It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Sleeping Trials

This post was written in early December, and finally I pull it from the files for your entertainment and edification…

Baby Nigel started with me two weeks ago. Baby Nigel is a sleep champion. Baby Nigel is popped into his crib – he liked to be swaddled – and that’s it. He sleeps for two or three hours. I can go into the room, he doesn’t wake. I’ve even gone in, and partly unwrapped him before realizing that wasn’t him I’d heard but the child in the next room (things like this happen sometimes at daycare…) – AND HE DIDN’T WAKE UP!!!

I love this child!
He didn’t do this from day one. On day one, I popped him into his crib when he was drowsy, said “Sleep tight, baby boy!” and left. Nigel roared. And roared. And roared some more. Took him an hour that first day. On day two, it took twenty minutes. On day three, less than five. After that, any fussing has been seconds long, low-key and entirely for show. Like I said – the boy’s a Sleep Champion.

Baby Nigel’s parents have been asking, “Does he sleep a lot here?” I know what this means. They’re having trouble with his evening or night sleeps. They want me to make accommodations to help them out. If it’s necessary, I will, but an eleven-month old who sleeps 2 to 3 hours during the day is only within normal parameters, so I ask some diagnostic, fact-finding questions, to which I get these answers:

“He goes to sleep for the night between 9 and 10.”
“He goes to sleep for the night between 11 and midnight.”
“He’s up at six.”
“He’s up at seven.”
“He never naps in the evening.”
“He naps a couple of evenings a week.”
“He’s a restless sleeper.”
“He sleeps well once he’s down except when he’s ill.”
“He goes to sleep on his own.”
“One of us lays down with him several times a week.”

All righty then. That clarifies a lot.

(I might explain that, generally, dad drops them off and mom picks them up. Which is a great situation for a caregiver who wants information from each parent unfiltered through the other parent’s perceptions.)

It does clarify one thing for me: these two haven’t a clue what they’re talking about. Is this child getting six or ten hours of sleep a night? Who knows? Until they have a better handle on what they’re doing at home, I will not be messing with what I’m doing here.

So, beginning after the upheaval of routine that the next three weeks will bring (explanation: Christmas), we will be creating a baseline. They will be charting for me their child’s sleep and wake patterns. They will do this for three weeks. Only then will we have the information we need to determine how best to help him structure his sleep.

Oh, and just wait till they realize I sleep train…

February 6, 2006 - Posted by | Uncategorized


  1. For me, there are two important attributes to parenting:

    #1 Routine.
    #2 Singing from the same hymn sheet.

    It sounds like these parents have neither, of course, its easy to sit on the side line and make observations 🙂

    Swaddling, wow, at one time or another I tried this with each of mine, for my first born swaddling was the saviour of our lives as he was, and 12 years on still is, the worst sleeper ive ever known. I’m glad to hear that it hasn’t gone out of practice.

    Comment by Si | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  2. I bet Nigel looks forwad to your house: he knows when he’s going to be put down, how long he’ll get to sleep, etc. Babies like regularity. Child-centered parenting is nice, but schedules let the kid learn to center themselves…

    I wonder if you’ll get nasty comments for letting Nigel ‘howl’? Although I know that sleep training can be misused, it sounds like it was what he needed. Expecially since it improved…

    Comment by BeckaJo | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  3. He goes to sleep at 9, 10, 11 or 12? ALL of them are too late if he gets uo at 6 or 7. No wonder the poor mites values his 2-3 hour naps with you, he’s exhausted! What ahppened to “a minimum of 12 hours sleep in 24 until they’re 5”?

    Mstr A still needs the full 12 hours at night, plus a catch-up nap once or twice a week. Both the other two have 12 hours at night & a nap in the day. (Well, LMB is just stopping her nap most days now).

    Don’t these people watch the nanny program that I hate? The one where EVERY SINGLE WEEK she tells the parents the children are sleep deprived, and as soon as bedtime is sorted out, the child behaviour miraculously improves!

    Damn, I thought I was a crap parent cos none of mine slept through the night till they were a year old, but at least they all slept soundly, at the same time every night.

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  4. Now, if he’s actually going to sleep between 11 and midnight, maybe he needs to adjust the schedule a little, but 9 really isn’t that bad for a little guy! And, if they let him nap in the evening- well, he’s not going to go to sleep until late. K’s a great sleeper (usually 3 hour naps, and she’s almost three!), but if I go into her room she almost always wakes up- she’s always been that way.

    Comment by Angela | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  5. I bet the sleep chart is only half filled in. Poor kid. Let him sleep! He needs it, if he’s going to bed later than me and getting up earlier than I do!!

    Comment by AverageMom | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  6. Hah! I say you have to know the rules so you can break them….

    It takes a schedule to create a flexible parent… I swear, that makes sense in my head…. it does.

    If a kid has a set bed time and nap routine then you can schedule things around it or take steps to diffuse the bomb that is an off-schedule kid.

    For example: Sweet Boy is normally asleep at 11:00 in the morning. But if I know I have somewhere to be at 11:00 and I want him to be semi-cheery I wake him up earlier in the early morning so he will conk out for his nap earlier and be a human boy instead of a baboon-child at 11:00. I know the rules of the schedule and I can, therefore, flex them a little to meet the day’s offerings.

    And, is it just me, or do kids actually sleep BETTER the earlier you put them to bed at night? If bed time is 8:00 and he doesn’t hit the hay until 9:00…. I promise you I will be up with him at least once before 11:00…. why is that??

    Comment by Homestead | February 6, 2006 | Reply

  7. Some parents like their children to be either eating, playing quietly or sleeping. If the kid does anything outside the above categories, they will generally like to cradle the kid to sleep, so the parents can move on to do their own things.

    Comment by Queen Bee | February 7, 2006 | Reply

  8. I know you’re talking about babies but the older kids need some routine as well. We have a regular bedtime (about 30 minutes leeway) and they can crash earlier if they wish.

    We’re a little less rigid on Friday and Saturday but by Sunday night, they’re settled back in.

    They sleep between 9 and 10 hours a night and they need every bit of it. I don’t know how the kids who go to bed at midnight and are up at six accomplish anything. Mine would be in meltdown.

    Comment by Granny | February 7, 2006 | Reply

  9. Si: I like that way of putting it! Routine and the same hymn sheet. I like it. My sidelines are much closer than yours, and I’d say you’re right.

    Swaddling. The nurse in the hospital taught me this when my eldest was born. I never used it very effectively with her. I could say it “didn’t work” for her, but subsequent experience has shown me I was doing it wrong. I use it quite routinely with daycare tots, and it generally works like a charm!

    Some people say it’s because it makes them feel like they’re in the womb again. I think this might be true for the tiniest ones, but I think for year-old babies like Nigel, the effect is different: it stops him from keeping himself awake with his thrashing about. When he’s kept still, he calms much more quickly. Less phyiscal agitation = happy baby.

    Beckajo Child-centered parenting sounds nice, but too often it means that the child does whatever he wants whenever he wants it; that only the child’s want are considered. “Wants”, not “needs”, which is even unhealthier than a child whose needs take priority over everyone else’s equally valid needs.

    What a child needs is healthy eat, sleep, activity patterns. What a child wants is often something quite different: no sleep, no greens, and, when they’re older, sitting in front of a monitor all day!

    I think the optimal family arrangement is a balancing of needs. Parents set up routines that reflect their child’s best healthful interests, even if that’s not what the child wants, and the child makes choices within those parameters, in areas in which s/he is capable of making healthy choices for him/herself. As the child matures, those areas of choice get larger and larger.

    MrsA: It is my strong conviction that North Americans are, man, woman, and child, hugely sleep-deprived all the time. They think it’s normal.

    In fact, I’d bet a lot of parents of three and four year olds would disagree that 12 in 24 is necessary. (A MINIMUM of, no less.)

    I have a close friend, with whom, when our children were younger, we would do child-care exchanges of an evening. I’d take her three overnight so she and her husband could have time out; they’d do the same for me. She assured me that her middle child, at ages 5, 6, 7, never went to sleep before 9 or 10, and would be up at 5 or 6.

    I was appalled – and took utterly no notice. All kids were sent to bed at our usual bedtime: 7:30 – 8:00, depending on their age. And guess what? She fell asleep within ten minutes, and slept till 7:30 or 8:00. The parents were astounded.

    Why do you think that nanny (I really must watch these shows one day) has to rant on about this every single week?? Because our kids aren’t getting enough sleep!!!

    Angela: Nine isn’t that late if he’s getting up at 8 or 9 in the morning, but of course he isn’t! A child this age needs 11 – 12 hours at night, and a further 2 or 3 hours in naps, often two naps, during the day. There is some variation, of course, but it’s not huge. You’re right, though: at this age, he doesn’t need an evening nap, and if he gets one, it’ll mess up his bedtime in a big way.

    A child who gets only nine hours at night is going to make up for it during the day (we hope!!) by taking a couple of two hour naps during the day.

    Three year olds who go to bed at 7:00 or 7:30 (as mine did), generally won’t need an afternoon nap. Kids who go to bed later – so as to have a chance to see their parents after work, say – will.

    AverageMom: Ah, sleep charts. I do love them, though perhaps not for the obvious reason. I need to blog on this soon – maybe today??

    Your thoughts are exactly mine: this poor kid could be getting less sleep than *I* am! I’m going to reduce his daytime naps? I don’t think so, poor wee thing.

    Homestead: You’ve pegged one of the not-so-obvious advantages of schedules. Ironically enough, when you have a schedule, you have more flexibility… Makes sense to me, too.

    (“Baboon child” LOL)

    Years ago I noted that kids who don’t get enough sleep go into what I termed as “overdrive”. They get drowsy, then they get tired, then they go beyond tired and get wired – and that’s how some parents can honestly believe their two or three year old child doesn’t need to sleep before nine or ten at night. Then they are all so used to a sleep-deprived kid that they think it’s normal! Drives me mental.

    Try putting them to sleep three hours earlier, and suddenly you have a child who’s sleeping a LOT more, and who’s probably calmer, less prone to tantrums, and napping well, too. It’s quite striking.

    I noticed this, as I said, years ago, and then not so long ago I stumbled upon that book by Marc Weissbluth, and isn’t that exactly what he says? (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child)

    But I noticed it first.

    QueenBee: This child used to be cradled to sleep, I understand, but now they’re putting him down drowsy but awake. This is a step in the right direction.

    Granny: They certainly do! I never ceased to be appalled at how little sleep we let our older children and teens try to survive upon. Both my kids who are still at home (12 and 16 years) have set bedtimes on school nights that allow them 9 or 10 hours sleep. Like you, I find they NEED it.

    I’m wondering how much of the surly behaviours teachers see is simply the result of chronically overtired kids!

    Comment by Mary P. | February 7, 2006 | Reply

  10. Do you make house calls? Retroactively? LOL

    Comment by jen-o-rama | February 8, 2006 | Reply

  11. Jen: Gee, you really do think a lot of my skills, don’t you? Sadly, I think time travel is beyond me…

    Comment by Mary P. | February 9, 2006 | Reply

  12. 10 or 11 at night? What?? That’s insane. And, I guess from reading your other posts, it’s not even entirely true.

    I never understand why parents think their children should have the same sleep patterns as adult.

    Comment by MIM | February 12, 2006 | Reply

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