I am obsessed with Lottie’s sleeps. You’ll probably agree with me on this because you will have seen that I’ve been writing about sleep in pretty much every one of my posts on this blog. Those readers who have small babies will agree that sleep does become all-consuming. It’s fair to generalise and say that when you and your baby are getting enough sleep, nothing else matters. And when you’re not getting enough sleep, nothing else matters. Sure, you might say ‘but surely the health of your baby is what is most important’, to which I would say ‘if my baby is sleeping and putting on weight, she is clearly a healthy baby as if she wasn’t, she wouldn’t sleep well’. See why sleep is so important!
As you also would have noticed already on this blog, I have found two books really useful for eating and sleeping routines, following a ‘parent-led’ method of caring for my baby. The books are Tizzie Hall’s Save our Sleep and Brian Symon’s Silent Nights. The following review of these books outlines what I have found useful and not so useful when trying out their respective sleep advice.
Tizzie Hall – Save Our Sleep
Tizzie Hall’s book Save Our Sleep provides set routines, including set schedules, for feeding and sleeping patterns across a range of baby ages.
I will admit right up front that during the day I find Tizzie’s schedules really difficult to follow. This is because it’s not as the book makes it sound to swaddle your six week old and put her down in her cot at 8.15am on the dot and then to have her sleep for two and a half hours like a clockwork baby. Don’t get me wrong; it would be great if I could achieve the recommended schedule and stick to it all day. I’m sure there are parents who achieve this, and good luck to them. However, for the time being, I’m just not one of them.
Mostly the problem I have is getting Lottie to sleep quickly without spending a lot of time either letting her self-settle or resorting to helping her to get to sleep through parent intervention such as motion in the pram, carrier, driving in the car or my new favourite last resort when all else has failed and she’s overtired; feeding her to sleep on the boob (feel free to judge me, but know that I’ve only done this twice). The times that I have spent up to two hours or more trying to get Lottie to sleep in the day, it’s time to feed her again and lo and behold I’ve missed an entire sleep so Tizzie’s schedule is out the window and I’m beside myself wondering if Lottie will ever sleep again.
The other problem I find I have with Tizzie’s advice is that Lottie often doesn’t sleep for as long as the schedule recommends. So if she wakes after one hour, but the schedule says she should be asleep for two and a half hours, there is not much practical advice about what to do in this situation when things don’t go to plan. Tizzie recommends trying to get your baby back to sleep by putting them in the pram and going out for a walk etc. However I find that once Lottie wakes from a day sleep, she’s usually ready for a feed and not remotely interested in going back to sleep. I know this sounds like I’m giving in to a napping and snacking scenario, but to be honest I’ve found there’s not much I can do about this situation for day sleeps except to continue to work on them, which is a daily struggle. So even though Tizzie’s routines with fixed schedules do provide a nice ideal to work towards, so far I’m finding them an unattainable pipe dream. Especially when you take into account how difficult it is to achieve consistent sleep times through self-settling when you’re sleep training. Once the self-settling has failed, say after 30 minutes, your baby gets overtired. So not only is the schedule out, but sometimes the whole day is possibly a mess as getting an overtired baby to sleep, and to stay asleep, is stressful and really time consuming.
This review might make it sound like I’m not appreciative of Tizzie’s advice, so let me make it clear that even though I’m a bit disillusioned about day sleeps, I am incredibly grateful for Tizzie’s schedule/routine advice for night routines. For one thing, I am finding self-settling does work for some day sleeps so it’s clearly a really important skill for Lottie to learn, and I’m dedicated to stick with the training. But the other reason I am grateful for Tizzie’s advice is because, for the past couple of weeks, I’ve been getting up to 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night through Tizzie’s night time advice. This includes the wonderful idea of a dream feed, which, coupled with a 7 o’clock bedtime and 7 o’clock waking time, is working, well, like a dream, for Lottie, and for me and my husband.
Basically the dream feed is mastering the art of feeding your baby while they are still asleep to save them from waking up hungry and demanding a feed. I’m currently doing the dream feed with expressed milk because I find this easier than dream feeding on the boob; she latches fine to one boob but I struggle to get her on the other boob without waking her up. My husband has also been giving Lottie I dream feed bottle regularly which gives me the chance to have even more sleep. Go team! Note that I do have to be careful to express milk right before I go to bed to make sure I don’t reduce my supply, but this is fine as long as I work this into my evening routine. And if I don’t have time to express, I just breastfeed for the dream feed instead.
After the dream feed, Lottie wakes and demands a feed around 2am or 3am. This is the only time I now have to get up overnight as she then mostly sleeps through to morning and either wakes around 7am or is woken up at 7am to start the day at a consistent time, as per Tizzie’s suggestion. I know I I’m really lucky that Lottie has worked out that at night she should be sleeping longer and going straight back to sleep after a feed. I’m feeling great now that I’m not so sleep deprived! I also know this amazing sleeping through the night thing might not last forever and could go haywire at any moment. But for the time being I’m enjoying getting a lot of sleep which leaves me refreshed and ready to deal with the challenges of the day sleeps. Lottie has been bright and happy in the mornings so she’s clearly chuffed with the sleeping overnight too. So like most things with babies, I’m taking the good with the bad and using the parts of Tizzie’s book that work for me, while not getting upset that the daytime sleep schedules aren’t nearly as easy as the book makes them sound. It’s taken a little while for my control-freak personality to reach this acceptance. But I keep reminding myself that as long as Lottie is getting enough sleep (which at her age is recommended to be 15-18 hours a day), and as long as she’s happy and putting on weight, and we’re not getting into too much of a snacking and napping routine, then all is well.
I will also acknowledge that Tizzie’s advice is working wonders in regards to the importance of self-settling by putting Lottie to sleep drowsy but awake in the same place she is going to wake up. Also, Tizzie’s swaddling (love the Save Our Sleep Double Wrap), comforter and blankets and room temperature advice is spot on. Particularly for 7pm bedtime, including the bath routine, Tizzie’s method of getting all your ducks in a row and letting baby self-settle is definitely working for me.
Dr Brian Symon – Silent Nights
One thing I should mention is that I’ve realised that when you find a baby advice book which seems to make sense to you and you decide to give its methods a try, it’s a good idea to keep referring back to it. I’ve just done this with Brian Symon’s book as when I first read it, Lottie wasn’t old enough for much of it to be relevant. However on re-reading, I’ve found that there are some gold nuggets which are really helping with my situation now that Lottie is almost seven weeks old.
So recapping where we’re at: Lottie is sleeping well at night with a stretch of 7-8 hours’ sleep, including a dream feed at 10pm. Then she has a shorter stretch of around 4-5 hours to get us through to morning after feeding at around 2 – 3am. However, as good as the night sleep is, the day sleeps are still a problem – including both getting Lottie to sleep in the day and avoiding over tiredness and keeping her asleep for longer than a cat nap.
The advice in Brian’s book is that once night sleeps are under control, the next most difficult sleep to sort out is morning sleeps, followed by afternoon sleeps. This made me feel much better as I felt like I wasn’t alone in the ‘why can’t I sort out day sleeps’ dilemma and that eventually if I persist, they will work themselves out. I might be delusional, but new mums need hope!
The thing I like about Brian’s advice is that he doesn’t make it sound like you can just click your fingers and magically make your baby go to sleep whenever you want them to. For instance, he acknowledges that leaving your baby to self-settle for more than 45 minutes for a day sleep is just not practical, so after this fails, he advises to get your baby up and find another method to get them to sleep, but to try self-settling again next time. I have found this much more practical than just assuming self-settling will work for every sleep. I’ve also found that avoiding over-tiredness is more important than achieving a self-settled sleep so sometimes you have to do whatever you can to get your baby to sleep, even if it does mean letting them go to sleep while breastfeeding or driving around and around and around and around (avoiding main roads with traffic lights so you never have to stop).
Brian also advocates a routine (which is basically eat, play, sleep), but is very flexible in the amount of time between feeds and the length of sleeps. I really like his concept of ‘happy wake time’ which encourages you to keep your baby up between sleeps as long as they are happy, but when you spot any sign that they are tired, to put them down. I am still learning Lottie’s tired signs; some are obvious like yawning but others are easy to mistake for wind, such as grizzling and arching her back. But my sister, who has a 4 month old, tells me that as Lottie gets older, her tired signs will get much more obvious, such as rubbing her eyes and sucking her thumb. Brian also suggests to look out for ‘blended’ behaviours which are signs of tiredness that signal it’s time for a day sleep. This type of behaviour, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, is easy to mistake for something else. It’s basically when your baby is oscillating between happy and smiling or laughing one second, and whinging the next. My sister’s four month old exhibits this blended behaviour pretty much every time he’s tired so we’ve all learned how to recognise when he’s demanding a sleep. This is what I would call Brian Symon’s day time sleep method; sleeping on demand, with the ‘demand’ being the tired signs when your baby reaches the end of ‘happy wake time’. I can vouch for the fact that if you’re able to spot this window of tiredness before it becomes over-tiredness, self-settling is much easier, and quicker and the whole world seems like a happier place.
The main reason I’m much more comfortable with Brian’s more flexible routine methods is because I’m finding that there is no consistency from one day to the next, or even from one sleep to the next, as to how long Lottie sleeps and how long she is able to be awake between sleeps. For instance, in Brian’s book, he says that once your baby is sleeping longer at night (as Lottie is now), her first sleep of the day might come much quicker than you expect. This seems irrational, because you would think after such a good night sleep, the first sleep of the day would be later rather than earlier. But I’m finding this advice is spot on for Lottie – she shows tired signs an hour after she wakes up after a long night time stretch and so I have to feed her, play for a short period and put her back down quickly to avoid over-tiredness in the morning. But by afternoon, she’s happy to be awake a bit longer, and there is no consistency about exactly how long she sleeps – sometimes it’s 45 minutes to an hour, sometimes 2-3 hours. And unlike Tizzie advises, I don’t wake her up when she’s having a day sleep as it’s usually such a struggle to get her to sleep, I find it hard to see a good reason to wake her! I’m assuming it’s a good idea to wake a baby in the day if they’re sleeping for so long that they’re confusing day time for night time. But Lottie isn’t at this point so I see no reason to wake her.
So just to recap, I’m basically using Tizzie’s schedule for night time sleep, as well as her bedding and self-settling advice, as well as using Brian Symon’s ‘what to do when self-settling doesn’t work’ method, and his ‘sleep on demand’ advice for day sleeps. It’s not easy doing sleep on demand when you’re out and about, or when you’re distracted by visitors or need to be at an appointment at a particular time. But it’s a skill that I’m trying to learn to make day sleeps more manageable and I’m really confident that this is the best way to get Lottie’s day sleeps working for us both. Note, I also assume the sleep on demand thing is difficult for babysitters who aren’t used to spotting tired signs and would also be difficult for a child care centre to accommodate once I’m back at work. However, I’m hoping that eventually, and before child care, Lottie’s day time sleeps will become more routine and fit a more obvious pattern or schedule. I might be being optimistic about this, but I will persevere and as usual, I will keep you updated on progress.
Final tip: Out of interest, I dictated most of this post to a notes page on my iPhone while Lottie had a one hour nap on my front this afternoon. Just in case you’re wondering how I fit this baby blog around the management of Lottie’s inconsistent day sleeps, this is one piece of technology I have discovered comes in very handy when you’re trying to multitask with a sleeping baby. Thanks for your help Siri!