17 weeks – sleep training and personality

Milestones of the week: All babies started on organic bananas, apricots, and rice cereal! Everyone eats solids everyday, more than we expected! For me (Hey, I have milestones too!), I can finally tell the identical boys apart. William’s left ear is slightly different than the other 3 ears of the boys. Jason can tell them apart by their slightly different faces and head shapes, but not always. He says it’s getting harder and harder. And the biggie, Da-Da-DADA: everyone is sleeping through the night!!!

Thanks, readers, for all the advice on sleeping-through-the-night! Keep it coming! I made some big changes, and am happy to report things are much, MUCH better!

As many of you know, I’m working on research-based PhD program in personality psychology at one of the UC universities. Coincidentally, I also worked for a twin study as an undergrad (MCTFR, yes, you can google that, though I think they took my pic down). Questions regarding whether traits are determined by genes (and therefore difficult to change) were addressed by identical twins separated at birth. Turns out, everything from IQ to personality traits are genetic, with some personality traits more likely passed from parents to child. Twin studies went on to answer many more questions about personality, using both identicals and fraternals, most of whom live in the same home. Still, it’s common to believe that the parent wields the most control over a child’s success or failures (with the right love, proper care, best schools, voodoo, yadda, yadda).

I think MOMs get a unique view. If we treat our babies the same from day 1 (and they have the exact same environment), some babies still remain different from each other, while others, the same. We also know (and anyone who knows my babies knows) differences are greater among the fraternals than the identicals. This is because identicals share the same DNA. You may wish one child were like the other, but there’s only so much that can be done in the way of shaping them.

Sleep training is a sensitive subject, I’ve learned. The debate becomes about personal philosophy, and creeps into good-parent, bad-parent waters. Whether to allow a baby to cry is up for debate. Originally committing to crying-it-out, some parents discover their child isn’t right for it. Conversely, some parents originally opposed to crying-it-out may resort to it after both parents and child suffered for years with sleep problems. What works for one baby may not necessarily work for another. Parents who feel forced into a certain sleep training method get very annoyed and defensive when others try to tell them they didn’t do the “right” thing.

But sleeping is not only good for parents as caretakers (thereby benefitting the baby), but it’s especially necessary for babies. Weissbluth’s book, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins”, nails it. Sleep is essential for both brain and emotional development in babies. Anyone who examines these studies takes heart. You wouldn’t remove your child from his carseat while traveling, just because he’s crying, right? Well, the same goes for sleeping.

Like most areas of parenting, sleep-training methods oppose one another. Most books claim that one sleep training method will work with any baby, but wading in these waters proves otherwise. Amazon reviews attest to this. Proportionally, “The No Cry Solution” has just as many positive and negative reviews as Ferber’s infamous book, “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”. Yet they couldn’t be more different from one another. Like many parents w/o any ideas about parenting, I bought both and poured over them in confusion and frustration.

(Not many books sell entitled, “There’s Little You Can Do”.)

I finally decided to put personal philosophies aside, and attempt a more baby-specific approach. They’re too young to do a full blown cry-it-out (though some say 4 months is time, I err on the side of caution). I decided to feed the boys at 11pm, and then not between 12am and 7am. Period. I sooth using pacis and by rocking them in the rock-n-plays. I expected a nightmare screaming fest, but it went very, very well. For the last couple days, they all started sleeping from 12am to 6am, with the occasional exception from Emilia.

The boys do wonderfully with a little crying. Actually, the boys don’t get tearful at all, it’s more like yelling and shouting that only goes on for maybe 5 minutes or so, after which they’ll often stop, and go back to sleep on their own. Up until now, I was in there immediately, waking them up further, to the point they couldn’t be soothed. Next came the bottles. Huge mistake. Now, I do whatever it takes to sooth them after 5 minutes or so of crying (except feed). If they’re still going after 10 mins, they’re generally soothed after a couple trips (pacis and rocking), maybe up to 20 mins at the most before going back to sleep w/o a bottle.

Emilia doesn’t do well with crying. The boys don’t get nearly as worked up as she does, so comparing helps us see what doesn’t work among babies. No crying-it-out for Emmy. When she was as young as a few weeks old, Jason noted that she “only cries legitimately”, but the boys just cried! Guess who’s easier to train now? If Emilia wakes really upset, game over. Soothing doesn’t work with her either, she just gets more and more upset. Last week, I listened to her cries at night, and sometimes she’d go right back to sleep, but when she didn’t (I wait 5 mins), I learned not to push her. She must be held and fed. Otherwise she screams like nothing I’ve heard before, and will not stop. Seriously, she won’t stop. Of course, she’s been sleeping 10+ hours for over a month.  She used to always get up at 5am, and now she sometimes goes till 6:30, so we can accept it. If she weren’t normally so good about sleeping, I might think about training her more. But she’s clearly getting the sleep she needs, sans the occasional waking here and there, which I can accept for good reason. Her wakings seem legitimate, and cause for action.

So, I base soothings on their cries. When one gets really worked up, I go in as soon as 1 min. If they’re just fussing or “talking”, I don’t go in at all, and that can last 20 mins. I don’t watch the clock, either, but listen instead for the severity of the cries; how they sound, if they start and stop–I listen like a mouse. I also learned that babies sometimes cry for a minute or so, and if you don’t mess with them, they go right back to sleep. It’s natural as they drift from one sleep stage to another. Adults do it to, but we don’t cry when we wake.

I’m so happy to report the opposing methods are working between all 3 babies! It’s not perfect, but it’s a positive start. Both boys are finally eating their morning bottles. Because Emmy isn’t ready for the (occasional) night feeding to be dropped, how much she eats in the morning depends. But the boys amazed me. After they started sleeping-through-the-night, they went from skipping their morning feeding altogether to eating 4 ounces, then 5, then today they ate 6!

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