Welcome Back, Sleep

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

sleeping straight, at last!
I'm pleased to report that Joaquin has been consistently sleeping for 8 hours straight at the least for the past month. I can't begin to describe the joy of getting back the opportunity to snooze enough for my brain to function the next day. For those who have taken care of newborns, I know you know that 'sleep-deprived' is quite an understatement for those first few weeks after giving birth.

During Joaquin's first 2 months, he would sleep longer during the day & wake up every hour at night to feed. I found this weird - since all the noise of the hustle and bustle at home supposedly woke him up during daytime, and frustrating because I didn't get any decent sleep because of having to constantly nurse & burp him at night. I'd end up having really bad migraines the next day, leaving me cranky, tired, unable to attend to chores, and quickly losing weight. Though I've been told breastfeeding makes you lose weight fast, I think they forgot to mention that it's because lack of sleep comes hand in hand. Don't get me wrong, I'm quite thankful any dieting wasn't necessary to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight; but lack of zzzz's really does things to your head.

There are 2 stages to baby's sleep - REM (Rapid Eye Movement), or what we know as mababaw na tulog, precisely because the baby remains alert while in this stage; and non-REM, where baby is in deep slumber. You can tell when he's in REM simply by noticing that his closes eyes are actually rapidly moving (hence, the label) & the eyelids seem to be fluttering quickly; his hands are twitchy; and his legs are more jerky. He's probably in non-REM & deeper into lala-land if his arms & legs are limp & they just dangle when you move them. Baby's start off by sleeping for around 17 hours a day, and most of that time he's in REM. Experts say this is necessary because since his brain continues to function actively in this stage, it allows more development which baby needs to quickly progress on during the earlier weeks. More time in REM also prevents baby from sleeping too deeply that he fails to wake & cry when he gets hungry or experiences discomfort. As the months go by, his needs less sleep at night & fills the daytime with naps instead.

Baby's usually develop a more stable sleeping pattern at around 3 months, normally based on the household schedule, too. If it doesn't happen for you, it's still supposedly completely normal - they should get into it surely by the 6th month. However, if you wanna help ease your li'l one into a routine, here are some tips I found useful:

  • Introduce a consistent pattern. Baby will associate certain actions as cues that it's time to sleep. For instance, I've noticed that Joaquin starts to settle into his first nap time after bath at noon. This has now become his trigger that it's time for his lunchtime nap.
  • Avoid over stimulation. Apparently, a tired baby is harder to put to sleep & tends to be fussier. Observe his cues that tell you he's tired, then you'll be able to anticipate it better as you go along.
  • Help him distinguish night from day. Keep the room bright during daytime, go about the usual chores without minding the noise too much, and talk or play with baby when he's up to maintain alertness; keep the room dim and quiet at night, and avoid talking with baby if he does wake up mid-sleep. It takes time & patience, but it worked for me.
  • Rest whenever you can. Catch whatever opportunity you have to nap. I simply lay down beside Joaquin when he fell asleep in the afternoons & shut my eyes for at least half an hour to recharge, & it worked wonders.

I also kept in mind these stages of baby sleep cycle, which I found to be true for Joaquin:

quiet alert: a well-behaved Joaquin
1) quiet alert - baby is silently observing his environment. For Joaquin right now, this is usually the first 15-20 mins after he wakes up. This also gave me the chance to attend to house chores while I leave him in his crib, staring at his mobile, or on the bed while he looks around the room.

2) active alert - baby interacts with his surroundings, usually giggling, cooing or gurgling back when you talk to him. This is the best time to put him on tummy time. In my case, towards the end of this stage, Joaquin starts to get fussy - signaling he's tired & ready for a nap.

3) active sleep - usually the first 20 mins after baby snoozes, where he has irregular, quick or shallow breathing, is easily startled & twitchy. Also called REM sleep.

4) quiet sleep - deep slumber where baby's breathing is more regular, and his limbs go limp.

Joaquin still has yet to have a more specific bedtime & naptime, & he still has rare bad nights when he refuses to sleep & fusses like crazy, but it's a work in good progress. Though frustration & lack of R&R can get the best of you during the first months, know for a fact that it gets better & just keep looking forward to the days you too shall be welcoming sleep.


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