Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

(Note: This post was originally written on our private family blog on April 14, 2009. J was a few weeks old, and V was about 2 years old. I thought I would edit it for a this blog and post it because I really love this book and will still swear by it, and I wanted to share some of these things with others. The best thing about this book is that Dr. Weissbluth doesn’t endorse any one method of “sleep training” – the book mostly talks about why sleep is important, and the science behind sleep, and then talks about basically every possible sleep problem, and potential solutions. He seems to be very flexible and he seems to acknowledge that kids all have different temperaments, and what works with one might not work with another. These are the kinds of parenting books I like the most – ones that teach principles rather than methods. Although there are plenty of methods in here, too, but you will have the understanding of the principles to make up your own methods, or make your own adjustments that will work for your family. I wrote another post about sleep that I am going to publish on this blog as well.)

A friend of mine read this book – Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child -  to teach her baby good sleep habits. She wrote a very positive review about it on her blog, and so I recommended it to a friend of mine whose 3 month old is having a hard time sleeping longer than 2 hours at a time at night.

Then I thought, hey, maybe I'll check it out from the library and read it myself. It turned out to be a very good investment... I guess the fact that I didn't pay anything makes it a very good investment - gotta love the library.
Well, I read it at first with the idea that it would help me make sure J developed good sleeping habits. V was already sleeping 10+ hours at night and taking a good 2-3 hour nap during the day. I learned a LOT about sleep and the need for sleep and how our bodies develop sleep habits. I discovered that when I delay V's afternoon nap for any reason, it makes him overtired and that explained the reason he was waking up throwing a tantrum after late naps. Dr. Weissbluth says that he is confused and disoriented which causes him to be emotional and inconsolable after a late nap. The reason I was ever postponing V's nap was mostly that I was just waiting for him to become so tired that he would crash on his own. V has always been really good about soothing himself to sleep at night, but has never been very good at soothing himself to sleep for a nap. That was never a problem when he was a little younger, because it was fairly easy to get him to fall asleep by rocking or whatever. But now that he's a little older, he fights and fights and fights sleep. Well, Dr. Weissbluth recommends doing the "silent return to sleep." It works for little toddlers who won't go to bed at night, and I discovered that it works for little toddlers who won't stay in their bed to take a nap during the day. Basically it works like this - when your little sneaker gets out of his bed at night, you pick him/her up without a word, without even looking at their faces, and put them gently back into their beds without a word. You don't scold them for the behavior, you don't talk AT ALL. This clues them in to the fact that night time (or nap time) is not "play with mommy/daddy" time - it's go to sleep time. Now, I am of the mind that if your kid gets out of bed because they've had a nightmare, it's totally okay to soothe them and love them and talk to them, but I think Dr. Weissbluth would say the same thing. The "silent return to sleep" is just for the curious little toddler who won't stay in his/her bed. Like V - he just likes to get out to play.
Yesterday, V and I laid down for his nap, I read him a book, sang him a song, and said "Have a nice nap." Then left his room. I heard him get up and start playing with his toys, so I went back in, picked him up, and gently put him right back in his bed. The second time he got out of his bed, I went in to get him, found that he was poopy, changed the diaper and put him back in bed without any interaction and without acknowledging him at all. I went in a third time. On the fourth time, I thought he was out of bed, but he was just laying there quietly in his bed. So, not to have him mistake good behavior for unacceptable behavior, I gave him a quick kiss, softly said "Thanks for staying in your bed," and left. A few minutes later, he was fast asleep. It was amazing.
Now, fast forward to today's naptime (I just put V down about 10 minutes ago). I read him a few books, sang a few songs, and said "Have a nice nap." He got out of bed once, trying to get some more books. While I want V to have a desire to read, I also want him to be a well rested child (this has become even more important to me after reading this book). So I gently put him back in his bed. He sat awake in his bed for a few minutes, talking to himself, or singing to himself. Just about two minutes ago I heard some noise, I thought was him playing with toys in his room. I cracked the door to check, and there he was, eyes closed (still sort of awake), snuggled in his bed with his blanket. He put himself to sleep even faster today than he did yesterday! It was amazing.
Anyway, so Dr. Weissbluth's book has done two things 1.) taught me a LOT about sleep, and how important naps are for babies and young children, 2.) helped me teach V how to stay in his bed at nap time - GONE are the days I spend an hour (or more!) laying with a crabby V while he fights sleep. I hope I can keep consistent, so this will stick. And I'm much more convinced that it is SO important to allow V a nap at 1 or 2 pm every day. Too bad Church interferes with that on Sundays. Maybe making the weekdays more regular will help with Sundays. I'll let you know!

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