Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sleep Issues (and Calvin at 5 Months)

I can't believe Calvin is 5 months old. I think this is my favorite month so far. A lot of things have worked themselves out and he's overall a very happy baby. 

I want to go into his sleeping problems for a second because I want to offer up what has worked for me in case anyone else has a baby who just isn't a good sleeper. Calvin from the very beginning has fought sleep. He just is more interested in what is going on around him. It feels like it's been a battle from day one! We'd have some good days and then a lot of bad days. The latest issue was his waking after 45 minutes. This went on for over a month and I was losing my mind. Every nap, guaranteed, he would be up after 45 minutes. Sometimes I'd just watch the video monitor and see if he could get back to sleep. Sometimes he could, but most of the time he would just cry and fuss until I got him. He wasn't hungry enough to eat, so we'd play or I'd put him in the swing. Then he'd practically fall asleep nursing and want to go to bed shortly after. Then the vicious cycle started again. It was really frustrating. It seemed like no matter when I put him down (after a long waketime or a short waketime or in between) he would wake up after 45 minutes. He was also beginning to wake up earlier than normal - around 5 or 5:30 am. Sometimes he cried out at 3 am or 4 am. It was maddening! I thought we had gotten the sleeping through the night thing down already. What is this, regression? So frustrating. Then I started brainstorming. 

First, I noticed this trend started at the 4 month mark. I knew that I could start solid foods around 4 months. I thought that might help in case it was a calorie issue. He likes solids and is doing great with them, but I don't think that was it. I stopped solids for a while in case it was an upset tummy, but he still woke up. On to plan B... 

My intuition was telling me that Calvin rarely gets overtired. Maybe he just wasn't tired enough to take a full nap. In "Secrets of the Baby Whisperer", she suggests moving to a 4 hour routine at around 4 months. I didn't know if Calvin was ready for this, but I decided to give it a shot a week ago. It helped a ton! He had two full hours of awake time and then a 1 1/2 to 2 hour nap afterwards. Then, with his last waketime, I just skipped his 4th nap and fed him right before bed. He did much better this way. He still woke up early, but fussed for a little bit and then went back to bed. 

Another trick that helped a lot was "wake to sleep". What you do is you gently wake baby up a little bit about 25 minutes into the nap to help break the sleep cycle. You don't fully wake him up, but just enough for him to stir a little bit. Then you quickly leave. Sure enough, this worked like a charm. He sailed right through the 45 minute mark. This trick, combined with a 4 hour routine, has Calvin back to taking full naps and sleeping 11 hours at night. "Wake to sleep" also works for habitual night waking, except in that instance you go in and disturb baby's sleep 1 hour before he routinely wakes up. 

One more trick that was a miracle when it came to weaning Calvin from the swaddle - the Magic Sleep Suit. I was so nervous to wean him because he scratches his face at night (due to his allergies), but I knew he was SO ready to drop it. He fought it 100% every time I swaddled him. I even had to use 2 velcro swaddles to keep his little arms pinned down at night. Still, a couple nights a week, he would wake up in the middle of the night crying because his hand had escaped and he was scratching the living daylights out of his poor face. I had heard about the Magic Sleep Suit from friends and decided to give it a try myself. They were completely sold out on their website, so I found a friend who was willing to sell me her old one. What do you know - from day one this thing has been fantastic. He slept just as well if not better with the sleep suit. His arms are free, but the suit is too puffy for him to really get at his face. We put a pair of mittens on Calvin to keep him from scratching his face, and that combined with the suit means he is totally swaddle free. He loves it, too. He doesn't fight being zipped up in it like he would the swaddle. Plus, he's just too dang cute in it. He looks like the Michelin man. 

So, let me summarize. Again, I am probably the last person anyone wants to take advice from. However, I've gone through the ringer with this kid when it comes to sleep and just want to offer up what has worked for us in case anyone else is struggling like I was. It's so sad to see your baby upset because he needs sleep so desperately but can't quite seem to get himself there. So, here is what worked for us.

1. We use a Fisher Price Rock 'n Play sleeper for all his naps and at night. He loves it and slept much better in that than in his crib. I'm not too nervous about weaning him from it because I have read from others that it's not too hard. 

2. The Magic Sleep Suit. If your baby fights the swaddle or you are nervous about weaning him from the swaddle, get it! Seriously, he has done fantastic with it. 

3. White noise. I use an app on my Kindle Fire that plays rain sounds and keep it in Calvin's Rock 'n Play when he sleeps. He sleeps much better with it. I've done this since his birth. 

4. "Wake to sleep". This works best if you have a video monitor. If your baby habitually wakes at the 45 minute mark, or every night at 3 am and isn't hungry, try this. It worked great for us. Use your video monitor to see exactly when baby falls asleep. Then, at exactly 25 minutes, go in and stir baby a little bit. Not enough to fully wake up, but enough to annoy him. :) If it doesn't work for one nap, try it again with another and play around with the timing. Do this for every nap for a couple days and it should break the cycle.

5. If your baby can handle it, try moving to the 4 hour routine at some point in the 4th month, clustering the last two feedings together to squeeze 5 in. We have a goal wakeup time at 7 am and a goal bedtime at 8 with feedings every 4 hours or so. I'm not saying to be crazy about it, but I have noticed he does so much better on the days where we follow a routine. I think the worse a sleeper a baby is, the more rigid you  need to be with a routine. Just my opinion, though. :) 

Here are some pictures of our cute little man. I can't believe how fast he is growing! He's still a short guy, but to me, he's grown a lot. 

Other than sleep issues, he is one happy and content baby. He is so playful and laughs all the time. Dad likes to bite his legs and I think the 5 o'clock shadow tickles him enough to make him giggle. It's adorable! Five months has been my favorite month so far. He is much more interactive and can grasp and hold toys for long periods of time. He knows his mommy and daddy, too. We are so in love with him (sleep issues and all). 


  1. Way to work things out! What a good mom you are. I am sure you comments on sleep will help many mommies!

  2. Don't you love how just when you think things figured out-- the baby changes and needs something different! We moved Ethan to a 3 1/2- 4 hour schedule right about 4 1/2 months as well and his naps were much better. Plus, I feed one less feeding which is also AWESOME! Calvin is a CUTE CUTE CUTE baby. We need more photos!