Are babies/toddlers/kids born good sleepers or do we help guide them into being great or horrible sleepers? I don't have the answer to that, but I do have a theory.
With Jasper, I thought we got pretty lucky. He was a good sleeper from the start. We didn't do anything special, we just got lucky and he was sleeping for 4-5 hr stretches by the time we got home from the hospital, and by 4 months was sleeping 12 hrs at night. He just turned 5 and he's still sleeping 11-12 hrs at night (with a daily 1.5-2 hr nap- don't hate me!!)
Pure luck I thought.
In February I bought and read Bringing up Bebe and read it over a weekend. I found myself really identifying a lot with the way the french parent. Maybe it's because I grew up in Sweden and I think they do a lot of things quite similar.
There's a chapter about sleeping, and how the American (author) living in France can't believe how all the babies are sleeping through the night so early on and her baby definitely isn't. She does a lot of research to figure out what it is the French are doing differently because obviously it can't be a coincidence that all these French babies are amazing sleepers so early on.
What they do differently is pausing. When a baby wakes up in the middle of the night, instead of reaching for baby immediately, just take a pause. Give her a minute to see if she's going to fully wake up. Often babies will half way wake up in between sleep cycles, but just because they are grunting and whining/fussing doesn't mean they are fully awake. But you rushing over, turning on a light and picking her up will obviously wake her up completely.
As I was reading this chapter a light bulb when off in my head. That's what I had done with Jasper. Except I didn't even realize I did it because to me it just made so much sense. I paused, listened to him and let him tell ME if he really was ready to wake up and eat. If his fussiness turned to full on cries, then he would be immediately fed.
This time around, I did the same thing. At about a month or so. The first few weeks I fed her basically the first time she made a peep. Mainly because I had completely forgotten about the book and 'the pause.'
Our middle of the night routine was that T would fuss, actually she would grunt. She would GRUNT and I would wake up (such a light sleeper) and wake up Drew to go get her a bottle. I was pumping before bed and giving her bottles during her late night feedings, mainly because of my c section it was such an ordeal to get out of bed. It was just easier to feed her a bottle of breast milk while laying down then putting myself through even more pain by getting myself up sitting fully up and propped up and trying to get a babe to latch on at 2 AM.
By the time her bottle was warmed up (took a few minutes because we just put the cold bottle in a glass of hot water) half the time she would already be back asleep just by me holding and rocking her waiting for her milk to be ready. Would I put her back down in her bassinet and let her sleep till she woke up again? Nope. I was fully awake with a bottle that was ready, so I would wake her up and feed her.
After a few weeks of that that little light bulb went off in my fuzzy, over tired mind. If she's able to fall asleep in just 5 min. of me rocking her, she probably doesn't need that bottle too badly.
So, from then on, when Tindra would wake up around 2 AM (after falling asleep around 10) I would wait a few minutes. Wait and see if the grunting turned into fully waking up. That grunting lasted over an hour till 3 when she would finally wake up and want to eat. The grunting she was doing was not her awake, it was just being a loud sleeper in the process of waking up.
So that's how we eliminated the 2 AM feeding and moved it to three. Before this she was waking up at 2 and 4 and 7. After this she was only waking up at 3 and 7.
I let this go on for a few weeks, then decided to do what I had done with Jasper when I was trying to get him to sleep through the night.
When She would wake up, usually at 3 on the DOT(, seriously how does that happen?!? ) I would pick her up, put the pacifier in (she refuses to sleep with one) and rock her for a few minutes. She would fall asleep and I would lay her back down in her bassinet (okay sometimes she would fall asleep on my arm and would stay there.) She would then usually wake up 20-30 min. later to eat. And I would feed her.
But just delaying it a tiny bit each night, 10, 15, 20 min, within a week or two she wasn't waking up to eat till 4:30-5. And now at 15 weeks she wakes up to eat around 5 or 6. Sometimes not till 6:30! (Just to point out, it's just a myth that formula fed babies sleep through the night earlier because T was sleeping through the night earlier than Jasper who was on formula full time by 6 weeks and T will randomly get 2 oz mixed in with formula but will go 2 weeks with out a drop of formula and it doesn't make a difference in how she sleeps.)
Was it more work to work with her a little bit and rock her and soothe her instead of just quickly feeding her? Yes it was. Those weeks I got a lot less sleep than if I was just feeding her and going back to bed instead of listening to her grunt (while asleep) for an hour or rocking her just to have her wake up 20 min later, but it was So worth it! Not only for myself to get that extra sleep at night, but for Tindra to get such awesome sleep at night.
She is seriously THE happiest baby I've ever met in my life, and I do think getting the sleep she NEEDS has played a huge part in that.
So I obviously still don't know for sure if awesome sleeping babies are born or if with the right techniques and tools all babies can be taught and learn to become great sleepers. But my theory is that with the right tools, knowledge and some work, babies and toddlers (and apparently kindergartners!!) can learn how to get the sleep their bodies and minds so desperately need.
Thoughts? Do you think some babies are just naturally born great sleepers and others aren't?
*I'm almost afraid to post this and have T start sleeping really horribly from now on and have my theory go completely up in smoke.