One of my biggest pet peeves while pregnant was when people would try to convince me of how little sleep I was going to get once the baby arrived. I believe ignorance is bliss in some situations. I don’t think any parent is surprised when their new pride and joy isn’t sleeping for ten hours straight. I also think that for some of us, we want to increase our chances as much as possible when it comes to getting some sort of routine and sanity present when it comes to our babies sleeping patterns.
My kids are now six and three. While I am no self-proclaimed sleep expert, I will tell you this – I worked hard at ensuring I had babies who would sleep. It didn’t ‘just happen.’ If you are a new or expecting parent, here are ten tips that I truly hope can help you to give the gift of sleep to both you and your baby.
1) Eat, Play, Sleep. I put this as #1 because I believe it was absolutely key with making both of my kids good sleepers. This comes from the method known as Baby Wise. The idea is to not feed a child straight to sleep. Instead, baby should follow a routine of Eat, Play (as infants this basically just means awake time) and then Sleep. Baby will wake up ready to eat. I didn’t follow this at 2am because, let’s be honest, I was only interested in getting my child back to sleep. But during the day, I strictly followed this method.
2) Establish A Schedule. In addition to Eat, Play, Sleep, I instilled a fairly strict schedule regarding naps. This can help to regulate nighttime sleep. Try starting with the same awake time each day followed by the same nap and bed times. You might feel like you are on house arrest a bit. This can be hard when you have more than one child. But the more you can get them scheduled, the easier your life will be, I promise!
3) Establish an Early Bedtime. It’s easy to think the more tired the baby is, the easier he will go to sleep. That is, until you have battled with an over-tired baby. Aim for your baby to go to bed around 7pm. Some research and experts report that babies who go to bed earlier actually end up sleeping longer!
4) Wait until your baby is old enough. My son was born 4 weeks early. He was 5 lbs when we brought him home from the hospital. I didn’t even think of any sort of sleep training until he had put on a few more pounds and was checking out as fully healthy. My daughter was 8 lbs 13 ounces. Clearly she was ready at a younger age than her brother when it came to instilling some sort of routine.
5) You are the parent. When stories and tips and tricks are shoved down your throat, remind yourself of this, you are the parent. You know you, you know your child better than anyone, and you know ultimately what is best for you and your new family.
6) Probiotics. Many sleeping problems in infants actually arise because of gas. I am convinced that probiotics help in this. I swear by this brand. I took it when I was pregnant and believe it helps as your baby’s digestive system is being developed. Taking it when nursing then transfers over to baby as well.
7) Crying it out. As you might know, this topic can be controversial. Remember, you are the parent and you know what is best. For my husband and I, we found crying it out worked. Not for long periods of time and not if the cry was to the point of causing worry. But within reason, we would let our baby cry to sleep. Start with one minute, then two. Work your way up within your comfort level. Self-soothing can be a great gift for you to teach your child.
8) Don’t respond to every sound your baby makes. I really don’t know what parents did before the invention of the video monitor. They allow parents to peek in without actually peeking in risking the baby seeing you. Some babies are noisy. My daughter sounded like a farm animal sometimes. If you respond to every sound, you risk disrupting their sleep and yours too.
9) Dream Feed. It’s the worst – you finally nod off to sleep and immediately the baby wakes up. The dream feed is the feeding you give right before you go to sleep in order to then extend your own sleep. A couple of years down the road you will learn of the dream pee – but that’s for another time.
10) Lay baby down awake but drowsy. If you think that letting baby fall asleep in your arms before laying him down is the best method, you will likely soon learn the reality of doing so. Falling asleep independently is a great skill to teach your baby. If they are sleeping and then wake up as they are being laid down or they awake expecting to still be in moms arms and realize they are in a crib, you are back to square one. Note, I fully support periodic naps in mom’s arms. Sometimes, the dishes can wait and you should allow yourself to just enjoy your baby snoozing in your arms. Those moments truly are over too quick.
We’d love to hear any sleep tips you have!