Sleeping Like a Baby
Is there anything that takes up more of our brain power as a new mom than sleep? Both our own and our babies. My sister and I joke about this because the two of us talk about our little ones napping and sleeping habits constantly. And nothing takes the cake like sleeping through the night. So. Firstly, I am BY NO MEANS AN EXPERT. I have one baby. I only can speak from my own individual experience, and the things that have worked best for my husband and I. If you cosleep, or don’t feel comfortable leaving your baby to cry a bit, than this probably isn’t for you. At the end of the day, it’s what makes you happy, and thus makes baby happy. For me personally, I am completely unable to function with less than seven hours of sleep. I get nauseous and dizzy, my immune system crashes, and I become prone to depression. So with that in mind, Nick and I were very purposeful about Redmonds sleep from day one.
First, let me explain what I mean by sleep through the night. If I don’t have to enter Redmond’s room from the time he goes down (8:00) to when he gets up for his morning nurse (between 5:45 and 6:30) then he slept through the night. If he wakes up and is able to self soothe himself back to sleep without me, in my mind that still counts, because I didn’t have to get out of bed. Redmond has never refused to fall back asleep– but if I have to nurse him to get him to that, then that doesn’t count. So now that we have everything on the table, let’s get started.
- Clearly establish day and night sleep. Day to night confusion is really common with newborns. For Redmond, from the first day we brought him home, we started differentiating between naps and night time sleep. During the day, we brought his little wicker bassinet downstairs and put it in our sunny living room. We played gentle music whenever he slept so that it was not dark or completely silent. We also didn’t swaddle him during the day. At night, I gave him his final nurse in the dark, we used a noise machine for constant white noise, and we swaddled him up.
- Load your baby up with milk. I nurse on demand, but when he was tiny and would eat whenever the boob was offered to him, I would start loading him up two hours or so before bed. I would nurse him every half hour or forty five minutes, and then finish with a long, quiet nurse in bed before transferring him into his bassinet. I think that had a lot to do with the fact that the MOST he ever woke up was three times a night to eat. And he started stretching four hours by about three weeks old.
- Let your baby fall asleep on his own. This is one of those points that is totally up to each individual. Initially, whenever he nursed at night, I would let him fall asleep on my chest before we reswaddled him and put him back to bed. But eventually, I would nod off as well and wake in a panic because I was so scared of dropping him off the side of the bed or rolling over onto him. My husband encouraged me to start putting Redmond down when he was awake, and the first night, it was hard. He cried for about ten minutes (as did I) until we picked him up, soothed him, and put him back. After that, he fell right asleep, and has been doing it on his own ever since.
- Create a bedtime ritual. This is like, a really common one of course. But it is important. We are not SUPER strict about bedtime. If we are home, he is generally asleep by 8:00. But if we are visiting friends or family, he’ll usually stay up later. But at home, around 7:15, we get him into his pajamas, read him a few books, and then I turn off the lights, turn on his sound machine, and nurse him for about twenty minutes. Then, he goes into his crib, I say a little prayer, and he’s down for the night. Usually…
- Learn your babies cries. This is a huge one for me. From the beginning, I would listen to Redmond for a minute or two before getting him up to nurse him. I soon learned that he had specific cries– there were noises he’d make that told me he was just angry that he was awake and would fall back asleep on his own. There was the cry that said he was uncomfortable and needed to have his diaper changed or be reswaddled. And there was his FEED ME NOW cry. If he didn’t need me for something, I would let him fuss himself back to sleep.
- Nip sleep regressions in the bud if you can. Again, this is a baby to baby thing I am sure. But at all of the sleep regression points, Redmond has made an attempt at one. If he wakes up with an “I Need Something” cry for one night, I will typically go in and nurse him back down. But if he does it two nights in a row (especially if it is at the same general time) I will turn the monitor off, set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and turn it back on again. I would say that probably 75% of the time he falls back asleep. If he is still fussing, I’ll turn it off for another ten or fifteen minutes. If he’s STILL crying after that, I’ll nurse him. If he does it three nights in a row though, he is on his own. I always tell him this when I put him down. I’ll tell him that I love him but that we all need rest, and that I know he doesn’t need to nurse, he needs to sleep. And then, I stay strong for the night. He has never cried for more than forty-five minutes though. So, if you are ok with it, I would venture to say that this is an easier method than launching into a real Cry it Out situation.
- Remember that babies need to sleep. I think that it is really easy to feel guilty about wanting to get more sleep and/or resenting our babies for waking up. I’ll be honest, on the occasions that I HAVE to nurse Redmond because he is teething, or he’s trying out a regression, or he’s sick, I feel pretty annoyed. I think we so commonly put our children’s every need before our own, and if we don’t, than we feel like bad mommies. But as far as sleep goes, I am a better mother, a better wife, and a better human if I am rested. And Redmond is a happier baby after a full nights sleep. Starting off with sleep training from the very beginning was sometimes a lot of work, but it was so completely worth it.That’s what I’ve got. I am by no means an expert, and I’m sure that in some ways we got lucky. Redmond wasn’t a colicky baby, and he has always been pretty easy going. On the other hand though, I didn’t spend any time training him to nap as a newborn, and that has been a HUGE fight that we are only recently getting under control. So I do think that it must have made a difference. Also, everyone’s lifestyle is different. And as I always reiterate, if you are happy, that’s all that matters. For my husband and I to be happy, we needed our space as a couple, and that meant transferring Red to his own room and crib at six weeks old. But every family is different, and we should never feel pressured to change because someone else says we should. But if you are like me, these tips might come in handy. And if not, maybe there is a thing or two that will end up helping you! I hope so.
Thank you so much for reading! I would love to hear your (kind) comments! If you say something mean though, I will crumble and weep myself into a puddle like the Wicked Witch when she is doused with water.
Redmonds blanket c/o