Baby sleep redux
October 30, 2012 3:05 PM   Subscribe

Yay, it's a baby sleep question! About the best little three month-old this side of anywhere! (Basically, my wife and I are mightily confused about where our boy is now and where we need to start planning to get him.) (Picture of pulkes inside, of course. If it's good enough for a cat question it's good enough for us.)

Look at this picture, and look at those pulkes!

Ok, so I know this is a controversial topic. I'm happy to hear a lot of perspectives, but my wife and I are psychotherapists who understand attachment and the ability to self-soothe, so we are likely moving toward some version of Cry It Out.

Basically, right now our three month old goes to sleep at ~7, after being fed by his mother and rocked (almost) to sleep by me in a routine that we really like. We put him to sleep in one of those automatic swings, where he sleeps for a couple of hours until we go to bed around 9:30, when we move him without incident or wake up to the bassinet beside our bed. He wakes a couple of times (1am, 330am) to feed, and then wakes around 5am, when I rock him to sleep again and put him in the swing while I get ready for work. He typically wakes for good between 7 and 8. He naps through the day, but basically only as needed, with no set nap times. He only falls asleep with motion: being walked in the Bjorn or in the stroller, being danced to Israelites by Desmond Dekker.

So, where are we? The books talk about naps, which Ollie does not take in any regular fashion. The books talk about sleep routine, but his routine is of the kind they all deplore. The books talk about sleep training, which he is kind of getting, but maybe of the wrong sort.

Do we need to adjust his routine? Does he go to sleep too early? Do we need to set nap times and put him down in his crib? Do we need to stop rocking him almost to sleep? Do we need to move him to a crib in his own room?

(If it matters, he's almost exclusively breast-fed, although he does get a couple of bottles of breast milk a week. As his pictures show, he's a good eater! We aren't opposed to a pacifier, but he hasn't really taken to one, and he's started to suck his thumb and the rest of his hand, but it doesn't seem to promote sleep because he's too interested in it to fall asleep doing it.)
posted by OmieWise to Health & Fitness (33 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does it work for you? Yes? Why in the *hell* are you considering fucking with this?
posted by iamabot at 3:12 PM on October 30, 2012 [30 favorites]

I think you have it down pat, he's sleeping, you're happy with it, why fix what ain't broke? He's adorable by the way! (Am I the only one who is wondering what a pulke is?)
posted by Jubey at 3:15 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yeah, there's nothing wrong with what you've got going on here.
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

To be honest, at 3 months, only waking three times between 7pm and 7am is pretty good. I would not mess with that.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:18 PM on October 30, 2012 [14 favorites]

A bit of explanation, we didn't get this kind of sleep out of my daughter until she was 18 months old...
posted by iamabot at 3:20 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a PhD from the University of Life in Paediatric Aesthetics. That baby is gorgeous!

But the rocking will end up killing you. It's lovely, scrumptious and delicious now....but it won't be when he's older. He's very malleable now. I suggest tryin to cut down on the rocking. Rock him for shorter periods and put him down more wakeful. You will thank me for this, really.

Also..sleep cues are excellent. Get him to associate specific acyivities or songs or swaddling with the beginning of the sleep routine. It sounds like you're doing that already. But try to keep much of it consistent. Tell him he's going to sleep, too.

The split parent thing is ideal in my opinion.

I'm on an iPhone, and have many more suggestions. If they don't get said by someone else, I'll get on a pc later and write more.

And I must reiterate, that is a bloody cute baby.
posted by taff at 3:21 PM on October 30, 2012 [13 favorites]

Pulke is Yiddish for thigh, or chicken thigh, and is used to refer to that delightful set rolls of fat that babies get on that most biteable of appendages.
posted by OmieWise at 3:30 PM on October 30, 2012 [5 favorites]

We found, with our baby (so, sample size of 1, huge grain of salt) that sleep training did not work until around our baby's first birthday. We tried at 7 months, and again at 9 months (I think, that year is kind of hazy). I know some people have had success with CIO much earlier, or other sleep training routines, but it sounds like you have a routine that works for now, and my memory of the first year is that you kind of just spend a bit of time getting the baby to sleep.

I will also say that when we did try a version of CIO (baby in pack-n-play next to the bed we were laying in, so we did not leave the room until he was asleep, until he got used to falling asleep on his own) at 1 year, it literally took one night before he got it and went to sleep quickly when we put him down. So you will absolutely not ruin your baby or doom him to a life of poor sleep habits by keeping your gentle routine for a while longer. 3 months sounds insanely young to try sleep training, to me at least.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:33 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I should add, I suppose, that our baby never ever not once fell asleep without being either nursed or rocked before he turned one, so he had zero practice before he very quickly learned to fall asleep by himself.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:36 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

So cute. I want to snorgle all those rolls!

If it isn't broke, don't fix it. Toddler theBRKP was also a micro-napper kind of baby and didn't settle into a nap/unbroken night sleep routine until he was around 13 months old. In addition, his doctor actively discouraged us from trying any sort of sleep training until he was a year old. He also needed one of us physically holding him or motion to fall asleep.

If you are happy and he is happy, stay with what you know. We took a gradual approach to get him to put himself to sleep when he was older. Memail me if you want more information on what we did.
posted by theBigRedKittyPurrs at 3:48 PM on October 30, 2012

The books talk about...

Aaah. There's your problem.

The baby you describe seems to be to be sleeping just fine.
posted by Jimbob at 4:19 PM on October 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

you have a rare breed of baby, don't mess with it! Count yourselves among the lucky ones who see decent sleep within the first year.
posted by katypickle at 4:27 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Confused about the naps... Do you put him down for them or do they spontaneously occur? If you put him down, how do you decide it's time?
posted by smalls at 4:55 PM on October 30, 2012

My n of one notwithstanding...

My one sounds just like yours, with very similar bed times etc. I liked the getting to bed early thing (she sleeps when it's dark, was our motto). She woke up a couple of times a night until she was nearly a year old, but went back to sleep pretty quickly.

If you do try and cry out at least one of the wake ups, I would wait until after he's 6 or 7 months. They (mine, and my friends kids, anyway) just seem to get it so much easier then. (my bias: my personal thoughts were no attempts at training until 6 months old. the only structure we put on her was the 7pm bedtime and the not being awake more than 2 hours at any time per Weissbluth)

He is beautiful.
posted by gaspode at 5:15 PM on October 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

We are at the same stage, and here is what we are doing:

In general, we did start to feel that around 3 months was the time to start establishing good habits and schedules. We read that it would be harder to do later.

Our night sleep is about the same as yours. Since I am going back to work, we decided to transition Baby Beast to his crib in his own room so we would have that done now. It went smoothly, and he sleeps better there!

We don't do extensive rocking - we hope to prevent the need for cio by teaching BB to sleep on his own. It is working well - about 75% of the time he goes down awake for bedtime and falls asleep himself. The key was realizing that rocking was actually stimulating and keeping him awake longer, and we needed to catch that sweet spot where he was happy and relaxed and could drift off on his own. We just cuddle, read a book, swaddle, and rock a tiny bit, then put down.

We are not going to worry about night wakings until he is ready to night wean - at least a few more months. At that point we will gradually dilute the bottle/shorten the nursing until he is getting all his calories during the day. Then we hope he will stop waking on his own, but if not, we will use some version of cio.

Naps are much harder. Like your guy, he was only napping in the Ergo or on the boob. About 2 weeks ago I started to freak out about returning to work without him being able to nap without me (we are doing a nanny share, so the nanny will not be able to walk him around like I was doing). So I started to put him down in his crib with an abbreviated version of the night routine. He needs a lot more rocking than at night, sometimes all the way to sleep. He takes short naps (30 mins to 1 hr). If he wakes before 30 mins I try to rock him back down.

The nap schedule is still evolving. He seems to get sleepy about 2 hrs after he wakes up, so around 3 or 4 naps/day. I started out doing just the morning nap in the crib, then two naps, and now we are going for 3. If he is too sleepy by the afternoon we go for an Ergo walk/nap. However, he is getting so interested in the world now that he sometimes looks around instead of napping!

In both nap and bedtime, I have found that it is absolutely true what the books say: you must catch the sleepy window. If baby gets overtired it is much harder to put him down awake and you have to rock all the way asleep, which takes forever.

Good luck!
posted by yarly at 5:20 PM on October 30, 2012

Confused about the naps... Do you put him down for them or do they spontaneously occur? If you put him down, how do you decide it's time?

They don't occur spontaneously, we walk him around when he starts to indicate that he's tired, and he falls asleep pretty easily that way. I don't know that he has ever gone to sleep for a nap without that kind of motion (or on the breast.)

Thanks for all the answers so far. They're great.
posted by OmieWise at 5:33 PM on October 30, 2012

You have a good sleeper! We had one of those for our first, and it was kind of wasted on us, because we kept wondering whether it was good enough and whether it was going in the right direction and etc. I wish I'd gotten another one of those -- I could really appreciate it now! -- but alas, it's been all-night-nursers all the way down. Enjoy it!
posted by palliser at 5:35 PM on October 30, 2012

Napping is not set by time on the clock, it's by last wake. At this age, about 90 minutes after he wakes up you should start putting him down for a nap. He might not even seem tired--that's GOOD! Once they're visibly tired, they're harder to put down.

Try rocking him while playing Israelites and then putting him down before he's asleep. He might surprise you.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:36 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and If you want, you might try taking over that 3:30 waking. He probably doesn't need to eat right then and it might get him out of the habit of waking at that time. Not a necessity if the sleep balance is working for you and your wife.
posted by the young rope-rider at 5:39 PM on October 30, 2012

Hey that sounds pretty good to me - definitely better than our baby was sleeping at that age. I wouldn't mess too hard with what you've got going on there.

Do be aware that the rocking may - or may not - evolve into something problematic in the future. Our baby became so dependent on rocking it was all we could do to get her to sleep and became quite terrible as a result until we woke up and put a stop to it.

If you want to kind of ease into the routine route, I would recommend starting with more aggressive feeding schedules. We personally found that after structuring meals more stringently, our baby fell into more regular day time sleep patterns pretty naturally, which was excellent for us. It wasn't really until > six months that we really tried to push the self-settling thing, ditched the dummy, etc etc. It was a slow evolution.

Nthing sleep associations. I dunno if they work for the baby, but they worked a treat for us! Congratulations. :)
posted by smoke at 5:40 PM on October 30, 2012

I don't know that he has ever gone to sleep for a nap without that kind of motion (or on the breast.)

Ah, this is exactly what I was talking about! It's probably early days for you, but we fell into a real trap here which necessitated hours of silent rocking/swinging etc eventually. With hindsight I wish we hadn't been quite so into it early on, but we corrected, and so will you - that is if you even need to.
posted by smoke at 5:41 PM on October 30, 2012

I wouldn't do anything yet; there's typically a sleep regression around four months for most babies, and anything you do will all go to pot in a month or so anyway. His wakeups sound very, very normal to me for a three-month-old. Glorious, even.

When he gets a bit older, he may be one of the many kids that falls into the 2-3-4 napping pattern and you can use that as a gentle rule of thumb for naptimes. The 2-3-4 page I linked describes the way naps may progress as the baby gets older, which I found helpful. (My kid didn't have set naptimes at that age either.)

I'd try not to stress too much about "scheduling" at this age. Most babies tend to fall into a routine regardless, and it will always evolve depending on the developmental stage your baby is going through at that particular time.
posted by meggan at 5:58 PM on October 30, 2012

Babykestrel is 5 1/2 months.

I agree with others that right now you shouldn't try to CIO for the night wakings. But I *do* think you can work on naps and going-to-sleep.

We did a bit of Ferber (graduated waitings, not full on CIO) at about 4 1/2 months, with the OK of our pediatrician. More than the OK -- she recommended we work on it. We were having a hell of a time keeping her down sometimes -- she'd wake for a feed and it would take 5 tries and 2 hours to get her back to sleep. Not sustainable. Also, at three months, we were having trouble getting her to sleep anywhere but on top of one of us.

We found Ferber extremely successful, and not at all painful, for going to sleep. We found it horrific for delaying a night feeding. What I mean is, yelling/whining vs. 5 alarm meltdown with tears. YMMV.

I would recommend getting her out of habits by stages. We moved her from a bassinet in the bedroom to a crib in her own room at about 3 months, and frankly I think she found the mattress more comfortable. I also introduced a bedtime routine around 3 months, but still nursed her to sleep. I stopped nursing her to sleep about a week before trying real sleep training (around 4 months, or 4 plus a week). She was already going for her thumb more and more, when we did Ferber; she's now a master.

Outcome: she now sleeps from 6:30 or 7 to 6:30 or 7, waking 3 times to eat. We're not going to mess with the eating; she's 20ish percentile for weight, and it it what it is. But she goes right down after eating now. Ditto naps; I now rock her for about 30 seconds and put her in the crib sleepy but with her eyes open. She usually is out like a light. She whines sometimes, but we've realized that's just what she DOES when tired. She sleeps in her crib, and I can do OTHER THINGS. Also, her naps have extended from 45 minutes to 1-2 hours. *that* is straight out of the books. The bedtime ritual takes some time, what with bath, breastfeeding, story, song, but she *never* pops back up 10 minutes later anymore. She doesn't nap at set times; we follow cues, and it depends on when she wakes up, and how long the previous nap was. But, basically, she naps 1hr 15 minutes after first waking, and about 1.5 hours after second waking. The afternoon nap, or naps, is/are more variable.

For you: I'd start by keeping the motion and adding some other rituals. Like, give him a bath and a song and then walk him to sleep. Then, after a week or so, keep the rituals and drop the motion, or at least switch from walking to rocking. Then, after a week or so, rock for a few minutes and put him in the crib -- at that point, there will be yelling, and you're in Ferber/CIO territory. But, by that point, he'll be about 4 months. And I'm not suggesting altering any feeding patterns, just the initial going to sleep (at night or naps.)
posted by kestrel251 at 6:22 PM on October 30, 2012

P.S. Baby OmieWise's beer belly is *awesome*. Memail me if you're interested in an arranged marriage.
posted by kestrel251 at 6:25 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

I recommend (as I always do in these threads) the Sleep Lady book. It goes over what you should expect and be doing to assure good sleeping for every age.

But based on my experiences, at 3 months old you don't get nice set naps, with my youngest (now 7 months) we didn't start getting any sort of schedule for naps until this past month or so. Now he's more consistently a morning and afternoon nap and predictable sorts of times, but up until then he was all over the place with all sorts of different lengths (some short, some long). I think what you are doing sounds great, though I agree with above people that the rocking/motion is going to get you in the end, so start tapering that if possible. Also, no matter how great your little one is at sleeping now, expect a major downslide around 6 months, check the AskMefi archives and you'll see that's when things seem to go to hell in a handbasket : )
posted by katers890 at 6:56 PM on October 30, 2012

I agree with everyone else that your baby is beautiful and if his sleeping pattern is not broken, there's no need to fix it. But if you feel like you're doing increasingly elaborate rituals to get him to sleep, which is what it kind of sounds like to me (but that may just be your routine and be working perfectly for you), then it might be time to tweak your methods.

I second the young rope-rider's pointing out that babies don't need to be up for very long between naps. 90 minutes or 2 hours, tops. Whatever your book says. At that point you can feel confident that he's plenty tired.

Getting babies to sleep is essentially finding whatever works for you and your baby. Which tends to be the last thing you try that also happens to go against whatever parenting principles you might once have had.
posted by gentian at 7:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have a two month old, so not quite at the same stage as you (six hours of uninterrupted sleep sounds amazing). But I am very concerned about my baby's ability to get herself to sleep, because my sister had an awful experience with getting her child to sleep and it's stuck with me. I am a fan of easing my baby into getting to sleep on her own using gentle methods.

The one thing I do is to try and get my baby to put herself to sleep once during the day. Once she has had two naps of any length and is well-fed and happy, I will put her in either her bouncer or her swing for 20-30 minutes in an attempt at the third nap - no rocking. Sometimes she actually gets to sleep, sometimes she stares at the bookshelf, sometimes she starts screaming and I have to give up for the day. I don't let her cry, I'm just trying to get her used to the idea of getting to sleep on her own. Two weeks ago she wouldn't even go anywhere but my arms, so I think it's working.

Similarly, we don't rock her after she eats the meal right before bedtime (she is breastfed but this is generally a bottle of expressed milk). Half the time she is milk drunk and sleeping and we luck out, but the other half of the time she is still fairly awake. I just lay her down (she's right next to me) and wait for her to drift off to sleep. I don't pick her up (although to be fair, she never cries at this time). You seem to have a good bedtime routine going but it might work another time of day.
posted by smalls at 7:22 PM on October 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Doesn't sound too out if the ordinary to me, either.

The one thing I'd suggest is not moving him after he falls asleep at 7-ish. What I've heard suggested is to put the baby to sleep where you want him to wake up. It's disorienting and upsetting for the baby to wake up somewhere other than where he fell asleep and it makes for an anxious sleeper who might have trouble putting himself to sleep since he's worried about where he'll end up. And my experience bears this out but our baby was a little older when we when through this.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:06 PM on October 30, 2012

Boychick, you have a beautiful, fat, happy baby whose sleep schedule you can live with. Don't mess with it.

I want to munch those pulkies so bad I can taste it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:17 AM on October 31, 2012

He is soo adorable! He just begs to be squished!!!

Ahem... :) So with that out of the way, I was going to say that it sounds like you do have a good sleeper. I am also a social worker, and my husband is in research, and we also have a good sleeper. Both of us liked reading the original "How to Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems" by Ferber. It's not an easy read, but it explains a lot about sleep, both in children and in adults. I've never really stopped to think about sleep before I had a baby.

After we've read it, we slowly, s l o w l y, adjusted little things. We stopped using white noise machine at four months, moved our son to his own room at four months, got rid of pacifier by six months, stopped night feedings at some point, moved his bed time from 7:30 to 8:30, got his nap schedule sorta figured out by six months. We wanted him to be able to fall asleep on his own, to not need to be rocked, to not have to eat before bed, and we slowly got there by following the spirit of Ferber's book. The pacifier weaning were the toughest two nights we've had. So I'd say if you're anything like us you might enjoy reading Ferber. It was so refreshing after all the other gushy, condescending parenting books (Happiest Baby on the Block, I'm looking at you!). But seriously, what a happy round sweet guy you have! Mazel Tov!
posted by Shusha at 8:15 AM on October 31, 2012

I agree it sounds like you have a good sleeper. (With adorable pulkies no less.) I also think you're a few weeks early for any sort of nap/sleep scheduling/training. But I also know lots of people with equally good sleepers. I think the parents with poor sleepers over-report. Everyone else just keeps quiet and counts their blessings for fear of jinxing what works or making the parents of lousy sleepers bitter!

I'm 6-months ahead of you, and spent a few months immersed in bedtime drama/baby sleep books. Based on that, I'd say that:

(1) 3 months old is likely a little early for CIO or sleep training but depending on your baby may not be wildly early. I know many, many babies who successfully learned to soothe themselves to sleep at around 4 months, though I think Ferber suggests starting CIO at 6 months.
(2) For some reason for a lot of babies, naps don't regularize until closer to 5 or 6 months. You could start trying to put him to sleep for naps every 90-120 minutes at this point (reading his sleep cues of course). Eventually, around 5 or 6 months, we got to regular naps every 2 hours.
(3) Then a few months later, you might find he's on a 2-3-4 schedule. This happened absolutely naturally with my daughter. Lets say he wakes at 7 AM. He is in bed, asleep by 9 AM. Wakes at 10:30. 3 hours later (or so) at 1:30, he's back in bed (so you start nap time a bit earlier). Sleeps some and then is awake until bedtime. For some reason many babies seem to need that first nap very soon after they wake for the day.
(4) A lot of babies can sleep on their own at night months before they can sleep alone during the day for some reason. Circadian rythms?
posted by semacd at 8:43 AM on October 31, 2012

Ah! I have an Ollie too.

We did CIO with our boys when they were 6.5 months old (5ish months, adjusted) and I was always told not to do it before 6ish months.

But I also never rocked my kids to sleep (I have triplets and only two arms) and they were in their cribs from day one, so that's the only transition I can see as potentially being difficult. But I don't know singletons, so you shouldn't listen to me.
posted by pyjammy at 9:57 AM on October 31, 2012

I have a 3.5 month old and I agree with the others about not stressing too much, we've got a sleep regression coming and it sounds like you have a pretty decent established pattern already (eg: you have time to get ready for work, baby takes a nap without too much fuss, he has a bedtime). Take those books with a pinch of salt - babies are not uniform, and you know yours better than a book does.

Having said that, the only thing I definitely advocate for is the 2 hour routine for naps through the day that other people have mentioned. I enacted it, and it worked great for us. Mostly. I was miserable before I started working to this schedule - it's not perfect, and I'm still getting a 20 minute fuss/cry before he decides to go to sleep, so I still have to work on catching the sleep window properly. But knowing I might have a chance at avoiding a cranky baby makes my day a lot more stressful.

Your routine does sound a lot like mine, sans the nap structure. For some insight, here's what I'm doing during the day:

- I try to get up at 6, so that I have time to shower and my husband has time with him before he goes to work
- first nap of the day (8-10ish) is in our Mobywrap, so that he gets a solid 2-3 hours and I can have a rest before getting on with the day. I usually stand in front of the TV and watch an episode of something on Netflix with subtitles on while rocking him. Then once he's asleep, we sit at my desk or do some light picking up around the house until he wakes up.
- rest of the naps through the day are taken in the co-sleeper next to the adult bed (we'll be getting a crib soon for daytime naps. I do not plan on dropping-co-sleeping as long as I'm breastfeeding/the risk for SIDS is lower. Co-sleeping is brilliant). I change his diaper, I swaddle him up (with one arm free, as practice for dropping the swaddle in the future), put on some white noise and rock him until he stops crying/calms down and is drowsy. Sometimes I use a pacifier if he's really worked up or if he'll need feeding after he's woken up. Then I put him down, sit for a few minutes to make sure he's really asleep and then run, run to freedom. Where I drink coffee and eat cookies and type with two hands.
- when he's napping alone, he nearly always wakes up 40 minutes later. That might be due to me putting him down too late. Sometimes I can get him back to sleep via rocking or lying down with him... and sometimes it's just time to get up. But he's nearly always refreshed/calm and ready to eat or play. I'm fine with this right now - the important thing is that he's rested. I am hoping he figures out how to get past the 40 minute barrier by himself in the near future.

What I do at night:

- we start the bedtime routine at around 7: maybe some naked play time first, then he has a bath or a wipe down, a night time diaper put on, clean clothes and then is swaddled up (both arms in, because it's damn chilly at night now).
- I feed him while his dad reads a story and then we put on the white noise (dishwasher noises!) and I'm left to rock him to sleep.
- he's usually asleep by 8:30. He will not go to sleep before then unless we're lucky or the nap routine got borked in the afternoon.
- at the moment he's waking at 1-2am and 4/5am. I feed him on demand, and pull him into the big bed at the end of the night to save myself some energy. I'm looking to drop the middle of the night feeds by 5 months but for now, I'm fine with the amount of times he's waking up to eat. He's a pretty big baby (15lbs already) and shows clear signs when he's not hungry (he pulls away, looks around the room).

I think right now it's an inexact science to establish a routine while so much change is going on. I definitely think it's important to try and improve on sleep patterns at 3 months old (I started making little changes at 10 weeks, he's 15 weeks now), but to stay as flexible as possible until 6 months or so. Make small changes, and if they don't work out right now, try again in a few weeks. Tomorrow is another day, and these baby things, they only increase their level of understanding right?

Aaaand now mine has woken up and is yelling in my face, so I hope this isn't too garbled a comment. I think you're doing great - you're lucky he naps so easily!
posted by saturnine at 10:31 AM on October 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

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