While putting a baby on a schedule could arguably be advantageous for any family, it certainly becomes a viable alternative for a family with multiples. The concept of scheduling has its critics, but for those who prefer a more orderly lifestyle in the midst of seeming chaos, the following questions, thoughts, or observations may be helpful in the decision making process and in the implementation of a schedule.
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What are some books I can read about scheduling?
One book that helps parents establish a healthy and workable schedule is On Becoming Babywise It is produced by Growing Families International. (Address: 9259 Eton Avenue, Chatsworth, CA 91311; phone number is (800)474-6264.) The book runs about $6 + S&H.
Many parents have benefited from reading Richard Ferber's Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems. This book can be found in the child rearing section of your local bookstore.
At what age can I safely start putting my children on a schedule?
When Matt and Grace were around four months old we put them on schedules: four hour feedings instead of three. They adjusted without any trouble (much to my surprise). We put them to bed for the night (awake) between 7:00 - 7:30 p.m. (as a rule they don't fuss or cry) and they are now sleeping through the night, although Grace has been doing so for a couple of months now. Matt usually got up around 4:30 a.m. For the past couple of weeks he's been sleeping until 6:00 - 6:30 a.m. Grace wakes up slow and easy and always with a smile. She gets up anywhere from 6:30 - 7:15 a.m. I truly believe that this is a direct result of keeping them on a schedule.
We introduced our children to a schedule as newborns. They really thrived on a three to four hour schedule once Mom’s milk supply kicked in. I initially nursed 30 minutes (both sides together) with my singleton and 45 minutes (one breast per child) with my twins. Both of these times dropped once the milk supply was strong and the babies sucked more efficiently.
How do I start to implement a schedule if we have been feeding on demand?
I can see *why* you guys get up and make the bottle for him, but are you suckers? Well… . . . yeah. Kids - *particularly* two-year-olds - need to know that their parents are in charge. They may be terribly unhappy about what you decide sometimes, but the important thing for the kid is that when you decide something, you do it. This enables him to trust you. I mean, if you decide you're *wrong*, that's one thing, but, regarding the bottle, you haven't decided you were wrong about weaning him, you're just caving in to his demands because it's late and, as Schwarzeneggar said in 'Kindergarten Cop', "You're soft!"
Think how frightening it would be to believe that you (in your son's place), at three feet tall, with limited English capabilities and no formal schooling, were making all the rules; that if you *just* bugged your parents long enough, they would do whatever you wanted. Sure, on the surface that sounds fun, from the pint-sized perspective, but what if something comes up that you can't handle? What if you get scared? Who's going to take charge, if Mommy and Daddy are just following your cues?
So, now that you've gone this long with him getting bottles at night, perhaps you should wean him gradually, but *wean him*. I mean, depending on who you talk to, a bottle before bed at age two might not be so bad, but he really needs to be sleeping through the night - for his own health as well as yours. Even if you don't have a book to tell you what to do, you still have parental authority. Tell him no when he asks for his bottle at 2 a.m. *and mean it*, even if you *do* have to spend ten sleepless nights putting him back in bed. If he knows you're confident in your decision, eventually he will be, too.
Last August we began the Ferberization process; I can only say that it was an astonishing success for us and you may remember that Ciaran and Hannah were 20 months at the time! I'm not saying it will be easy - you already know that it won't-- but the benefits to EVERYBODY in your house should you succeed are enormous. We found that after 3-4 days both babies were very happy to go to bed and almost without exception, both have slept all night since. I can't tell you how much the atmosphere in the house has improved, particularly at night time. You may remember that we had the babies sleeping in separate rooms prior to our attempt at Ferberization,, but we decided to bite the bullet and change their bedtime routines entirely. A sort of start again from scratch if you like. We moved them back together, developed a new routine which we adhered to religiously, and we were amazed how readily the babies accepted their new situation. I maintain they were as ready as we were! As regards your bottle situation, I feel it is important that you break your twins’ association between the BOTTLE and SLEEP. Failing that when they wake during the night they may cry for the bottle - not through hunger, but because they need it to get back to sleep. We still give Ciaran and Hannah a bottle at night at least half an hour before they go to bed. We don't allow them to fall asleep on the bottle; if one is particularly tired, we just bring the routine forward a little. If we can do it, SO CAN YOU!
What are some ways to help stop middle of the night feedings?
When my 7 month olds started not sleeping through at 5 months, I started them on stage 2 baby foods 3 times a day plus 6 bottles a day -- small amounts at first then gradually increasing them; and within a week or two, they started sleeping through the night. (Now going to bed at 8:30pm asleep by 9pm). Also letting them play after dinner until bedtime really helps to wear them out. [Editor’s note: make sure they are eating sufficiently in the daytime!]
With two year olds, you certainly deserve a full night's sleep. I'd recommend reading Richard Ferber's "Solving Your Child's Sleep Problems", primarily because of his discussion on how we inadvertently "train" our kids to "need" a drink to fall back asleep. Your child is probably not really thirsty, he's just been accustomed to *thinking* he's thirsty. Make sense? As long as he's getting plenty of fluids during the day, he shouldn't need a thing at night. As you describe it, he's been getting several drinks (breastmilk, etc) during the night ever since he was born. Of course he's going to be used to "needing" a drink to go back to sleep. Physiologically, though, he doesn't really need it. You may not necessarily agree with Ferber's methods for getting kids to sleep on their own, but he makes a lot of sense in discussing the problems that can interrupt good sleeping habits. I highly recommend it.
Regarding your three mo. old twins waking up between 2-4 a.m. and nursing only a bit, I would definitely suggest letting them cry for a short while to see if they really are hungry. At this age, they should be able to get enough during the day & evening to not need that wee-hours feeding. They are probably waking up as a force of habit, one you SOON would love to break I am sure. :-)
Try letting them cry a bit. IF they don't just go back to sleep after say 15 min. (time is up to you) or so, give them a pacifier & a pat. See if they don't just fall back to sleep on their own. If they are persistent & inconsolable, feed them as they could be in a growth spurt. But, continue to nudge them towards eliminating that feeding. It may take a few days for them to see it isn't worth waking up for.
What are some ways to curb very early risers?
My girls (21 months old now) used to do the same thing, and in our case it was during the summer when it gets light out much earlier. They were waking up at 5:30 every morning, and immediately demanding my attention. Not to mention that they were cranky in general from not getting enough sleep in the first place. We finally figured out that they were waking up early because of the light in their rooms. We had mini-blinds in, so we put lined curtains on top of that, and now their rooms are DARK, and they sleep till 7:00 or 7:30 every morning. I don't know if this is the case with your kids, but it's what worked for us! Good luck, and no, I don't think you're crazy for wanting 10 minutes to yourself in the morning to collect your thoughts!
Our son Drew was doing the exact same thing - waking about 5 a.m. and sometimes before. The three things we thought of are 1. he is hungry 2. he just doesn't require that much sleep 3. it is just a bad habit. We ruled out #1 because he ate very well all day and before bed as well as the fact that he wasn't interested in eating @ 5 a.m. We do believe that he does not require as much sleep as his sister, but cutting back his nap and putting him to bed later did not help the early wake ups. So that left us with a bad habit. We had been rushing into his room when he woke up so as not to wake the whole house. But finally I decided to see what would happen if I didn't rush in. He did cry for 10 minutes and just when I was about to give up and go in, he stopped. He fell back to sleep! The next morning he woke up early cried for 30 seconds and went back to sleep! Since then he has slept until 7 a.m. Still the first one up but at least it is a more reasonable hour!
Is nap time behavior related to night-time sleeping?
Bad nap times typically translate into bad night-times. My suggestion would be to try very hard during their naps to have them sleep in their crib/bed for a reasonable period (1 1/2 - 2 hours), checking on them only occasionally to see if they are safe, clean diaper, etc. Separate them if necessary. Meanwhile, you take a nap w/ a pillow over your head and/or some loud white noise that will filter out most whiney cries! I have had to do this before. At least, you will get a energy boost, and they will know this is the new program. After the time is up, "emancipate" them and interact w/ them as much as possible. Same general idea at night. The key is not to reward loud cries which have no reason other than boredom. A pat on the back & a statement that "it is time to be asleep" will help them get the idea that it is not "party time"! Then at a reasonable hour (you may have to slowly stretch them), get them up and start the day. Children are very smart. They will quit doing what doesn't profit them....Only in the meantime, it is very hard on Mom & Dad. :-(
How do we encourage slow eaters to not dilly-dally?
Early on, you want to encourage your children that when it is time to eat (nurse or bottlefeed), it is time to do just that – not to loiter, look around, or chew on bottle or Mom! To help this, try to reduce distractions. My kids seemed to be very distracted by me talking to anyone although the TV could be on. Also, when the child doodles, tell him/her it is time to eat (he/she comprehends more than you think) and then cut him/her off if it continues. The child will be quite hungry at the next feeding & less apt to doodle!
Is it OK to let your child cry himself/herself to sleep?
We found that our second son, Nathan, needed (almost from day 1) to dissipate stress accumulated during his waking hours by crying for a few minutes before going to sleep. It actually seemed to be a relief to his little system to "let off steam" in this way. Nathan is not, and never has been, a high-strung kid, but he just needed to cry to decompress before settling down. It may be that Zoie needs to release all the stimulation this way. And I hate to break it to your husband, but 15 minutes isn't all that long for a little one to settle down. It can SEEM like an eternity, but IMHO it's pretty reasonable. However, this sounds like it could be a growth spurt. My parenting philosophy says, "Feed a hungry baby!" But this IS very much a philosophy issue. Some would say that you should just let her cry. If it's a growth spurt, it will end and she'll get back on track.
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