Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Evolution of The Schedule

The Evolution of The Schedule

This week, the babies slept TWELVE HOURS for the first time. This was a HUGE deal for us as we have come a long way to get here. This was NOT easy.

When they first came home, I dreamed of uninterrupted sleep. I was getting short 45 minute naps in between feeding and pumping and I was delirious. Feeding has become SO MUCH EASIER now. Hardly a comparison!

When they came home - 3 hours round the clock:

We fed them every 3 hours – every feeding was the same around the clock.
3am, 6am, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, 9pm, 12am
Feed (feeding took over an hour), hold upright b/c of the reflux, put down to sleep - SCREAMING
Pump, try and sleep for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Get up and make bottles, medicine, etc…do it again. This schedule was so important, not just for feeding but for administering their medications.
This was tough because although everyone came home on a rough 3 hour schedule from NICU, everyone was on a different 3 hour schedule…Someone was awake at ALL HOURS. I had to get them synchronized.
I didn’t share how miserable I was because I couldn’t go there. I would start crying and lose it and I was already doing enough of that, trust me.
Remember - Brian had a new job and had NO TIME OFF - He only took the one day off when I told him I was going to lose my mind. I believe I talked about it at least once before. Eeek, I try and forget it, trust me. I was mostly alone with the babies all day long, except for Wednesdays I had my sister, and for a while my Mom was with me all day long on Thursdays. Thank GOD. Brian was 'on duty' the minute he came home until after the midnight feeding. Anyhow...that's a whole 'nother post.

Back to it, somewhere in here we created ‘night time’, which meant for the 9pm, 12am, 3am, and 6am feeds there was no waketime. We basically kicked people out to eliminate the stimulation (eventually eliminating most of the help altogether because it was counter-productive). It was right back to bed for the babies. YEAH RIGHT, the babies laughed at us. MWA HA HA!

Four Hour Nights:
At about four months – about the time of the move - we moved to four hour nights and shifted the waketime up.
8am ‘waketime’, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm ‘bedtime’, and then not until 12am, 4am...
We had the same eat, wake/play, nap order - except for 8pm, 12am & 4am (nighttime feeds) – feed and right back to bed with no wake time.
Wake time during the day was about 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes, depending on the baby – Alexis tolerated much less wake time than the boys. AT MOST she could be awake for an hour. This shortened waketime was key to creating good daytime naps and longer periods of sleep.

This was much better. I’d get a couple hour stretches at night. I had read Weissbluth and learned A LOT about sleep and what a baby needs. I was getting about 5-6 hours total a night. Better...but still exhausted.

Dropping The 'Middle of The Night (4am) Feeding:
8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm,8pm,12am…and then whenever they woke up hungry (4:30am, 5am, 5:30am, 6am, etc.) wake everyone up to eat and right back to bed. These feedings were really rough on me. By myself and deliriously tired like at the beginning. Remember?
Naps were going well though. Alexis became a super sleeper since I found her secret with the shorter periods of waketime. I was still trying to get Jackson, my most nap-resistant baby - to nap, or at least be quiet and rest, during nap times. He would ANGRILY protest. I would NOT get him from the crib before a certain amount of time. I got flack and heard things like, "maybe he doesn't want to take a nap. Some babies don't need to nap." I disagreed very strongly. I believe naps are not optional. I believe they are a matter of health for the baby. I was called a 'hard-ass". SO be it!

This was almost harder than the previous schedule because after 4am it was up in the air as far as when and who would wake up. When someone would wake up, I’d have to wake all of them up to feed and go back to sleep but it screwed with their daytime naps and I got less sleep in the night time, for some reason. Ugh.

Pushing Back The Late Night (Midnight)Feed:
8am, 11am, 2pm, 5pm, 8pm, 12am...which we gradually pushed back to 11:30, 11, 10:30…
The fog really started to clear here.
Once they went 9 hours at night, we went to four hour days and shifted the waketime/bedtime up to the ‘final’ times:

7am Wake With Firmly Established Bedtime Routine:
7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm ‘bedtime'...late night feeding pushed back from 10:30pm to 10pm to 9:30pm to 9pm…

We introduce solids at this time.

By this time, naps have finally become pretty wonderful. There are those days, but for the most part they’re great. And my consistency has paid off with Jackson. He LOVES to nap and goes down without a peep 9 times out of 10. They have each learned how to put themselves to sleep - in their crib - each with their own ‘thing’ they do (blanket nuzzling, finger sucking, etc.). Its adorable to watch.

Dropping The Late Night Feeding:
Here we are now. 7am, 11am, 3pm, 7pm.
This week – July 6, was the first day we did NOT wake them up at 9:00 for the ‘late night’ feeding. We let them sleep. We did baths and bedtime bottles at regular time and they were in bed by 7pm as usual. But then we waited for them to wake up. I expected them to wake up in the middle of the night but they slept until 7am – TWELVE HOURS! Just in time for their seven month birthday!
I am SHOCKED. I REALLY expected them to wake up – No ONE has woken up (yet). They were definitely ready!

Yes, I could have gotten them to get to this point much more quickly, given the fact I was doing ‘sleep training’, but I was doing it as gently as possible, reading their cues, while still trying to push them and get them to go longer stretches as time passed. This was not easy, I have been very committed. I wanted to create a firm foundation of SLEEP in their first six months. But it was hard. Consistency - no matter what time of day/night or how tired I have been – consistency has been KEY.

Consistent wake time.
Consistent naps.
Consistent bedtime routine.

99% of the time...
They are very happy in the morning.
They don't fuss when they go down for naps and they SLEEP.
They love bedtime.

If you say that I’m ‘lucky’, you have NO IDEA how much work this was for me. If I've made it seem easy, believe has been anything but easy. But well worth it. I worked very hard to get to this place.

For me, this place looks like this:

7 – 7:30am wake
Solids (oatmeal & fruit)
@ 9am naptime

11-11:30 wake
@ 1- 1:30 naptime

3 – 3:30pm wake
5:15-5:30-5:45-ish – MAYBE a nap (this nap is slowly disappearing)
Daddy comes home
6:20pm – like clocks, this is when they start melting if we don’t get going on the bedtime routine:
Baths, lotion, pajamas, bottles, lights turned down, sleep-time music (usually rockabye baby CD – Metallica or Beatles), snuggle with Mommy & Daddy on feeding couch.
As they show signs that they are ‘ready’, I take babies to bed, one at a time, as Brian snuggles the remaining baby(ies).
Door closed by 7:15pm – FOR THE NIGHT. See you in the morning!

I do check on them before I go to bed. I have to see their faces because I miss them.

They used to CRY/scream every time I put them down. EVERY TIME.
Am I being redundant? Yes, but I want you to understand they didn’t come from the factory this way, good little sleepers. We TAUGHT them how to go to sleep.

I am very adamant about bedtime stimulation (decreasing/limiting it) and having a bedtime routine. We use quiet voices. I don’t have them out in the living room with the TV blaring right before bedtime and them plop them into bed and close the door. They would SCREAM bloody murder if I did that! Trust me, I HAVE and they DID! Lights are low, music is playing, both Brian and I are there with lots of snuggles. I would dare to say I think they LIKE bedtime now. Thy smile when we put them down. What a change from a few months ago.

Like I’ve said, we have worked very hard to get here. It was very important to me that they learned to put themselves to sleep and could self-soothe themselves back to sleep if they woke mid sleep cycle. This, for the most part has finally happened.
I love this routine. The babies love it.

Bedtime became almost easy once we established the bedtime routine:
I bathe each baby, Brian lotions/diapers/pajamas as I bathe the next one. We do it assembly line style. He gets the bottles ready as I am finishing up the last one. Its the same almost every day, unless we're out at that time of day, which is rare.
Yes, there are exceptions. We DO live our life. Like when there are people over during bedtime, someone will cry when we put them down. They KNOW there is fun to be had elsewhere in the house! But, usually they crying ends pretty quickly since they are pretty tired at that time of day.

I did not do all of this because I am control freak, although I AM a control freak. :)
I created this because I very firmly believe that sleep is a absolute non-negotiable and that it is as important as food for little babies to grow healthily. I was especially concerned since I had preemies and since Alexis was so small from the get-go. This belief was reinforced after reading Weissbluth and getting a better understanding of the importance of protecting a child’s sleep.

And, yes, we DO shake things up every week. They have stayed over at my parents house overnight every Friday night since they were five months old. They sleep pretty well there too!

I could go on and on but I have to go to bed. HA! I need to sleep train myself!

I've got so much more to talk about on the topics of sleep and scheduling. A series of more specific posts about sleep training and scheduling is in the works!