I recently got an email asking me questions about baby sleep, and I thought it would make a good post for any readers that have young ones. Again, I am in no way a sleep expert, but this is what worked for us.
When our oldest was born, we thought we had it covered. After 24 hours of being at home with our newborn, we realized we really did not have a clue about anything. I mean a person can dream about what parenthood is going to be like, she can read about it, and do all the babysitting of her friends kids she wants, but it is wildly different than anything you could imagine. Both the good and the bad.
With the help of my sister, sister-in-law, pediatrician, mom friends, a few books, and some good old fashioned motherly instinct, we were able to have kids that slept in their own beds through the night (and still do).
First let’s talk books:
On Becoming Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam – This book is pretty hardcore with sleep training. It basically sticks to a pretty strict “cry it out” mentality. While we did like the idea of a self soothing, child the main thing we learned from this book was the beauty of routine. We learned that the order of events in the life of a baby is pretty important, and it helps to establish comfort for a baby. Routine (not schedule) with eating, bathing, play time etc, can really help establish a sleep routine as well.
The Sleep Lady’s Good Night Sleep Tight by Kim West – This woman is the sleep whisperer. She uses gentle very effective methods for getting a baby to sleep at night. Her approach also keeps in mind that babies go through growth spurts, developmental changes, and other things that will affect a baby’s sleep and offers coping with these scenarios. It is worth the read and also gives some perspective to how much a baby is going through developmentally. It also explains baby’s sleep needs and the importance of napping routines to help with night time sleep.
The Happiest Baby on the Block
by Harvey Karp – This book (or DVD) and the methods proposed were extremely helpful. The key thing that we took away from this book was white noise. All three of our kids loved it, and Caroline still loves her white noise CD. For whatever reason, this totally worked for our kids. The day we don’t have white noise in our house, I am wondering if I will be able to sleep without it. (After 5 years of having it, my guess is not).
Daily Routine (times were never set in stone… ever).
7:30 a.m. – Baby wakes, change diaper, nurse or bottle feed
8:00 a.m. – Get dressed, eat purees (if you have started that)
8:45 a.m. – Play time, stories
9:30 a.m. – A little bit of nurse or bottle. Morning Nap
11:30 a.m. – Wake up, change diaper, play time
12:15 p.m. – Eat purees, clean up
12:45 p.m. – Stories, nurse or bottle, afternoon nap
3:00 p.m. – Wake up, change diaper, nurse or bottle snack
3:30 p.m. – Play time, stories, walk or play outside
5:00 p.m. – Dinner purees (again if you are there), clean up, play with Dad
6:30 p.m. – Begin baths, jammies, dim lights, stories, nurse or bottle
7:30 p.m. – Bed
– Swaddle! Swaddle! Swaddle! If your baby is less than 12 weeks old or cannot roll over on their own yet. Make the investment and get a Miracle Blanket. Young babies love it!
– Last Feeding: As you can see from the above routine, I pretty much would nurse or give my kids a bottle before nap/bed as part of the routine. When they stopped nursing or bottle feeding they would get a small sippy of milk. Here’s the deal, some people are really against nursing or bottle feeding before bed, but it really worked for us, and helps calm everyone down. We would try and coincide this time with a story as part of the bedtime routine. Also, babies love the close contact or snuggle time. If you’re at your wits end, give it a whirl, and see how it goes. If your child is done with bottle and nursing try a sippy cup of water while reading a story or snuggling.
– Darkness: When it was time for naps/bed, the shades would get closed, The darkness really helps as it helps release melatonin for easy sleep.
– Lovies: All three of my kids have lovies which we introduced around the age of 4-6 months old. Kids will start attaching to something around this age as part of their development. It helps them to sooth themselves and gives comfort. When they were really little I would make sure we had it for stories and snuggle time. I know this sounds weird, but kids are associate smell with comfort too. So, if you want to carry their lovie with you for a little while, the lovie will smell like mom’s shampoo, perfume, or dad’s after shave and kind of be a comfort to the baby.
– Soothies: My kids were all different. Russell didn’t like to suck anything, George had a paci til about 18 mos old (just for sleeping and he gave it up on his own) and Coco sucks her thumb. There are a lot of people who are against this type of soothing, but my theory is: if it makes them happy and they sleep through the night then it cannot be too bad of a thing. Also, no one will go to college (or Kindegarten for that matter) sucking their thumb.
– Getting Up: If we had a crabby baby in the middle of the night, we tried not to establish a “let’s get up at 2 a.m. every night for a snack” routine. Try everything you can just to make sure you’ve explored all your options: changed diaper, checked for fever, give some snuggles, read another story, make sure he/she isn’t too hot or too cold. However, if you have tried everything, kids go through growth spurts, and he/she really may be hungry, and you may have to nurse or give a small bottle or sippy cup of water.
Good Luck and Hopefully Sweet Dreams!