The Four-Month Sleep Revolution

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017

Of all the things parents come to talk to me about, the “Four-Month Sleep Regression” is one of the sleep-related issues that comes up most often. “Is my baby going through it? Will my baby go through it? How can I prevent my baby from going through it?” I find this expression deeply irritating. Changing sleep patterns around the four-month mark are normal! They cannot be a REgression because they are part of the normal PROgression from fetal/newborn sleep to baby/child sleep.However, we need to recognize that there is an important change in sleep around four months, and that it is hard on parents. So, on this 99th anniversary of the November 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, I propose that we call it the Four-Month Sleep Revolution! (And, no, having an eldest son who never slept as a baby and is now a Marxist has nothing to do with my choice of words!) Like all revolutions, this one makes a terrible mess. It disrupts what we have come to believe is the normal way of things, and changes relationships and habits. But like all successful revolutions, it also leads to new and better things. The Four Month Sleep Revolution heralds your baby’s ability to keep herself awake when life is interesting. This is an important skill your child will need when they pull an all-nighter to write an essay (or binge-watch a TV show.) It does mean that the baby does not go straight into deep sleep anymore. So you may no longer be able to do the “Sneaky Transfer” and bounce or rock your baby to sleep and then transfer them into the crib. But it also means that this is a good time to work on teaching your baby to fall sleep on the bed, not in your arms or at your breast. You don’t HAVE to teach your baby this. Many babies learn this all on their own. But for some parents, the end of the Sneaky Transfer is a motivator, an opportunity to teach a new life skill – falling asleep lying in the crib, while your parent sings Baby Beluga. For some parents this is also an ideal time to include the non-breastfeeding parent in the bedtime ritual. If the Sneaky Transfer isn’t working, then nursing the baby to sleep is no longer efficient. So maybe now, the baby can have a bed-time breastfeed and then be handed over to the other parent for lullabies and snuggles and a final pat-and-sing-to-sleep in the crib. And that is revolutionary! Someone other than the breastfeeding parent can put baby to bed! So don’t bemoan the Regression. See it as moving boldly along the path of your baby’s development. Enjoy your baby’s Four-Month Sleep Revolution! ________________ I wrote this little diatribe in November (2016) and sent it out in our Mothering Touch newsletter. Since then, many of the participants in our Baby Groups have been using the term “Sleep Revolution.” I am flattered. Recently, one of the newer participants...

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Are you ready to sleep-train your baby?

Posted by on Apr 21, 2016

Any way you do it, sleep-training your baby is going to be a lot of work. It’s going to involve some crying, and less sleep for a while. It’s going to require that you be clear, and sure, and consistent. Here is a quiz to help you decide if you are ready. Yes No ❑ ❑ Is your baby over 6 months old? ❑ ❑ Are you (or your partner or both) suffering from depression? ❑ ❑ Are you (or your partner or both) suffering from extreme sleep deprivation? ❑ ❑ Have you (or your partner or both) become angry or frustrated when dealing with your baby at night? ❑ ❑ Does you baby wake more than 4 times between 7pm and 5am? ❑ ❑ Does your baby take more than 10-15 minutes to fall asleep after waking at night? ❑ ❑ Do you have a separate room and crib for your baby to sleep in? ❑ ❑ Do you have a partner or another adult to help and support you through sleep training? ❑ ❑ Are you prepared to get LESS sleep for a week or so while you implement a sleep plan? ❑ ❑ Are you prepared to be VERY consistent about bedtimes and routines for the next six weeks or so? If you answer yes to 6 or more of theses questions, it may be a good time for you to start sleep-training your baby. Even if you answer yes to ALL the questions, it does not mean that you SHOULD sleep-train your baby. Sleep training is only one way to help parents get more sleep (see my post on how to get more sleep this week). Sleep training is only one way to help babies develop culturally-appropriate sleep patterns. All babies do not need sleep training! Do not feel pressured to sleep train because… … Someone told you their baby slept through the night at this age. … Your friend’s baby sleeps longer than your baby does. … Your baby takes short naps … Your baby is 6 months old. … You don’t want to develop bad habits … You feel that your baby should be on a schedule … You are worried about how your baby is going to sleep when you go back to work four months from now (that’s a long time from...

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Do all babies need sleep training?

Posted by on Apr 7, 2016

(This post was written for and first posted at Moms Uniting Sleep is a hot topic when you have a baby. Of course, most parents of small children have interrupted sleep. Some are severely sleep-deprived. All worry about whether their babies are sleeping enough. But on top of all that many worry that they might be ruining their baby’s sleep forever! What if you nurse your baby to sleep? What if you let your baby become too dependent on a sleep crutch? What if you co-sleep? What if you don’t sleep-train at the right time? Or in the right way? What if you baby never learns to sleep through the night? What if you are not perfectly consistent? What if you are too tired, or like cuddling your baby too much, to insist that your baby sleep in his own crib? Do these things mean that your child will never learn to sleep on her own? No. It may take a long time. Many children wake up several times each night until they are 2 or 3 years old. Some children don’t go to sleep on their own until they are 6 or 7 years old. But they all do, eventually. It may also happen easily. Some babies learn to fall asleep on their own as soon as the fussy period (the first 12-16 weeks) is over. Some babies take easily to being shushed and patted to sleep, instead of being nursed. Some babies can be laid in their crib and will coo and babble themselves to sleep. What is the best way to cope with a baby who doesn’t sleep long stretches? Well, it depends a lot on how the parents are doing. If the breastfeeding mom is a good sleeper herself, if she can roll over and feed in her sleep, if she falls asleep quickly after her baby calls for her, she may not find her baby’s night-wakings difficult. If the baby’s other parent is happy to get up early and take the baby away to play and mom can catch up on sleep then, the family may cope just fine with the baby’s sleep habits. But what if the mom feels anxious, or suffers from insomnia or depression? What if the mom is on her own with the baby and has no one to help her get a little extra sleep here or there? What if the baby weighs 20 pounds and still has to be bounced to sleep on the yoga ball? Then the parents might need sleep training. Remember that books on infant sleep and sleep training are written to sell. They need to convince you that you need them. So they promise a fool-proof, fail-proof system for getting your baby to sleep, fast! Not only do they present their system as one that will work for everyone, but they also argue that everyone should use it. The scientific research on sleep training is in its infancy (tee-hee). There has been very...

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Merry Christmas!

Posted by on Dec 23, 2015

I just visited with a family I have know since their babies were born, seventeen and fifteen years ago. I was their doula. I was there for a glass of Christmas cheer and I got to see their lovely decorations and their beautiful tree. I noticed, lovingly arranged over the back of an armchair in the living room, two little baby sleepers – one red and one white – with Christmas patterns on them. They were the two children’s First Christmas Suits! The family stores them with the decorations and brings them out each year, along with all the other, beloved ornaments. It certainly marks time passing, and children growing, to be able to see their baby outfits like that, every year! What a lovely tradition! I know new parents are overwhelmed with advice about treasuring every minute of the time with their babies. I know the first years feel so slow as they are happening, and then feel so fast as we look back on them. I know that most of us cannot find time to keep a diary or a baby book. It all feels like too much! But traditions like keeping the baby sleepers with the Christmas decorations can help us remember. Now that my kids have left home and live in far-away cities, I have started a new tradition. My husband cuts a thin slice off the end of the tree at the end of the holiday, and after I put away all the ornaments, I write on that thin slice of wood a few words to remember that Christmas. I write who was there, and what the sayings or songs, or buzz-words of that holiday were. (I confess, I found this idea on Pinterest!) I’ve only been doing this for three or four years. But my kids cam home this year and opened the box with all the disks of pine tree (it smells so nice!) and read the silly things I wrote, and remembered. I hope that in the hustle and bustle of the season, all you parents of young kids out there can find time to do something that will help you remember how it felt at this time, in this place, to cuddle those babies, and enjoy the coziness that can come with this time. Merry Christmas to you all!...

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A Breast Field-Trip

Posted by on Jul 6, 2015

A Breast Field-Trip

Many changes occur in a woman’s breasts during her pregnancy and after the baby is born. When new mothers come to me with breastfeeding difficulties, and I ask them if their nipples are “cracked”, they sometimes are not sure. “I don’t know what my nipples looked like before the baby started to suck on them. Do they look normal now?” To get a sense of what equipment you are starting out with on your breastfeeding journey, it might be a good idea for you to go on a “Breast Field Trip” at the end of pregnancy. (Please note: If you have concerns about your breast health, or if you have had breast surgery, some of this may not be relevant to you. Please see your doctor or midwife and consider setting up a prenatal appointment with a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) to prepare for any challenges you may encounter when breastfeeding your baby.) 1. Take your top and bra off and stand in front of a mirror with good lighting. 2. Look at your breasts. You may notice: • Your breasts are bigger than before you got pregnant. Most of the glandular tissue you need to make milk grows during pregnancy. And all the little ducts that are needed to transport the milk grow then too. Some breasts grow a lot, and some grow only a little, but they almost all grow some. • One breast is larger that the other. As breasts grow, the difference in size between them (and there is almost always a difference in size) becomes more apparent. • Your breasts are not symmetrical. One nipple may be lower than the other. One may point more to the left, or more to the right. Knowing that your breasts are not symmetrical may help you figure out how to position your baby at the breast. 3. Look at your nipples. You may notice: • Your areola (pink or brown part of the breast around the nipple) has become bigger and darker. • You may have more visible or darker bumps on the areola. These are sometimes called “Montgomery’s tubercles” but they are more descriptively called sebaceous glands of the areola. They secrete an oily substance that keeps the nipple and areola supple and smells attractive for the baby. The smell helps the baby find the nipple. • Your nipples may be bigger and darker than before. They may stick out more. The skin may be crinkly (the anatomical term for the crinkles is “rugae”) (These crinkles are not “cracks.” When a baby attaches to the breast too shallowly, and the nipple get pinched, a blood blister may form and then a wound may develop. That is what people mean when they talk about “cracked nipples.”) • Your nipples may only stick out if they are touched, massaged or get cold. If that is the case, you may have “flat nipples.” • If your nipples retreat when you compress the areola, you may have “inverted nipples.” This is...

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Grunting Babies

Posted by on Jun 22, 2015

Why do babies grunt at night? Well, let’s eliminate the serious reasons first. 1. Baby might not be getting enough air. This is not very common. It can happen to a very new baby or to a baby who has a cold or croup. In this case the grunting would go along with a blue colour in the skin, pauses in breathing, flaring of the nostrils, the chest muscles drawing in sharply with the breath. If your baby shows these symptoms, please call 911 or go to Emergency. 2. Reflux. Some babies have immature sphincters at the top of their stomach and acid from the stomach can pass back into the throat and cause burning pain. Try propping the head of your baby’s crib or bassinet up a little, and/or hold baby upright for awhile after feeds. Babies with reflux are pretty miserable. Please make an appointment with your doctor to diagnose the reflux and prescribe treatment. 3. Baby’s gut is moving. This is the most common cause of grunting. Almost every parent in our Baby Group reports that their baby grunts, especially in the very early morning (4-6am). Babies (and the rest of us) sleep more lightly in the early morning and as their bodies get ready for daytime activity, their gut starts to move and they notice it and start to grunt and squirm and raise and lower their legs (some babies slap their legs down on to the mattress) and fart.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that your baby has “too much gas” or is “colicky” or that you should change your diet or give pro-biotics. This is part of how some babies behave. Parents notice that these babies are not unhappy. They are not crying. They do not seem to be in pain. They are just making noises and being restless. They may be awake, or their eyes may be closed.  If the parent picks the baby up and holds the baby on the parent’s chest, the baby often falls into a deep, quiet sleep. This is because it is easier for a baby to fall into deep sleep on top of another human. If this allows you to get another hour or two of sleep, there is no harm in it. It won’t “set up bad habits.” The early-morning grunting usually stops around 3-4 months. You can change your early-morning habits then. Is it okay to ignore a baby who is grunting, but not unhappy? Yes! Parents of second or third or fourth babies learn that babies grunt and it doesn’t always mean they need us. Parent of first babies are  a little more anxious and are tuned in to every squeak and rustle. I don’t think this helps the parents or the babies. If you leave your content (not unhappy, not crying or whining) little grunting baby alone, you may be providing the baby with an opportunity to learn how to go back to sleep without help from you. Also, if you stay lying down, and train your...

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