Thea and her dad - collapsed from exhaustion
Thank you so much for all of your suggestions. The sleep situation has gotten much better - except for a few nights (and days - like today ) - when it was much, much worse. Anyhow, here's the update:
The first - and probably most important - thing that has changed is my perspective. We have just about every sleep book everyone recommended except for the Ferber book. Over the past week, I read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. I think this book was most helpful for me in understanding how Thea's little brain is wired and what the normal sleep patterns are for a baby her age. One of the other things I took away from the book is that, since Thea arrived 4 weeks before her due date, I really need to consider her as being 2 1/2 months instead of 3 1/2 months when it comes to sleep. So, at this point, it seems pretty normal for her daytime sleep to be sporadic and short, and it seems that I should also expect for night sleep to regulate before daytime sleep. Then I can expect the morning nap to regulate, followed by the afternoon nap (or two).
Night sleep has actually been okay for a while (over a month) - where she consistently sleeps well throughout the night, only waking every 3-4 hours and falling back asleep quickly. [ And I gave up comparing her to other babies that are younger or her age that are sleeping through the night without nursing or eating. I'm perfectly fine to get up with her a few times a night to nurse if that's what she needs - I actually enjoy that quiet time with her. ] I think the problem was that we weren't putting her down early enough in the evening and I was letting her get overtired during the day. For a long time, as part of her biological rhythm, she was sleeping so much and so easily during the day and throughout the evening and then falling asleep for good at 10 or 11 pm. I think that over the past month or so, things had shifted, and she really needed to be put down much earlier, but we were missing that window early in the evening, and she was getting completely wound up and unable to fall asleep until late.
I also had it in my naive mind that she should be taking two good naps during the day, with longer periods of wakefulness. I think this is where I was really going wrong. So, for the past week, I've been watching her like a hawk starting about 30 minutes after she wakes up - either for the day or from a nap. Usually, after about 45 minutes, she is ready to nap again. If I start her nap routine then, she generally falls asleep pretty quickly. If I miss the window, we're in trouble. So, she is taking lots of short naps throughout the day - about 30 minutes to an hour - but usually around 45 minutes. I've been tracking her sleep, and her mornings seem to be falling into somewhat of a pattern, although her afternoons are still pretty sporadic.
To get her to fall asleep (and stay asleep), I swaddle her in the Miracle Blanket, turn the radio on static, sing her a little lullaby, and rock her until she falls asleep. I generally hold her for another 20 minutes or so until she is deeply asleep and then try to put her in her pack-n-play. I'd love for her to be able to fall asleep on her own, but I'm taking it one step at a time. Right now, she's either sleeping with us or in the pack-n-play. We hope to get her into her crib eventually. I've also tried to get her to fall asleep in the bouncy seat and the swing, but she's not having any part of that - too many things to look at!
Two things that are still a bit challenging are the fact that I seem to be the only one who can get her to fall asleep and that she won't fall asleep unless I do our routine - which right now involves me rocking her to sleep in a particular way. Both of these are okay right now (although it would have been really nice if John could have gotten her to sleep when I had an awful cold and fever last week). But, I'm a bit worried about how this is going to work out as she gets bigger and less portable. Anyhow, we'll cross that bridge later. I've tried to implement some of the suggestions from the No Cry Sleep Solutions, and I'll be revisiting the Baby Whisperer.
But, most importantly, I think I'm just okay with where things are. I've embraced hat this is what she needs right now, and I'm trying to give myself permission to lower my expectations for myself around all of the things that I somehow feel like I "should be" doing. I'll be sticking close to home, I won't have much time to post, I'll remain terribly behind on emails, and I may not finish those thank you notes until she's 6 months old [ I'm horrified to admit that I still have dozens of thank you notes to write ]. I can only do what I can do. And right now, the most important thing feels like making sure she's getting her rest.
Thank you again - what an amazing community and source of support you have been. I feel like I have my own little village helping us to raise our girl.