As a new mama, I was totally expecting sleepless nights, but nothing could’ve prepared me for how hard that would really be. They say to sleep when the baby sleeps but how was I supposed to get everything else done? So, my number one goal was to do anything and everything to get my new baby to sleep through the night as soon as possible. I read every tip and trick and talked to all of my mama friends to figure out how to convince my infant to sleep through the night.
Now before I go on, I want to start by saying these are just the things that worked for US. That doesn’t mean they will work for everybody and it sure doesn’t mean it will work for you. I am no expert on babies or sleep routines, I just know what worked for my little guy and if it can possibly help another tired mama, it’s my duty to share.
This is not a list of what to do to make your baby sleep, but rather, a chance for me to share our sleep journey (and at times, it has been a journey!) in hopes of helping someone along the way. So here are our experiences with all of the "buzz words" and sleep strategies you've probably already read about.
Sleep Routine–Okay, I’ll admit it! I was a little crazy about this one. If you’re a new mama, you’ve heard this a million times but I’m here to tell you, it actually works! At least for us! Everyone’s night time routine may look different, but the idea is to have a routine regardless of what that looks like. Babies love routine. They like predictability because it makes them feel safe and secure. So, starting when they’re an infant is key.
Here’s what our night time routine has looked like for that past two years. We start with a nice warm bath. This starts to relax my kiddo and signal to him that it’s time to start getting ready for bed. This has been such a consistent routine for us that if I give my son a bath during the day, the thinks it’s time to go to sleep after! lol.
After bath, I massage him down with lotion (this was my mom’s secret). When he was a baby, he would nurse and then we would say our prayers and I would put him down. Now that he’s a toddler, our routine has changed to reading a book, prayers, then bed. The point is that he knows what to expect, what comes next and he has a reliable routine to look forward to.
The downside to a sleep routine- Most of the information you'll read about sleep routines focuses on the positive aspects and there are many benefits to having a sleep routine. However, in my experiences, there is one big downside to having such a strict routine. My son isn't as flexible about sleeping outside of his bed. With the exception of the car, my son doesn't fall asleep anywhere but his bed. He just isn't that kid you'll see passed out on the couch or in the stroller. He likes the comfort of his own bed. And for me, thats okay. But I have many friends that aren't as strict about their routine and their kiddos will pass out on your lap, the couch, the floor, where ever! So there's a give and take to having a strict sleep routine.
Sleeping in their own bed- When my son was born, my goal was to let him sleep in his bassinet next to our bed until he was at least 6 months old. Having the bassinet next to our bed made it easy to nurse in the middle of the night and it made me feel secure knowing he was right next to me.
At exactly 3 months, I had a breaking point. We had just spent the weekend at my in-laws house and my sweet little baby was very uncomfortable in the pack-n-play so he tossed and turned all night and woke up around 5am every day. At this point, he was still waking up once or twice a night to nurse. When we got back home, something in me switched and I decided we were going to try to put him in his own bed for the first time. I didn’t sleep a wink that night, but my son slept until 6am without waking up once! I couldn’t believe it.
Apparently, your infant has a very good sense of smell and can actually smell his mama when she is near. I realized that my son wasn’t waking up because he was hungry, he was waking up because he knew I was close by and ehh why not have a midnight snack?
From that night forward, my 3 month-old slept from 7pm-6am.
I’m not saying to do this at exactly 3 months! That’s just what work for us and when I felt ready. But I do believe that he was able to sleep much better when he was in his own comfy crib.
For the mama’s that co-sleep, more power to ya!! Again, you have to do what works for YOU and YOUR FAMILY. No judgement here!
Sound Machine– I read differing opinions on whether to use a sound machine or not. Some articles said they might become dependent on it and others highly recommended it. When my son was a baby, he didn’t really need it. He was able to fall asleep on his own without it. But around 1 ½ he started having some sleep issues so I started using his sound machine and he’s been using it ever since.
“Cry it Out” Method- Oh, the controversial “Cry it out” method. I was totally against the idea! There was no way I would let my sweet little man cry! And my mom was very vocally against it too. There’s nothing more painful than the sound of your baby crying for you.
As mentioned before, around a year and a half my son had some sleep issues. I think it was his newly found independence or maybe just some bad luck but all of sudden, he wouldn’t fall asleep without me being in the room. This went on for six l o n g weeks. Every night, I would sit in his room and pray that he would fall asleep so I could sneak out. Some nights it would take over an hour for him to finally fall asleep.
One night while I was attempting to sneak out, he woke up and started to throw a huge tantrum. I was at my wits end. I literally couldn’t sit in his room another night. It took everything I had in me but I decided to try the cry it out method. I set the timer for 3 minutes, kissed him and explained it was time for bed. He SCREAMED for the entire 3 minutes (which felt like 300 minutes for me). I went back in, kissed him and said goodnight, and set another timer for 5 minutes. He cried until the timer went off. This last time, I set the timer for 10 minutes. Three minutes into the timer, he gave up and laid down. So, in total, he cried for about 10 minutes. Without the timer, it feels like eternity, but knowing that it had only been a few minutes helped me get through it.
We did this for the next two nights and suddenly he was back to normal!! The second night he cried for 8 minutes and the third night, he cried for 3. I don’t know how it works or why, but I am so thankful it did.
Caution: I’m not sure I would recommend this for infants or babies, but my toddler was old enough to understand that I wasn’t abandoning him. He was playing a game with me and I had to show him that mama was going to win. Again, I don't know if this will work for everyone but I was so desperate, I was willing to try anything!
Toddler Sleep Regression- Nobody warns you about this!! Everyone focuses on the sleepless nights that infants bring but they forget to mention that your well-adjusted, great sleeping toddler will decide one day that sleep isn't necessary. So I am here to warn you, IT COULD HAPPEN TO YOU! Overall, we have been extremely lucky in the sleep department. It hasn't been perfect but I know I am fortunate to have a baby/toddler that likes to sleep and does it well most of the time.
But right before my son turn two, he started waking up at 4am, wide awake and ready to start his day! And this mama was NOT having it! So we started bringing him in our room and letting him watch cartoons in our bed while my husband and I attempted to get a few more hours of sleep.
Eventually, I realized that we had started a bad habit and that my son was waking up to snuggle and watch cartoons (sneaky little guy!) So I had to get to the bottom of why he was waking up so early. I spent weeks adjusting bed time, shortening naps, and stuffing my kid with food before bed lol. It took about a month to finally figure out the magic recipe. My son was used to taking four hour naps daily and as much as I liked the break, this was just too much sleep for him. So I cut the naps to two hours, pushed them back an hour and eventually he went back to sleeping until a reasonable hour (7am).
For me, the hardest part of "mommin" has always been lack of sleep. I can take on the world and a very energetic two year old, as long as I can get a decent amount of sleep! I'm hopeful that by sharing our experiences and our sleep journey, I might be able to help a desperate, tired mama out there somewhere because I have been that desperate, tired mama many times! Just remember, this too shall pass and there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Hang in there, mama!
J A M I E L Y N N E