A sweet friend of mine tweeted last night asking about babies and sleep. Her 5 month-old is still waking up every 3 hours to nurse and she’s exhausted (she’s got a 3 year-old at home too..whew!). It got me to thinking about E’s sleep schedule and how we fumbled our way into it; I was reading everything about training babies to sleep through the night. And I thought I would NEVER forget how/when he started doing it but last night, while trying to recall it, the facts were already getting fuzzy. Therefore, I thought I’d log the things we did to get that boy sleeping through the night (or at least something that resembled “through the night”) so that I would have a record.
Sleep Routine: Every night at 6:45, E gets a bath. I read somewhere that sleepy-hormones start in babies between 6-7 p.m.; if you don’t take advantage of those, babies will get their second wind (much like I do, once I stay up past 10:30). I noticed around 6:30-6:45 he was getting the sleepy-fuss so I decided that would be the time. He still gets a bath every night but I allow 15 minutes of flex-time and, occasionally, we’ve had to miss our normal bedtime all-together because of some necessary social event*. More about our sleep routine here.
Scheduled Naptimes: I went into his 2 month Well-Baby Checkup and the doctor asked how many naps he was getting a day. I laughed at her, “Naps, what are those?” After that appointment, I went home and researched how much day-sleep babies need, charted when he would get sleepy, and worked all of that into a schedule. I made it so my lunch hour was always open so we could grab lunch with a friend and not have to worry about fussy sleep-deprived baby. And then we started nap-training. That was a hard month but well worth it! I read that instead of sleeping harder, a baby not getting enough day-sleep would be fussier and needier at night–that was definitely true for my little guy. E did not WANT to sleep during the day but once he was on a consistent schedule, he was happier and much more pleasant to be around.
Morning Wake-Up Call: This part was more painful for me than for him. Once we started putting the baby-man down at the same time every night, I started waking him up at the same time every morning…whether he had been up all night or not. And that first week when my alarm went off, I wanted to cry into my pillow. Seriously. But within less than a week, I noticed a CONSIDERABLE change in his nighttime wake-ups. His wake-up call comes at 6:15 and if he wakes up earlier (like 5:30), I won’t get him out of his bed until 6:15**.
Eye Contact: When he would wake up in the middle of the night, there were times he wanted to play for a bit before going back to sleep. It seemed lots of mama eye-contact made him all the more energetic so while nursing, I would close my eyes and pretend to be asleep. He’d close his eyes within a couple minutes and fall back asleep in no time.
Cloth Diapering: I know I mentioned it in this post but the Stay-Dry Flip inserts helped sleeping through the night too!
All children are so different and I’m sure my next one will have me writing a similar post but all different bullets. But it was posts like this that helped me, through trial-and-error, find what worked for Baby E. In full-disclosure, I was up at 2:30 a.m. last night with a very sad baby…the only difference: that is not the standard.
And to my sweet friend who hasn’t slept more than 3 consecutive hours in 5+ months, hang in there!
*I don’t believe parents should stop living their lives when they have children but instead, children should be integrated into a life well-lived. On that note, I also strongly believe that, particularly in the early years, it is okay to structure much of what the parents do socially (in this instance I’m speaking directly toward trying to make it home by bedtime). If I was completely exhausted, I would not want to stay out late and by trying to make it home by bedtime, I’m extending that same respect to my child. We have our children for such a small amount of time and it seems but a small sacrifice to go home early from a gathering.
**While I try to hold to the guidelines I’ve listed above, none of them are hard and fast RULES. Being a rule-oriented person, I had to learn the hard way that when dealing with babies (or any human, for that matter), there are always exceptions to the rule. In this instance, if my baby-man is screaming in his bed at 5:30 a.m., I’ll go in and just hold him until 6 so we’re both resting (though not sleeping) until it’s time to officially get up. This helps keep us on a consistent nap schedule, too.