Sleep? What is this “sleep” thing you speak of? The best way to get a good night’s sleep is to not have any children…
Yup, those are quotes from some my Right Start Moms when I said I’d share tips+tricks about getting a good night’s sleep with babies in the house. With a 10-month old and a 2.5 year old, I do feel guilty about getting 8-hours of sleep (with the exception of 1 or 2 nights a month, except when teething or sick, of course).
I know what you’re thinking: THIS. CHICK. IS. LYING. But I’m not. Getting good (or, semi-decent) sleep with babies must be thought about and planned for well in advance (and in addition to doing stuff like this).
I’m one of those weirdos that believes you can TEACH babies to sleep, IF you try consistently. Luck plays a part, but based on experimental findings at my house (having 2 babies in 2 years) it’s possible. I haven’t studied sleep-training. I’m not a sleep therapist. I’m just parenting by my gut… but seemingly “succeeding” in the sleep department.
Some babies are better natural sleepers than others (my older one was always better than my baby). But for the sake of trying to help one sleep-deprived new mom out there, here’s what I did to “train” my girls to sleep from the very beginning. (OBVIOUSLY THERE ARE EXCEPTIONS… I HAD MY ‘RULES’, BUT CONSERVATIVELY AMENDED THEM WHEN MY GUT TOLD ME TO.) Here’s what worked for us:
When each of my girls were 2 weeks old, I’d gently wake them up every 3 hours during the day to feed them and establish a routine so they’d learn the difference between day and night. No exceptions. (Ok, maybe sometimes I’d wait until 3.5 hours, but I pretty much stuck to it.) Set the clock and just do it, mechanically. Then, I’D LEAVE THEM ALONE AT NIGHT and only fed them when they woke up on their own and it was legitimately time for them to eat again. (I know that some nursing experts advise to wake the baby up at night to nurse, but I did not nurse so I didn’t do this.)
For each of my girls, I continued feedings in the middle of the night UNTIL they reached my doctor-recommended 12lbs (or some say 4 months)… at which point my doctor said that they didn’t NEED milk in the middle of the night to sustain themselves anymore. So after 12lbs, I instead rocked them, stuck the pacifier in, etc. Also, neither of my girls slept in the bed with us… to this day I’m convinced this taught them to sleep on their own.
When each of my girls were a few months old, I started intentionally tiring them out during the day: Eat, Awake/Play, Sleep. Repeat every 3 hours. I’d put both my girls in their crib when their eyes were open so they’d learn to relax and drift off independently. If they fussed, I’d let them. If it progressed into hysterics, I’d go in and comfort them. Much of baby’s crying is them talking… Every kid is different, and you must again go by your gut. But for us, letting them fuss trained them to fall asleep.
My own modified version of crying it out: I’d let it go for 10 minutes. Then I’d go in the room and comfort until the crying stopped (sometimes I’d pick baby up, sometimes not). Then back to my own room. More crying? I’d let 10 more minutes pass and repeated this pattern until baby figured it out… it usually took 3-4 rounds. After 2 or 3 nights of this, they caught on. Both girls were different, but this worked for me. Yes, there were times when baby ended up in our bed, but I stuck to this: Veering from ‘rules’ 1 time is fine, veering from ‘rules’ twice is okay, but veering from ‘rules’ 3 times is habit-forming.
To this day, my babies have never spent the night in bed with my husband and I for more than 2 nights in a row. Yeah, staying consistent and insistent was work, but: Hard work always pays off. Sleepless sleep-training nights will add up to a baby who learns to sleep.
And they did… 2 out of 2 times in the last 2 years. My girls sleep, and so do I.
Again, each baby is different and parents must find and stick to their own rules and comfort zones… But I like to believe that luck and hard-work have met in the middle at my house. I’ve been getting 8+ hours of sleep – if I actually go to bed before midnight. I know people whose babies have caught on quicker, too (my first baby consistently slept through the night around 4-months). I’m convinced it’s possible to train babies to sleep… if that’s what you truly want.
Based on my non-certified, non-expert experiences… sleep (naps and bedtime) is one of those things that we must teach. And good teachers are consistent and don’t give up. Tire the babe out during the day, establish a relaxing, wind-down routine at night (our wind-down starts at 7pm, in bed by 8pm). Discover your own magic formula and solve the mystery whatever it takes.
The work is worth it… and nothing worth doing is ever done easily.
(With that, no doubt I’ll be eating my words when I finally change my toddler’s crib to an actual bed…)
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS FOR SLEEPING WITH BABIES IN THE HOUSE?