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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Change in the nighttime routine.

For a couple of weeks now, Mira has been waking up in the middle of the night.  From the time she was about two and a half months right up to four months old, she had been going to bed around 10pm and waking around 7am and sleeping all the way through.  But for the last two weeks or so, she'll wake up once around 3am.  And now for the past few days, her bedtime has become gradually earlier and earlier until today when she went to bed at 8pm.  But her wake up time has stayed constant at 7am.  

I've read that this happens very commonly: where the baby goes through a period of sleeping all the way through the night at a young age, and then later starts having midnight wakings.  

So I'm not sure if I should be working on cutting out that midnight waking.  On one hand, getting out of bed in the middle of the night is kind of obnoxious.  And I certainly don't want it to get worse to where she's up more than once each night.  But on the other hand, it's actually really nice to have her go to bed this early.  And if that means that I have to get up once for 20 minutes in the middle of the night in order to have an extra 2 hours each evening baby-free, then I think I'm happy to make that trade-off.  

I just really really really don't want it to get any worse (aka, more frequent midnight wakings).  And I'm wondering if I'm doing the right thing by immediately addressing her needs when she wakes up in the middle of the night.  I've started waiting a few minutes: I'll hear her stirring, but she's not yet agitated so I'll give her some time to see if she'll put herself back to sleep.  She usually won't and when I can tell that she's working herself up to crying, then I'll go in and change her if needed and then nurse her back to sleep.  

Personally, I don't believe in the cry-it-out method.  I want Mira to have complete trust in me and know that I will always be there for her.  So that route is not an option.  But I wonder if maybe I should not be nursing her back to sleep.  She sometimes seems to rely too much on nursing in order to fall asleep, and sometimes she's so tired in the middle of the night that she just takes a few sucks and then falls right back to sleep.  So that makes me think that maybe I should try to just rock and pat her when she wakes in the middle of the night.  But for sure, nursing is the fastest way to get her back down, so it's so easy to just do whatever gets me back in bed fastest.  

Eh.... I'm sure that if I'm not messing her up in this manner, then there is some other thing that I am doing to ensure that she'll have lifelong mental scarring.  So maybe I should just quit worrying and do what comes naturally (which is what I've been doing up to this point).  


Donna Kinney said...

Welcome to Motherhood - the state of eternal guilt!

FWIW, my sense is that she's too young to be really worrying about this, or trying to reduce night-time waking. You definitely could be right that she is really not hungry - just checking to see if you are there. But I don't see any harm at all in nursing as reassurance (at THIS age). Most importantly because it works! So far you've got a SUPER happy baby - partly because you do respond to her so quickly and effectively.

I don't think nursing at night (even more than once) can cause lifelong mental scarring until some time after the age of 2.

Marcy said...

First of all, can I comment on how truly A-MA-ZING it is that you have a 4 month old that only wakes once at night? ; )

An online friend of mine has been working on sleep-training her baby the past few months. She was also very anti-cry it out so was trying the no-cry sleep solution tips but they weren't working. Then she found this book called the Sleepeasy solution (or something like that) and she said that's worked like a charm. Apparently that method revolves around a consistent bedtime routine-- that in popular culture we know to have a "routine" but that most are not long enough or effective enough to really get a baby ready to sleep well, and the book goes over how long it needs to be and what kinds of activities to incorporate. So, if you're interested, that might be something to look into.

If she only sucks for a minute and goes right back to sleep, then yeah she might not be hungry. If she actually eats, she may be needing the nutrition. And, as so often happens in motherhood, it's often so hard to tell which is "right" or "true." I will say that I think the way babies sleep, while partially influenced by parents, has SO MUCH MORE to do with them, their unique temperament and habits, and we kinda just go along for the ride. Also, I honestly believe there is very little we can do at this age to permanently scar them as long as we're attentive and nurturing the majority of the time. Certainly her waking schedule now, or whether you nurse her back to sleep or not, will not scar her.

I could be wrong, but most everything I remember reading said to basically take the "by whatever means necessary" motto to sleep for the first 6+ months, meaning do whatever gets everyone the most sleep. If that means nursing back to sleep, if it means sleeping in the same bed, if it means doing 10 jumping jacks together, whatever-- just do it. No need to worry about the rest of it yet (instead you might wanna watch out for all the sleep-deprived moms who are secretly plotting to switch babies with you so they can get a decent night's sleep).

Marcy said...

I did have another thought overnight-- you could potentially try doing a "dream feed" (where you'd go in and feed her, say around 10pm, while she's still half-asleep to help get her through the night. I personally was never a big fan of that method for a few reasons, but have also known many people who swore by it and it seemed to be the only reason their kid slept in till 7am instead of waking up at 3.

(all the above - in both comments- aside, I've found that most of the time, doing what comes naturally tends to be the best option)