How I Got My Baby to Sleep

4.20.2017


Hey, hi, how are ya? I am good, just hopped up on caffeine because it is the only way I stay productive during the day to get anything done or a blog post written! Thankfully, it is not because I was up all night with a crying baby. Been there, done that, no thank you I like my sleep. Basically, there is one question practically everyone (and their mother) will ask you after you have your baby and it is: Does he/she sleep through the night?

The lucky few of you may get to answer this question with a calm, sweet smiled "yes". And there are some that have to hold back their sleep-deprived, caffeine induced rage and grit their teeth while muttering a quick "NO". Those of you may also be reading this about to hulk smash your computer due to the same sleep-deprivation. BUT WAIT. Let me lend a helping hand, or at least a sympathetic ear. I completely understand because I have totally been there. I remember the first night Ryker slept for three hours straight I thought I had won the lottery because that kid would. not. sleep.

I was about at my wits end because I was so dang tired. I am not someone who does well on no sleep. So let me share some of my "I've kept my baby alive for 10 months and haven't gone (totally) insane yet" wisdom. There are 5 components that I have found that assisted in getting Ryker to sleep longer stretches through the night and eventually the entire night. He now goes to bed about 7 pm and wakes up in the morning between 7-7:30 am! HALLELUJAH!


Awww my little baby was SO tiny! He was probably only 5 weeks old here! PS this is the magical sleepsuit!

ROUTINE
This is possibly the most important component when it comes to sleep training your little one. If there is no routine in place then everyone is basically just running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It is also, most likely, the hardest to implement when sleep training because you can't force a routine, you have to work around the cues from your baby to establish a solid routine. We sort of loosely followed a Baby Wise routine and after awhile Ryker sort of set a routine on his own following the same premise.  The basics of a Baby Wise routine is: eat, play & then sleep.

Also having a solid bedtime routine is crucial to getting your baby to understand that it is now time for bed. If I never kept Ryker's routine the same, then he would never have learned when it was "bedtime" and how bedtime is different then day time/playtime.

BATH TIME
Implementing a solid bath time was part of the routine we established. I think it is important for helping Ryker sleep through the night because he is clean, fresh and snuggled up for bed time. Also, doing this every night signals to Ryker that it is almost time for bed. We have the same routine every night. We do a nice warm bath with his lavender bath wash, dry him off and lotion him up with his lavender body lotion, and get him all snuggled in his pajamas and when he was small we used this sleepsuit that was a LIFESAVER. Once I transitioned him out of the sleepsuit, we used this Aden & Anais wearable blanket that he continues to sleep with every night & during his nap time. Following bath time and getting him in his PJs, we turn all the lights off in his room (except his night light) and give him his nighttime bottle. After he eats and burps we put him straight to bed after we say our prayers. A lot of the time his eyes are still open, we do this because we want him to be able to put himself to sleep, or back to sleep if he wakes up. If we were to put him to bed completely asleep, then he would always rely on us to put him back to sleep if he woke up in the middle of the night.

Ask Dr. Sears says this about infant sleep: "Babies need to be parented to sleep, not just put to sleep. Some babies can be put down while drowsy yet still awake and drift others need parental help by being rocked or nursed to sleep. The reason is that while adults can usually go directly into the state of deep sleep, infants in the early months enter sleep through an initial period of light sleep. After twenty minutes or more they gradually enter deep sleep, from which they are not so easily aroused. As you probably know from experience, if you try to rush your baby to bed while she is still in the initial light sleep period, she will usually awaken." 

I recommend finding what works for your child and yourself for your nighttime routine. One piece of advice that I learned that I would like to pass on though is this: Don't start a routine that you are not willing to stick to later on. Meaning, if you don't want to rock your 12 month old to sleep every single night, don't start doing it with your 2 month old. Babies like to stick to what they know, it will be a lot harder to get a 12 month old to put themselves to sleep than a 2 month old. It was the best piece of advice I was given! However, if that is the only way you can catch some zzz's then I completely understand if you rock them to sleep! I rock Ryker to sleep for his naps because it is the only way he will fall asleep and stay asleep for more than 20 minutes so I get you!

SLEEPING SPACE
So Michael has to get up for work around 3 or 4 in the morning the majority of the time which meant that we were kind of pushed to move Ryker into his own room when Michael went back to work at around 6 weeks old. So we started training him to sleep in his own room at 4 weeks old which was the same time we started this whole sleep training situation. It was probably harder on me than it was him to be honest. But I had no choice so I had to toughen up because I wasn't about to have my baby wake up at 3 in the morning when my husband's obnoxious alarm went off, heck no. So for Ryker's sleeping space it hasn't really changed since we started sleep training him. He sleeps in his crib, his room is completely dark (just a small plug in night light), he has a sound machine and a fan going in his room. The fan is to reduce the risk of SIDS because it circulates the air and makes a faint noise and the sound machine is to block out any other noise. Also, Ryker HATED being swaddled like with a passion but would always startle himself awake. I tried sleep sacks, swaddles that let his arms free, swaddle pods and nothing worked. Until I found the most amazing invention of all time, Baby Merlin's Magic Sleep Suit. Basically, he looked like a the Jet Puffed marshmallow guy but man, does this thing really work! He liked that his arms were free but it is padded so when he would startle it wouldn't wake him up! I am telling you right now, I honestly don't think he would have ever started sleeping through the night without this thing and I seriously shed some tears the day he outgrew it and I had to transition him. But let me tell you, thankfully he had an awesome routine in place beforehand because the transition out of the sleepsuit was SEAMLESS. He seriously slept like a champ the first night without it!

So my recommendation to you is to make your child's sleep space dark, calm and have soothing sounds playing in the background. This creates an environment for good sleep! I also diffuse lavender  and cedarwood essential oil in Ryker's room at night and that has really helped him stay asleep or fall back asleep if he wakes up. I set the diffuser for 30 minutes when he first falls asleep, and then I turn it back on again before I go to bed. I tagged some of my favorite sound machine and diffuser options below but you can also check out this link to learn more about essential oils.

CRY IT OUT
This was the hardest for me. Honestly, letting my tiny little baby cry it out just about broke my mama heart. Luckily, Michael was strong for the both of us and would tell me that it would help him in the long run which ultimately it did! This is also the most controversial, so here's my opinion: I think it is part of what helped us get him to sleep through the night because he would never get the hang of sleeping on his own if he always had one of us coming to his rescue. We would set a time frame like 10 minutes, and if he cried for 10 minutes straight we would go in and soothe him (not picking him up!) and then we would leave the room. If he cried again, we would time it and do the same thing. Eventually, he got the hang of sleeping on his own and would cry less and less and then not at all. Usually, we would have to use this method more for nap times than at night but that was just our experience. Sometimes I still have to do this for nap time but he usually cries for a couple minutes and puts himself back to sleep. That's why this important! Not because you're forcing them to sleep on their own but because you are teaching them how to go back to sleep on their own, that's the difference! Remember, babies & kids have to parented to sleep. It is not a skill they learn on their own!

FLEXIBILITY
I wanted to include this because this was also very hard for me when we started implementing a schedule with Ryker. I swear we didn't leave the house for days when we were working on it and I would get so stressed when he would fall off of his schedule. Then one day, I prayed over and over that God would give me the strength and patience to not let myself get easily overwhelmed. It took some time but with continued prayer, I realized having flexibility with his schedule was not only important for my own sanity but also for Ryker as he grows. Obviously his schedule is going to grow and change as he does so if I let myself get too focused on the scheduling of it I will miss out on all of the fun milestones that are to come. Besides, it is inevitable that he will change his schedule as he grows so if I am more flexible, I will simply follow his lead instead of overwhelming myself.

In closing, if it isn't all happening right away don't throw up your hands in defeat! Your child may just not be ready yet for a routine, every baby is different. It takes time, patience & lots of prayer but once you begin implementing a routine your child will understand more of the difference between day & night which will in turn. help them sleep longer at night. Sleep is important for children and babies to grow, especially when they are trying to reach new milestones. During sleep, the brain recharges itself and the central nervous system is able to develop. Sound sleep is associated with more positive daytime behavior, mood and temperament, as well as better physical functioning. [source article]

You can do this mom or dad! You know your baby better than anyone and can determine what will work best for he or she! Don't get yourself down if it doesn't happen right away and keep working at it. Hang in there because one day these tough nights will all be but a distant and sweet memory!

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