Thursday, June 30, 2011

How Flexible Can I Be?

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The great unknown. Whether you are a mother for the first time or you just have your fifth baby, you will have to get to know just how flexible your new little baby can be.

Every child has his or her own tolerance level on flexibility. Some easily roll with whatever you throw at them while others lose it at the slightest change to normal.

Some of this is dependent on personality. Some personalities just deal with change better than others.

Some of this is dependent on life experience. If a child has a personality equipped to handle change often, then the more used to change a child gets, the easier she can handle it. 

Some of this is dependent on the parent's ability to compensate for disruptions. Over time, you learn to put down for naps earlier or just how short a nap can be cut. You learn what to do if you are going to be out late that night or if yesterday was a no-nap day.

But first and foremost, I think the ability to be flexible falls in a single category. How well rested is that baby?

"Slightly overtired children are more easily thrown off balance and take longer to recover [from disruptions]. Well-rested children tend to be more adaptable and take occasional changes of routine in stride" (Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, page 57). 

When I first read this line, there was a little bell in my head ringing "ding-ding-ding-ding-ding!"

This was Brayden. As a baby, he never handled disruptions well. If he was more than 15 minutes late for bed, he was crying. If he was late for a nap, he was crying. Missing a nap was just not an option for baby Brayden. If we had a vacation, it took a week or two to get back into the swing of things. 

When he was 2.5 and Kaitlyn was 6 months old, she was better able to miss naps than he was at that same moment. 

Brayden was also my 45 minute sleeper until he was 6.5 months old. He just was not well-rested enough to handle any disruption to his sleep schedule. This  has earned him a reputation in our home as someone who doesn't handle change well, when in fact, he handles change just fine. He probably handles it better than either of the girls. The statement by Weissbluth in Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child makes a lot of sense. It was that he was inflexible, it was that he was slightly overly tired. 

Contrast that with the girls who could/can miss naps, go to bed late, go down for naps early or late, etc. without much of an issue. These things are not a guarantee that we will have a nice tantrum explode later. Coming home from vacation? No big deal. They rarely take any time at all to get back to normal. These two girls are sleepers. They are very well rested; therefore, they can handle sleep disruptions without batting an eye.

"Missing a nap here and there will probably cause no harm. But if this becomes habit, you can expect your child to lag further and further behind in his sleep and become increasingly difficult to handle in this over-fatigued state" (page 24).

So how flexible can you be with sleep? As flexible as your child is well-rested. You will have more ability for flexibility if you allow your child to get the sleep she needs on a regular basis. 

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5 comments:

Jennifer said...

Very good point that I have also found to be true in practice!

Jana said...

I have done baby wise with all 3 of my girls and they are champion sleepers. We just became foster parents to a 11 month old little boy who we plan to adopt, his sleeping is horrible. Because of the multiple homes he has been in he hasn't had a consistent bed time routine or even on how he was put to bed. His last home he was in for 4 months and he was put to sleep with a bottle in a swing and would normally sleep there all night.

Where do I begin???

I want to transition him easily since he is adjusting to our home and and our family. He does have some issues with being left alone and can be clinging if he thinks you we are leaving.

Any suggestions would be welcomed.

Plowmanators said...

Jana,

I would start with getting his feeding times consistent. I would also work on having him take his naps when he should -- he should have two naps a day and should wake up, be up two hours, sleep two hours, up two, sleep two, then up until bed.

So get him used to sleeping at those times. Choose your bedtime routine and implement that. I would do this for at least two weeks before moving into self-soothing. You might even want to look into Baby Whisperer's pick up/put down for him.

Be sure to look at the starting late posts for more.

Angela Van Dellen said...

I am having great difficulty with this with my 10-month old daughter. I work full-time and she is in daycare. She used to nap fine, but now there is a new child in her room and he is a crier. I wonder if he is interrupting her nap times. Her whole demeanor has changed and I'm just sick about it. I've tried giving her a nap as soon as we get home (around 5 pm), and I've tried just keeping her up but putting her to bed earlier (7 pm) for the nite. Neither one has "fixed" the issue. What else can I try?

Plowmanators said...

Angela, the only thing I can think of is talking to the daycare to see what they can do. Is there another room she can go in? Can they take him out when he is crying? If not, can you go somewhere else for daycare?

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