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Different Sleep Habits, Different Child

Aug08

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Advice Smackdown ArchivesHi Amy!

I have a question for you, Oh seasoned mother of three. I just had my second child, a precious roly-poly girl who just light up our days. AND NIGHTS. She is about 10 weeks old currently, and she has maxed out at around 6 straight hours of nighttime sleep. Ever. She typically goes a 4 hour stretch, then who the crap can tell from there. Sometimes another 4 hour (which is awesome, for us), sometimes a 2 hour and another 2 hour.

The good thing is that she just wakes up to nurse, gets reswaddled (she is a wily one, even in her Miracle Blanket), sometimes a diaper change, and is right back down to sleep. It’s just.. well.. our other child, who is now 3, was an amazing sleeper from Day One. He went 7 hours at 7 weeks, 8 at 8 week, and so on from there. He was pretty good with napping in the crib, as well. Our daughter takes 2 of her 3 daily naps ON ME, in our Ergo or other sling, because it’s just so much easier than playing the back-and-forth game of getting her to nap independently when I have a 3 year old to contend with.

I feel two things: 1. I hate that I am ALREADY drawing needless comparisons with our son. He doesn’t (but apparently does!) set the standard for awesome infant sleep, and it’s not fair to our daughter. Especially when there’s not much we can do at this point to change things. And 2. Am I screwing up her chances of being a good sleeper by wearing her so much?? I never wore my son (3 years ago I had no clue babywearing was so trendy/awesome), and he learned to put himself to sleep pretty well. The girl is already 99th percentile large, and I want to be able to put her precious heiney in the crib, lest I be stuck wearing a twenty-pound 6 month old twice daily. 

Tips, advice, commiseration??? 
Thank you!  

I have said the following sentence many, many times since the birth of my subsequent children: If my first baby had been my *only* baby, I would have been a horribly smug, obnoxious parent. Because I would have continued to be deluded into thinking that everything great about my first baby was directly related to something I DID. Sleeping, especially. Oh, what an asshole I was, with my seven-week-old who slept through the night in his crib and who napped twice-daily like clockwork by 12 weeks and la dee laaaaaa, it’s simply because you have to be FLEXIBLE and not STRESS OVER IT or cling to a PHILOSOPHY that might not apply to YOUR BABY and also MUSICAL CRIB AQUARIUMS WOULD SOLVE EVERYBODY’S SLEEP PROBLEMS, DUH.

But the fact is that Noah’s good, early sleep habits had absolutely nothing to do with me or anything I did. I just got lucky.

But that’s also not to say that I got “unlucky” with Ezra and Ike or that they were/are “bad” sleepers. Just more…typical. More zigs and zags in their early sleep patterns. Five hours one night, nearly eight the next, then BAM, back to four hours and then near-hourly wakings from 2 am to 6 am. I think I managed to get Ezra on the 2-3-4 hour nap schedule around three months or so, but 1) I may be making that up out of thin air, because 2) I AM SO TIRED RIGHT NOW, because 3) Ike’s naps remain a complete crapshoot. Sometimes he naps in his crib, sometimes in his swing or carseat, sometimes swaddled on the bed next to me while I work, wherever. Since his overnight sleep and wake times are still a wildcard, we’re still fumbling through our days in the “oh hey look the baby fell asleep I wonder how long that will last” kind of chaos.

But as you mentioned, it gets infinitely harder to really get yourself worked up about these things when you’re trying to care for older children, and gets infinitely easier to just opt for the path of least resistance. Which in this case, means letting your daughter nap wherever she will deign to TAKE A NAP.

Ezra napped in a carrier almost daily for quite some time — more so than Ike, even. But no, it wasn’t forever and it didn’t doom him to still only sleeping in a carrier at six months old. And maaaaybe if you were writing to say that your daughter was still only sleeping in a carrier at six months old I would suggest that you start trying some sleep-training alternatives, but at 10 weeks? No way. Don’t worry about it. Focus on the nighttime sleep first, and a routine and getting enough sleep YOURSELF so you can function enough to parent two children, and then start experimenting with different nap options. Maybe try moving from carrier to swaddled-in-a-swing? Or carseat? Then make the move to the crib? It could be that being all upright and contained and cozy next to you will take a few compromising steps down before she’ll tolerate being flat on her back in a big, open-feeling crib.

But don’t stress, really: I can assure you that eventually, Ezra took regular naps in his crib and slept through the night and to this day is EVERY bit as good of a sleeper as Noah is. He just took a more roundabout way of getting there.

And that’s the big lesson here, even though I am pretty sure you KNOW THIS: Just because your daughter is doing things differently than your son, don’t feel like you need to figure out what YOU’RE doing differently and “blame” that. Some kids sleep. Some kids don’t. If you weren’t wearing your daughter you could very likely have been writing me about how your daughter only naps while you hold her and walk laps around the living room for two solid hours.

Ezra rolled over, crawled AND walked later than Noah, but talked earlier. But Noah knew his colors sooner. But Ezra can kick a ball farther. I fed Noah baby food from jars and he is picky; I made Ezra’s food from scratch and he is most definitely not. But then one was cloth-diapered and the other wasn’t, but they both potty-trained at the exact same age. Ike looks exactly like Noah, but his temperament and likes/dislikes remind me so much more of a newborn Ezra.

Point is, it’s impossible NOT to play the compare/contrast game when you have more than one. It just IS. And it’s tempting to make it all about you, and what you did (or didn’t do). And maybe sometimes it is, but a lot of the time it seriously just isn’t. And soon the different sleep habits will just become another small detail in your own loooooong list of differences you notice between your kids as you get to learn not just what they do, but who they are.

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If there is a question you would like answered by Amalah on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


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15 Responses to “Different Sleep Habits, Different Child”

  1. MR Aug 08 at 3:11 pm Reply Reply

    I can’t agree with you more, Amy. My first kid was a HORRIBLE sleeper. Awake every 2 hours, and wanting to be up for the day at 3am for the first 3 months of her life. That was brutal! What made her stop? Did I find the right cure or some magic remedy to get her to sleep? No. She just started only waking 2 or 3 times (in a 12-14 hour night) all on her own. My second kid is completely the opposite. She has been a fantastic sleeper, giving me a 4 hour stretch from about week 3. Now at 13 weeks, she has some nights where she only wakes up once, and some nights where she does a 4 hour stretch and then wakes up every hour. I don’t do anything differently on these days. She just sleeps differently. Shrug. Kids are just different. As for wearing the baby to take a nap, there is so nothing wrong with that! My first only took naps if she was worn for about the first 3 months. She had reflux and this helped her sleep. She outgrew it at 3-4 months and slept in her crib for all her naps after that. I use the carrier as much as possible for my second. She loves it, and I love cuddling her and having my hands free. They are only little enough to cuddle like this once, and it goes sooo quickly. Plus, “Oh, Honey, can you put the laundry in the dryer? I can’t reach it all with the baby on my front.” ;) lol

  2. Crabby Apple Seed Aug 08 at 4:48 pm Reply Reply

    I seem to breed the world’s worst sleepers EVER. or so it would appear as I am wrestling with bad sleeper number two right now. Our naps are Teh Suck with this one, but nighttime sleep is right exactly where we were with her sister at this point (aka getting better but still pretty horrible). With baby no. 1, we were adamant that she learn how to sleep independently, we never, EVER co-slept, and were incredibly rigid about everything. With baby no. 2, I didn’t feel like I had the luxury (HA!) of being a cranky, foggy, overtired mess for the first million months, so she slept in my bed until my return to work, when we started the transition to her crib. In spite of these rather glaring differences, their nighttime sleep, as I mentioned, is identical. So yeah, I am now of the school that there is very little you can do to influence their sleep at this young age.

  3. Kim Aug 08 at 7:46 pm Reply Reply

    Best advice I got? “You and J keep trying to find the logic behind sleeping. Babies are not logical!” Do whatever works, for as long it does, and then figure out how to change things up. I think getting her used to napping in a carrier is a plus, really – my 18 mo napped in the ergo at the zoo not too long ago, even as I was getting on and off the (strollerfree) bus, and she fell asleep on my back this morning before sleeping 2 hours on her bed. My ergo is a huge tool in my aresenal.

  4. Sarah Aug 09 at 7:46 am Reply Reply

    Good advice. For what it’s worth all my (3) boys had their naps in the sling till they were about a year, and whenever they wanted them. At about 13 months they all decided to have regular naps in bed, insisted in fact! It was most inconvenient because we then had to be at home every day at that time! For the record my older two are now great sleepers and set their own very sensible bedtime (about 8:30), going to sleep easily after a couple of stories and a song. My youngest is only 10months but with a good sling I can still have him nap on me quite comfortably.

  5. camille Aug 09 at 4:38 pm Reply Reply

    I’m in the same boat as MR….awfulawfulawful sleeper with my first, but my nearly 5 month old self-soothes, falls asleep on his own, and sleeps for long stretches (that will probably change now that I’ve said it on the interwebs). If you name a sleep book, I’ve read it, and for a long time I thought we were just doing it wrong (maybe even until our son was born, who was just different). We took a “whatever it takes” approach to get our daughter to sleep, and most naps until she was ~1 year were either in a carrier or in our arms. We co-slept and nights were better, as long as she was with us, but the actual falling asleep component was still a struggle. The good thing (but depressing since she’s only 10 weeks) was that when she was just over two she magically started sleeping through the night (mostly) and going to sleep easily (although we still rock her). So, I don’t think you can “break her sleep” by using a carrier….just do whatever you need to! I know its little consolation, but I’ve asked my husband if our son sleeps too much or if we’re not providing him enough comfort and that’s why he self-soothes (my husband’s response: “don’t jinx it!! we deserve this!!!”).

  6. camille Aug 09 at 4:41 pm Reply Reply

    To clarify, the good thing is that our daughter started sleeping well when she was a little past 2 years, which I know is depressing to to the OP to read since her daughter is only 10 weeks.

  7. Liz Aug 09 at 6:39 pm Reply Reply

    My 2nd child (son) napped in a carrier or on my lap in the rocker for his first year. He was always a terrible sleeper compared to my daughter and as soon as she was asleep in her crib for her nap, I’d sit down to nurse my son, he’d fall asleep and I’d sit and relax while I could. He has just started napping in his crib (he’s turning 15 months tomorrow) and it’s wonderful. He obviously wasn’t ready before and I needed to have some quiet time instead of dealing with crying baby during naptime, so I did what I felt was right so we could all get some rest/relax time. It will come, don’t stress! Just do what feels right for you and your daughter.

  8. Kimberly Aug 10 at 6:26 pm Reply Reply

    My son was not a great napper or nighttime sleeper. I wore him in a moby often to get him to nap. He even slept with us at night because he refused to sleep in his crib. Then something clicked at 11 months. We put him to sleep in his crib and he went down without any fuss. He goes to bed awake, but sleepy and he conks out on his own. No tears, no drama. Just sleep. Babies won’t always be crappy sleepers. Eventually they’ll turn into teenagers who won’t get up until 1pm anyway. It’ll be fine.

  9. Kim Aug 10 at 8:39 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for responding to my question!!! And for all the commenters, too. :)
    So, it’s 5 weeks later (from when I sent you the email) and she is napping in her crib. Big surprise, eh?! Well – the first nap is usually in the car-seat, as we’re out and about… but naps 2-4 (or whatever) are in the crib. Still swaddled. One thing at a time!!!
    She’s having a rough week.. BUT! She did up to 7 hours last week… it was GLORIOUS! And now very very painful.. as she’s back to every 3 hours. Oh well!
    Babies are tricky little things, aren’t they??! Changing and stuff.. like, all the time. Thanks again! I needed this perspective. :)

  10. Amy J Aug 11 at 1:58 pm Reply Reply

    My nine month old is a horrible sleeper. I have tried various sleep training methods and no dice. Oh well? Someday? Maybe? The screaming does me in.

  11. Julia Aug 12 at 8:55 pm Reply Reply

    This may seem obvious, but for your first kid you only had the one to contend with. You probably didn’t have to wear him as much because you didn’t have an older one to chase. And you didn’t have an older brother waking him up by running around doing the noisy things that little kids do. I had an awesome little sleeper too, that just means both of us were spoiled the first time around. Actually, your daughter’s sleep habits sound a little closer to “normal” to me.
    You do what you do because it’s what works for you at the time. If wearing your daughter stops working because they get heavier, you’ll experiment until you find something else that works. And two months from then it’ll be something different because the old thing doesn’t work anymore and you’ll long for the days when popping her in the carrier put her out like a light.

  12. Jenny Aug 14 at 4:38 pm Reply Reply

    Kim – my now 4-month-old is a similar sleeper as your daughter. She always needed to be held or worn. Only recently does she fall asleep on her own in the crib. She still naps about 3-4 times throughout the day and is up twice at night.

    She’s my first though, so she’s all I know. I pray my next will be the good sleeper!

  13. Jenny Aug 14 at 4:39 pm Reply Reply

    Kim – my now 4-month-old is a similar sleeper as your daughter. She always needed to be held or worn. Only recently does she fall asleep on her own in the crib. She still naps about 3-4 times throughout the day and is up twice at night.

    She’s my first though, so she’s all I know. I pray my next will be the good sleeper!

  14. Kirsty Aug 18 at 7:51 am Reply Reply

    Neither of my girls ever embraced the concept of napping (and we basically gave up all attempts at about 18 months because 2 hours of screaming isn’t restful for anyone). However, my elder daughter (now aged 9.5) was a great night-time sleeper, so I wasn’t overly concerned. Our younger daughter, on the other hand, hated ALL forms of sleep. With a passion (pretty much like how she hated all forms of food, including every type of milk available). Even now, at the ripe old age of 7, she takes longer to fall asleep than her sister and will actively fight sleep till she passes out. At least now I’m not “involved” so much.
    I guess this isn’t very reassuring, is it?! Oh, and she also despises all but the most bland and/or trashy food, so it’s an all-round win. It’s a good job she cute and bright and beautiful and loving… (though if she were the elder child, I’m pretty sure she’d have been an only child!)

  15. Julie Aug 27 at 1:18 pm Reply Reply

    My first was a GREAT sleeper and was sleeping through the night in 6 weeks. He’s 2 now and besides one setback when he was starting to teethe, it was VERY easy. #2…not so much! We tried everything we can but it has been very difficult. She will sleep no problem when in our arms, but as soon as we put her down, major issues…

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