Rock-a-Bye Baby

I would love some feedback on this situation I may be in. My current charge, baby J, is 10 weeks old, and I have been with him since day one. Neither of his parents have any experience with children, so they're pretty much just figuring it out as they go (like most new parents). I have him from 9-5, 6 days a week.

Lately he has been having difficulty napping. He does the typical baby routine; sleep for 30 minutes and then wake himself up at the end of his cycle. And this is one persistent kid. After waking himself up he doesn't usually scream or cry like I've seen in the past. Instead, he just wakes up and stares at the ceiling. He will literally lay in bed awake for an hour or more. After staring at the ceiling for a bit he starts to drift off, and right before he falls asleep he jerks himself back awake and starts to cry. He cries/fusses for a bit, and then settles back into staring at the ceiling until he starts to fall asleep again. This happens over and over. If we pick him up and start playtime he gets fussy again quickly, which tells me that 30 minutes is definitely not enough. I've been working on this issue. I know that he needs to figure out how to go back to sleep on his own. I do a variety of things; jiggle his crib, leave him to work it out alone, sing, shush, occasionally pick him up if he gets really agitated. Honestly, nothing works. It just takes him a long time to work through it. The past few days we've had a few successful naps where he slept for 30 minutes, fussed for another 30 minutes to an hour, and then fell back to sleep for 1-2 more hours. When he's out at that point, he sleeps wonderfully, and I can definitely see a difference when he's well rested. But it does involve some crying, and it's not quick. I can tell his mom doesn't feel totally comfortable with the fussing.

He sleeps great for her at night. Typically 6 or 7 hours in one stretch, and then another 4 after feeding. When she has him in the evening she doesn't ever put him down for a nap. He catnaps in his swing and in her arms, and I'm sure he does so happily. But I can't do that during the day. Sleeping for 30 minutes and being extremely tired/grouchy in between is not going to work. She wants to talk about it, and I'm starting to get the feeling that she's going to ask me to find another way for him to sleep for naps, i.e. in my arms. Now let me explain that in my last infant job, which was also my first real job with an infant, the parents wanted the same thing. The baby either slept in her parents bed, or in someone's arms. For every.single.nap. I spent most of every day holding her while we walked around until she fell asleep, and then I sat on the couch holding her for hours. She had to be rocked/walked to sleep, always accompanied by crying, and it was completely exhausting. I know that I can't do that again. Every parent is entitled to raise their children the way they want, and I know not everyone feels comfortable letting their child fuss it out. But I also know that I can't spend 5 hours every day sitting motionless on the couch to make sure that the baby doesn't wake up while I hold him. I also realize that J could grow out of this phase at any time, but I don't want to get him so accustomed to being held that he's unable to sleep in his own crib, if and when he gets over the 30 minute hump.

How do I go about talking this through with the parents? I like this job and I want to keep it. They don't have a set childcare method and they listen to me when I explain things, so it's not as if I'm a cry it out advocate trying to work for people who practice attachment parenting. Parents, how would you react to this? Does anyone have more tricks I can try that might get him to sleep on his own without so much time and fussing? Thank you for any input you can share! - Anonymous


Bethany said...

It sounds like Baby J has found away to go to sleep on his own it's just not fast enough for the adults in his life.

Adults often feel we have to do something for babies and kids even if it is not truly needed.

I would look at making sure he is comfortable: his room isn't too hot or cold or dry, his clothing or swaddle isn't too tight or loose clothing.
I would also hold off on rushing to his room the moment you hear him wake. Having someone staring at him might make it harder to rest.
He is still quite young so he might need to be awake a play again for just a short time before neeeding a nap.
If you are putting him down for naps try putting him down just a bit later.

I agree with you about not making him dependent on swings and rocking when he doesn't seem to need it only to rip it from him.

As for mom I would calmly explain your position as you have here, you can suggest a sleep book if she is the type to read. I happen to like Happiest Baby. Good luck

CanadaNanny said...

could you make his room quite dark so he doesn't have very much to look at/stare at when he wakes up? Also, it sounds weird, but rubbing the bridge of a baby's nose or the baby's eyebrows usually helps them fall asleep quickly!

melissa said...

I've been in a similar situation. My current charge is 7 months, but I've been with the family since before she was born (their other daughter is 2 1/2). I noticed the same thing with the baby. She would sleep for around half an hour and would often startle herself awake. She slept best when being held, but that's just not feasible (especially when dealing with a two year old!). I started swaddling her (her parents don't swaddle), and it made an immediate difference in her sleep. She easily sleeps for two hours continuously now, if not three. The parents know I swaddle and its not an issue. Perhaps you could consider talking to the parents about swaddling and see why they think. Good luck!

Wednesday said...

I'm having sort of the same problem only the parents advise me to give him a bottle to get him -quietly- to sleep. I know it's a bad habit but it's what works and they want me to do it. I also hold him the whole time but he sleeps on his stomach since he has acid reflux. I haven't mastered not waking him while putting him down.

I think that the CIO is working for you and tho he is very young for that he seems to lay there quiet and content for the most part. I would tell mb if she asks you to hold him the whole time that babies really do sleep better, deeper and more peaceful in their crib and as long as he's not crying so hard to where it's screaming than he will drift off eventually. I know moms doesn't like to hear him fuss but they're crying tears, not blood ;)

I don't see anything wrong with your method but you'll get more advice I'm sure!

Good luck!

BrooklynMomma said...

First off, for a 10-wk old, a 30-45 minute nap period is totally normal. What does he have in his crib? With my kids, we had one of those attachable aquarium-lullaby things and when they would half wake up, they'd play with it and then drift off for a little while longer. My son took to a pacifier during his first year, and that also helped him self-soothe back to sleep.

My best advice for you and for the parents is to keep your expectations realistic. This baby is still more an infant than anything else and certainly wont be taking a long, drawn out nap like a toddler would. Work with the parents to develop a daily routine which specifically focuses on how to transition into nap/bedtime (make the area quiet, read a relaxing book, sing a bedtime song, ect). Good luck!

MissMannah said...

Hon, this sounds exactly how Baby C got started with what I now call The Baby Who Never Sleeps. I believe she was around 8-10 weeks when it started and now she's 10 months and STILL doesn't take decent naps. (Yesterday she sleep 30 mins, 15 mins, 20 mins and 15 mins.) So what I'm saying is your charge may NEVER grow out of it and you'll just have to sleep train him the best you can.

One thing that always improves the nanny-boss relationship is communication. You say you have him 6 days a week (god bless you) so ask MB what she does on Day 7. If she lets him sleep in her arms, tell her she should start weaning him off that. Give her a copy of Secrets of the Baby Whisperer to help, it has a whole section on sleep. Many people have problems with swings, but I think it is ok to let the baby sleep in it. I also think it is ok to let him stay in his crib after he wakes up so he can put himself back to sleep. As long as he isn't hysterically crying, a little cry-it-out is fine. Babies NEED to learn how to self-soothe, or you'll be soothing him well into the toddler years.

ericsmom said...

I agree with Melissa try swaddling?? Or white noise example: fan? or air filter.

the op said...

Thanks everyone. We currently do use white noise and swaddle him. He sleeps with a pacifier for now. He naps in a co-sleeper in a dark room. We have a naptime ritual that basically consists of darkening the room, turning on the white noise, swaddling, and singing a song while rocking him. That first transition is not a difficult one as long as he's not overtired. He doesn't always fall asleep as soon as I lay him down but he lays there quietly and after a few minutes drifts off to sleep on his own.

And Canadananny, I actually do that sometimes :) It has to be the right moment though, because sometimes it makes him go to sleep, and sometimes it makes him mad and he wakes up more haha

We've been making progress the past few days. Yesterday he slept for almost two hours in one stretch, with just about 10 minutes of fussing after his 30 minute wake up time.

I think MB has realized that I'm right about this. The other night he was fussing in his crib when it was time for me to leave. I told her that he would fall asleep eventually and she could jiggle the crib if she wanted. I saw on the monitor as I was leaving that as soon as I was out of the room she picked him up. She told me the next day that it had been a terrible evening; he was so tired that he couldn't settle himself and he had fussed for hours. I think she's realizing that he needs to learn to sleep longer in order to be a happy baby.

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MissMannah said...

CMAD, I both agree and disagree with your post. The part about babies needing to cry, yes! Completely. So many people are afraid of hearing a baby crying, they think it is always a sign of something wrong. The last daycare I worked at, we believed crying was normal and natural and so didn't try to stifle it. The baby hallway was always so loud! I kind of think the "4 Ss" are more of a way to make the caregiver feel good rather than making "the happiest baby on the block."

As for disagreements, I do not think this baby is getting enough sleep. I see it almost everyday with my charge, when she only sleeps 20-40 mins, she is a little monster. But when she takes a longer nap (or two short naps broken up, where she can put herself back to sleep easily), she is jumping and laughing even before I go to get her. Sleep is a HUGE part of baby's life and their bodies do not always regulate it. I used to say the same thing "He'll sleep when he's tired" but that was before I met The Baby Who Never Sleeps.

the op said...

CMAD, I have to respectfully disagree with some of your statements. I don't think that he will simply sleep when he needs it, and sleep better when he's "worn out".

Most babies aren't born knowing how to self soothe. J is no exception. And why would they? They spend 9 months in the perfect environment. They're in a warm, dark, "swaddled" place. They are constantly soothed by muted noises and the "shhh" sound of fluid and their mother's heartbeat.

I think taking those things away from him and just expecting him to sleep when he gets tired is expecting a bit much from an infant. I do agree that he can't rely on all of those things for his entire life and I will slowly wean them from him as he grows. But in the first few months of life I've found that mimicking the womb is comforting for them.

I agree that fussing is totally normal. I don't stress when he fusses (except for the stress of having his mom right there hovering). I said that I let him fuss in his crib while he figures out how to fall asleep on his own. But I also don't think that he's sleeping 30 minutes because he's not that tired. When he wakes up from his 30 minute cycle his body is just confused, and I'm trying to help him learn to get past that. And if I try to keep him up longer to make him more tired, guess what. He has an even harder time getting to and staying asleep, because his brain is on overdrive and he can't calm himself down.

I don't really feel as though our initial naptime ritual is drawn out at all, but I could be wrong. We go into the dark bedroom, turn on the white noise, swaddle, sing one song while rocking, and then I lay him down in the crib, awake. He starts with a pacifier and if he spits it out and seems okay with it, it stays out.

Thanks for the advice, and I'll try to update when things change :)

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MissMannah said...

OP, that is pretty much my exact naptime routine with C. Except for swaddling of course--she's too old now but she hated it even when she was tiny. So, no I don't think it is over-the-top, but I do think the crib jiggling is probably unnecessary and might even be stimulating him enough to keep him awake longer. Though, I'll admit it I did it plenty of times when C was tiny, hoping for anything to lull her to sleep!

CMAD, I can see how easy it could be to forget the rough newborn days. Looking forward to experiencing it myself, though hopefully s/he won't be Another Baby Who Never Sleeps.