Wednesday, 8 August 2012

The Art of Napping (part 2)

Before I start I wanted to clear Kaitlins name a little bit. I have reread some of my posts about her naps and I think I kind of made her sound like a nightmare. Oops. She really is a great baby - sure she has her off days but don't we all? In the grand scheme of things, and compared to other babies, she doesn't really cry that much. And more than half of the time when she is crying it's because I am doing something wrong. Or not fast enough. And that's ok. I'm still learning too. A lot of it also has to do with my inexperience as a mom...and sometimes I tend to be a bit dramatic *sheepish grin* So hopefully you don't think that she is a devil baby, she really is sweet :)

Well, it's been almost six weeks since I wrote my first post about napping and I thought it was time for a follow up. I got some amazing feedback from that post - friends and family offered their tips and tricks to try and get Kaitlin to take a nap. And when they didn't have any advise to offer many of them just gave me some words of encouragement (and a few told me to just relax) - which helped just as much.

i love her "sleeping in the car" face

Pretty much the day after I wrote that post I ordered two more sleep books (in addition to "Becoming Baby Wise" which I already had). These books were a tremendous help (I'll go into more detail for each one later). I had tried a couple more "sleep routines" each of which failed. In the end what I decided to do was relax. Kaitlin was getting bigger and older and was able to handle longer periods of awakeness (is that a word?) without loosing her shit. Also, I became better at reading her subtle cues that she was getting tired. And probably the most important (yet sometimes the hardest) was that I started to let Kaitlin fall asleep on her own.

Now, we still don't have napping down to a science, but boy has it improved. I still can't get her into a perfect rhythm of napping (ie, every nap is one hour long and she takes them exactly two hours after being awake) so our days are a little unpredictable but overall we are in a much better place. I have decided to let her nap wherever she can (sometimes that's on my chest, sometimes that's in the swing but most times it's in her crib). I also stopped waking her up to eat. She was gaining lots of weight and around the 7.5 week mark I decided to just let the girl sleep even if it was "time" for her to eat. She should be moving towards 3-4 hours in between feeds anyway, so I didn't feel like she was going hungry. Trust me, when she's hungry she will let you know. 

her favorite sleeping position

The other biggest change that I made was to let Kaitlin put herself to sleep. I read it in both new books that I got and countless places online. Now that I knew some more tired cues (who knew that putting her first in her mouth might actually mean that she was tired??) I could now put her down when she started showing me those signs rather than when she was already crying. More often than not she manages to put herself to sleep within a few minutes. Although as I type this she is upstairs squirming around in her crib 30 minutes after I initially put her down (and she was half asleep). Oh well, you win some and you loose some. I only go up and check on her when she is crying. Little whimpers and babbling don't count. Once, while we were on vacation, I put her down to nap and she wasn't even that sleepy. I think she yawned once or twice and I decided to put her in her travel crib awake to see what would happen. It took about ten minutes but she put herself to sleep! Brian and I were doing a happy dance in the living room. It hasn't happened since then, but at least I know it's possible. And sometimes when she is overtired and needs extra consoling I will stay in her room until she is almost completely asleep. But I have found that sometimes my being in the room right next to her keeps her awake rather than puts her to sleep.

The biggest challenge for me is being able to accurately read her tired cues and act on them when I see them. We have figured out that she "talks" a lot more when she is tired. Her talking slowly turns into whining and finally it turns into crying. So, in theory, I should start to put her to bed when she starts talking a lot. But it's just so fun! It is awesome hearing her babble back to me and engage in a "conversation". But sometimes I take it too far and before I know it she's crying. It's not long after that that she gets overtired and the cries are harder to console. And things like sneezing - apparently sneezing can mean that a baby is getting overstimulated and is tired. But, it can also mean that she has something in her nose. What to do?? Put her to bed the minute she sneezes? That's when I need to just relax and try not to over analyze things.

not sleeping when she is supposed to be...good thing Dad got in a nap though!

I've been more successful at hitting that "sweet spot" of tiredness and getting her to nap just at the right time, but it has been far from perfect. Being on vacation for a couple of weeks really pushed me, and her, to see how far we had come. And it turns out we have come pretty far. She was a stellar napper while we were away - sometimes she did a much better job than she normally does while at home! I'm trying to take some of those lessons I learned while on vacation and apply them here now that we are back. 

I have cherry picked some of the best tips from several sleep books to what works the best for us on that particular day. I wish it were as easy as following one method from one book, but unfortunately that isn't the case for us. I wanted so badly to have a perfect routine and be able to plan out our days. I love predictability and a routine and unfortunately we just aren't there yet. But slowly I am starting to learn that that's OK. She will be just fine and so will I. As long as I get a nap sometimes too :)

The sleep books that I have read and found really useful are:

I will be writing a separate book review post on each, check back for more details!

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