Monday, July 14, 2008

The 11 hour miracle

When Zari was four months old, my mom started asking me, "so is she sleeping through the night yet?" I laughed. Not even close. In fact, over the past 20 months of her life she's woken up every few hours at night, every night. The newborn stage was actually the easiest of all for me. She'd sleep like a log, nurse, and fall right back asleep again and not even stir in between. It's actually been the later months that have been very difficult, when she would wake up every hour or two and need to nurse back to sleep every single time. Or when she'd crawl or roll around in her sleep.

So imagine my surprise when we arrived in France and she started sleeping long stretches: 6 or 7 hours. I usually put her to bed by 9 pm and she'd often sleep until 3 or 4 am. At that point I'd bring her into bed with us, nurse her back to sleep, and she'd sleep again until 7 or 8 am (maybe nursing once during that time when it first got light out).

Then last night happened. She slept for 11 hours straight, from 9 pm to 8 am. It was such a surprise that I was actually awake from about 4 am on, waiting for her to wake up!

I don't know what it is I'm doing, or not doing, but this is amazing. The only factors I can isolate:

1) I have a fan going while she sleeps (no A/C here in France, so a fan is a must). Perhaps the white noise helps.

2) She starts out in another bedroom, rather than in a crib in our own bedroom like we'd do at home. Perhaps we were waking her up (even though we were extra careful at home to be super quiet).

3) We are always doing something here and she is worn out with all of the physical activity. We go the park at least once every day, we walk all over town, we play ball, we go to the beach, we swim in a blow-up kiddie pool, we play with the students and short, she's always moving and playing. At home, we did a lot more sitting around the house.


  1. Rixa,

    You know I admire you. I think you're fantastic.

    But this. This just kills me -- or it would, if one of my kids reached 20 months without sleeping through the night.

    I don't understand why (seemingly-to-me-extreme) potty "training" in the form of EC is desirable starting at (6 weeks was it?) while sleep "training" is apparently another word for water-boarding.

    I sleep train my kids a la Dr. Weissbluth, and they sleep through the night around 3 months, if not earlier. That's with pretty good-size birth weights (9.3, 7.13, etc) and 100% breastfeeding.

    Just -- Why? Why would you live like that? I would be needing some serious Prozac. Or green tea. I don't know.


    Your let-me-sleep-or-die friend,


  2. That is awesome--so wonderful to have sleep. I noticed with my children too, that when we are on vacation or in a different place that they sleep like logs. The white noise also makes a HUGE difference with them.

    What a cutie--looks like you're having a great time in France!

  3. EC isn't potty training, it's following a child's natural cues that already exist rather than enforcing something of your own will.

    Rosie doesn't sleep through the night either, she wakes up crying in her sleep. I have finally figured out that she wakes up because she has to pee. The problem is, she won't wake up fully to go to the bathroom. If you try to take her at night she gets hysterical. So she still has to wear a diaper over night, and she still wakes up and fusses. I guess she will grow out of it at some point.

    I hope your long stretches of sleep continue!!

  4. Shannon,
    It's not that I deliberately tried to make her wake up every 3 hours for 20 months. I have friends who basically do the same things I did, and some of their babies slept through the night at 6-8 weeks, while others didn't until they were 2 years old. I don't know about Dr. W's method so I can't comment on that, but I don't see how I could have changed much (short of making her cry it out, which I refuse to do to a little baby). We've also tried other things to help her fall back asleep without nursing (cuddling, having Eric try to do it, potty, etc) and it just makes her frantic. So basically I feel like there's not a whole lot I could have done or not done--I really don't feel it's anything I had all that much control over.

    woudl write more but Zari's fussy...

  5. I have a 9-month old who is cosleeping and nursing periodically through the night. I tried Dr. Weissbluth's method (which is cold-turkey cry-it-out) for one night after our pediatrician encouraged it. That night, my husband and I learned that we are just too "soft" in our style to use such a method, and we decided that we'd rather have a couple of years of interrupted sleep rather than continue with it. So now she's in our bed full-time but I am certainly wishing for the day when she can sleep for long stretches. Like Zari, she always wants to nurse back to sleep. Any advice from others as to a gentle method for encouraging less night waking/nursing? I know that we could all benefit from more restorative sleep.

  6. Oh no, sleep training controversy arising! Quick, change the subject. The stars sure are in perfect alignment there in Nice! I second Amy: let's hope the sleepy streak continues, though there are no such guarantees :( I had the same experience with M. last summer: she slept GREAT at my parents' summer house but as soon as we moved back to their city apartment, she was waking up. Beforehand, she slept through the night in our bedroom, but when we returned in the fall, she wouldn't any more. Go figure. Who knows what that was about. Too many variables, including the child's own changing developmental phases.

    Kudos to you anyway on staying sane and functional up until now. Those of us who don't live like that seem convinced we wouldn't ever be able to cope; of course that's not true, it's just overdramatization. What we mean to say is Phew! glad it's not me! LOL.

  7. I think it is all 3 of the factors you mention. You can be quiet as a mouse and the (older) baby senses you.

    Dr. W isn't just about 'cry it out', he does give you options.

    There were also times when our baby would wake in the night (past the initial 6 months or so) and our attempts to soothe him only agitated him further. If I give him a few minutes, he learned to resettle himself.

    Enjoy your sleep!

  8. Dr. W didn't work for us, though I tried hard for 6 months. When I turned to co-sleeping, sleep for both of us was a dream... Wonderful... BUT, I did attempt to nighwean right when he was Zari's age, b/c I was planning to get pregnant, and it happened without tears. Maybe there's something magical about that age. I think there's different windows for things, like weaning and potty-training etc., and we must have hit it!

  9. I have heard the the "No-Cry Sleep Solution" by Elizabeth Pantley is a great book for helping little ones sleep, without resorting to the cry-it-out approach.

  10. My son has a similar pattern which works well for us; I rock him to sleep, and get lots of cuddles. He starts out in a toddler bed in his room at 9pm, then wakes up at 11:50pm every night, and joins us in our bed. We have a fan in our room, and he sleeps the rest of the night.
    I've tried to make falling asleep in our bed work, but if Dad's in the bed, that means playtime! Too much stimulation for him. I've also tried cry-it-out for very brief periods, but it just wasn't worth it to me. My son would get distressed, reflux, vomit, and poop in his diaper. Yikes! I say go with the flow, whatever works, but babies don't come with sleep guarantees. He's just getting over his first (middle) ear infection now, and that meant only 3 hours of sleep 3-6 am the night before last!

  11. Yay for a full night's sleep! We co-slept (or I should say, we co-SLEEP) with our first and planned on doing the same with our second. When she was 10mo old, I had a middle of the night, total mommy-meltdown. I told dh that if every night was going to be like that I couldn't do anymore children (thankfully, he knows me well and knew it was 10mo of no sleep talking and not my real desire, hehe). Well. Not to long after that, out of a desparate plea for my sanity and trying to get enough sleep to break the ppd I had developed, I put her to bed in her crib. I even, horror of horrors, let her fuss angrily about it for ten minutes. Then, mysteriously, she was silent. I checked, she was sound asleep. And for the first time ever she slep straight through from 8pm to 7am. She did that every night from then on. I realized, in retrospect, that my littlest does not sleep well with other people. Like you, her newborn phase was easiest because she would often fall asleep long before I went to bed so I would put her in her rocker-seat and there she would sleep form around 9pm until 4-5 am without waking. At that point, I'd bring her to bed and she would nurse/sleep/nurse until I got up at 8ish. But when she got old enough to be too distracted to fall asleep just anywhere, she became a nightmare to sleep with. Awake every hour, upset. I was confused because while her sister was a frequent waker, she always wanted to nurse and would go back to sleep in five minutes. Abigail would get even more angry if I offered the breast; she wanted to be asleep (and my sleep-deprived brain thought she was just an angry baby or something, lol). I did not want to bend my rigid co-sleeping stance but I learned that for my baby, she sleeps better without someone else's sleep-movements to wake her. She is a ridiculously light sleeper. She sleeps in a crib in her own room because of this (though when I'm *sure* she's asleep I open her door and mine because despite the fact we are across the hall from her, our house is so small that her bed is literally three feet away from mine). I have to be so careful, too, because when I go to check on her, I have to make sure I don't make ANY noise because she *will* wake up. Crazy, lol. I just thought all babies like to sleep nuzzled up with their mothers. I suppose if I never so much as twitched in my sleep, she would like it, but unfortunately, that's not the case, here.

  12. Yay for you! I'm glad to hear that she slept so well last night. I hope it continues.

    I have always worked with my kids to sleep through the night at between 2 and 4 months of age. When they are that young, there isn't much of a cry-it-out stage. I think a lot of it is that we would co-sleep during the newborn phase, but then we'd discover that we all slept better after that point if the baby was in a different room. I always kept the doors open so I'd be able to hear them if they started to cry, but the REM noises, grunts, and groans wouldn't wake Jon and I up.

    Even now, I'm finding that if Rachel stays in my bed after I nurse her (she starts out in her own bed and gets up to nurse part-way through the night), I am much more likely to wake up to her little noises, and try to feed her even if she isn't ready to eat. It's just my natural instinct - if baby is making noise, she must be hungry. Often, though, that isn't necessarily the case. She's just sleeping lightly before getting ready to go back into deeper sleep. It is for this reason that we put her in her own bed already. I wanted to co-sleep, but once again I found it doesn't work practically for us.

    That said, my babies usually quit sleeping through the night at about 9 or 10 months, and I nurse them back to sleep. After 4 or 5 months of this, I get tired of it and have to resort to the cry-it-out method to get them back into the habit of sleeping through the night. I am definitely going to use the commenter Rachel's suggestion of giving her a few minutes before I go in to nurse her if she starts waking up at 9-10 months. Hopefully we'll be able to prevent breaking the habit of sleeping through the night and then having to re-form it. There is nothing that feels more terrible than having to listen to a baby cry in the middle of the night, especially when they are 13-15 months old and VERY DETERMINED!

  13. Congrats, i really hope it happens again . At least you know she can do it.

    FWIW My now 3 year old was two before she slept through the night, we co-slept and she would still wake every 3 hours at the very lease for a feed. No idea what happened but she just started sleeping great, and now sleeps for 12 hours from when she first goes down .
    Also remember every child is diffrent, imagine my shock when my second child started sleeping through the night at 4 months old. I had no idea kids real done that without sleep training (i always refused to do anything)

  14. She did it again last night, so I'm hoping it sticks!

  15. Yay! I hope she continues!

  16. No controversies here, jusy happy news for you and Zari!
    Every baby is different, and every mom is at a different point in her life with each child, so what seemed cuddly and precious with one baby might seem like annoying-torture with the next.
    I know this sounds vague, hokey, and not like any real solid "advice", but after 5 babies I say this:
    If it feels good then stick with it. If and when it starts to feel bad, then try other things. Naptime can be a great time to practice putting down a child who is not asleep--somehow seems less "heartless" than at night?

    This is our last baby and I want to sleep with her forever! But maybe in a few months or years from now I will change my mind.

    also, White Noise is hugely helpful as you have found out!

  17. I have four kids and they are all so different and slept through the night at different ages. My second was such a light sleeper that I had to move her out of our room at 8 weeks, but she was sleeping a 6 hour stretch at night already so it wasn't too awful. I much prefer to co-sleep at that age though!
    I've read the No Cry Sleep Solution and she has a lot of common sense type advice which I liked. I read it with my fourth - lol. She needed a full year to really get her nap and night time sleep down. I have noticed with my babies at least, that when they start taking good naps about the same time every day that's when they usually start sleeping consistently through the night. I'm responding pretty late to this post, so I hope you and Zari are still sleeping well!


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