Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Playing "Red Light-Green Light" with Sleep

Back in junior high, we used to go to the skating rink on weekends (wow, that totally ages me!). The place we went to played that cheesy "red light-green light" game where you try to get to the finish line but have to stop when "red light" is called and go when "green light" is called.

I think Brayden is playing that game with sleep. But unlike the rink announcer, he's not calling out "red light" before he decides to stop sleeping or "green light" when he's ready to resume.

Three weeks ago, Brayden's sleep was a major "red light." He was waking up every 2.5-3 hours through the night. The only way he could get to sleep was nursing and the only place he would sleep was in his swing (a big change from him at two months, when he was sleeping for a six hour block in his crib). Oh - and he hates pacifiers, so nix that idea.

After getting pretty worried that he wasn't getting a healthy amount of sleep, I went back through all my sleep websites and re-read most of the books I have. I talked to my mom, my ped and other moms who had non-sleepers. Most of the advice was the same: I had to just let him cry to learn to fall asleep on his own. Lauren and I really didn't want to do it but reluctantly decided it was in his best interest.

We got all geared up and ready for a week of misery. The night we decided to start, I nursed him as usual and had a nice long talk with him about what we were going to do. I moved him to his crib (instead of his swing) and braced myself for some heavy tears. Instead, within ten seconds, this was him:

"I love messing with mom and dad's sanity levels."
Seriously? Are you kidding me? I called Lauren (who was working late) and told him. He assured me that within two or three hours, Brayden would wake up and be really mad. After 2.5 hours, he did wake up. He complained for a bit, and started to cry... but went back to sleep within 10 minutes. (Lauren and I decided Brayden was deriving much satisfaction from messing with us.) Within three days, he wasn't even waking up before the morning (we started off feeding him when he woke around 11 to make sure he wasn't hungry before morning). "Wow - that was so easy," we foolishly thought. "He never even really cried."

Jump to today and laugh at my previous naivety.

Things are still way better than before, but the sleep light seems to be changing to red again. After about five days of awesome sleep, Brayden started waking up about 20 minutes earlier each day. Lauren joked that he was on a 23-hour day. It got to the point where he was waking up at 4:45 to start his day. No amount of nursing or coaxing could get him to go back to sleep. I didn't really like the choices we had - either let him cry until a set wake-up time or nurse him and try to get him to go back to sleep (and when that didn't work, he'd still end up crying).  We went back to a "dream feed" at 11 in hopes that it would help him sleep longer. It didn't make too much of a difference. I tried putting him to sleep even earlier (since most sources seem to tout the value of an early bedtime), but that led to another 5am wake up call. (He goes down for the night around 6:45-7:15 these days. Do I really need to move it even earlier???)

His naps have also diminished a bit. He used to take three hour-long naps (or two 1 hour 15 minute naps). Yesterday, he took three 30-40 minute naps. Not very restorative, really.

So here we are again, playing the "what the heck do we do?" game. We're not fans of Brayden starting his day at 5 am. Nor are we fans of him crying for an hour and a half each morning. Our most recent idea is to stop his 11pm feeding and wait until he wakes up on his own sometime after 11 and feed him then. Our concern is that it will promote a return of night-wakings (if he knows we'll feed him when he wakes up, why not wake up more?).

Advice on how to get the light green again is always welcome. In the meantime, I'll do what I usually do at red lights: WAIT. And Lauren will do what he usually does at red lights: CURSE.


  1. "In the meantime, I'll do what I usually do at red lights: WAIT. And Lauren will do what he usually does at red lights: CURSE."


  2. I know you had a bunch of responses on Facebook, but I wanted to throw another tip out there. When Mason was six months, we REALLY worked on his naps and that helped his night sleep a lot. I know it's a circular thing - night sleep helps naps and naps help night sleep. For us though, we were having such a hard time with his night sleep and it was much easier to focus on the naps. It helped out SO much. Just a thought. :)

  3. Hey! Here are a few ideas... Not sure if you've tried any of them, so I'm sorry in advance for any repetitive, useless or potentially insulting suggestions...

    1. Try limiting his naps during the day. The less he sleeps during the day, the more (you'd think...) he'll sleep at night to make up for it.

    2. Try wearing him out. With Olivia, I would take her to Busch Gardens, the beach, MOSI, we'd go on long walks in the stroller WITHOUT letting her fall asleep (LOOK AT THIS PINECONE BRAYDEN! type stuff if he starts nodding off). Let him get out and walk with your help if/when he's at that ability level. That's hard stuff for them! Grab a cool toy and goad him with it so he can crawl around a bunch, too. The more physical activity he does, the more worn out he'll be. Try to do it closer to bed time, though, because then he'll be worn out and able to fall asleep but you can still use the night time routine (feeding, rocking, bath, etc) to calm him down.

    3. Once he falls asleep in his crib (or when you place him there, whichever), try placing a few cool toys in there, far enough away so that they don't bother him while he's sleeping but he can reach them when he wakes up. The idea is that he won't cry when he wakes up because he'll be occupied with his toy, and you'll be able to hear him on the monitor as you drift in and out of consciousness. You might get an extra 30-45 mins depending on the toy...and you could switch it up every day so there are new things in there and he doesn't get bored with the same thing every morning.

    4. I'm a huge proponent of kids getting enough sleep and going to bed on time, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Try to "force" him to stay up a little later at night. If you guys are going to be awake anyway, his going to bed later MIGHT get him to sleep later in the morning. Watch out though, if it backfires, you'll not be happy campers in the AM when he wakes up the same time as usual, so be prepared for that if you try this.

    5. And finally, think about music and light. Not sure what the natural light situation is in his room, but if light starts coming in when the sun starts to rise that's probably waking him up, so think about maybe some light canceling coverings that you can pull up when YOU'RE ready to get him out of his crib. Also, music is a great idea to fall asleep to. There are some really beautiful classical songs ("Air on a 'G' String, Clair de Lune, Canon in D Major, Suite for Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major, etc) that you could put on a playlist or a burn a CD and just put it on repeat for him. There are some baby compilations as well and even lullabies of popular songs (did I hear that you have a DMB one?), I used to put "Clair de Lune" and "You Are My Sunshine" by Elizabeth Mitchell on repeat for Olivia. She fell asleep to it every night and I'd play it through the night as well. If he's used to falling asleep to it or "hearing" it in his sleep, when he wakes up in the morning, if its dark and the music is playing, it might trick him into falling back asleep or at least into staying calm in there for a little while extra.

    I hope this helps! And if you ever need to vent, feel free to give me a call! :)

    1. Thank you SO much for all the tips and ideas! We've deinitely been experimenting with some of them and seem to be making progress! :)