As I mentioned in my last post, the idea that keeping your child up longer during the day will make him sleep better during his naps sounds reasonable. However, in practice it just does not work and this is something I learned as a parent, not as a pediatrician. Newborns just cannot cope well for more than about 1-2 hours of wake time. Anything more and they start to get “over-tired” and then things get really ugly.
The same is true for nighttime sleep. One would think that keeping your child up longer at night would equal a really tired baby that is more likely to sleep through the night. Actually though, the exact opposite is true. “Over-tired” babies have a much harder time falling asleep and have much more restless sleep. The end result is a chronically tired baby who does not fall asleep easily, does not sleep well, wakes too early, and is overall miserable.
Our Original Plan
For some reason we originally thought we would make our son’s bedtime a little later – like around 9:30 or 10pm. This was a terrible idea. He was always “fussy” in the evenings but we just thought this was normal evening “fussiness.” For most of the first 10 weeks we would use any of a variety of techniques to try and soothe him during those fussy hours at night. Sometimes they would work – but mostly he was just miserable.
Our New Plan
Then, my wife read Dr. Weissbluth’s book and we saw the errors of our ways. Our son was not “fussy” he was tired. We started putting him down around 7 or 7:30 and like magic everything got better. He almost immediately dropped one of his feeds and started sleeping around 9 hours straight. More, he was much happier during the daytime. Dr. Weissbluth has many other great suggestions and ideas. We are thankful that we read his book and give it our full recommendation.