Crying It Out Isn't Working
What's "early" in terms of bedtime for your family may or not be early for another family. Don't worry or monitor how other families are managing. Watch your own baby's mood, personality and behavior and adjust the bedtimes and nap times accordingly.
Dusk precedes night as drowsiness precedes sleep. An internal wave of sleepiness slowly rises. As the wave begins to develop, we might see drowsy signs or sleepy cues in our children so watch closely. Watch for the development of the following drowsy signs to catch the sleepy wave as it develops:
- Decreased activity: Activity is a relative term when it comes to babies. When they get older, you'll be looking for less crawling or walking (and more sitting down mid-effort), but in young babies you're looking for less kicking and generally less squirming around.
- Slower motions: Like with decreasing activity, be on the look out for slow motion movements and generally less energetic efforts.
- Less vocalization: Crying is certainly one way that babies can be vocal, but when crying increases, that may be a sign that you've let the twins stay up too long. The kind of vocal signs that signal drowsiness come before the crying starts. Here, be on the look out for less cooing and squeaking (whether in delight or surprise).
- Weaker or slower sucking: If you are nursing or bottle feeding your twins in an attempt to quiet them before sleep, you'll likely notice a less concerted effort on their part as they get drowsy.
- Quieter and calmer: Here I'm referring not only to a child's volume but to the quiet that might come into his body as he gets drowsy. Quieting down and slowing down often go hand in hand.
- Appears disinterested in surroundings: Babies are fascinated with faces. When your twins break from eye contact, that's a sure sign of increasing drowsiness. Likewise, when they begin to shorten their focus on whatever has been interesting (in their sight line) before, you are approaching the drowsy zone.
- Less visual focus: Along with a diminishing interest in their surroundings, drowsy babies' eyes will focus less (for shorter periods) on what has interested them and held their attention before.
- Drooping eyelids: This is a sure sign of drowsiness in babies and adults alike!
Signs that you're entering the overtired zone:
- Rubbing Eyes
Here are two commonly utilized strategies for instituting earlier bedtimes:
1. Make the bedtime a little earlier. Choose a 15-20-minute earlier bedtime and stick to that slightly earlier time for four or five nights. After four or five nights, incrementally move bedtime an additional 15-20 minutes earlier. You may find that you only need to adjust their bedtime by that first 15- or 20-minute increment, but most babies who are running low on sleep need more than that time to catch up on their "fuel." Repeat this process until you reach a bedtime where the twins calmly go down and fall asleep easily.
2. Make the bedtime much earlier. Choose a new much earlier bedtime that might be an hour or more earlier than the baby (and you) are used to. The baby will show improvement because he is now sleeping more in phase with his biologic circadian sleep rhythm. You might not want to keep this super early bedtime too long because it might backfire and cause him to consistently wake up too early in the morning. If so, regroup. By trial and error, find a sweet spot between the original too late bedtime and the new too early bedtime.
More from Dr. Weissbluth:
- Twin sleep issues
- Sleep for colicky babies
- Getting babies to fall asleep earlier
- Sleeping through the night
- When toddlers climb out of their cribs
- Getting kids to stay in bed
- Crying at bedtime
- Keeping kids in their own rooms
- Teaching kids to fall asleep on their own
- Naps for fussy babies
- Putting kids back to bed