Sleep and the stubborn child

photo-414I should start this post by saying I am completely agnostic on any reasonable method of getting children to sleep. I suspect that kids respond to different things, and when parents stumble upon some expert’s method that happens to work for their kid, they become evangelical about it. If the expert’s method doesn’t work for other families, the successful families often assume the others did it wrong, or are insufficiently committed, or what have you. Sometimes these conversations get ugly. That’s one reason I avoid mommy forums.

I haven’t formally “sleep trained” any of my kids. The oldest has never needed much sleep, and that was apparent from the beginning. After him, I always had other kids around, so militantly enforcing nap times in the crib was not going to 100 percent work. Also, my kids are relatively flexible — on some things at least — so life does not fall apart if the nap or bedtime moves a bit.

I am trying to figure out how to deal with number 4. He goes to sleep at a reasonable hour (unlike kid #1) but my time log reveals that since June he’s woken up during the night at least 4-5 nights per week. At least once a week there would be a 2-hour stretch in the middle of the night. He can sleep through the night…he just doesn’t want to.

I attribute this to a few things. He is incredibly social. This is one extroverted baby. At 9 months, he has almost zero stranger anxiety. When I took him to the pediatrician recently, he was so excited to “chat” with the nurse and the office scheduler during his lead test that he actually laughed while his blood was being drawn. Yes, laughed. (Scary side note – the next morning I found him chewing on something. It was the Band-aid from the blood test. I hadn’t thought to take it off his finger before bedtime). I suspect he wants to be interacting with the world, even in the middle of the night. He’s also a really big kid. Weight and height 85th to 95th percentile. He needs a lot of calories and some nights when he’s woken up and the crying-it-out thing isn’t working, he’s nursed and guzzled down 2 bottles and then gone back to sleep. Then I feel bad that I even tried the cry-it-out method when he was clearly hungry.

So…I try different things. A key one is upping calories during the day. He is getting more protein-rich baby food. I may create a bit more of a bedtime ritual, but one that is a wee bit less full-service. And also trust he will grow out of this. That is the good thing about having four kids. I know the baby sleep issues don’t last forever. Indeed, there’s an epilogue to this post, which I wrote last week. For whatever reason, the babe slept quite well for a few recent nights. On Saturday, I went to sleep at 10:55 and woke at 6:05 with the baby — I didn’t even get up to go to the bathroom. Seven-plus straight hours of sleep felt amazing. I had some crazy dreams! I think my brain is trying to piece itself back together after months of interrupted shut-eye. My long run on Sunday morning was much more pleasant than the long run the previous week on limited sleep! And then Sunday to Monday, I got him down at 7 and he slept until almost 6:30. Monday night was bad. He was up for 2 hours again, which I suppose could have been a cause for soul-searching, but nothing had changed, so go figure. Last night he slept through the night again and I slept from 10:30 to 6:30, rolled over, and went back to sleep until 7:15. This is so much sleep I kind of don’t know what to do with myself. I am feeding him more during the day, so maybe that’s it, or maybe he got more activity or maybe something just flipped in his 95th percentile-sized brain. If I’d tried some sleep expert’s method, I’d probably be evangelical about it this morning.

Have you succeeded in getting a good bedtime thing going?

Photo: His older siblings emptied one of the toy bins and put him in it. Then he seemed to be having so much fun that they all wanted to take turns in the bin too.

16 thoughts on “Sleep and the stubborn child

  1. My 8 month old is on the small side. She’s fond of avocado. Would that work as a bedtime snack?

    She starts off in her crib and joins us in bed when she wakes up, because I can lie on my side and nurse her back to sleep while sleeping myself. Twin mom trick.

  2. 2 kids, same strategy. worked wonders for one, never worked for the other. makes your point, completely. He just started sleeping all night consistently at 3.5 years so you do NOT want my advice on anything sleep related!

  3. My 3yo sleeps *much* better once we moved her into her sister’s room – they wanted to share even though they didn’t have to. We used to have to go in to settle her 1-2x per night well past age 2, and now it’s maybe one night a week, and usually before we’re in bed! Luxury!

    1. @ARC – we are moving the 6-year-old into the baby’s room in a few weeks. I bought the bed and when it arrives that will be that. Here’s hoping that helps the baby, vs. the baby waking up the 6-year-old!

      1. Wow, cool! When we all had to sleep in the living room during the remodel, I was so afraid the baby would wake my toddler, but she slept like a ROCK. Seriously, the baby would cry 3-4x a night and my toddler wouldn’t wake or remember any of it in the morning even though she was sleeping just a few feet away. it was *crazy*. Good luck!!

  4. Laura both of mine have not been great with sleep. No 1 who is three and a half started sleeping through at age 2. No 2 ten months has not slept through a single night. The one time I thought he did my husband had woken up to feed him.
    I spent a fortune on books and consulting a baby sleep clinic with the first that didn’t work. Haven’t bothered with the second. Have figured it will happen when it does and I just need to find a way of coping with the sleep deprivation until it does. We have had a few six hour stretches which have been magical.

  5. I’m convinced it’s at least 75% innate to the kid. Baby #3 is two and a half months old and is a great sleeper. He’s been consistently going to bed at 8 since he was a few weeks old and is now only waking up once a night (around 3 or 4 usually). It is such a welcome surprise after my twins who were not good sleepers and weren’t down to one waking per night until they were 7-8 months old.

    Baby #3 is also big for his age, and I try to feed him a lot during the day. Not sure if that helps or if he is just a good sleeper. He is NOT a good napper – it’s rare for him to nap more than 45 min at a time. But I’ll take that trade-off if he sleeps at night!

    1. @Jen – twins – oh my. I can’t imagine having two kids up in the middle of the night. My baby is not a bad napper, so here’s hoping that he’ll keep the naps and get a good thing going at night as well.

  6. We went to a presentation where the two joint speakers said “if we give you one thing, that works one time, with one of your children, we will have done our job.” That’s the way it is!

    With my second, a frequent and loud waker, it helped to put him to bed earlier. I’d been thinking he needed to see the house quieten, but putting him to bed before the other actually worked better. Except when it didn’t.

  7. My first baby (a boy) was/is a big kid too – always over 90th percentile for height and weight, and completely off the chart for head circumference. (“Big car, big garage!” says my Dad, who also has a big head. But I digress.) He is five now, and was an excellent sleeper as a baby. I’m a big fan of the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, because it has helped all three of my kids become good sleepers, and turned around a few of my friends’ kids, too, but I am ALL about doing whatever your kid needs to get a good night’s sleep. Like you, I noticed that my big boy slept better more consistently if he ate well during the day. Specifically, he had a eat a high-protein dinner – no veggie-only baby food jars for this dude – or he’d wake up hungry around 2am. Needless to say, we were never without high protein meals! I hope you find what works for your little man soon. How nice that you’ve gotten some good sleep recently!

  8. You might remember from my previous comments that sleep SUCKS at my house. My kid has always slept horribly. When he was your baby’s age, he went through a phase he woke every 40 minutes all night long.

    Some things I know: some kids really do need calories at night. Mine was on the opposite side of the growth chart, and nursed through the night until 22 months. He just needed the calories.

    He also needed reflux meds.

    And more, as of this summer was diagnosed with a very low iron level….iron supplementation changed everything. Also a small dose of melatonin.

    NOW we’re working on behavior.

  9. If a baby his she wakes and drinks two whole bottles, it’s a hunger issue. As suggested, avocado, whole milk yogurt, and meat purées are calorie and fat rich and will hold him overnight. Feeding these at dinner should be fine; I don’t think it has to be a before bed snack.

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