One thing I wish I could have is a sleep savings account, where you can sleep for days on end before the kids are born. I mean, how great would it be to be able to save up sleep minutes that you can grab from later once the kiddos are born? Well as great as it is to live in dreamland, facing the reality that our bodies just don’t do that, us mommies (and daddies) need some pretty sound advice to help maximize our sleep. And how do you do that? By ensuring your little one can get to sleep though the night as soon as possible.
In my personal experience, I had both of my kiddos sleeping through the night pretty quickly AND they were both EBF. My first-born was sleeping through the night around 6 months (he woke up once a night from 3 months on as he had reflux). My second born was sleeping through the night at 3 months (waking once in the night at 2 months). And by sleeping through the night, I mean a full 7/730PM to 630/7AM.
I had a few motivating factors for this:
- To get me sleeping longer as soon as possible, because grumpy mommy is no fun
- To help maximize brain development, as we all know children’s brain development takes place during sleep
- To get my hubby and I some alone time.
How did I do this?
Well, I integrated a few methods from various parenting books to help
- On Becoming Babywise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep by Gary Ezzo
- Happiest Baby on the Block, by Dr. Harvey Karp
- The Sleep Easy Solution: The Exhausted Parent's Guide To Getting Your Child to Sleep from Birth to Age 5, by Jennifer Waldburger and Jill Spivack
- The No Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through The Night, by Elizabeth Pantley and William Sears
Here are 7 sleep tips that worked for me:
1) Sleep Environment
When my first was born, I had him sleeping in a co-sleeper inside our bedroom. I’d watch TV as he slept soundly next to me, and even had a nightlight on, but I just couldn’t figure out why the heck he was taking forever to sleep through the entire night (outside of his reflux). In the daytime, I would have the blinds open, and only a slight amount of sunshine would be in the room, but he still wouldn’t sleep.
I shortly realized after reading a plethora of books that my sleep environment was ALL WRONG. I changed it up to make sure it was as dark as possible in the room at night. In the daytime during naps, I added a white noise machine, and even transitioned him into his crib at 4 months because my moving in bed was waking him up. Once I did this, he was instantly sleeping longer and better. Now if you’re choosing to co-sleep with your LO, that’s completely up to you. At least make sure the room is DARK and you have invested in a great white noise machine to soothe them during sleep.
2) Whatever method you choose, be consistent
Now I’m not about to get into a debate about whether to CIO or not - but one thing I have to say is that regardless of what sleep method you choose, you need to be consistent. Anyone in the family, who is responsible for putting your child to sleep, must do the same thing when putting your child to sleep for naps or nighttime. Having different methods for each person will become confusing to the child, and will result in inconsistent sleep.
3) Make sure your child is given a full feed
One thing I realized early on is that each child eats differently. Some fall asleep each feed, in which case I encourage you to try and wake them up to eat more by changing their diaper, tickling their feet, siting them up to burp, etc), while others will stay awake the entire time.
This doesn’t mean to keep the baby on the boob/bottle all day long; you still want them to eat a meal that maximizes the ounces in a feeding (and with breastfeeding you want to ensure they’re getting that protein rich milk, which lets down after a few minutes of nursing).
Pay attention to how your child eats. Do they need a break? Do they fall asleep? Are they positioned properly on the boob/bottle to get the max amount of milk? Ensuring they eat a full meal will help get them sleeping through the night a lot quicker as they won’t wake up hungry in the middle of the night. My second child liked to eat, take a 5-minute break, and then come back to the boob for another 10 minutes of feed. She STILL does this sometimes and she’s almost 6 months! I mean, look at adults – some will scarf their food quickly, some will take a long time to eat, and others will need a break in the middle, but will still want to keep eating.
4) Get your child on a schedule/routine ASAP
Now by a schedule or routine, I don’t mean a hard-core military stick-to-the-minute schedule of events (unless that works for your family). However, each day should have some sort of consistency from morning wakings, to naptimes, to nighttime sleep. Doing this early on – even starting at a week old – can really help to train their circadian rhythm which helps to control eat, wake, and sleep cycles. Figure out which time you’d like the household up, and let that natural sunshine into your home to help wake everyone up. That way, once the nighttime hours approach (and the sunlight fades), each child will naturally begin to get tired due to the lack of sunshine coming into the home. Also, depending on age, your child will require a certain number of naps/rest time(s) throughout the day.
5) Put them to sleep AWAKE
How tempting is it to just let them sleep after you’ve snuggled them on your breast/bottle and tiptoe out of the room so you can catch a snooze, snack or put your feet up? While that can sound tempting and easy, in the long run it’s going to bite you in the ass. Sleep training (if you’ll even need to sleep train) will be less daunting if you teach children from early on to sleep on their own. During the day make sure your child stays awake after each feed, whether it’s 1 minute or 1 hour and put them to bed AWAKE.
Now, you don’t need to wake them into a fully awake state each time (this depends on your daily routine if it’s naptime yet), but just enough that they know where they are and can continue to snooze if it’s time for them to sleep. This is one of the most important sleep training methods that is in ALL the books I’ve read and is the MOST IMPORTANT!
6) When your LO is sick, throw everything out the window
Of course there is always exceptions to sleep time, wake time, schedules AND even sleep training. It’s when your child is under the weather from teething, fevers, traveling, loss, or whatever may affect them from a “normal” state. I take this extra time to snuggle, cuddle, and hydrate/feed them as much as possible. AND you bet your ass I make sure I’m extra quiet tiptoeing out of the room once they’ve fallen asleep!
7) Work on naps and extended night time sleep at the same time
Sometimes we have so much to do during the day that we are so desperate to get our children sleeping for naps during the day, but then at night, we’re roaring to stick to our guns about sleep. This is something that will also come to bite you in the ass later. As much as we need to get done during the day, getting dinner ready, or back to that social media post, etc. be consistent with the above during naps AND night time sleep. This will make your sleep training SO much easier. If you put the hard work in sooner than later you will spend much time overall in sleep training.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go get my mask on because my day starts with both my kiddos at 7AM and I need to get my beauty rest.