Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
190
Your Baby Has an Older Sibling
May 20, 2024

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
A Step-by-Step Program for a Good Night's Sleep

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Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child

5th Edition: 
Chapter 1 (only 16 pages!) outlines everything you need to know about your child's sleep.

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Introduction

A Healthy Child Needs a Healthy Brain, A Healthy Brain Needs Healthy Sleep

Blog Posts 15, based on the United States of America Department of the Army Field Manual: Holistic Healing and Fitness, describe what really matters for your child’s sleep. If sleep is an important enough topic for national defense than surely sleep should be considered a serious topic for parenting!

Blog 190Your Baby Has an Older Sibling

From thread in  Blog Post 69 ‘Comments’

“When you are expecting your second child, you think it will be easier raising the second compared to raising your first because you are now an “experienced” parent. This thought is wrong. I knew with Jackson, our second child, I was going to do things differently. I had read Dr. Weissbluth’s book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” with our daughter when she was 3 months old, after she became fussy due to not having a nap routine. Our daughter had always been a good nighttime sleeper; she slept from 8:00 pm to 4:00 am at only 8 weeks. However, she needed help learning to nap. After I read Dr. Weissbluth’s book, she did learn this skill. Now, with our son, I knew the skills to help him sleep: I needed to put him down drowsy but awake, he needed to have a regular bedtime routine, he would take all his naps in his crib, and he needed an early bedtime between 6-8 pm (we chose 7 pm initially). These practices were started on day 1 home from the hospital. Our first 6 weeks home were spent going to appointments every 2-3 days due to poor weight gain and a likely milk supply issue. Jackson also became very fussy from 2 weeks to 6 weeks of age and unfortunately, he remained fussy until 3-4 months of age. I believe he would fit the definition of colic (crying more than 3 hours per day, at least 3 days out of the week). During this time, we tried to let Jackson learn to self soothe but, as I am sure most parents of fussy children do, we found this challenging. After Jackson’s weight gain was on track (around 2 & ½ to 3 months) we decided it was time to work on his sleep. Previously, I had been going into his room to breastfeed him anytime he awoke from his sleep thinking he must be hungry since he was slow to gain weight at the beginning. When Jackson was about 16 weeks old, I knew that he was suffering from a lack of sleep. We often would have bedtime battles with him; he would be so fussy around 6-6:30 pm that he could not even breastfeed nor drink a bottle of formula. He would have multiple night awakenings and he would awaken from his naps with almost hysterical crying (this was likely sleep inertia). His nighttime awakenings would occur every 2-3 hours some nights and he would have difficulty settling back to sleep even after he was fed. His naps during this time were also quite short in duration, usually around 45 minutes. At this time, I was exhausted, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I had moved his bedtime to 6:00-6:30 pm on my own after re-reading Dr. Weissbluth’s book, which suggests 6-8 pm. Despite all our efforts, Jackson was fussy and not sleeping nor napping well. I reached out online to Dr. Weissbluth through his website. He suggested an earlier bedtime yet, 5:30 pm, as Jackson’s behavior between 4-5 pm indicated he needed more sleep. I ended up moving his bedtime between 5:30-6:00 pm, which showed some success by minimizing some of the night awakenings. Illness then swept through our house, infecting all of us, which interrupted our sleep training. Dr Weissbluth advised to focus on caring for our son and halt sleep training until he was healthy. After Jackson had recovered from his cold, he was again waking multiple times in the night and even had an episode of crying on and off for 1 & ½ hours one night (from 10:30 pm- midnight). I again reached out to Dr. Weissbluth, who suggested an even earlier bedtime of 5:00 pm- 5:30 pm, depending on the quality and timing of his last nap and his behavior between 4-5pm.” 

An older sibling might distract parents who then do not appreciate drowsy signs in their baby or play with the baby and mask early evening drowsy signs.  Or an older sibling might have scheduled activities that interfere with the baby’s naps or an early bedtime.  Also, an older sibling has more social contacts that cause more common colds in the older sibling and sometimes the baby.

“Dr. Weissbluth also suggested watching Jackson for drowsy signs and napping him when they appeared rather than watching the clock. This was especially important while his nap rhythms were not yet developed. After about a week of extra early bedtimes (5:00 pm-5:30 pm), Jackson’s night awakenings resolved. His naps also significantly improved; he is now napping for about 1 and ½ hours in the morning and midday, with a 45-55 min late afternoon nap. Jackson would be described as an “irregular” child. It has taken a long time for him to develop napping and feeding schedules; and within these schedules, there is quite a bit of variance. Therefore, the advice that Dr Weissbluth gives, to “watch your child for drowsy cues” is so important. I feel that we really struggled with this early on due to Jackson’s colic; it is hard to catch drowsy/fussy queues when your child is constantly fussing.” 

When colic is present, drowsy signs often are hard to see and putting your child down drowsy but awake may be impossible.

“Everyone in our house now is much happier and better rested. Jackson currently goes to bed around 5:30-5:45 pm and he is asleep within 10 minutes. He wakes once in the night, around 2:30 am to feed, but doesn’t cry. His wake up time isn’t consistent yet, but is somewhere between 5:30-6:45 am. I do not go in to him until it is past 6:00 am. I am so grateful for the help that Dr. Weissbluth provided during a very stressful and tiresome time in my life. I have learnt that early bedtimes and watching and responding to your child’s sleep cues are of utmost importance in sleep training.”

“Here is a summary of my narrative.

For the past 4 months, I feel like I have been failing as a parent. I have been very frustrated that I am unable to help my son be less fussy and sleep better. I was, and still am, very anxious, especially at nighttime. I am always concerned that I am going to miss his drowsy cues and put him to sleep too late, contributing to more bedtime battles and nighttime awakenings. However, with each night that he does sleep better, I gain confidence that I am learning to read his cues better, and I am providing him with the right environment and schedule to become better rested. Having a supportive partner does make sleep training much easier. My husband works away 50% of the time, and therefore, I do 100% of the bedtime routines for consistency. When he is home, I do find the whole process of sleep training easier and he helps me by providing emotional support. He was skeptical at first of the ultra-early bedtime, but once we had some success with it he was in agreement with it. My husband is not a book worm, therefore, reading Dr. Weissbluth’s book was not appealing to him. However, Dr. Weissbluth’s website, which contains the same information as his book, was a handy resource that my husband was willing to read. Overall, my anxiety is improving slowly, and I am more optimistic each day that my son will someday sleep 12 hours without waking up.”

Tara Marsh

For more information:

Drowsy Signs: Blog posts 9, 83, 115X

Colic: Blog Posts: 43, 44, 97

Early Bedtimes: Blog Post 123

Mini-sleep consult: Blog Post 159

Comments

  1. I was surprised and happy to see you used my narrative! I read all your posts when I get the email saying you posted something new. Jackson is now 19 months and is pretty much an excellent sleeper. We just dropped to one midday nap at 18 months and he now goes to bed each night around 7 pm (give or take 15-20 minutes). He is an early riser at 545-ish but he waits patiently until we go in to get him at 6-6:30 am. Thank you for the support you gave me during the most stressful time of my life.

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