Our Bittersweet New Nighttime Routine

Our Bittersweet New Nighttime Routine

Until four days ago, nursing has been such a prominent part of our nighttime routine. Paulie loves to nurse, and I love to nurse him; and he shows no interest in weaning–which is perfectly fine by me. I absolutely love every moment of extended nursing. However, because Paul has been exhibiting tooth decay on his top front four baby teeth for months with no signs of improvement; we decided it was best to wean Paul off of his bedtime nursing. Nursing is not causing his teeth to decay, but my inability to clean his teeth properly after he falls asleep is causing the sugar from the milk to harm his teeth. In addition, Paul did not start taking any fluoride supplements to help strengthen his teeth until he was 16 months old.

Previously, the bedtime routine was as follows:

1. Brushing his teeth with all natural fluoride free toothpaste after dinner.

2. Taking a bath.

3. Putting on PJs.

4. Preparing his room for bedtime; covering the window, turning on his noise dome and air purifier; and bringing the fan into his room.

5. Mama and dada reading bedtime stories while he sits on our laps until Paul was ready to nurse.

6. Paul says goodnight to dada and nurses with mama until he falls asleep.

7. Paul slept from 8pm to 6am.

 

Now, steps 5 – 8 have changed:

5. Mama puts Paul in the crib with his bedtime bottle full of purified water.

6. Mama and dada read stories to Paul while he is in his crib.

7. Mama says goodnight and dada lays next to the crib either reading or singing songs until Paul falls asleep.

8. Paul currently sleeps from 8pm to 4 am and nurses from 4am to 6pm.

On the first night, I tried to put him in his crib and give him the opportunity to fall asleep on his own without me in the room. He ended up calling for me for a half hour until he fell asleep; but then slept awfully for the rest of the night. He woke up with a night terror an hour after falling asleep; which I attribute to him knowing he was alone when he fell asleep.

For the last three nights, I put him in his crib and papa reassured him he was going to stay. Paul didn’t cry but he kept calling out for me. On nights two and three, he rejected the water, but accepted and drank the water tonight. Under this new routine, he has been sleeping from 8pm to 4am and then nursing from 4am to 6am. Since he drank his bottle of water tonight, i’m expecting him to sleep through to 6am tonight.

The change in the nighttime routine has caused him to nurse more frequently during the day. We were only nursing three times a day; morning, before nap, and before bed. Over the last four days, he has been nursing frequently and for longer durations; so we have been having lots of daytime cuddles =)

I knew for some time (about a month) from the Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Program that Paul was ready to sleep in his crib; but he preferred to nurse to sleep. While I am happy his teeth will improve, I wanted Paul to wean himself off of bedtime nursing. The abrupt change has also been difficult for me, since I loved spending these last wonderful minutes of his day watching him relax while gazing into my eyes until he drifted off into a comfortable sleep.

This change is bittersweet; and while it happened prematurely and I am sad about it– I have 18 beautiful months of bedtime nursing memories to treasure =)

UPDATE: On the fourth night, after drinking his bottle of water, he slept from 8pm to 6am. =)

Is There Really An Issue With Sleep Training?

Good afternoon and happy Friday! =D

If you are a parent who strongly agrees with nighttime parenting or sleep training, then this proposal is for you.

As I was driving home from my son’s most recent doctors visit, I was overwhelmed with so many emotions after his pediatrician told me that I should consider sleep training my baby. At first, my thoughts revolved around the notion that sleep training contradicts my beliefs on nighttime parenting; but after much reflection, I found that notion to be false. Lets define the purpose of nighttime parenting and sleep training.

Nighttime Parenting: Parenting a child by engaging in any activity that the child needs for him to build enough security to fall asleep.

Sleep TrainingTeaching your child the skills needed to sooth himself to sleep.

I completely agree with both of these definitions; and if I agree, then why is it that I have rejected sleep training? Well, what I have come to realize is that I have not rejected sleep training; but rather the current commonly used sleep training methods available. The methods that I have encountered:

  1. contradict my intuitive responses.
  2.  are not individualized to my baby’s needs.
  3. often do not consider teethingseparation anxiety and developmental milestones.
  4.  do not regard nighttime parenting as essential. Many babies need to be parented to sleep and parented back to sleep.

The goal of sleep training is to teach children the skills required to successfully self-sooth; and helping them learn these skills involves nighttime parenting, time, patience, practice, and trial and error. This is why I am proposing a new option that combines nighttime parenting and sleep training; what I have named the Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Guidelines. Thus far, I have not encountered any sleep training program that offers suggestions on how to help parents create an individualized sleep training program for their child. As an early childhood educator, to ensure that every student succeeds academically, teachers must individualize lesson plans based on two very important considerations: the skills that each child has already mastered; and the best way to foster each child’s strengths and needs. The same principles should apply to sleep training. The sleep training methods currently available will be successful when using them for children who have a specific type of temperament; but there is a whole population of children who are not accommodated for. If you are looking for another option, follow the Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Guidelines below.

Before creating a Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Program:

  1. Set realistic expectations for your child. This program is not meant to be a quick solution. This is a gradual process based on a program that caregivers will design to meet the needs of their child. Remember to be flexible; remain patient; smile; stay positive; and praise even the smallest progress.
  2. The goal is to teach children the skills needed to self sooth. 
  3. Nighttime parenting is required.
  4. Answer the following questions:
    • What is your child’s temperament? (i.e. easy going? strong-willed?)
    • Is your child able to communicate when he is hungry, has a soiled diaper, or needs comfort?
    • What self soothing skills has your child mastered? (i.e. sucking on fingers? sucking on toes? placing pacifier in own mouth?)
      • if the child has mastered self soothing skills, do these actions actually sooth the baby?
    • How is your child currently soothed to sleep? (i.e. breastfeeding? bottle? rocking? singing?)
      • What are his sleep associations?
    • Where does your child currently sleep? (i.e. crib? co-sleeping?)
    • How does your child react when he is placed in the crib? (i.e. happy? reluctant?)
    • Do you have a nighttime routine in place?
    • Is your child ready for sleep training?
      • How do you know?
    • Is your child teething?
    • Is your child about to reach any developmental milestones?
    • Is your child experiencing separation anxiety?
    • Any other considerations about your child before sleep training?
    • What is the end goal for your child? (i.e. sleep in crib all night? sleep in crib half the night?)
  5. Revisit and reflect on the answers to these questions daily to note and address any changes. 

Creating an Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Program:

  1. Establish a bedtime routineA calm and predictable bedtime routine helps children transition into a sleepy state.
  2. Help the child create positive associations with the crib. This may take time. Place your child in the crib and immediately provide verbal praise. Then partake in a reinforcing activity such as reading a book or engaging in fun social interactions. Do the activity for as long as the child will tolerate it. The goal is to gradually increase the time spent in the crib until the child intrinsically enjoys it. If the child spends only a second in the crib today; aim for a second a half tomorrow.
  3. Determine whether your child is ready for sleep training. After the bedtime routine is established and the positive associations have been created with the crib, determine whether your child is developmentally ready for sleep training by reflecting on your answers to the above questions.
  4. Transfer or establish positive sleep associations. If a child is accustomed to sleep associations involving parental support such as nursing or rocking, then these dependent sleep associations need to be slowly replaced with other sleep associations independent from you. When deciding what type of sleep associations to replace established ones with; ask yourself “how is my child currently soothed to sleep?” This will help guide you when choosing new associations. For example, if you decide to replace nursing with a security item, such as a blanket or a toy, then this blanket or toy needs to be used during every nursing session until the child associates the item with the nursing experience.This process will take time and will involve trial and error. Just remember to work on replacing one sleep association at a time.
  5. Slowly Fade Away. After the new sleep associations are successfully created and the child has developed a positive association with the crib, it is time to slowly fade your presence. This will also take time.
  6. Give your child the support he needs. Even if your child has made progress, expect there to be nights when he needs extra nighttime parenting. Do not do the program when your child is about to reach a developmental milestone or on nights that your child is experiencing teething pain, separation anxiety, or insecurities; rather, focus on providing your child with the comfort that you are fully present when he needs you.
  7. Provide lots of positive verbal and physical reinforcement. Make the nighttime routine a positive experience to encourage the development of a positive attitude towards transitioning into a sleep state and staying asleep.

If you strongly agree with nighttime parenting or sleep training and have not yet discovered a sleep training method that works for you; follow these guidelines to create a successful Individualized Nighttime Parenting Sleep Training Program for your child.

Thank you for reading! I hope you have a happy Friday! =D

An Alternative to Sleep Training

Good afternoon and happy Sunday! In my most recent post, I discussed some of the reasons why my son may be awakening so frequently throughout the night. The two most common approaches that are used to address babies who awaken frequently throughout the night are sleep training and nighttime parenting. As a mother to a 9 month old boy, I accepted that the  sleep training methods that are currently available, which are effective for some babies, would not be beneficial for my son. Nighttime parenting addresses the individual needs of my son as well as fosters my maternal intuitive responses. As an advocate for breastfeeding nighttime parenting values the benefit of nursing for comfort. Here is my approach:

1. I respond to him when he cries. Nonverbal babies cry as a way to signal that they want or need their caregivers. The benefits of responding are:

  • the baby develops security that his caregivers will always come when he needs them.
  • a baby’s cry stimulates a hormone called prolactin in the mother. This hormone sends a biological response to the mother to pick up and nurse (for nutrition or comfort) her baby.

2. I parent him back to sleep. After I respond to him, I determine what support he needs to go back to sleep. I support him by nursing him, rocking him, holding him, wearing him, singing to him, or co-sleeping with him. The benefits of parenting him back to sleep are:

3. I enjoy the extra time that I have with him. These frequent nighttime awakenings are temporary. Sooner than later, he will no longer require my support to parent him back to sleep; at least to this extent. While I have the opportunity, I am embracing every moment that I have with him.

Nighttime parenting supports my maternal intuitive responses; it considers that physical and developmental factors (such as teethingdevelopmental milestones, and separation anxiety) may be contributing to the frequency of his awakenings; and the flexibility of this method allows me to individualize support based on my son’s needs. I find that using this approach truly makes nighttime parenting a wonderful experience.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a happy Sunday! =D

Baby Not Sleeping Through the Night? These May Be the Reasons Why.

Good afternoon and happy Friday! As a mother to a 9 month old, I have become happily accustomed to sleepless nights. My son consistently falls asleep around 7:00 pm and awakes around 6:30 am, but he requires nighttime parenting to fall asleep and to stay asleep. After he falls asleep, he wakes up every hour and half to two hours throughout the night. What is causing him to wake up so often? Since he does not have an underlying medical issue, here are the possible physical and developmental reasons for his frequent awakenings:

  1. Teething. My son has been teething since he was 3 months old, and he is still teething. Signs of teething include excessive drool and fussiness. There are over the counter pain relievers such as Orajel and Highlands Teething Tablets; but I have chosen not to give them to my son. Orajel contains benzocaine which is a numbing agent that could cause serious complications; and I discontinued using Highlands Teething Tablets after they were recalled by the FDA on September 30th, 2016.
  2. Separation Anxiety. At 3 months old, my son began exhibiting signs of separation anxiety. Our pediatrician confirmed that separation anxiety can begin as early as 3 months and will peak around 8 months–which was right on target!
  3. Developmental Milestones. At 3 months, my son began trying to sit up. Soon after, he began to practice rolling over, sitting up, crawling, kneeling, etc.  Babies practice new skills even in their sleep, causing them to wake up frequently.

Since my son was born, I have come across many sleep training websites. After reading through them, they all agree that there are two main reasons why babies do not fall asleep on their own and why do not stay asleep throughout the night. The first reason is because of a baby’s inability to self sooth; and the second reason is because of a baby’s dependency on negative sleep associations. Here are my issues with sleep training:

  1. They may contradict a mother’s intuitive responses.
  2. They are not individualized to each baby’s needs.
  3. Teething, separation anxiety and developmental milestones are not considered.
  4. For many babies, nighttime parenting is essential. Many babies need to be parented to sleep and parented back to sleep.

If there are no underlying medical issues; teething, separation anxiety, and developmental milestones may be some of the reasons contributing to a baby’s frequent nighttime awakenings.

I would love for you to comment and share how you approach frequent nighttime awakenings =D

Thank you for reading! I hope you have a happy Friday =D

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