Monday, March 23, 2015
Sleep Solutions for Babies and Toddlers
My son has always been a terrible sleeper. Well... almost always. His sleepless nights began around the age of 2 weeks. So, close enough. When he was an infant he slept 4-6 hours PER DAY. He's gotten much better though. When he's in a good cycle, he'll sleep about 8 - 9 hours a night. And usually take about an hour nap during the day. Still a little less than the average amount of sleep for a child his age, but hey, I'll take it.
Every now and again, though, he gets into random, wacked out, [non] sleep patterns. It used to be that he would wake up between 3-4am and stay up for a good 3 hours before going back to sleep. This new pattern - that's happening now- is worse. He'll go to sleep for a couple of hours, wake up, and then not go back to sleep until 6 - 6:30am. So I'm literally up all night.
I've talked to his pediatrician about this. I haven't really gotten a solid answer as to why this happens. There's seemingly no trigger. No change in his routine. No extra "stress" or anxiety. It just randomly happens. And I end up just going with it. Because when I fight it....both my son and I end up frustrated, hanging on by a thread, and still awake despite my best efforts.
BUT there is something beneficial that has come out of this. Because my son has never been a great sleeper, my husband and I have tried many, many sleep solutions. Some have worked for a little bit. Others have been complete busts for us but may work for others. Honestly, if they make it and we've found it, we've tried it.
WARNING: Some of the solutions listed below are also controversial. The U.S. seems to outlaw items or discourage some methods because if used/done incorrectly, they can be dangerous. So, because some people did not follow instructions on how to safely practice a method (such as co-sleeping) or use a product, our market discourages its use completely. This is where you are to use your parenting discretion and speak to your child's doctor before implementing. We did our research and sought the advice of our son's pediatrician and/or specialists for each of these methods.
Now onto the different products and methods that we've run across.
This is BY FAR the most common solution. Every time we asked any pediatrician, nurse, fellow parent, or relative for advice on getting an infant to sleep, "Swaddle him," was the first thing that was recommended. So if you're reading this post... you've probably tried it. And if you've had the same experience we had with swaddling, you know the confused reaction that comes when you tell the adviser "my child doesn't like to be swaddled." My son sure didn't. He would Houdini his way out of it or scream until we unwrapped him. He still will not sleep under a blanket or sheet to this day.
Fill 'Em Up
Another popular solution. Give your child a full tummy before bedtime and it will make them sleepy. Again, doesn't really work for us. It gives our child energy. So... there goes that. But this does work for a lot of people. Make sure to burp burp burp!
Uh oh. Here is one of those controversial solutions I was talking about. We actually practice this method. Not really by choice. Before I had my son I planned on having him sleep in his crib. And I definitely planned on him sleeping in his own bed in his own room alone at this age. But... life happens. And flexibility is a must in the world of parenthood. Our co-sleeping started once my son was too big to sleep in his swing (also controversial...but hey, 4 hours a day, OK?!) and was still experiencing pain and discomfort when laying down (even at an angle - due to GI problems.) He was unable to easily move himself in order to change his position during the night, so I ended up taking him into bed with me. Whenever he would start to stir due to discomfort I would reposition him and soothe him back to sleep. And here we are almost 2 years later, I still sleep in the same bed as my son. We've always practiced safe co-sleeping and at this point, as long as he's sleeping through the night... I don't really mind it. I think I'm just so grateful to get 8 hours of sleep within a normal sleep schedule at this point that it doesn't really matter that I'm in my son's room instead of my own. We are planning on transitioning him soon, but not until we can actually get his sleep schedule normalized again.
This is an oldie but goodie. Movement to soothe your child to sleep includes using a swing and the ever popular classic - the car ride. If you read any of the warnings on the baby swings today, you will see a warning that tells you not to leave your child unattended in the swing and not to leave them in there for hours on end. So, again, use your discretion, get the advice of your child's pediatrician before deciding to use a swing to get your child to fall asleep. Many parents will watch their child fall asleep in the swing and then move them from the swing to the crib or bassinet.
Car rides have been the used as a means to lull a baby to sleep for generations. This method certainly worked for us. For a long time, it was the ONLY way to get my son to fall asleep at night. It is recommended to move your child from the car seat to their crib once the ride is over and they are fast asleep.
Fisher Price made a product that is supposed to simulate a car ride for babies. It was discontinued by the manufacturer (I'm not sure why) but can still be found on Amazon here. We never tried this product. Our son was too big for it once I ran across it.
During the day, we walked our son in a stroller. This gave me a chance to get outdoors and get some exercise while soothing my little one to sleep.
Baby Rocker Robopax DreamMover
This is a product that could go under the movement section but is so awesome that I wanted to give it its own. Is it late at night and you don't feel comfortable going for a walk with the stroller? Are you beyond exhausted and simply can't rock your little one anymore? Then you'll want this. We used it with our stroller but it can also be used with a bouncer, car seat, or infant seat. Best part is - No batteries. It plugs right into the wall and has actually come down in price over the years. Check out a video of how it works here.
Baby Sleep Positioner
This is another product that is controversial. They are no longer for sale in U.S. stores but can be found on Amazon. We all know the "back to bed" method is the recommended method for putting an infant to sleep to prevent SIDS. But, apparently, many babies are not fans of sleeping on their backs. Sleeping on the stomach tends to be more comfortable for them but is a BIG no no. Sleeping on the side is somewhere in between - both comfort and safety wise. This product is supposed to be placed at the hips to allow the baby to sleep on his side without rolling onto his stomach. We tried it. It didn't work for us. But as you can tell by the reviews on Amazon.com, many people love it.
Electronic Crib Rocker Sleeper for Crying Baby
This one was a total bust and waste of money for us. The product attaches to the crib and more or less makes the crib vibrate (not really rock.) It wasn't enough of a vibration to soothe my son and ended up being a "lesson learned" type product. Reviews are mixed. It seems to be a hit or miss.
This is a sleep solution we still use. It doesn't help my son fall asleep... but it does help him stay asleep. Before we used the sound machine (we like the "rain" setting btw) he would wake up at every little noise. The sound machine plays a constant white noise that keeps him from noticing other sounds. We use this one here. It also has a projector that may help soothe some children.
Once my son turned two, I started looking into melatonin (for kids ages 2 and up) to help break his stay up all night cycles. A natural supplement, melatonin is widely used by both adults and children. The children's dose is, of course, much lower than the adult dose. It seems to work at getting my son to fall asleep quickly... however, tonight proved that it does not keep him from waking up after a couple of hours.
RockABye Baby Lullaby Series
Music is one of the oldest and most effective ways to get a little one to drift off. Again, this is one that didn't work for us (not consistently anyway) but does work for many. The RockABye albums are popular songs turned into soothing lullaby versions that won't have parents feeling like they are losing their minds while they listen to a child's favorite track on repeat.