7/14/12

How to handle SLEEP during a Wonder Week


During a Wonder Week (WW) some babies will start to sleep pretty crummy, especially if they don't have some solid sleep habits in place. (See more on What is a Wonder Week and When are the Wonder Weeks by clicking on the links).

Which WW this happens in depends on the child but in my experience sleep issues (I will get more into sleep regressions later) tend to crop up around 6 weeks,  3-4 months (more aware of environment, growth spurt), 6 months (also around the time the intentional cry pops up), 8-9 months, 12 months, 18 months (also a time of great resistance from your toddler) and 24 months. Much of the time these coincide with WW. Don't worry, rarely do babies sleep very badly during all of the WW! I know, that isn't too comforting ;)

On a side note, I decided to add a picture of a happy kiddo (my Jacob) on this post to let you know that this tough time will pass and your little one will be all smiles again soon!
                                               
Will sleep go back to normal once the Wonder Week is over?
You won't love my answer to this one. MAYBE. 

Maybe because kids are so different, there is a variation in how good their sleep habits were to start with and because parents vary so much in their response to their child during a WW (what sleep props are used etc.).

Many kids, like my oldest, Joshua, will have sleep jump right back to normal once a WW is up.  Nice huh? (please don't hate me!) Some will even go back to their old sleeping habits regardless of how many sleep props you throw at them during a WW (holding/feeding to sleep throughout the night/nap). Some kids will have issues with some WW once they end (like my little Jacob) and other kids will always have issues after a WW ends (I'm so so so so sorry if this is you! Hugs from afar!)

What should I do if sleep suddenly goes down hill?
When sleep suddenly gets off, I always check on the child and then problem solve. Are they ill? Are they overtired? Are they hungry? Are they doing a protest cry? The list goes on. You can look under naps or night sleep in the index for more ideas of what to check out. Once you have ruled out issues then you can very likely conclude that the wonder week is the culprit. Maybe he is sick too but worse than normal. A wonder week may be making things even tougher. Yikes!

OK. So what to do now.

The authors of The Wonder Weeks suggest you do whatever you need to do to make your child comfortable during a WW. Even if that means nursing and/or holding your little one 24 hours a day. Do what you need to do to make your baby happy.

I like to treat a wonder week like I would an illness. I give extra comfort and attention when it is needed but I try to only give as much as is needed during sleep times (particularly with older children). In other words, I try to keep things as normal as possible and avoid doing a 360 with sleep. If my child is having a hard time I will go in and comfort them for a bit but will try to not turn it into me rocking them to sleep completely or bringing them into my bed (if they normally sleep in a crib). This isn't to say that I've never rocked my child to sleep when they're having a hard time. I have. I just try to act confidently and put my child down awake if I can. If I can't, I may comfort them some more.

There have been times when I have been able to sense that my presence is not only making my child worse, it is also making it hard for them to fall back asleep. When this has happened I have left their room (during a WW or other sleep disruption time). Generally my child has protested for a couple minutes and then gone right to sleep. This has worked well for me at times but obviously isn't for everyone.

Make sure to always keep careful watch of the patterns that are forming. So many people end up throwing all their hard work with sleep training completley out the window during every single illness or WW or developmental leap because they quickly jump back to their old ways of helping their child go back to sleep. And they keep doing these things far after the child needs them.

There is a difference between rocking your child to sleep once a couple nights in a row vs doing this multiple times at night for weeks on end. One is a short term need and sleeping usually isn't getting worse by it, the other is habit forming.

I know it is hard to tell how much comfort your child needs and for how long he needs this comfort. The best advice I can offer is to keep a watchful eye, work on telling the different sorts of crying/whining apart, pay attention to what your intuition is telling you, and know that you'll get better with more experience.

Some other things people do with sleep during Wonder Weeks:
  • Shush/Pat and/or  PU/PD
  • Continue your previously used method of sleep training while offering a little more comfort or soothing than usual.
  • Attended CIO (you are by your child's side and are offering words of comfort or maybe some gentle pats but they are still going to sleep in their own bed by themselves)
  • Check on your child to make sure they are OK then do some form of unattended or check CIO

What should I do if sleep is chaotic after a Wonder Week?
If you're little one is struggling with sleep once a wonder week is over (or it's been going on way past that point and you've just now realized this or just now decided to do something about it) I suggest waiting a little bit. Often the issues goes away in a matter of days with some encouragement of good sleep habits. If the issue keeps up, then I'd go back to the sleep training method you've used in the past. If you've never used one before, look over the Sleep Training section in the index for some ideas on methods to use. Choosing An Approach may also be helpful for you. Keep in mind that often the longer you let new undesired habits set in, the harder they'll be to change later.

Should I start sleep training during a Wonder Week?
I'd avoid starting sleep training at this time if possible. If your child doesn't seem to be having much of an issue with the wonder week then you might want to consider starting now, but it's possible that things may still end up being tougher than than they would have otherwise.

Should I continue sleep training during a Wonder Week?
This is really up to you and how your child is doing. If you decide to keep up with your sleeping plan, then I would consider checking on your child a little more frequently and/or soothing for a bit longer than usual. See how your child responds. Continue to monitor how things are going and don't be afraid to change your plans if you feel your child really needs it.


How has your child done during Wonder Weeks? What has worked well for you?

11 comments :

  1. Lauren @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    Thank you for this post! It's coming to me smack dab in the middle of a WW! I've been waiting for a bunch of sleep problems. So far things seem to be pretty normal during sleep bu a little more clingy and fussy during the day. Hopefully things don't get worse but if they do, I've got some tools under my belt now! Thanks!

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    1. Rachel @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says ...

      Lauren,
      Hopefully things will stay good for you in the sleep department. They mostly stayed good with my kids. Having a child that already sleeps pretty good makes it a lot smoother with sleep for most people (at least this is what I see).

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  2. Kelly @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    Our little guy has never really struggled with sleep during WWs. We do Baby Wise, and nighttime hasn't been an issue amid developments (it's been womderful). Teething and sickness cause more troubles by far, so it was good to read your encouragement on that :) Like Lauren said, we've got a little more fussiness and clingy times during a WW, but sleep doesn't change a whole lot.

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    1. Rachel @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

      That is great that sleep has stayed pretty stable Kelly. I think doing something like Babywise when your child is young and encouraging early good sleep habits helps a lot during these WW. They probably help you tons during sickness/teething too.

      Rachel

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  3. Robin @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says ...

    We were doing excellent with naps and evening sleep and then out of no where, my son refused to sleep longer than 45 min (if at all) during the day, and waking up to eat at 4am! Then I realized that we are in WW 15-19 right now. This behavior really did seem to come out of nowhere. On top of that he is teething and seems to have some feeding problems/gas all of a sudden too. I wonder if this is coincidence or also caused by the WW? I have had to do alot of rocking to sleep and when that doesn't work, some CIO. Hopefully things go back to normal soon!

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    1. RachelStella @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says ...

      It may have been the wonder week Robin. There is a lot that happens around 4 months with awareness and development in general.

      Many kids will get extra saliva when they are teething. The extra saliva will give some of them an upset tummy and gas. That doesn't make this tough time any easier! Feeding problems aren't uncommon when a child has sore teeth. It hurts to eat and it is all a bit confusing to them. Some will eat more, but some will want to eat less with teething.

      Good luck with everything!
      Rachel

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  4. Alison @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says...

    Hi! I'm in the 23 week wonder week right now and all of a sudden my little 2 hours awake, 2 hours asleep baby wants to go down around an hour and 15 minutes of being awake and only sleeping for 45 minutes. So that seriously messes up eat, wake, sleep and any semblance of plans I had for the day. Do you think she is really tired that early (she goes to sleep super easily)? Why would a WW make her so tired so quickly? Ugh, I know these are great for her development but they sure do put us in a tailspin as far as our routine. Sidenote, it seems odd to me that Baby Whisperer never really mentions these regressions.

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    1. RachelStella @ My Baby Sleep Guide - Says ...

      Alison,
      She may also be in a growth spurt which often = tiredness. but that doesn't explain 45 minute naps unless there is a wonder week or something else causing issues there. I'd consider extending wake time a bit to see what happens but not out to what it's normally at. The Baby whispere is great but she does skip a few things-- maybe because she didnt have any clear answers to give. Dunno.�

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  5. Hi! My baby is 17 weeks, for the last 2 weeks he's been waking up at night every hour to 90 minutes and crying out. When I go to him all he needs is a pat on the back and he's right back to sleep, occasionally I also have to pop his dummy back in. Is this typical of a wonder week, I'm just about to start trying to put him into a more structured daytime routine and perserve with PU PD to extend his 45 minute daytime naps in the hope this will help. Do you have any advice?

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    1. RjGriffiths27,
      It's possible it's a wonderweek, but it sounds like it's gone on a bit too long. I'm thinking that maybe he's overtired and/or using you as a sleep prop right now. Try an earlier bedtime, consistent morning wake time and try to even lessen the attention you give him at night or wait a few minutes before responding to see if he can go back to sleep on his own.

      best,
      Rachel

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  6. My lo is 16 months and I think maybe going through a wonder week or sleep regression. She used to get approx 11 hours of sleep at night (no wakes) and now is waking really early (5:30am) and taking longer to go to bed at night (almost 30 minutes to fall asleep). She used to fall asleep no problem. We put her down at 7:30pm, lately been only actually falling asleep at 8pm (aprpox 9.5 - 10 hours of sleep a night).
    I guess my question is because she is waking early and only does 1 nap a day for 2 hours, I think she is becoming over-tired. How do I combat the overtitredness? Daycare puts her down for a nap btw 12:30 and 1 and naps until 3 (2 hours). As a result, i believe she then hasn't had enough wakefullness before bed to go down early or will take longer to fall asleep. So i feel i am in this constant state of overtiredness. How do i get out of it. I tried putting her to bed early tonight becuase she seemed tired, but she will probably wake even earlier. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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