Sleep… you will never talk about how much your child sleeps, or more likely, doesn’t sleep, as you do in those first few weeks you bring your child home from the hospital. Or when they consolidate down to one nap. Or when they learn to stand up in the crib, and choose to walk around and scream instead of sleep. Or when they start waking up at 5AM no matter what time you put them to bed. Or when they give up napping altogether. Basically, my girlfriends and I have been talking about how much, or how little, our kids sleep since they were born. Part 1 features tips for getting your baby to sleep during infancy. Part 2 covers the rest of the first year. Part 3 covers early toddlerhood.
Creating Sleeping Beauty: Infant Sleep
I am a firm believer that it really does not matter what you choose to follow, as long as you follow something with consistency. Children of all ages thrive on predictable routine. Of course, when they sent us home from the hospital with no instruction manual or infant schedule, I felt like a deer in headlights, exhausted and with raging hormones. I didn’t even know where to begin. I’ve always been a smart girl, but I’m admittedly book smart: give me a book to read, and I will ace the final exam. Where was my baby textbook???
About ten days into being home with my newborn, as a brand new, exclusively breast feeding, first time mom, I felt like I was nursing the baby every 20 minutes and the next person who suggested she was hungry when she cried was going to have mama bear bite their head off. Fortuitously, on that very day, I received a welcome baby care package from my cousin – who also happens to be a doctor, as is his wife, with then three, and now four, children of their own. It included their three favorite infant items: a Zutano Romper, aden + anais Burpy Bib, and the book that would become my infancy bible, Baby Wise. He swore by it, told me they used it with all of their kids and everyone told them they had “easy babies.” I read it that night, and began implementing it the next day. It was life changing.
Eat. Play. Sleep.
It’s hard to believe a pattern so simple will teach your baby to sleep at night, instead of all day. But it worked. And while I never believed the whole “a tired cry sounds different than a hungry or gassy cry,” I suddenly knew what the baby needed when she cried. Over a day or two, she naturally fell into a predictable routine. Every 2-3 hours, she would be hungry and wake up to eat. Then, we would play: read books, sing songs, kick and bat at toys on the activity mat, whatever. If she was going to be gassy or poop, it would happen now – not while I was trying to get her to nap. Then, about 45-60 minutes after she woke up, she would be tired and ready to sleep.
During the day, she definitely ate more like every 2 hours, than every 3 hours. I won’t lie – that was rough – but she slept like a dream at night, so I accepted it as the trade-off. She would go down for the night after her 7PM feeding, wake to eat at midnight and 4AM, and wake up to start groundhog day all over again at 8AM. At night, we were all business: feed on one side, burp and change, feed on the other side, burp and go back to bed. I always put her to bed awake, although admittedly, at night, she would be in a semi-milk coma state. She dropped the midnight feeding first, and around 3-4 months, dropped the 4AM feeding too (though no longer slept in until 8AM). There was some crying involved, but never for more than a few minutes. And as long as she had her Sleep Sheep playing ocean waves, her WubbaNub Lamb to suck on, and was fed, clean and not gassy, she would drift off to dreamland.
Like all infancy sleep training methodologies, Baby Wise has its share of controversy, but in hindsight, I found it to be driven by a lot of common sense… and more importantly, it worked!
Update: Lessons from Lil’ M
When my second child came along, she taught me that every child really IS different. She did not sleep as much or as well as my first… but that being said, I still applied the same methods, but learned a few new tricks as well. By 4 months, she still went down for naps and bed with little to no fuss, and slept pretty soundly from 6:30pm to 5am… and finally, 6:30am by about 6 months.
With her, I found Moms On Call. Their books are great – with strategies similar to Babywise, it is more direct in terms of implementation, and actually goes so far as to give recommended schedules. It is straight forward advice from two moms to moms everywhere. And better yet, they are also nurses. And better still, their Toddler Book gives helpful suggested combined schedules for a toddler with a newborn at varying ages. I highly recommend it for anyone with two under 2 or 3. It helped me have overlapping naps, totally saving my sanity!
The other two great finds with #2 were Nookums and the Graco Sweet Slumber Sound Machine. Lil’ M would never take a soothie style pacifier – I was a wreck fretting over the fact that I couldn’t use a WubbaNub with her. Then, I found Nookums – they will attach to any traditional style pacificer. The day she learned to grab the Nookum and put the pacifier in her mouth herself was miraculous!
The Graco sound machine was our replacement for the Sleep Sheep. While not as cute, it is far more functional – we even put one in our toddler’s room to drown out the middle of the night wailing of her baby sister. I’ll never know if the ’45 minute intruder’ was prolonged by the fact that the Sleep Sheep turned off after 45 minutes, coinciding with the typical baby’s natural sleep cycle, and when they are likely to wake, but with the sound machine, I’m not tip toeing in to hit the button to keep it playing during naps, ever!
As with all things kid-related, every child is different… But this is what worked for me during infancy. You can check out the rest of our sleep series here and here. And don’t let the simplicity of the above tales fool you… there were plenty of “no-nap days,” and sick days with little to no sleep at night, but fortunately, they were not the norm. If you can’t take one more sleepless night, hopefully you find something in all of this that can work for you too! My girlfriends all swear my first is the mellowest, easiest baby in the world and that is why she is such a good sleeper, eater, etc. As an uber Type A personality, I like to hope all my hours of parenting research and implemented practices have played some role, and #2 certainly put it to the test!
Let us know if any of this helped you, or if you have your own tips to share and help a fellow sleep-deprived mama out!
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional or a trained sleep therapist. The opinions expressed above are merely my advice based on my experience as a mother with two young children.