I know there are all kind of theories and strategies of baby sleep. There are those in the co-sleeping camp and those that put the baby in their own crib in their own room from the first night home. Some people wear their babies from the time they bring them home from the hospital, while like their baby to sleep in a stroller on the go.
For us, I'd like to think we're a mixture. I'm a planner and an organizer, so I will say I would prefer for naptime to happen at specific times and for certain lengths of time and for baby to sleep on my chest when it's convenient for me and in her crib when I prefer that (ha!). But, babies are babies and they will kind of let you know what they do and don't like by screaming at you until you get it. Or at least, that's how it has been for us.
If you've read some previous posts, Sweet P has been more of a challenge than Little Piñata was (he was sleeping through the night consistently at 12 weeks!), but one thing we have stuck with for both kids has been wake times.
Wake times was a concept I originally read about in the "Baby Whisperer," but have read other places like Weissbluth's "Happy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" and "Baby Sense" and in various articles and groups online and we're big believers! The theory behind wake times, is that you discover the "ideal" length of time your baby can stay awake at a time it makes putting them down for a nap MUCH easier. This period of time where it's easier to get baby to sleep is often referred to as "the window." This was definitely true about Little Piñata. For him, if we got him down for a nap in his "window" it was as easy as swaddling him, giving him a pacifier, putting him in his crib and patting him for a few seconds and he was out in less than a minute. So, as you can imagine we're big fans of finding "ideal" wake times. To put wake times into practice, it's also a good idea to have baby on a routine of eating, then some wake/play time, then sleep. The total wake time includes the time that baby is awake and feeding, so if you look at ideal wake time charts, young babies are often ideally not awake for long at all between naps!
With Sweet P it has been harder to figure out her ideal wake times. First of all, she took so long to finish a bottle from the get-go (which in retrospect we now know was likely due to her reflux), that after an hour of feeding her, she would be over-tired already and hard to get down for her nap. We experimented with shortening, and lengthening wake times at different phases, and ultimately realized that even though her first wake time of the day needs to be short, the rest of the wake times are best if extended a bit. It made it extra difficult to figure out a wake-time when she was fussing or screaming so much of the day, and to be honest, most of those first two months are now a total blur! But, around 2 months we settled on a 1-hr wake time after getting up for the morning and one hour and 15 minutes the rest of the day. When we discovered these "ideal" times, putting her down for a nap could mean 5 minutes instead of 20 minutes of soothing, which is a big difference!
Once we found these ideal wake times for her we were so scared to ever experiment at all! But, it's good to remember that wake times are a moving target and might need to be shortened or lengthened based on sickness, level of stimulation, length and quality of the previous night's sleep or nap, and of course, age. As babies grow they can generally stay awake for longer periods of time. Then we dealt with her tongue tie release healing and she would no longer take a pacifier at all (likely because sucking wasn't soothing) and soothing took forever no matter the wake time. After lots of "pacifier practice" and buying every single pacifier Target sells and trying them all out and finally trying to stretch out her wake times to 75 minutes for the first wake time and 1.5 hours for the rest of the day, we were able to just rock her instead of bouncing, shushing and patting and she would fall asleep so much easier! So, it's so important that as babies change, so do their wake times, so never be too committed to a wake time.
In addition to wake times, you want to pay attention to tired signs. For Sweet P, her wake time are pretty precise, but with Little Piñata, once we got close to his ideal wake time we paid really close attention to his tired signs, and as soon as he showed some we rushed him off to his room for his nap. We followed this pretty closely for at least a year, and he was always very good at napping and sleeping well at night.
According to Marc Weissbluth in "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" (pg. 63) some of the tired cues to look out for are:
- decreased activity
-sucking is weaker or slower
-appears disinterested in surroundings
-eyes are less focused
If you miss that "window" of drowsiness where sleep is easier, you will probably find some signs of your baby being over-tired, such as:
So, the goal is to catch baby's sleepiness before she gets over-tired. If baby gets to that over-tired state it's a good idea to check the clock to see how long your baby has been awake. Then, you will want to shorten the amount of time baby is awake before the next nap since your baby wasn't able to stay up as long as you anticipated he/she could.
According to "Baby Sense" (pg. 48)here are some general guidelines of wake times for little ones. Of course every child is different and some kids drop their naps earlier than you'd like them to, but I like to have a general sense of how long babies at each age can handle staying awake before getting over-tired and have a harder time falling asleep.
0-6 Weeks (45 mins)
6-16 Weeks (45-80 mins)
4-7 months (90-150 mins)
7-12 months (2-3 hours)
1-2 years (3.5-4.5 hours)
2-3 years (4.5-5 hours)
3-5 years (5-7 hours)
Anyway, there's what I've learned about wake-times. I obviously wrote this post for HelloBee, but thought I would share it here too. :)