Battling Bedtime?

I don't ever want this blog to be a place for fakery or inauthenticity, and thus, I don't ever want it to seem like I'm one who "has it all together". That's far from the truth. Yesterday, I almost blogged about what a mess our apartment was and what a wreck I was (a dissheveled, unshowered mess as my husband left for work)... but I didn't even have the time to blog about it... that's how "not together" I was. :) The truth is, we all have weak spots and weak moments. But we all have strengths, too. And so, in a spirit of wanting to help other young moms, I want to share something I think we've done well.

So I'll just come out and say it: our kids are all excellent sleepers. And it hasn't been by "luck" as many people implied when we "just" had one or two children (I know all you moms of one or two out there are thinking, "JUST?!?!"). We have worked at it intentionally and made it a priority, for several reasons:
  • Health/disposition of the baby
  • Time together as a couple in the evenings, from about 7:30/8pm on
  • Sanity of mom! :)
I have heard other moms gripe about this aspect of child rearing (moms who are still waking up with a 2, 3, or 4 year old, or parents whose children get out of bed for that proverbial "glass of water" about 6 times a night), and so I want to openly share what has worked for us. While these things aren't some kind of magic "formula", I do believe that they have each contributed to having three (working on four) "good sleepers" in our young family.

(1) Our kids have all started out on a Babywise routine, and have slept through the night by 5 & 1/2, 8, and 10 weeks respectively (we'll see how Silas does... he'll be 4 weeks old tomorrow and he's doing two 4-hour stretches). We try to help our children have good sleep habits from the beginning. With four very different children (different personalities, body types, weights, and one with reflux), this simple method (eat/wake/sleep cycle at roughly 2-3 hours between day feedings) of helping get an infant into a basic routine has been such a blessing for our family.

If you're a pregnant mom, check it out. If you're an exhausted mom, check it out. If you're just curious, check it out. I've loved it and have found it to be a wonderful tool for our family's rest, health, and sanity. You can check it out here.

(2) Consistent bedtime, with no ins and outs. Occasional legitimate bathroom needs or sickness are acceptable, but anything else will teach their little minds to come up with "excuses" to be out of bed! From about 6-8 months on, our kids are in bed by 8pm and sleep until about 7am. A consistent, predictable bedtime helps their active & growing bodies get the rest they need. And it gives mommy and daddy a built-in together time. Even if we never left the house for an official "date" (which we occasionally do), we have built in that needed time together in the evenings to maintain and strengthen our relationship as husband and wife.

(3) "But what about crying it out?" We have never used the "cry it out" method with an infant. That said, once a child is consistently sleeping through the night and starts waking up, we check for any unmet needs or problems:
  • "is she teething?--if so, offer an icee and perhaps some tylenol
  • "does he have gas?"-- if so, use gas drops. liberally.
  • "is an arm stuck through the crib slats?"--if so, gently remove it and console baby. ;-)
  • "did something scare him?"-- if so, snuggle and help him calm down.
  • "does she need her diaper changed?"
  • "is she sick?"
  • etc.
Once we've gone through the list of possible needs/problems, and feel confident that all needs have been met (even if it's just that they were scared and woke up needing a quick snuggle), we put them back to bed and expect them to sleep.

Both older boys went through a period of waking up randomly with no needs or problems. In that circumstance, once they have exhibited a consistent ability to fall and stay asleep for the entire night, and their needs have been met, we expect them to sleep at night. It's that simple. So both boys had about three nights of "crying it out" to get back into that normal nighttime rhythm. The first night, they cried for the longest. The second night was less, and the third night was virtually none. After that, they (neither one) have had any night wakings aside from the very infrequent sickness or nightmare.

Some moms balk at "crying it out", but really, three nights of fairly short crying (the sum of which might amount to 2-3 hours total, if that) is a small "price" to pay for the entire family getting the rest they need. Particularly as compared to months or even years of time without a full night's rest for mom or baby.

(4) Two or more children in the same room? Instead of hassling with separate bedtimes, or worrying that they'll talk themselves into oblivion, play Bible stories and God-honoring music on tapes or CDs to fill that time while they're falling asleep! Not only does it help them to fall asleep, but it also occupies their minds with wholesome things. My sons have learned worship songs, memorized scripture, and had the stories of the Bible planted in their minds and hearts during this time between bedtime and falling asleep. A mom of eight recommended this to me, and since we began implementing it, we've never stopped. Our sons love it (they have something neat to look forward to as they get ready for bed), we love it, and I believe God is using that time to teach our sons and draw them to Himself, as they learn to worship and love His stories in those 20-30 minutes as they're falling asleep.


So those are my basic tips for avoiding the "bedtime battle", with little ones at least. Perhaps you disagree philosophically with one of my points. That's fine; I'm just sharing what has worked for us. I'm not attempting to say that it would work for everyone.

We've worked hard to help our children get the consistent rest they need, and because they've always gone to bed at a reasonable time, they happily go to bed now-- it's not work, it's not a fight, and it never has been. And as a bonus, Doug & I have built-in time together in our evenings. It's a blessing for everyone!


Hopefully something from our experiences can bless you, too. Sleep well! :)

27 comments:

Miggs said...

I enjoyed your post. The principles in Babywise helped us "make" a good little sleeper in our son. I was wondering if you had any thoughts on placing babies on their backs to sleep. As a first time mom I have had it drummed into my head that it is safest for babies on their backs to reduce the likelihood of SIDS. But at seven months my son has a fairly flat head. The past few months I let him sleep on his stomach during naps, but on his back during the night. What's your take on this?

Jess said...

Hi Miggs,
We swaddle & use a sleep positioner (it has little foam pillows to place on either side of the baby) to prop our baby up on his/her side until he/she is able to lift their own head well. Then, we put them on their tummies. We don't use ultra-soft bedding, and we're careful to not place the baby face down.

This is simply what we do. People need to do whatever they, in coordination with a doctor, feel is best.

Kids (in our experience, at least) generally sleep better when their arms and legs aren't flailing around (as young babies tend to do). So initially, we swaddle, then- once they can hold their heads up well- we put them on their tummies with their heads to the side.

Jess

Anna said...

Jess,

I really appreciate your well-thought out post. We've had the same experience with using the "eat/wake/sleep" routine. All 3of our children were sleeping through the night at a very young age.

More importantly, though, they learned how to be good sleepers. Now, at ages (almost) 3 and (almost) 5, both of our girls generally go to bed without many issues and they get the rest that they really need.

The Babywise method, when used with parental discernmet, can be such a blessing! People have always remarked that we just got lucky with having good sleepers and happy babies. When I try and share how we use a flexible schedule, however, I've often found myself facing a bad reaction from people.

It was nice to see a positive, balanced example of how this method can work for a family! So, thank you.

~Anna

P.S. We, too, have our children in bed with plenty of time for my husband and I to share each evening. I look forward to that time together each day!

Kristin said...

Hi Jess, and happy almost-1-month Birthday to Silas!
My parents were great at this with the four of us. We all had regular bedtimes, and we listened to "Adventures in Oddessey" or Bible stories, or music to go to sleep. This really was one of our favorite times of the day, getting to lie in bed and listen to a story or songs, and I can still sing most of them now! (Helpful when they were actual Scripture verses set to music, although I occasionally have to mentally hum my way to the end of the song to remember the reference to a verse). Just wanted to say, from the adult perspective of a kid whose parents did the same thing, that it's a wonderful choice. Something I'll do with my own kids, someday.
Hope you're doing well - thanks for your faithfulness in posting!
Kristin

Aubs said...

Jess~
I am always up for reading what has worked for other parents so thank you so much for sharing!

With my 2year old we got him on a very regular sleeping routine from a very early age and it was a complete blessing! As you said..bedtime was not a struggle or fight. However, in the last 6 months or so he has done a total 180....he refuses to stay in his bed when I lay him down(and in the crib this was no big deal but in a big boy bed it is harder keep him there) and he regularly wakes through the nite and comes in to get me. I don't have a clue what to do...I suppose it probably has alot to do with daddy's deployments but I am open to any and all suggestions! It is exhausting....any help would be greatly appreciated!

AZReam said...

Consider a Wedge for Infant Reflux - this one comes with advice from its inventor, a pediatric OT

www.azream.us

AZReam said...

oops - sorry about the advertising, but the reading material is on those pages

Diane said...

Great post, it gave me some ideas to try with #6, who was born just before your latest baby. My question is, what to do when you are out of the house past the baby's bedtime? With my 3rd and 4th children, we were always so busy with church, small groups, little league, etc. that their bedtimes were anything but consistent. We can't just avoid having an evening social life for years on end (with babies coming every couple of years)!

Blessings ~ Diane

darci said...

whoo hoo for babywise! we are a babywise family too, and yes, everyone says 'oh you're so LUCKY!' I personally think that in the early weeks babywise is HARDER to do..who wants to wake a baby? :) We have three kids with a fourth on the way (from Ethiopia!) and I would go insane, I do believe, if they didn't sleep. By the way, CUTE pics and thanks for sharing that you don't have it all together. that's what I needed to hear..solidarity in chaos! :) darci

darci said...

ps, I love the music, Scripture idea. great! do you have any good cd's you'd recommend?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jess,

This is great advice. I had to learn it the hard way but it has been worth initial effort. We have several children who are mouth breathers and they simply don't sleep as well as the others. They also have some concentration problems during the day. My husband has ADD symptoms and he, also, is a poor sleeper. He sleeps great after an active day outside with lots of fresh air which confirms all the research about sleep apnea and people who breathe poorly; the research shows that they don't get enough oxygen to enter that deep REM sleep. Anyway, I'm rambling here but suffice it to say that my observation of an adult and several children with sleep difficulties has confirmed to me the importance of a good nights sleep. Being firm in this area trains the mind and body to accept a routine and in return affects the waking moments. If you read any old fashioned child rearing advice from a hundred years ago or before, it was accepted as the norm to give children a firm bedtime routine, a regulated day time routine and a careful diet and regular fresh air and sunshine. Old fashioned ideas in this day and age but ones which help both mom and dad and children to be healthier and happier!

Jill (mom of eight)

Sarah said...

Hey again!

My 3 older ones are all excellent sleepers. The 2.5 month old sleeps very well too, but she sleeps with me.

We did Babywise with my son and he was sleeping thru then night at 8 weeks but I lost my milk supply. :( I was able to pump for a month and get it back to normal but it was a pain! So with the rest of them, I have slept with them and nurse them at night (and I don't even know I'm doing it, I'm half-asleep!). This way my supply stays where it should.

The two older girls slept with us and nursed at night til around 6-9 months of age, and by then, I was able to wean them at night without fear of losing supply. I was warned that they would become horrible sleepers but no, they are excellent sleepers and all 3 of the share a room! BUT, that didn't come by chance, we definitely worked at that too - very similar to what you are saying. :)

Jaime said...

I followed the Baby Whisperer methods with both of mine - a bit more routine (pattern) based than scheduling based than I perceive Babywise to be. I too, had early on sleepers - dd at 9 weeks, ds at 10.

I am so thankful for that, but it was a lot of work on our part - but so worth it!!

Amanda said...

My husband and I have also used the Babywise routine to great success and our son was sleeping 6 hour stretches at night at 8 weeks. It's AMAZING what a long stretch of sleep can do for a mom's well being and sanity!

Thanks so much for sharing about this!

Oh, and our son sleeps on his belly, too. He WOULD NOT sleep on his back AT ALL and as extremely tired parents of a 1 week old, we decided to try him on his belly and he was out like a light. And yes, I did worry about SIDS (my mom used to have a day care in our home when I was growing up and one of the children died of SIDS while in her care - very sad story), but at that point, we were just so tired and needed to get some sleep.

:)

Stephanie said...

Thanks for the post! I am with you on the bedtime/sleep plans. We have done basically the same plan with our three girls. Would you mind sharing some of your favorite CD titles. I like Judy Rogers and Hide Em In Your Heart but don't know of many other good ones.
* I have enjoyed perusing your blog occasionally. I am rarely a commenter, but thank you for your encouragement!
Stephanie

Jessica said...

My daughter is a week or so younger than Silas so we're also working on the Babywise routine. Our son, who is 2, is a great sleeper because of it.
I let him "read" books while he's falling asleep, but I love the CD idea. Have you found any cds in particular with Bible stories that you would recommend? We have great cds with hymns for him, but I would love another type of cd.

Kim said...

I am not a parent, but my research on the authors of the Babywise stuff just tends to make me wary of recommending Babywise without caution. So as a former healthcare worker/concerned consumer/hopefully future parent, I will say that it is just important not to put all your eggs in any one method basket without listening to the needs of one's baby (which obviously you've done an excellent job of, Jess, or your kids would have been crying it out and stuff at bedtime). We've discussed it before, but I have one friend whose kids have cried for two hours, and another whose kids cried for 1 hour of their 1 hour 30 minute nap, and then were expected (at 10 weeks of age) to be able to wake up 30 minutes later and be "on schedule." That's not good for baby. (It was out of personal concern for these different families that I researched this stuff. There are websites that can be easily found if you want info.)

Another excellent (and slightly less militant, in my very humble, not-yet-baby-raising opinion) resource, from what I've heard from actual parents, is the HUGE Infant and Child Care book from the Focus on the Family folks. Like them or not, the book is very matter of fact (yes, I've read parts of it) and offers more than one solution to some problems.

I also like the No Cry Sleep Solution.

Kids have to be trained, for sure...those are just some extra resources!

And Jess, I am sure you were gorgeous, unshowered and all. ;)

Jess said...

Anna,
I think what you said is absolutely KEY:
The Babywise method, when used with parental discernment, can be such a blessing! Surely with any method, parental discernment is critical, right? :-)

Thanks for your comment!


Kristin,
That's good to hear (about your own sleep routines as a kid)-- thanks for sharing!


Aubs,
I'd imagine that the changes in your son's sleep habits do have something to do with your husband's deployment. The big boy bed is a harder thing. We didn't struggle with this at all with our oldest, but our 2nd son did struggle with this. He would wander into our room after a nightmare (which started once we moved here). We just consistently would give him a hug, remind him that we loved him and God is watching over him, and help him get snuggled back in his own bed. With a little consistency, it has "blown over"... and he doesn't do it anymore. I think some kids are just more prone to night waking and need that "redirection". Hope this helps, though I know I basically just said, "this too shall pass". ;-)


Diane,
When we have things to do after bedtime, we have elected (for this season of our family's life) to either (1) decide that only one of us can participate, if it's truly something worthwhile and important, (2) hold the event at our home, if both of us need to participate, or (3) not participate. These years won't last forever, and there are too many things in this "modern" American life that can eat up every moment of your time if you allow it.

So we just look at the importance of the event and decide from there. For example, over the last six years, we've had meetings, parties, and Bible studies in our home after the "bedtime" hour. That's just a choice we have made, and we don't "avoid having an evening social life"... our social life, though, IS carefully measured and does center on having our time together as a couple in the evenings.


Darci,
I feel the same way... that I would be an insane woman with far less openness to children if our nights were filled with waking and crying and inconsistency.

And I don't believe I'm far off of what it would mean for most adults. I've heard too much from moms in that kind of position on the message boards I'm a part of to believe that sleeplessness for months and years on end is in any way a positive thing. Everyone (including babies) functions better when they consistently get rest.


"RE: WHAT MUSIC CDs?"
Well, first of all, I need to preface this by saying that we bought our kids a cheapo tape player (from the dark ages, I know), and that we have found simple kids' tapes with Bible stories and songs on them at places like Half Price Books, etc. But we just scour the racks (and now, have my mom ;-) scour the racks for us) for any new tapes/CDs for this.

As for Scripture memorization, the "Sing the Word from A to Z" CD is admittedly cheesy but works, and is GREAT for younger children.

We also have a tape about the parables of Jesus, a tape with OT stories, tapes with stories about character qualities, tapes with Sunday School songs, a Robin Mark "Revival at Belfast" tape that someone gave us, and others. We've just kept our eyes open for these and have ended up with quite a collection!



Jill,
Thanks for your comments; I'm in strong agreement that sleep is both necessary and health-ful. It's nice to hear from a mom with so much experience! :)


Sarah,
I'm sorry to hear that you had problems with your milk supply and am glad you were able to figure out what works for your body. I've been able to nurse all my children past a year with no night feedings past two months, but women need to do whatever works for them and their families.

For me, co-sleeping inevitably leads to exhaustion and I wake up feeling MORE tired than if I had just woken up, turned on the lights, nursed for the 20-25 minutes it takes to nurse, and gone back to bed. The restlessness and lack of ever entering into deep sleep kicks my tail and leaves me feeling exhausted the entire next day. It's great that co-sleeping can work for some people; for me, it definitely doesn't work. And, fwiw, I find that even when they do need night wakings, my babies sleep longer and more soundly in their own bed (just an arm's reach away) in my room. Different strokes for different folks!

Thanks for sharing your story!


Jamie,
It's great to have consistent sleepers, isn't it?

Funny you say that about Baby Whisperer that it is:
a bit more routine (pattern) based than scheduling based than I perceive Babywise to be.

Because when I read through Babywise over the last couple of months, I kept that critique in mind (I'd heard it from another friend) and specifically dog-eared Ezzo's comments about being flexible, meeting your baby's needs no matter what, and not focusing on the clock), and it is AMAZING how many pages are dog-eared. Probably more than are not, seriously. It is obvious to me that Babywise specifically intends for there to be flexibility and fluidity in the basic routine.

I personally have never "scheduled" a baby... but I do use the clock as a tool to help me (honestly, more to be sure I'm feeding often enough rather than to hold the baby off longer). Anyway, I just went off on a tangent... but all that to say, I think the reality of Babywise is pretty flexible.


Kim,
I've read your comments about Babywise (BW) before. I think if people read the book, and actually read what he says, there's no book-based concern for kids to end up crying for an entire afternoon to "get on schedule". That's never happened in our home. And in my opinion, I'd be foolish to rigidly follow a book to the detriment of my own children. Particularly if the book in question talked about flexibility and meeting your baby's needs as much as BW does.

The fact is that BW does specifically talks about flexibility and if moms don't use it, it's because of their own choices, not because of BW. I can't fathom letting a child cry for two hours to "get on schedule", and that is not anything like what BW recommends.

I recommend for people to read the book for themselves to discern the flavor of the book. If you do, and then don't agree, that's fine; but if you do, and you implement it (with your own common sense firmly intact, which surely you'd keep regardless of the book you're reading, right?), it can be a huge blessing for your family.

Blessings to all and to all a good night! ;-)
~Jess

Kim said...

I've said my piece about Babywise - everyone likes their own thing, and as long as your babies are healthy, then do what works!

I will, however, say - whoo hoo to your country for getting on the ball with wordpress blogs!! :)

Amanda said...

My son listens to Twila Paris' Bedtime Prayers: Lullabies and Peaceful Worship. It's beautiful, sweet, and relaxing.

My husband and I listen to Chris Tomlin when we go to bed! :)

Johanna said...

I loved Babywise for my first son and he absolutely thrived on it. Then came my second son...He had colic, and I had severe post-partum depression, and we just couldn't get it together. He got up at night to nurse, sometimes more than once, for 6 months. It wasn't ideal, but it was actually less stressful for me in my altered state than dealing with it. Toward the end of that time, I wondered if it would ever end. The good news is that now at the age of three, he sleeps perfectly. With my one on the way, I plan to try BW again, though. The predictability once the baby is in a set routine is priceless!

Anna said...

Someone gave me the Babywise book when my oldest was about 5-6 weeks old and I was really struggling to get him sleeping. It helped immensely. I'm not a very scheduled person myself, so I never followed it exactly. We usually rocked our oldest to sleep, but kept him on the schedule. As you said, there is room for flexibility.
With my other 2 babies, they were easy to put on a schedule, etc., but I still followed some of the general principles.
I think some of it depends on the baby and on the family. Our oldest, who is now 8 is just one of those kids who has tons of energy. Even now, he sometimes has trouble going to sleep, and he just doesn't need as much sleep as other kids his age. None of our others are like this.
Now with 4 kids ages 2-8, they all go to bed well (with minor exceptions from time to time). I would go crazy if we were constantly battling to get them to stay in bed. I don't have the energy to fight with them at the end of the day.

Catherine R. said...

Very glad to read this as I am slightly scared at all the sleep depravation horror stories while about to have my first child.

Did you know that many people think Gary Ezzo is a horrible person? I just did a post on Ezzo vs. Sears after reading the heated comments on both books on amazon.com. From what I know about Ezzo, he seems like the most sane one, in his methods. I know there is a culture these days of letting baby do whatever he wants or else it's child abuse, thus ending up with a spoiled child and a neglected marriage.

So thanks : )

Mrs. Anna T said...

I'm not a Mommy yet, but your post is very interesting! I'll remember it for future reference. ;)

The Simple Shepherdess said...

Hey Jess, Thanks for a great post. I'll be forwarding the link for this one! Great job offering your thoughts without poo pooing other methods:)

Cat said...

We're also on our fourth, age 3 months, and have used Babywise (with discernment)with all four. I do get a bit annoyed when people tell me we've just been "lucky" to have good sleepers. But I am a MUCH better mommy when we've all had our sleep, including me.

Jess said...

Catherine,
Yup... I'm definitely aware of the controversy! That's why I spoke about my own experiences... because no one can contradict that. ;') I've been very pleased with the results from BW and believe it's worth a first-hand read. Blessings on you and your little one!


Note to everyone:
I've actually opted to reject some comments for this thread because people have tried to make this into a debate, or about their thoughts about Ezzo. Honestly, I don't want to debate Babywise; that's not what this post is about. This post is about my personal experiences with getting my own children to sleep.

If people want to try the things that have worked for us, great. If not, that's OK too. But it would be silly for me to *not* post about something that has been such a big blessing for our family simply because some others have a problem with it.

I've read and re-read the book, and my conscience is absolutely clear in recommending it. I've been delighted with Babywise, and have personal experience with four very different babies (and have watched many friends use it to their delight as well), having been in a wide variety of situations while implementing it (moving cross-country, living in TX in relative peace and quiet, moving cross-world, and now living in a foreign country in relative peace and quiet). Suffice it to say, my husband and I are very pleased with the consistent outcome of the basic principles of the book.

No parenting book is infallible. None is a 'magic formula' to make everything right in your world. But this one gets four huge thumbs up from us. So, my advice is this: check it out if you want to... and keep your brain engaged no matter WHAT parenting book you read!

And with that, I'm going to close the comments box for this post. If you want to e-mail me with further thoughts, feel free to do so: makinghome@pobox.com

Blessings,
Jess