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Entries in Sleep (2)


Say Hello to Sleep

Two recent days presented me the opportunity to see two new mothers.  One you’ve met before as she struggled with her return to work decision.  (She goes back full time next month.)  The other is a very new mother.  Both shared a bleary eyed look.

“He is so smart.  He’s only willing to have mom’s milk, and gets up every couple hours.  I’m simply exhausted.”  While I’m sure the three month old is smart, somehow I suspect he’s not smart enough to be putting together lesson plans for teaching his parents.

The other mom is so tired she can’t text responses.  “The baby feeds every couple hours.  When she freaks my husband freaks, and so I end up doing all the feedings.”

Sleep (or lack thereof) is an issue all parents face.  Speaking for myself, I don’t function well when lacking sleep.  In fact, I am pretty grumpy when not sleeping.

Children give parents plenty of opportunities to lose sleep.  And unless there are medical or illness issues, parents need to retake their position as parent and begin guiding the child.

Unless you are one of those lucky parents who have a child sleeping through the night from the beginning you will need to gently evolve the baby to sleeping through the night.  There is some debate as to when the child can do this, and generally at 4-6 months you can start making the shift.

This is one of those things inevitably harder on the parents than the child.  Babies do figure out pretty quickly how to get what they want, and parents need to remember they really do need to parent.

I’m an advocate of the Ferber method, because it works and it’s got a cool name you can use as a verb, “Ferberizing.”  Pediatrician Richard Ferber is the founder and former director of the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children’s Hospital in Boston and published Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems.  The basic concept is your baby makes associations when falling asleep (such as rocking or feeding,) and you need to train the baby instead to fall asleep in the crib.

You put the baby in the crib, say goodnight, and leave the room.  If the baby cries, and this is the hard part, let the baby cry for 5 minutes.  Then return to the room and, without picking up the baby, let the baby know you are around (and convince yourself nothing is horribly wrong.)  Then repeat, adding 5 minutes (bringing the total to 10).  Repeat again, bringing the total to 15, and so forth.

On subsequent nights, add 5 minutes to the first interval.

In under a week babies will shift the association to being in the crib with sleeping AND that crying won’t get them picked up.

It’s hard though.  Your offspring is crying out loud.  You want to comfort and be supportive.  And inconsistency makes Ferberizing ineffective. 

You need to remember you are the parent and you do know best. 

If after two weeks the child hasn’t shifted, talk to your pediatrician about other methods.

What method worked best with your children?



A new mother (of two months) said to me recently, “I can’t wait until I get some sleep.”

All I could do is chuckle to myself.  It will be years before she regains rest!

When you have kids, you kiss sleep goodbye.  People I work with say I’m an early bird and the truth is I’m a night owl.  Unfortunately, being a night owl and having kids doesn’t work well.

When they are tiny they need feeding.  I’m all for breastfeeding, as it gave me more sleep.  My poor wife, however, was not as fortunate. 

As the kids get older, they start waking you up…to spend time with them.  While it conflicts with sleep, I found this to be one of the nicer times with the kids….watching cartoons in bed.

As they reach school age, school and weekend activities drive the schedule.  Going out on a “school night” takes on a whole different meaning…it begins to mean something to parents, too.

Middle school brings activities to a whole new level.  Plays, clubs, sports…all combine into a time sucking, sleep depriving time.

Once they reach driving age, you might think sleep returns.  To the contrary…the kids are out on the road and you can’t sleep until they return home.  You have to keep one ear open to make sure they are home safely.  This behavior is irrational; if something terrible were to happen being awake wouldn’t prevent it.  Yet most parents do this.

When they go to college, “out of sight, out of mind” comes into play.  Sleep patterns do slowly return. 

Of course, these patterns are interrupted when they come home from college, as the dog will bark, they garage door opener will wake you, etc.  The kids are not doing anything wrong; it’s just the noises of the house wake you up.

This is why I contend older people sleep so much.  They are making up for lost sleep time.

What are your experiences?