"Hi Dr Polly-
I have been following the 90 minute wake cycle with our five month old baby boy since he was about eight weeks old. I actually noticed this cycle on my own before finding your book and it only helped to confirm my natural "gut" feelings with him. He is now five months old and I have allowing him to follow his natural sleep rythm since coming across your book when he was just eight weeks old (despite growing slightly frustrated from living my life in 90 minute increments). I now have several questions:
1. Evenings are tough. Say he wakes up from a nap around 3:00, I will attempt to get him down for catnap at 4:30. Even though he is tired and ready for sleep, he will fight any nap that happens to fall after 3:00. Obviously, this makes for a tough evening for he and our family. On these type of days, I will actually put him down for the night at 6:30pm. What are your recommendations for getting that difficult evening nap? Or, is he just the type of baby who may always fight an evening nap?
2. His naps have actually shortened in length over the past 2-3 weeks. The funny thing is, they will last exactly 45 minutes, sometimes, he will wake up and go back to sleep on his own for another 45minutes, making it an 1.5 hour nap. He will take 3 naps throughout the day. At his age, should I be concerned that he still is taking several short naps throughout the day, with 90 minutes of wake time in between?
3. His nights have actually become more difficult than they were say when he was around 2.5-3.5 months old. At that age he would sleep from 7 pm- 7a.m. with ONE feeding somewhere between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Now, he will get up anywhere between 11p.m. and 3 a.m., and then on a bad night he will wake up several times between 3 a.m. and 7 a.m. and need to be rocked and put back to sleep. We are only trying to feed him once at night, he was a big baby (9lbs 7 ounces) and is 90th percentile hieght and 70th for weight. We are just pretty exhausted with his new night pattern. About twice a week, we will have a good night where he wakes up once, over a twelve hour night. Again, do you have any suggestions to help improve his nights? We have a bedtime routine, but most evenings he is so tired from not taking an evening nap (sometimes he will be awake from 2:30 until 6:30!!) that he screams himself to sleep while we rock him. This is getting better (the screaming), but it makes for a tough bed time.
4. Lastly, I get so much unsolicited advice about his multiple mini naps during the day and the fact that he does not sleep through the night at five months. Are we doing something wrong? When he is awake, he is a happy alert baby, and in my opinion, very physically advanced. He already rolls over both ways and can support himself with his hands to sit up... he has even attempted the "army crawl" several times. He is engaged and laughs all the time.. until his ninety minutes are up, then we head to his nursery, rock with a pacifier and he is down for a nap.
thanks in advance Dr. Polly!"
You ask a lot of great questions. I'll do my best here. . .
Re your questions about the evening naps, and the multiple naps, and the possibly related issue of the re-emergent nighttime awakenings. I have a couple questions for YOU. How does your five-month-old fall asleep, for naps and at night? Is he ever able to fall asleep on his own? If so, you may want to think about trying to extend his daytime naps to 3 hours. (He is just about the right age to try this, especially if he's self-soothing frequently.)
It's not too complicated. When he awakens from a nap (whatever length, 45 minutes, or 90 minutes, etc), you may want to see if he's able to get himself back to sleep. Don't retrieve him immediately from the crib, but see what happens.
My daughter was like this, she had five 90-minute naps across the day, which admittedly was not terribly convenient, but I was just glad she was sleeping better, so I'd kept at it. One day I just stopped getting her out of the crib upon awakening, and sort of waited (patiently) for 15 minutes and sure enough, she started falling back to sleep on her own and her naps got longer. And my life got simpler.
She was about 5 - 6 months of age at that time, so I know it is possible, even though it might sound like it couldn't work. But your baby needs to be doing some self-soothing for this to be successful, so let me know if he's at that point yet.
If you are always rocking him to sleep, then you might want to start giving him opportunities to self-soothe, and then when he gets the hang of it, try the above approach.
I wonder whether the nighttime awakenings are worse (or better) on the nights in which he really fights the nighttime naps, vs. the nights in which you put him to bed at 6 or 6:30pm. Have you noticed a pattern?
The other surprising thing for me is how he is screaming himself to sleep. It sounds like a sign of genuinely intense fatigue for a five-month-old.
The issue of fighting the evening nap is a new one for me. I wonder are you and your family just too darned interesting for him to fall asleep? Might he be fighting the evening nap because he wants to be with the gang? I'm not kidding; this is sometimes true for especially sociable babies. Is your son a sociable one?
There are ways for you to become less interesting (I'm only half kidding here) so that he can get himself to sleep in the evenings.
And I know the evening nap is hard, but as you pointed out, when it's skipped, the baby is NOT having a good time. My babies were quite similar to your son. Both of them took an evening nap well into their 9th month of age, my son was nearly a year when he (at long last) abandoned the evening nap. You may notice in my book I do not refer to this as "normal" nor "standard." Many other babies at this age do not need the evening nap. I was aware my babies were outliers on this issue. Yours may be the same. I don't know what else to say except that babies are not all the same and you well know from experience what your baby is like when he doesn't nap, so of course, you choose to help him nap. To force him to stay awake is not your parenting style. You are trying to do the right thing by YOUR baby. And it's hard now, but he will eventually outgrow it, so hang in there.
And I hear you about being the unwilling recipient of unsolicited advice, it can be annoying, even when people have the best of intentions. All of us moms are just trying to do the best we can by our kids and our families. It's unfathomable to me how someone could suggest you are doing anything wrong or try to find fault with your parenting if you have a beautiful happy engaged and healthy growing baby. Hey, moms first thought I was nuts when I told them about the 90-minute rhythm, too. Then they were amazed to discover this rhythm that in fact had always been present but they'd just never noticed it.
People are funny, aren't they? And babies aren't all the same. And we need to do what we think is right by them. I say, follow your intuition and stick with what you are doing that works.