Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Silas is now sleeping through the night. Probably.

About 12 out of the last 15 nights, Silas has slept through the night. I guess his "sleep through the night" switch was flipped, though I couldn't tell you how or what did it. He turned 17 months old last week, so it's been a long time coming. I don't know if 15 days is long enough to become retrospective, but again - almost 17 months of waking up three to infinity times a night means the last two weeks of good sleep feels like forever (in a good way).

The switch is leaving me with a lot of mixed feelings on baby sleep. Seventeen months is a long time for me to go without good sleep at night and whereas Silas could nap during the day, I had to often use that time to study or do housework. But we tried crying it out for a bit and it didn't work for long. So, here is a list of six things that did or did not work to get Silas to sleep through the night.

6. An early, early bedtime

Silas likes to hold onto his naps. He was napping three times a day for several months before he finally transitioned to two naps a day, a few months before his first birthday. This meant that for most of his first year, he had a late "bedtime" of nine or ten. When he dropped his late evening nap, I pushed his bedtime up to 7:30 and then 7 and then sometimes 6:30. Occasionally he would sleep for a long chunk of time when I did this, but he was still up two to four times a night.

The nice thing about the super early bedtime was that I had some time in the evening to be an adult. The not so nice thing was that I still had to get to bed early myself if I wanted any meaningful sleep. It's all dandy when the baby sleeps for six hours straight, but when that means he wakes up at one in the morning, I had to be in bed by ten just to sleep for three hours in a row.

Now that he's sleeping through the night, he typically goes to bed between 7:30 and 8.

Conclusion: An early bedtime had a small effect on Silas sleeping for a longer chunk of time in the first part of the night.

5. Naps

Again, Silas likes to nap. There was a brief period of two or so weeks around thirteen months where he started to fight his naps and I was going to transition him to one nap a day, but that passed; I suspect he was simply testing his boundaries. He currently still naps twice a day, usually for about an hour or two each nap. I read a lot about how napping too much during the day could upset sleep, but let me assure you - cutting down on his daytime sleep meant I would be up every hour with him at night.

Lately we've gotten to the point where he will nurse and then ask to go to his crib and nap. I currently call this the "golden age of napping" because he then says "sleepy doggies, bye-bye doggies" and babbles to himself for a bit (anywhere from one to thirty minutes) and then falls asleep peacefully. And with two naps a day, I have time to clean up, do laundry and read and write constantly. It is amazing.

But that's a bit of a tangent. Over the last two weeks, Silas has not reduced his nap time even as he sleeps through the night. (I'm obviously overjoyed by this).

Conclusion: Naps are impossible to figure out. The time Silas spends napping each day seemed to affect his sleep negatively; if he didn't sleep enough during the day, he didn't sleep well at night. However, more sleep during the day did not correlate with more sleep at night after a certain point. Overall naps seem to be mostly independent of his sleeping through the night habits.

4. Nursing

Silas has nursed at least once over night since he was born. And for a long time, he was nursed to sleep. I had read a lot about nursing being a sleep association, but even when he wasn't nursed to sleep (as in the time we did cry it out), he would still wake up to nurse multiple times. I know that many books/professionals also indicate that babies should no longer nurse overnight much sooner than seventeen months, but thankfully at least one guy has my back. (Dr. Sears writes that babies might go up to eighteen months before dropping the overnight nursing).

For a long while, he had a bedtime routine that ended with him reading some books and then nursing and then being put in his crib awake but drowsy. He usually fell asleep without crying on these nights, but woke up often to nurse again by one.

Coinciding exactly with when he started sleeping through the night, Silas dropped his bedtime nursing. In fact, the two nights these past two weeks that he slept poorly were the two nights in which he was nursed closer to his bedtime than the other nights. Most nights he nurses for the final time around six now. I remember the first day it happened. We had been out at a friend's house and I had nursed Silas beforehand. When we got home around 8:30, Silas had fallen asleep in the car. Smiley brought him inside and put him in his crib and he didn't wake up, so I figured I'd head to bed myself and just wait for him to wake up at midnight wanting to nurse (which is what he has done countless other nights in situations like that). Silas slept until five the next morning!

When I tried to take nursing out of the bedtime routine in the months before, it backfired and he was up more than ever. So I think that the breakthrough is more on his decision to drop nursing at bedtime rather than me trying to force it.

Conclusion: Once Silas decided to stop nursing before bedtime, he slept through the night. However, experience showed me that he had to make the decision, not me.

3. Food intake and activity level

It starts VERY early - well-meaning friends and parents suggest putting a tiny bit of rice cereal in a bottle to get your baby to sleep through the night. From there, the suggestion is that if you make sure your baby eats enough during the day, they won't wake up at night. Well, I was nursing Silas and didn't feel like using formula or pumping to give him a bottle when he was younger, and when he got older, I noticed that there was no correlation between how much he ate during the day and how well he slept at night. Absolutely none. Some nights he would eat a lot at dinner and wake up a lot. Other nights he'd eat a lot at dinner and wake up a few less times. Sometimes he would eat very little during the day and wake up only twice. Other times, he'd eat a little and wake up six times. You get the idea, right?

Going hand in hand with that is the concept that if you wear out a baby during the day, he'll sleep better at night. This also had no correlation to how well he slept at night. And on days when he skipped his nap because he was at the park playing, he slept even worse at night.

Conclusion: Food intake had little to no impact on Silas sleeping through the night. Activity had little to no impact on his sleep either.

2. Teething

Oh, baby. My dear little Silas started cutting teeth early and hasn't stopped yet. At seventeen months he has all of his teeth minus his two year molars. His bottom eye teeth are still working their way all the way out, but they have broken through the gums. Some nights when Silas seemed to be extra upset, I would give him some ibuprofen in case he was in pain, but he rarely slept better on those nights. It is possible that since all of his teeth minus the two year molars have broken through that he is now able to sleep better at night. I guess I'll get my answer when his two year molars start to make an appearance.

Conclusion: Teething might have a horrible, negative impact on Silas sleeping through the night. It's possible that he did not sleep through the night until now because he has seriously been working on cutting one tooth after another since five months. However, ibuprofen did not seem to help, so I suspect it is less likely that teething had a huge impact.

1. A bedtime routine

I'm not going to make a blanket statement here; maybe your baby thrives on a bedtime routine. Well, I don't and neither does Silas. For several months I kept his bedtime the same - put on the overnight diaper and pajamas, brush teeth, turn on quiet music, read a couple of books, nurse, put baby in crib.

The past two weeks have not been that routine. He doesn't nurse. Sometimes we read books, sometimes we don't. Sometimes he puts on his pajamas and plays for a while longer before brushing his teeth. The lack of routine has not affected his sleeping through the night.

Full disclosure: during the day, we have a rough routine of wake up, breakfast, naptime two hours after wake up time, play time and lunch, naptime three hours after waking up from the morning nap, playtime and dinner, bedtime roughly four to five hours after waking up from the afternoon nap. Silas typically doesn't watch TV until after his afternoon nap if we watch anything. And that's about it in terms of routine.

Conclusion: A bedtime routine did not help and only stressed me out when I felt like I was deviating from it. I am not a good routine type of person and it stands to reason that my son might not be either. We use loose guidelines. It is not probable that the routine hurt anything, but I am super happy to not have to worry about it.

Final Conclusion: Now that I've spent forty-five minutes typing "Silas sleeps through the night" seventy-six times, I bet you that the moment I hit "publish," Silas will wake up every half hour tonight.

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