If you read my Not So Smug Anymore post, you’ll know that until recently we were really lucky with Theo’s sleeping habits. We had a nap and bedtime routine from early on, he learnt to self settle very quickly and had started sleeping through the night. Then the hot weather hit followed quickly by the four month sleep regression and a reflux diagnosis. Not only was he waking up multiple times throughout the night, he refused to sleep in his cot during the day and was having all his naps being rocked to sleep in his pram while he screamed. Something had to give.
The Science Behind Baby Sleep:
I researched baby sleep habits and the four month sleep regression and realised I had to do something. I discovered that the “regression” isn’t really a regression at all, it’s a permanent, developmental change in sleeping habits. The baby transitions from newborn to adult sleep cycles, moving in and out of light and deep sleep. In the night, as adults, we wake up from a sleep cycle, roll over/have a drink/go to the loo or whatever and go back to sleep. Babies can’t always do this and need to learn how to self settle. If they can’t self settle by the time they learn about object permanence apparently all hell breaks lose. Object permanence is when they learn that an object or a person exists when they can’t see them and kicks in between six and seven months’ of age. For sleep, this means if they go to sleep with you in the room as a comfort and wake up with you gone, they freak out. If they’re self settling and going to sleep alone then this new development isn’t as bad for them.
Trial and Error:
I decided the time had come to get this licked. Most of my baby classes had finished for the summer so I set aside a week to stay in the house and crack the routine. I started off with a routine of four short naps a day but after a few days realised that it just wasn’t practical to keep this up in normal life. The naps weren’t long enough for me to get things done and keeping it up when we needed to leave the house would be impossible. Upon realising this I switched to a three nap routine with a long lunchtime nap with two short naps around it. I’ve clearly marked which routine I was following at which point in the diary below.
The first routine really did help me get to grips with settling him to sleep. I had reached the point where he was screaming when put in his cot and I didn’t know how to soothe him other than pick him up or feed him. My husband was the one who found that patting his chest and shushing him calmed him down when one night I came downstairs and tagged him into bedtime because I needed a break. Stumbling onto this discovery made getting into a routine much easier as after a bit of effort I got him to sleep in his cot for all of his daytime naps the first day. After about a week I started to try and leave him to self settle and most of the time now he goes to sleep on his own within 10 minutes of me leaving the room.
The other problem that I was encountering was that his naps only lasted about 35 minutes most of the time, 50 minutes max occasionally and he would wake screaming. Trying to get him to sleep for any longer felt like an impossible task. The ‘pat and shush’ saved the day here too. We have a video baby monitor so when the baby started stirring (or immediately screaming as sometimes happens) I legged it upstairs and patted and shushed him back to sleep. Originally, leaving it a few minutes to see if he’d fall asleep again himself got him so worked up that there was no chance of recovering the nap. At first, if I got in there straight away it took about 20 minutes to get him back to sleep but gradually it got less and less. After a week he still wakes up screaming but goes back to sleep himself within two minutes without me going in. I’m not using cry it out here, but he actually gets more worked up if I go into the room so I set a 3 minute time limit on the crying and then go in and try to settle him or get him up if it’s gone too far but it hasn’t gone past two minutes and is getting less and less.
He’s definitely self settling better in the night and I’m being less quick to assume he’s hungry and feed him when he wakes. Last night was the first night that he only had one feed during the night and even that was because I didn’t want him just to go cold turkey. When he wakes in the night though he very rarely cries, usually he just grunts and strains. I’ve been interpreting it as hunger but it actually seems to be part of him learning to self settle.
These are the aids that I used to help Theo with sleep associations:
- Sleeping bag – ours are from Snuz, they’re great quality and come in really nice geometric patterns.
- MyHummy – we’ve had this right from the start, white noise is a great tool to get the baby to sleep and I love that I can turn it on and off from my phone. It’s really cute too!
- Snuggly bunny – someone bought us the bunny from Guess How Much I Love You, when I started the routine I introduced it to Theo at naptimes, it stays in his cot and so only sees it when he’s about to go to sleep.
Starting on a four nap routine definitely had benefits, it helped practice settling techniques and worked because Theo wouldn’t nap in long stretches so we weren’t tackling too much at once. However, as an ongoing routine it wasn’t practical. It was impossible to get anything done while he was napping and made it really hard to leave the house. The three nap routine definitely fits our lifestyle better but encouraging Theo to take a longer nap during the day took work but we are seeing progress.
I’ll post the second instalment next week along with a full update on how it’s working out for us. Whilst we haven’t cracked consistent, unbroken sleep yet, in just over a week I can already put him in bed and leave him to self settle. This is way better than having to pat and shush him while he was really upset and the staying with him while he napped to keep him asleep. That feels like a big win!
The Sleep Diary in Detail:
Please bear in mind that a lot of this was written in the night or on very little sleep! This initial section briefly details the days that led up to me focusing consistently on the nap and bedtime routine.
Sunday – we discovered pat and shush worked as a settling technique
Monday – followed weebeedreaming schedule that I found online and used pat and shush and he had all his naps in his cot
Tuesday – everything went to shit as I was out of the house for all except the first nap.
Wednesday – introduced the bunny as a comforter but again being out the house messed up the schedule. Lee attempted bedtime, went badly. Took 1.5 hours to settle him.
Thursday – first 2 naps successful then went out of the house. Afternoon nap took over an hour to settle him. Bedtime was easy with pat and shush.
FRIDAY – FOUR NAPS PER DAY ROUTINE
8.02 – he started to cry as I put him into bed so I didn’t put him down and sang twinkle twinkle to him and checked the curtains.
8.04 put him into bed with bunny, read One Fish, Two Fish and then rested hand on his tummy.
8.12 fell asleep.
Started to stir about 47 minutes in, sat with him and shushed, he woke up with eyes open at about 50 minutes in, I shushed with hand on tummy and he fell asleep again at 52 minutes
Woke up crying at 1hr 7 mins.
Fed after wake up
10.44 into bed, grizzled when put down. Read One Fish, Two Fish for a few pages. Sucked thumb and continued to protest but shushing stopped him.
Kept nearly going off then rolled on side and started to cry, put my hand on him, gave him bunny and shushed. He pushed bunny away.
Did a couple more roll/cries and then held onto my hand.
10.54 – fell asleep
10.56 – woke up with a shriek, shushed and fell back to sleep immediately with thumb in and one hand in the air.
11.05 – grizzled and shushed back to sleep
Woke up crying at 47 minutes
Fed after wake up
13.15 into cot, started to grizzle after a few seconds. Read a few pages of One Fish, Two Fish. Had to pat stomach and shush.
13.26 – asleep
Woke up after 37 minutes, patting and shushing
14.14 – back to sleep, woke up and cried but self settled a few times
14.32 woke up crying (asleep for 18 mins)
Fed after wakeup
16.10 into bedroom but not showing signs of being tired, read to him on my knee and sang walking round.
16.15 – into cot showed him bunny. MyHummy on. A bit of grizzle. Patted and shushed. Rested hand on him and he went quiet.
Resumed patting when thumb came out and grizzling started. Noticed every time patting started that his thumb went to his mouth.
Kept scratching his face so I resumed patting every time hands went to his face
16.21 – asleep
Fed on wakeup
Bath, sleepsuit and sleeping bag (room 22 degrees)
18.55 – into cot with bunny. Read The Cook and the King. Started sucking thumb.
19.00 – story finished. MyHummy on. Minimal grizzle. 1 second of grizzle, shushed and thumb went back in
19.08 Fell asleep very quietly.
20.00 stirred and cried but fell asleep again himself
21.10 started to grizzle, stood in the door way and shushed and he went back to sleep
0.56 – woke up straining, fed and given medicine (had forgotten to give it him)
2am – woke up straining
4.45 – woke up straining, left him and he went back to sleep within 10 minutes.
6.45 – awake and happy
8.14 – into cot, grizzled in being put down, MyHummy on, gave him bunny and read Oi Goat
Lay quietly for 10 minutes then started to shout and scratch face. Kept putting thumb in mouth and taking it out again. Had a snotty nose so not sure if he couldn’t breathe properly.
Patted and shushed. Stopped patting when he was quiet, he went to sleep holding my thumb so had to quietly disengage.
8.28 asleep – slept for 41 minutes. Woke up grizzling but shushed (I was asleep in bed) then lay there talking to himself and playing with the bunny and his feet.
Fed on wake up.
Lee took him out the house to B&Q, back just in time for naptime.
10.42 – into cot with MyHummy on, gave bunny. Tried to read One Fish, Two Fish but started grizzling. Patted and shushed while he played with bunny.
Very vocal (not crying) may not be tired enough for bedtime
Rolling around talking to himself. He tried reaching for the MyHummy for the first time ever.
10.55 moved him back to centre of cot, started to grizzle. Gave him bunny back and started to pat and shush. He put his thumb in, took it out so started patting again.
10.57 fell asleep then the dog barked and woke him up ????
10.59 pat and shushed, asleep
Fed on wakeup
Naptime was late as I was filming a YouTube video and lost track of time.
13.39 – into cot, bunny, white noise on. Cried but patted and shushed and started sucking thumb. Held onto my thumb.
14.27 Woke up after 42 minutes, started to cry. Grizzled as I was coming upstairs but started to suck thumb and touch bunny. Columbo started barking so he started to cry hard.
Patted and shushed
14.32 back to sleep
16.27 In cot, bunny, Read Night Monkey, Day Monkey
16.29 – MyHummy on, started to grizzle, shushed him and he started to suck his thumb. Repeated several times
He definitely associates shushing with having his thumb in his mouth.
Turned onto side and slowly went to sleep
16.39 – asleep
Slept 42 minutes woke up crying.
19.33 – into cot, bunny. Read Mr Magnolia.
No grizzle, thumb in, played with bunny while I read to him.
19.36 – MyHummy on, started sucking his thumb and rolled onto side touching cot bumper.
19.42 Went to sleep on side facing away from me.
21.43 – woke up crying, escalated to screaming. Had forgotten to give medicine again.
Fed and was trumping while feeding. Took a full feed off both sides.
21.52 – woke up straining. Left for 5 minutes with just shushing.
0.29 gave bunny, patted and shushed – thumb in, asleep v quickly.
1.00 – woke crying
1.03 – back to sleep, shushed a bit from lying down.
2.10 – awake straining.
Woke at 6.42
8.32 into cot in sleeping bag, grizzled a bit on being put down, showed him bunny and he stopped and put thumb in his mouth right away.
Read a few pages of One Fish, Two Fish. Sucked his thumb quietly.
8.39 rolled on his side and went to sleep.
Started stirring after 52 minutes but didn’t cry
Went upstairs to wake him at 1hr 15. Was sucking thumb, not sure if awake or asleep. Very smiley when I started to talk to him.
Fed on wakeup.
11.21 Started to grizzle as we walked into the bedroom, put him in bed and he sucked his thumb and cuddled bunny.
Read some of The Cat in the Hat Came Back, he lay quietly sucking his thumb.
11.27 fell asleep
Woke up after 47 minutes, playing quietly in cot. Lee went to get him and changed his nappy.
Fed him downstairs.
13.38 into cot, with bunny. Read more of The Cat in the Hat Came Back. Grizzled a bit while reading but started sucking thumb. MyHummy on, rolled onto side playing with cot bumper.
13.53 – took thumb out and started to grizzle and rub face. Shushed and thumb went back in.
Parcel came at 30 minutes in and woke him up
15.48 – into cot, bunny, read some of The Cat in the Hat Came Back. MyHummy on, rolled onto side sucking thumb and played with cot bumper.
16.01 Had bad tummy ache and had to go to the toilet. Was asleep when I got back.
Slept 37 minutes. Fed on wake up.
19.00 into cot, in sleeping bag and sleepsuit with bunny. Read The Cat in the Hat Came Back. Rolled on side playing with cot bumper and cuddling bunny.
19.04 MyHummy on, still on side. Stayed completely quiet but was touching bunny, his feet and the cot bumper while turned away from me.
19.18 – left the room, his eyes were a little open but falling asleep slowly.
19.47 – woke up crying, went in and shushed him and gave him bunny back.
20.10 stirred crying but was asleep again by the time I got upstairs
23.03 awake straining, fed because he only had a short feed before bed
23.11 put back in cot asleep after feeding
2.19 woke up straining, trumped, and started screaming when shushed. Nappy change (Lee) – screaming and crying. Fed from both sides. Trumping while feeding.
???? (small) nappy change
2.45 straight into cot with bunny and MyHummy. Sucking thumb.
Woke up at 6.42 when Lee got up. Awake but not crying. Left him in crib until 7am (trying to encourage him to get used to 7am as a wake up time). Had fallen back to sleep for a few minutes when I got up.
8.12 Into bed with bunny, read a few pages of The Lorax.
8.15 MyHummy on, started to grizzle, quick pat and a shush and removed hand. Had to shush a couple more times.
9.01 woke up and made straining noises
9.08 Fell asleep again
Slept for another 30 minutes
My friends were here with their kids, no quiet time before nap.
11.12 into cot in sleeping bag, bunny. Started grizzling while reading The Lorax. Had to pat and shush. Left my hand on him.
11.21 started to cry as I went downstairs but fell asleep again on his own.
Woke up crying after 37 minutes, went back to sleep
Woke up after 46 minutes not crying .
Fed on wake up.
Slept 40 mins
16.08 into cot, with bunny. Sleep suit and vest on.
Read The Lorax, baby was singing and playing with bunny kicking his legs.
16.11 – MyHummy on.
16.19 – legs up on side of cot falling asleep, woke up and turned in funny position, started to cry. I moved him straight, gave him bunny back.
16.20 – asleep.
16.27 – cried out once
16.34 – cried out once
Slept for 51 mins in total.
Refused to feed when he woke up. Very grumpy, would only be carried around, wouldn’t smile.
Fed downstairs. Kept popping off and crying, put some Anbesol on his bottom gum (and lip accidentally) and he fed for two more minutes and started smiling.
18.59 – into cot, sleeping bag and sleepsuit on, bunny. Read Mr Magnolia
19.02 rolled onto side sucking thumb,
19.09 I left the room to go to the loo. Let out one cry and then went to sleep.
19.20 bit of grizzling
19.28 I got into bed, baby sucking thumb with eyes closed.
19.33 dog was barking, baby let out a cry but then sucked thumb.
19.44 dog barked, baby woke up and cried. Gave him back his bunny. He started talking to himself in his cot
22.57 Lee woke him up coming to bed
2.10 woke up and fed
5.20 woke up and fed
TUESDAY – CHANGED TO THREE NAP SCHEDULE
Woke him up at 7.20, had overslept and didn’t realise the time.
Fed at 7.30
Today trying new three nap schedule to see if he will sleep for longer than 45 minutes.
8.47 into cot, dressed, bunny. Read Oi Dog
8.51 MyHummy on, a little bit of shushing.
Chatting to self on side against cot bumper. Left the room
9.06 started to cry, had rotated 90 degrees and was stuck. Turned him round and had to pat and shush.
Removed hand when calm, he started to cry so shushed and he started sucking his thumb.
9.09 left the room (stood in doorway)
Slept for 45 minutes
Fed at 10.19
Fed at 11.44
11.58 into cot, sleeping bag over clothes, gave bunny. Read Dear Zoo.
12.00 left the room and pulled the door closed.
Watched on monitor downstairs. Baby chirping to self and rolling about.
Started to protest
12.05 Started sucking thumb in between protests
12.06 quietened right down and was sucking thumb, thought he was asleep.
12.09 protest burst and then thumb sucking again.
12.54 awake grizzling (43 minutes)
12.57 goes quiet sucking thumb then starts to grizzle again
12.58 starts to cry – go upstairs to soothe. Pat and shush. Starts sucking thumb and playing with bunny ears. Then crying again. No chance of him going back to sleep.
Fed at 14.02
14.30 – into cot, sleeping bag on (no pants), bunny, MyHummy on. No story just sat by the cot on my phone.
14.42 – asleep
15.33 – started stirring so left him to see if he would stay asleep or not
Slept 1 hr 1 minute in total
Fed at 16.40
17.16 – into cot, sleeping bag on (no pants), bunny, read Oi Goat.
17.19 – MyHummy on
17.23 rolled on side sucking thumb, I left the room
Woke him up after 20 mins
19.22 into cot, sleeping bag and sleepsuit, read Night Monkey, Day Monkey. Forgot to show him bunny but it was in the cot
19.26 MyHummy on, sucking thumb
21.01 – started stirring after I flushed the toilet, escalated into full on screaming. Fed.
21.09 back to sleep
1.12 awake straining, fed
1.21 back to sleep
2.32 – woke up happy, started to escalate to straining. Patted and shushed
2.42 – asleep
3.50 – awake and fed
5.15 shushed back to sleep, scratching head
8.35 started sucking thumb on side and falling asleep on playmat. Was aiming for naptime at 9am but an hour and a half seems sufficient in the morning.
8.39 into cot, in sleeping bag, with bunny, MyHummy on. Sucked thumb quietly
Pulled door to on leaving the room
9.30 woke him and fed. He kept trying to fall asleep on the boob.
11.42 into cot, bunny, in sleeping bag over clothes (no socks). Read a few pages of The Lorax
11.44 MyHummy on, left the room and closed the door
12.36 woke up screaming – didn’t stir first just started screaming. Ran upstairs to shush and pat. Had calmed down and was sucking thumb by 12.38. Kept crying in bouts and was scratching head. Had to go and get scratch mitt for his left hand.
Shushed and patted.
12.59 awake crying and scratching, put some Aveeno on his head and patted and shushed.
Stayed in the room, 13.09 started to shake head from side to side, shushed and he went back to sleep.
13.58 started to stir, shushed again. Managed to get his scratch mitt off and was scratching his head until he started to cry.
16.11 Fed from left as was transfixed with boobs and obviously hungry
16.27 – into cot, in clothes and sleeping bag (no socks), MyHummy on, sat on the bed for 30 seconds then decided to try leaving.
Couple of squawks then thumb sucking.
16.31 quiet on side, asleep?
Could hear thumb sucking noises so not sure if he was actually asleep.
16.33 silence – asleep.
16.51 – woke him up, he wanted to go back to sleep and then started to cry. Sang Hakuna Matata to him and he cheered up.
18.56 into cot, sleeping bag and sleepsuit, bunny, read Mr Magnolia.
18.58 has rolled on side sucking thumb. Left the room and came downstairs.
Bit of rolling and a slight grizzle on the monitor
20.44 woke up scratching head and started screaming. Had to get him out of cot to put a sock on his hand. Inconsolable.
Fed. Straight back to sleep
22.53 woke up and started straining (and trying to scratch but sock was on hand. Patted and shushed.
Woke up at 6.30, farted and pooped then fell asleep again. Got up at 7am.
20 minutes quietly lying on the playmat before nap time.
8.56 into cot, sleeping bag on over sleepsuit and vest, bunny, MyHummy. Left the room and closed door to.
Parcel came and dog barking at 9.02. Baby started to grizzle. Waited outside the door but all went quiet
9.35 woke up protesting, came upstairs but seems to have fallen asleep again.
9.45 grizzling and so I went in as nap time was over. Was smiling in cot.
Was meant to go down at 12.05 (upstairs at 11.55) but was getting cranky
11.52 into cot, in sleeping bag over clothes, bunny. Started crying, started to read Oi Cat and he stopped crying within a minute or two and rolled on his side.
11.54 stopped reading, MyHummy on. As I stood up he was falling asleep. Left the room and pulled the door to.
Continued to stir a bit on the monitor
12.36 started to stir, couple of grizzles. Sucking thumb (watched on monitor).
12.43 asleep again
12.49 little squeak
12.50 started to cry, went upstairs but didn’t go in.
12.51, started to suck thumb
12.52 thumb out, lay still, bit of thrashing with no noise then still again.
12.53 post came and dog barked. ????
13.02 quiet grizzling and stirring,
13.03 started to cry
13.05 sucking thumb
13.54 started to stir and grunt
13.55 started to cry but then rolled on side and was quiet.
Went to the park and baby fell asleep for a few minutes on the way home. May have ruined the afternoon nap.
16.41 – into cot, sleeping bag on over clothes, bunny, MyHummy on, left the room. Started to cry as I went down the stairs. Intermittent though.
16.49 stopped making noise, on his side playing with the bunny.
16.54 some protest squawks then thumb sucking.
17.00 asleep – not sure if I should let him sleep here but am just going to try pushing bedtime back 15 minutes.
17.16 – woke him up and he started to cry.
Went up to bed at the correct time, baby got hiccups while I was changing him, took him in the bedroom and fed him, while feeding he did a poo, changed him and tried to put him to bed but still had hiccups. Started to cry as soon as I put him in bed. Picked him up and took him downstairs, hiccups went so tried again.
19.30 into bed, in sleeping bag, Bunny, MyHummy on, started to cry as soon as I left the room. Waited on stairs but crying escalated.
19.33 went back in to pat and shush. After about 30 seconds started sucking thumb but grunting.
19.34 took hand away but carried on shushing.
19.35 sucking thumb with eyes half open, said night night and left the room
22.36 started stirring and grunting,
22.40 escalated to full scale crying, fed.
Very broken sleep.
12.15 awake grunting, got him back to sleep
1.13 awake, fed
3.44 awake, fed
5.14 awake, went back to sleep
Woke up at 6.45 and did a poo then went back to sleep. Woke him up at 7am.
Grizzled on changing mat and walking into the bedroom
09.08 into cot, in sleeping bag and sleepsuit, bunny, MyHummy on, left the room and pulled door to. Quietly sucking thumb.
Slept for 45 mins
Tree being cut down literally outside bedroom window, v noisy.
12.10 into cot, sleeping bag over clothes (no socks), bunny, left the room, MyHummy on. Started to cry as I walked downstairs but stopped.
12.12 protest cries then thumb sucking
12.16 asleep although stirring with the noise outside
12.49 woke up crying
12.50 sucking thumb
12.51 back to sleep
14.04 – woke up crying. After getting him up he cried tears when I put him on his changing mat, seemed very hungry.
16.27 into cot, sleeping bag over clothes, bunny, MyHummy on, left the room. Intermittent crying.
18.57 into cot, sleeping bag and sleepsuit, bunny. Read Oi Cat but was crying throughout.
19.03 MyHummy on, said goodnight and left the room. Intermittent crying and thumb sucking.
19.05 – thumb sucking
19.47 woke up crying
Changed white noise to heartbeat sound
19.54 back to sleep
20.15 woke up crying, quiet again within 10 seconds
20.56 woke up grunting and whining
20.59 changed to heartbeat sound
23.31 woke up
Awake at 6.30 straining to poo, didn’t go back to sleep. Really grouchy all morning so had to put him to bed earlier than planned.
8.53 into cot, sleeping bag and sleepsuit, bunny, left room and turned MyHummy on. Forgot to put sock on his hand.
Chirping and grunting to self.
9.46 woke him up
12.13 into cot, sleeping bag over clothes, MyHummy on, left the room. Cried as I left for 30 seconds
13.20 crying for 15 seconds then back to sleep
14.27 woke up crying
Took him upstairs five minutes early because he was grumpy and didn’t expect him to go to sleep right away.
16.36 into cot, sleeping bag on over clothes, socks off, left room put MyHummy on.
16.38 protest grunting for 30 seconds
Lee took him for a walk at 5.30 as I was exhausted, didn’t get back until 6.45 and he’d been asleep for 10 minutes. Woke him up and fed him and gave him his medicine and kept him up a bit later.
19.30 into bed, sleepsuit and sleeping bag, bunny, read a few pages of The Lorax but was protesting.
19.32 left the room, MyHummy on. Bit of grizzling
19.33 sucking thumb then blowing raspberries and playing about.
19.44 started shouting for about 20 seconds then quiet
19.54 noisily sucking thumb then a short cry
Stirred a bit and rolled over when I came to bed just before 10pm
22.07 started to grunt and stir – turned the MyHummy on and he went back to sleep.
23.09 awake, grunting.
5.58 awake, fed.
The next installment detailing our real breakthroughs will be posted next week.