*Disclaimer … this post is a bunch of unsolicited parenting advice from me, a mama of two years, a novice, an amateur most would call me. I do not have much experience and rarely feel I am doing it right. So, read at your own risk.
So my kids sleep. Like they sleep really well. For example, my two year old goes to bed around 7pm every night and wakes up at 9 … in the morning. Yes, he is in his crib for 14 hours straight at night. And then he is in his crib for another 2-3 hours for an afternoon nap. At my kids last doctors appointment, I said to our doctor, “so, I am sure you don’t get this question often, but I think my child sleeps too much.” She laughed and said he was on the higher end for his age, but sleep is good. It is when the brain is growing, developing and resting. All good things in my book!
And Maddie, our six month old, she has been a great sleeper from the beginning. She began sleeping through the night at around 5/6 weeks (that is just good luck and nothing to do on my part) but her regular sleep routine at this point I do attribute to out hard work and diligence in helping her to get on a schedule.
So, how do I do it?!
First, I learned from my mistakes. With Tate, my sweet, firstborn, I did what every new mother does, I held him all day and all night, I picked him up within .0001 of a second after he made any whimper or cry out, I nursed him to sleep, I rocked him whenever he needed to be soothed, I did it all. And then, still at four months after he was born and I was getting up around 5 times a night, and maybe getting 1 1/2 – 2 hours in between those nighttime feedings. I was exhausted. I was barely functional. And I was just not a good mom because of my lack of sleep. Something needed to change.
During one of those late, late nights I did the best thing I have ever done since being a parent, I purchased this. <—Do it now if you have not already! The first few chapters give a very detailed explanation for why healthy sleep is so important for everyone, but especially for babies. For a much sleep deprived parent such as myself at the time, I was frustrated as to why this author choose to spend nearly half of his 400+ page book explaining why sleep was important versus just telling me what to do to get my baby to sleep!! But, after taking the time to read his chapters, it really gave me the direction and focus I needed to stick with some of the hard things I needed to do to get my baby on a good sleep schedule. It helped me understand that I was helping my baby now learn to self-soothe and put himself to sleep, creating those necessary habits early on in his life.
So, what were the changes we made.
- Follow his “rhythms.” // After I had Tate I developed serious “mommy brain.” And being completely sleep deprived may it 100 x’ worst! To try and combat this problem I wrote everything done. Like everything. From the minute he woke up to the second he closed his eyes for naps to the exact amount of ounces to took and when and where. Everything was documented. This helped me when he would get fussy throughout the day because I could immediately review my notes to see when he had woken up from his last nap or was fed last. I also noticed as I wrote his daily schedule out that Tate in fact did have a “rhythm” or a biological schedule he had created for himself. It was truly fascinating (in a dorky mommy sort of way)! This book helped me recognized his patterns better and understand them. The book gives a breakdown month-by-month of how much your child should be sleeping at night and during the day. The book helped me create a schedule for my little man based on the schedule he had already set for himself.
- Early bedtime. // Yes, you read that correctly. The author explains the earlier you put your child to bed the later they will sleep in the morning. Again, yes, you ready that correctly. At the time we purchased the book we were putting Tate to bed around 7:30-8pm and he was waking up around 6:30-7am. We were skeptical, very skeptical. How is that logical? It didn’t quite make sense to us, but we were desperate like I said and so we tried it – and I promise you it works, and still does to this day! We first pushed his bedtime up to 7pm, but after a few weeks of that we noticed he was showing significant sleepy signs even earlier than 7pm and so we switched his bedtime to 6:30pm (yes, you read that correctly! most people don’t even eat dinner that early and our baby was in bed at that time). After a couple of weeks of 6:30pm bedtime, our baby was then waking up around 7:30-8am. I truly do not know how it works, but it still does. We put Tate to bed earlier than anyone else I know his age and he wakes up later than any other kid I know his age. Some parents think we are crazy for putting our kids to be so early – to which we think they are crazy for not!! Our night begins at 7pm versus 8 or 9 or even later! Try it – and tell me your results!!
Strict Naptimes. // I am a scheduler. I run my life and my home schedules. It keeps me organized and productive throughout my day. For me, I could not deal with a child that naps some days at 11 and some days at 12:30 and other days at 2. And, now that I have two afternoon nappers, if I didn’t have scheduled naps down I would literally have zero time to myself all day (which means no bathroom breaks alone, never getting to sit at the table and eat my lunch or ever sit down for that matter). In this book, the author breaks down how many naps a day your child should be getting by his/her age and approximately when they should happen. For me, my kids have always been right in line with the author’s outline – I mean always. One thing, though, that I work hard to do is to be home for those naps every day at the same time. They need that recharge, and let’s be honest, so do I. Naps are important in our household.
Give them time. // This entire post may sound like I don’t love my children because I am saying don’t hold them too much, don’t rock them to sleep, don’t nurse them to sleep, let them cry a little on their own. I am not saying don’t EVER hold them, rock them or nurse them, just don’t make it a habit your child becomes dependent upon to fall asleep. For me, I feel I am helping them learn a necessary, valuable skill early on that they will need forever. … rant over, back to the unsolicited advice you are waiting for… Don’t rush to them when they begin to fuss, give them a couple of minutes. I still do this for both of my kids. By now, I know both of my children’s cries. Sometimes Tate gets his arm or leg stuck in his crib or is missing his blanket, I know those cries and immediately go in. I know Maddie’s “I’m hungry, come feed me” cry and go and tend to her. But, those little whines that come an hour or two before they should wake up, I give them a couple of minutes and more times than not they fall back asleep. I think often we just don’t give them the opportunity to learn and soothe on their own.
Like I said, we had to implement a lot of changes to Tate around 4ish months because sleep was not happening in our household. We made a bedtime routine and stuck with it every night (i.e. bath, snuggles, read books, prayers, bed). To switch his bedtime earlier we had to move it slowly (i.e. 20-30 minutes earlier the first few nights and then another 20-30 minutes earlier). We also had to let him cry it out for a couple of nights in order for him to learn to self-soothe himself. I hated it. I was not good at it. I would go in and calm him every 10ish minutes or so. It didn’t last long, a couple of days, and it was hard. But, honestly, for us, it was the right decision in order for him to learn to soothe himself to sleep.
So, what did I do differently with Maddie from the beginning and how have I been able to maintain Tate on such a good routine and schedule (at least I think it’s good!)?
First, Maddie and Tate are 18 months a part. Tate was still (is still in my book) a baby when Maddie was born. I couldn’t just leave him to play by himself for 20+ minutes while I nursed the baby. He needed help prepping his meals, getting dressed, going up the stairs, entertaining himself – basically everything still. For these reasons, Maddie learned quickly how to self-soothe herself because she had to. There would be times where I would hear her cry and I was in the middle of cooking breakfast for Tate and needed 3 more minutes. I would walk into her room less than 5 minutes later and she would be sound asleep, this was at one month (or even less). Because I had Tate around, I couldn’t just sit on the couch all day and hold her or even rock her to sleep – I just didn’t have the time. She got used to being alone faster than Tate did.
Two of the big things, though, that I did were (1) I did not nurse her to sleep and (2) I put her down when she was not sound asleep. By doing both of these things, Maddie was put to sleep in a drowsy state versus a comatose state. In her drowsy state, she had to learn, and quickly did learn, how to fall asleep and stay asleep. I gave her that opportunity from the beginning versus with Tate I helped him to sleep by rocking him, holding him, nursing him, etc. for the first few months of his life and then said “BAM, I’m done, now you learn” – in a nicer way of course. Giving your baby the opportunity to learn those skills (which they have to learn eventually) from the beginning make for less tears and struggles down the road. When we put Maddie to sleep, we put her in her crib and walk out. She is not rocked, shhhh-ed, fed, anything. Sometimes it makes me sad I don’t cuddle with her as much as I did with Tate, but then I think about the lessons I have taught her by helping her learn to sleep well and how much that is helping her growth and development. I will take the trade-off.
And with Tate, he has been an excellent sleep since we turned the tables on him and got serious! I think he continues to be a great sleeper because every day is the same. He we have the same nightly routine (dinner, bath, bed), he goes to bed at the same time every night (give or take 30 minutes), he gets out of his crib at the same time every morning, naps begin at the same time every day (again, give or take 30 minutes). Because of our routine and schedule, his body then gets tired the same time every day. It works for him and for us!
Sorry for the rants today. Sorry for extremely long post! Again, these are all things that have worked for us and our kids. I promise they will not work for everyone and all kids. I am a scheduler by nature and that is how I function best. I run my household on that way and therefore my kids sleep schedule. It works for them and it for me. Like I said above, buy the book! It will change your life – at least it did and has for ours. Good luck and happy sleeping!!
**Oh, and I am not really writing a parenting book (thankfully for everyone).