have to go to bed, eat, play, etc.,
however, those who do this swear by it.  I believe I remember you
mentioning that both your boys weren’t the best nappers, so I was just
wondering if you have any additional ideas or insights. 
 
A little additional background:  Yes, he is cranky after only 30
minutes, so it obviously isn’t working for him.  He is sick right now,
although he has had a cold off and on for the last two months.  He is
also getting four teeth, however, his first two didn’t bother him at
all.  He goes to sleep fine for the naps; he has never required any
intervention to fall asleep, it is just the staying there that sucks.
I’ve tried to go back in and quickly rock him, nurse him, pat him,
etc., but that only seems to energize him. 
Thanks in advance."

But Heather is not the only one with this problem. Kate writes:

"My 6 month old boy is king of the catnaps.  He
will take anywhere from 4-7 little naps a day, each one lasting about 25-35
minutes.  Within minutes of waking up from a nap he is
yawning, rubbing his eyes, and fussy, but will not go back to
sleep.
 
I have run out of words to adequately express how
frustrating this is.  I don’t have a clue how to get him sleeping
longer.  It wouldn’t bother me so much, except he clearly needs more
sleep.  I spend just about the entire day soothing him to a drowsy state,
putting him in his crib, and retrieving him a half an hour later when he wakes
back up.  Repeat, repeat, repeat till bedtime.  It makes no difference
how long he is awake between naps, either. 
 
I’ve tried the Pantley method of rushing in at the
first sign of his waking up and soothing him back to sleep, but it doesn’t work
on him.
 
Any thoughts at all?
 
BTW, his night sleeping is pretty good – he
generally wakes up 2-3 times to nurse, but goes right back to
sleep."

Oof. I confess that I find nap questions hard to answer. Probably because, as Heather reminds me, neither of my two boys are the greatest nappers. El Chico was a slow starter on napping. For the first 4-5 months of his life he’d sleep for 25 minutes at a time during the day. Then, once he consolidated into real naps, he went down to one nap a day at 11 months. He gave up napping entirely at 2 1/2 years old. El Pequeño only naps in bed–he hardly naps at all when we’re in motion (30-35 minutes, tops), which is an impossible situation for a second child.

When El Chico was 4 months old, he did the same thing both Heather and Kate describe that their sons do–staying asleep for around 30 minutes, then waking up. I also tried hovering right there and sticking the pacifier right back into his mouth the second he started to rouse, but it never worked. Finally, in desperation, I emailed Elizabeth Pantley. (The No-Cry Sleep Solution had just come out, and I’d read it cover to cover with the desperation of a ravenous barracuda in a koi pond.)

She answered me back! And what she said was that usually you can’t get naps in order until you’ve got nighttime sleep in order. So I should focus on getting a rock-solid bedtime routine down, and in a few weeks the naps would probably settle in, too. And they did, all by themselves. The problems we had with naps after that (except when he dropped them entirely) were during teething and growth and developmental spurts.

But back to your problem, Heather. Do you have a solid bedtime routine? If not, try working on that to see if it helps napping. Then, try to troubleshoot to see if there’s anything that could be interfering with his sleep. Is he hungry? He might be waking up from hunger in the middle of the nap. Does he have reflux or digestive problems? Does he sleep longer in a stroller or car seat than in a bed or crib? Some kids never have the normal symptoms of reflux, but will have problems sleeping horizontally. If that’s the case, you can try propping the head of the bed, or just letting him sleep in the stroller.

Does he seem to nap better in the morning or in the afternoon? Is he getting physically tired out, and if so, does he sleep better after that? Is he learning a new skill (like walking or crawling)?

Kate, I wonder if the problem is with the putting down into the crib. Have you tried nursing or soothing him down next to you on a mat on the floor or your bed, lying there reading a magazine for 20-30 minutes until he’s really asleep, then rolling away? That way you wouldn’t have the motion problem or the difference in mattress pressure on his back, etc.

I’m not a schedule advocate, but I’m a huge routine fan. I like to keep one eye on the kid and the other on the clock, so that I can kind of anticipate "oh, in about 10 minutes he’s going to be tired enough to go down" and that sort of thing. Heather, it sounds like his cues are all over the place right now, so you might want to try a loose 2-3-4 for a week or so and see if it helps any. If it seems to bug him even more to be on a regular routine, pull back and see if you can find any pattern. But he might take to the 2-3-4 and surprise you.

Kate, what would happen if you just assumed he was going to take 2 or 3 naps (if you decide on 2, try 2-3-4, if you decide on 3, try to space them evenly) and stick to only soothing and putting him down then? The first day or two might be really rough, but then I wonder if his body would just start to get used to going to sleep and staying asleep instead of this down-up-down-up thing he’s working right now.

Sorry this wasn’t a linear answer. Heather, let me know what happens after you try the 2-3-4 and do a little observation. Kate, try getting him down on the same space he can sleep on and see if that helps, or try limiting his nap time to only certain windows, then let me know what happens.

Quick and Dirty on Sleep

I’m opening up Sleep Week with what I know about sleep. Remember, none of these are unique ideas!

First of all, kids sleep the way they sleep. Most of it is individual
personality. I thought that when I only had one kid, but now that I
have two, I’m absolutely sure it’s the case. There’s only so much a
parent can do to influence the way a baby or child sleeps, so you can
stop feeling either guilty or smug right now.

Following from that, don’t believe the "bad habit" hype. Think about it: If you had to switch job schedules so you slept a completely opposite schedule, you could do it if you had a week or two to make the switch. And you’re a full-grown adult with years of sleeping experience and full-blown preferences. Babies are way more flexible, so they can certainly make a switch in sleeping styles/locations/times/etc. You just can’t expect it to happen overnight. But given a week or two, you can make changes.

Therefore, in the first 12-14 weeks of parenthood you should take your lead from Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary. If your baby only sleeps on your chest with his/her head wedged up into your neck*, do it if you can sleep that way. If your baby only sleeps in the swing or sling or Amby hammock thing or car seat or car or front carrier or laundry basket or between you in bed or holding onto the cat’s tail or on the bathroom floor or in a tent in your backyard, do it. If you have to run the hairdryer, clothes dryer, white noise machine, "La Vida Loca" CD, or any other noise, more power to you. Whatever gets the maximum number of hours of sleep for the maximum number of people in your household, that’s what you should do. And when anyone asks you how your baby’s sleeping, just lie and say everything’s great.

Once you’re past that initial period, figure out what’s happening, and what you wish was happening. Pick the thing that bugs you the most, think about what you could do to change that thing, and try it for a week. You’ll either fix it, be on your way to fixing it, or realize your kid simply won’t do that. If you’re on your way to fixing your problem, keep going. Otherwise, pick a different thing you want to change, figure out how to try to change it, and try it for a week. Rinse and repeat. In a month or two your kid should be sleeping the way you want. Then a month later everything will change again.

Now, for the important principles of sleep:

1. Babies older than a few weeks can’t stay awake during the day for more than a couple of hours at a time. (Apparently there are at least two sleep experts pretending this is a novel idea. It’s not. Both of my grandmas know it.) If your 3-month-old seems chronically cranky, try putting him/her down for a nap two hours after waking throughout the day, and see if that helps.

2. Once babies hit 6 months or so, many of them will settle into a 2-3-4 pattern. That means that they’ll take their first nap 2 hours after waking up in the morning. They’ll take their second nap 3 hours after waking up from the first nap. They’ll go down for the night 4 hours after waking from the second nap. Not all kids do this, but a surprising number of them seem to.

3. Despite what many peds say, plenty of kids still need to eat at least once during the night until they’re a year old or older. There’s no truth in the "s/he’s x weight so s/he should be sleeping through the night" myth. OTOH, if your kids sleeps through the night on his/her own, don’t wake a sleeping baby.

4. Most of the babies I know had sleep regressions at 4 months, 9 months, and 18 months. That means that no matter how well or how crappily they were sleeping, they’ll sleep worse for a month or so at those ages. You can try to "fix" it or just wait it out–it doesn’t seem to make much difference. You’ll feel like hell anyway. And then they go back to sleeping as well or better than they did before the regression.

5. Teething sucks. And for some kids it really seems to disrupt sleep.

6. Someday your child will sleep through the night. I promise.

*And you thought your baby was the only one who liked to sleep that way at the beginning.

Q&A: crawling and sleep

Let me answer these two softballs while I work on longer responses to tougher questions:

Tertia asks:

Hello, asshole.

Should I be worried that Kate is no where near to crawling at 10,5
months?  Well, actually, its too late, because I am a little worried.
Do these developmental milestones really matter?  She seems absolutely
fine with every thing else and has consistently been hitting her
milestones a little later than the norm up until now.  Are some kids
just a little slower than others and does this have any correlation to
future aptitude in school / life etc?

Yours in assholiness

T, I think that if your wee little asshole-in-training is fine with
everything else–responsive to you, babbling, all the other stuff–then
she’s just a slow crawler.
As long as she gets plenty of tummy time and isn’t stuck in a walker or jumper or saucer all day, she’s fine. (For anyone panicking right now because your baby hates tummy time, go to SparkPlugDance.org and check out the article on how to make tummy time fun for your kid.)

FWIW, my husband didn’t walk until he was 22 month. Yes, that’s almost
2 years old. But now he walks fine. Sometimes he even runs! (He’s actually pretty graceful and
athletic.) He was very verbal early and read before he was 4. So I think
he was just doing other things cognitively when other kids were working
on the walking stuff, and then caught up later.

And now for Softball #2. Ally writes:

Dear Moxie,
My son is 13.5 months old, and I really thought by now he’d be sleeping through the night. This is less of a question and more of a plea for encouragement. He wakes mainly when he’s teething, which, since he’s working and working and working on his 1 year molars, is 4-5 nights a week. I keep vacillating between a roll-with-the-punches, it’ll-be-ok attitude and OMG I’M NEVER SLEEPING AGAIN.

But I will, right? Sleep again?

Yes. Yes, you will. Maybe not tonight, and maybe not next week. But soon, and until you have another child.

Seriously, though, have you tried the Humphrey’s #3 teething pills? If those don’t do anything, then maybe send him to Grandma’s for the weekend.

Honestly, if we can put a man on the moon, why can we not come up with something that makes the teething pain go away completely? Tylenol and Motrin just don’t cut it. And you have to watch them suffer, and you have to suffer yourself. It’s amazing any of us make it through the first two years.

Hang in there, Ally. And it’s way easier the second time, because you lose that "what am I doing wrong?!" feeling with the second one and just get pissed off at the human body and its developmental trajectory instead.

Follow-Up to waking in the middle of the night

In the comments of the previous post, Dee said she was having problems with her 5 1/2-month-old, because she was waking like a fool whenever she wasn’t swaddled. And won’t even fall back asleep in the middle of the night when swaddled. She says:

But she will go right back to sleep in the swing at that pointwithout crying so most nights that’s where she goes once she wakes.
Once there, she’ll stay asleep until we…wake…her…up…the next
morning (payback and all–sister loves to get her some sleep, just like
her daddy). She didn’t used to do this, and slept through the night–in
her crib–like a champ.

At this point, I have to wonder, will she be sleeping in that damn
swing until she’s two? ‘Cause it’s the only place that she’ll go back
to sleep in once she wakes up in the crib. And am I doing her harm by
putting her back to sleep in the swing almost every night (probably 5
or 6 nights a week)?

Eventually she’ll grow out of the swing, so the answer to whether she’ll be there when she’s two is an unqualified "no." The motor of the swing will probably burn out before then.:)

And what do you mean by "harm"? Do you mean that you might be creating bad sleep habits? I don’t really believe in that. I mean, if you had to switch shifts at work and needed to start sleeping at completely different times of the day, you’d be able to do it, even if it sucked for the first week or so, and you’re a full-grown adult. So I just don’t believe that a baby can’t learn to sleep different ways, as long as no one expects it to be easy and happen in only one night. I think the "don’t create bad sleep habits" thing is just another scare tactic.

Now, I guess it’s possible that you could be doing some harm to the spinal cord by having her sleep in the swing, but I kind of doubt that, too. Humans are pretty flexible and adaptable. If she’s getting plenty of tummy time during the day, I say do what you need to to get her to sleep at night. In another 4 weeks she’ll be doing something completely different anyway.

Also, read the comments from Kate and wix, and see if anything triggers for you. If she changed her sleep habits all of a sudden, it could be from something that changed in her environment, or it could just be because she’s a baby.

Sherry: Most baby books will have general info about physical spurts, but great info about developmental leaps is in the book The Wonder Weeks by Hetty Vanderijt and Frans Plooij. (They have freaky names because they’re Dutch.) The book talks about when the big developmental leaps happen in the first year so you can figure out why a good sleeper suddenly won’t sleep, or a good eater won’t eat for a few days, etc. It also tells you what they’re learning, and how you can help them. I love this book and can’t recommend it enough.

Q&A: 6-month-old waking up in the middle of the night

Kate asks:

"Hey Moxie

OK, so when they’re 6 months, and they start rolling
around the cot all night, waking every couple of hours asking to be put back
where they started….

Do you think it’s best just
to let them cry and figure out how to fall asleep wherever they are (on their
tummies, out of the blankets and whatever)? Or go in every so often, sort them
out, and hope it’s a phase that ends soon enough?

Because there’s some serious sleep deprivation in this
house!

Cheers

Kate"

Well, Kate, first of all, I think you must be a better person than I am to be able to end your email about sleep deprivation with "Cheers." I think I would have ended mine with "Stick a fork in my eye" or "Barely functioning."

Now, on to the issue. I’m going to have to go with "it depends" on this one. It seems like there are three things you have to examine before you make your plan:

1. What’s up with all the wiggling? Is he just a wiggly kid? Or is there some kind of developmental spurt going on? Is he about to crawl? Is he getting a tooth or two and trying to wriggle away from the pain?

If it’s something transient, like teething or crawling or something else developmental, I’d say to see if you can hold on for another week to see if it resolves itself. I think most kids will go back to what they were doing before sleep-wise once the spurt or crisis is over. But if he’s a wiggly kid, then you’re really looking at making a decision about what to do.

2. How will he deal with being left alone to work it out on his own? Some kids will fuss a little and then conk right back out. Other kids wake up in the middle of the night and just won’t go back to sleep without help. My older son was like that–if he woke up he was up! and crying! until someone came to save him from the indignities of being alone! in the dark! oh, cruel cruel world! I never considered letting him cry, because it would have gone on for hours and hours. My younger one will wake up, fuss for 10 seconds, and then go right back to sleep. A friend’s child will wake up, scream his head off for about a minute, and then abruptly fall asleep again (she discovered that he’d fall asleep again on his own in almost exactly the time it took her to realize what that noise was, wake up, struggle out of bed, and stumble down the hall to his room.).

If you’ve got a kid who’s going to be up and crying if you don’t go in, then you’re going to have to go in, do a slow wean off going in, or minimize the ways he can wake himself up. If he freaks out from being on his tummy, do more tummy time during the day so he’s not as freaked out by it when it happens in the night. If he’s cold, maybe put him in warmer pajamas so the blanket isn’t such a factor. If it’s something else, try to figure out what exactly is waking him up and see if you can eliminate that cause.

You can always let him fuss for a minute or two to see what happens and whether he’s an escalator or a yelper who falls back asleep. It might surprise you.

3. Can you let him cry? Some parents have no problems with letting their kids cry at night. Others can’t do it. I think you should be the same kind of parent at night as you are during the day, so stay true to yourself and your vision of yourself as a parent. Or delegate this one to your partner.

Whatever happens, just know that he will sleep through the night without you. Even my older one, who would yell like a car alarm when he was up at night, now falls asleep easily and stays asleep with no problems. And someday they’ll move out of the house and you won’t know how or even if they sleep.

Courage.