Parenting Advice on Sleep

Yesterday, I finally checked in with my friend Dee, who is now on her fifth baby. I trust her quite a bit on everything related to kids, so I wanted to summarize her advice where other people could benefit from it. Here it is:

  • Her kids have had pretty different sleep patterns from each other. One, for example, had a 48-hour schedule where she slept most of the day on one day, then not much at all the next day.
  • What she thinks of as “standard” baby sleep would be a big chunk from around 7pm-8am (waking upf or feedings every few hours) and two or three naps during the day.
  • She thinks travel will mess things up, because babies can sense that they’re not at home and may not like it.
  • Her experience has been that babies have pretty short sleep windows where it’s easy to get them to sleep, and that it’s much harder if you miss them. She hasn’t found the clock to be very helpful in determining when her babies are tired, and she recommended that I watch closely and figure out Lydia’s cues. She said yawning and droopy eyes were late indicators–signs that I’d missed her window.
  • She never wakes up her babies when they’re sleeping.
  • She finds that taking baths with her baby in the evening, including nursing in the bath, have worked quite well to relax her kids, and that white noise from the shower and vacuum worked, and that white noise generators didn’t work for her. (She reported some risk that the baby would poop in the bathtub.)
  • She never had success with baby swings, but said many of her friends did.
  • It has been harder for her to catch the sleep windows in the evenings because she tends to be busier getting dinner together.
  • She thinks that early on, every month gets easier, and reminded me that my current worries would soon be a distant memory. The advantage, she says, of this period, is that I can pretty much go about my normal life while doing baby care. Lydia is, after all, asleep most of the time. She said everything gets more involved around when they start crawling and then walking, but then gets easier the more the kids can actually communicate to us what they want.

What Attachment Parenting Overlooks and Baby Schedulers Get Right

Watching for nap cues and paying attention to optimal waketime length.

At least, this has been true of the books I’ve read so far. I’m all for wearing Lydia most of the time during the day and co-sleeping with her at night, but after the first weeks where she would just fall asleep when she was tired right away no matter what (at least, it seemed as though that was what she was doing), I’ve found that the single most important thing I can do to make sure she remains happy is make sure she doesn’t stay up for too long of a stretch. 

Against the recommendations of books like Babywise and the Baby Whisperer books, I’m fine with walking and nursing her to sleep, but I’ve found that it’s very helpful to start that process before she’s too tired, which can actually happen kind of quickly. I carry her a lot, but sometimes she’s having tummy time, or I’m talking to and flirting with her, or having her practice using her leg muscles, or pottying her. And these days she can’t usually fall asleep while I’m doing those things, so I run the risk of letting her get overly tired, at which point she’s upset and it gets harder for her to relax.

Our current rhythm is that Lydia usually has two naps that are about two hours long between around 9 or 10am, when we both get up for the day in earnest, and around 7 or 8, after which point I mostly encourage her to go right back to sleep after feeding if she gets up. That seems to work okay, and is getting increasingly to the point when it’s stable enough that I can actually schedule around it, which is also very convenient!