One of the most dreaded questions that a new mom can be asked is, ‘How is the sleeping going?’ I say this, yet I am so very guilty of asking this, I guess mostly out of blind stupidity or something?
It’s like we know what the answer is most likely going to be anyway, but ask regardless! And then, this leads to 2 very distinct ‘MOM CAMPS’ that you will find yourself in.
The group of moms whose babies DO NOT sleep well and therefore THEY do not sleep well and they are left tired, fed up, cynical and annoyed at anyone who claims their baby does sleep well. They do not want to hear great sleep stories, it just rubs it in more!
In fact they only really want to hear story after story of other hopeless cases of screaming babies who ‘just don’t need that much sleep’! Misery truly loves equally tired and sarcastic company in this camp.
The other group, however, relishing sharing their sleeping babies routines and secrets…but only with those mums that have similar experiences or their kids are too old for them to properly remember back or care enough to get jealous and angry.
When around the other ‘No Sleep Mom Camp’, these moms typically keep their gobs shut and only admit good sleep when asked and even then, it is dripping with lucky excuses. They may even go as far as just making up a less ideal sleep history for their baby to fit in and avoid getting face-punched!
There is the rare mom who has a sleeping baby, and is super proud and will tell everyone and take no social cues and end up with very few friends…I would love to say that I have never been one of those but I’m sure over the years I have come across that way to someone…and for that I’m sorry.
My intention with this blog is, not to annoy but share what I would have loved 14 years ago when I was desperate for tips. I am going to write this over 2 blogs because I think it will be too long in one, so the second one will be up next week.
So before I begin, and annoy many of you, I have to admit (this might not be the surprise of the year or anything), I have found myself in the Sleeping Babies Camp time after time and am aware how annoyed folks can get at your 8-9 hours of unadulterated sleep.
With this in mind, I also have had more than I can remember come to me and ask what I would suggest…so for those that want some more tips to try, I write this. For those angry sleep deprived moms out there that aren’t ready to try or listen to anything new, then I hope this time passes quickly and I feel for you…it sucks.
Before I begin, I need to say that all of my children were never in neonatal or were suffering with any serious illness. That is a completely different story and you shouldn’t compare those sleep and feed patterns to normal healthy babies. I am writing for only those that are normal healthy babies.
All of mine have had some sort of set back. (#1 was 5 weeks early and struggled to gain weight breast feeding, # 2 had whooping cough at 5 weeks and we were quarantined for 2 weeks, # 3 was ideal, # 4 had bad reflux for 18 months and # 5…so far so good…similar to #3)
However, in spite of all of my kids little personalities and minor health setbacks they were all sleeping through the night by the earliest 7 weeks and latest 10 weeks old.
When I say sleeping through, I mean that they go to sleep at 7pm (within 10 minutes would be quiet/asleep), I wake them for a dream feed before I go to sleep around 9:45pm (takes about 15 minutes) and then they sleep through until 6 or 7 am. I also have not had to use harsh sleep training where you are leaving them to scream every night for weeks on end. I can’t remember having to leave them for more than 10 minutes, more than a couple of times over the years. Here are the tips that I have used, and I have to say that the more confident I became at using them and the earlier I started incorporated them, the better and quicker the outcome of a happy sleeping baby and mommy!
Start Early and be a Hermit!
Ok, as soon as that tiny bundle of joy lands up in your arms, then you can start letting baby know how his little days are going to be looking like…for real!
There is no reason to wait, if both mommy and baby are healthy. And this is NOT going to kill the magic or enjoyment of those first few weeks…believe me, if anything it helps you enjoy your baby more and I can guarantee that baby will be happier and healthier too. So, start to think about when you want your baby’s naps to happen and feeding etc. If you are breast feeding then it is of course crucial to feed enough in 24 hours to keep up your milk supply but that doesn’t mean, feed baby ever 20 minute to the point you both are a crying heap on the bed….this is what my first 4 weeks as a new mother looked like…no one told me!
Make sure that you try and feed baby at, or as close to, those times that you want them to be feeding. Wake them up at 6 or 7 in the morning and start the day with a clear wake-up…even if all you want to do is sleep in to 10! Then do the whole bath, feed, bed routine around 6:30pm so they are down and ready for sleep at 7pm. Then after 7pm, make sure all feeds and interactions are in dark quiet rooms so that baby will learn their night and day. Make sure those first few days and weeks you are as consistent as possible with their nap times too.
And this is the hermit bit. You are kidding yourself if you think that you can go out and be a social butterfly in those first 2 months, and think that feeding and sleep times will settle in. Take it from me, don’t do it if you want to be sleeping by month 3!
Just warn the friends that you are going to focus on resting, routine and enjoying your beautiful new baby in this simple slow season. One or two times a week isn’t going to kill the routine, but much more, I guarantee you will see regression.
Funny enough though, if you do persevere and get baby sleeping and happy, it frees you up and is totally liberating later down the line. You will find that you can go out and be more flexible and that baby just fits in and naps wherever because he knows his routine.
Trust me on this one, start early and stay in for a bit.
At the end of this blog you can find the daily timetable I used from day one with my last 4 babies. The 1st one was the one that I figured it all out, and have been able to adjust and improve it since. Keep in mind, this is a timetable that we were aiming for and got to by 7-8 weeks on average…it takes time, consistency and staying home.
One of my favourite parenting books is ‘Why French Kids Don’t Throw Food’ by Pamela Druckerman (the title is different in the US…Bringing up Bebe…I think)
Anywho, it’s a great book and I would recommend it to all parents not just for the sleep info.
One of the things that Druckerman mentions is that all the French mothers that she came in contact with, while raising her babies in Paris, would talk about ‘Le Pause’. They would pause or wait whenever their new babies would start to stir or cry. They wouldn’t rush in and pick them up, kissing them repeatedly and reassuring them that mommy is here and will never leave.
They wait, and give it time from day one.
I have used this and it is very helpful. It is easier said than done, but if you can manage, it will help. Most babies start to stir when they are in-between sleep cycles, especially that first one after you put them down, about 45 minutes in. They will naturally wake up a bit…but many times are ready to fall back to sleep to finish the cycle.
More often than not, well-meaning moms will go in and pick baby up and ruining it’s sleep potential, leaving it over tired for the rest of the day. I leave it for 5 to 10 minutes when I hear mine start to stir and many times they fall back asleep.
Give them Naps!
It is extremely rare for any baby to not need naps…no matter what you hear or tell yourself.
Babies need naps and cannot go from 7am to 7pm happily and not ending up overtired.
So many times moms don’t give them naps fearing that they won’t sleep at night because they will be too awake. The totally opposite normally happens! They go all day exhausted and then struggle to settle at bedtime because they are over tired.
Consistent naps in the day = good sleep at night.
And this is the case until just before school age for most kids…although so many moms tell others, and themselves, that their kid ‘just doesn’t need naps’. Even if it’s a quiet time, where they look at books quietly in bed or on the sofa, kids need a rest between 7am and 7pm.
My 3 year old still takes afternoon naps every other day and even when I give him the option of reading, 9 out 10 times he falls asleep with book in hand. This afternoon he was reading at the table with me and had one hand on mine while I was typing and conked out!
New babies need a good morning nap and a good afternoon nap. As they get older they drop the morning normally and the afternoon one becomes shorter.
I cannot stress the importance of naps!
Obviously, make sure they don’t sleep much later than 4pm if you want them in bed for 7pm.
Here is the schedule we used for our last 4 babies and they were all well-adjusted to this routine by week 8.
6:30-7:00am Wake Up!
Wake time till 9:00am
Morning Nap 9-11am
Wake and feed 11:30-Noon
Wake time till 1-1:30pm
Afternoon nap 1-3:30pm (school run for older kids)
Feed 4-5 pm
Wake time till 6:15pm
Bath and PJs 6:15-6:45pm
Bed and last feed 6:45-7pm
Dream Feed 9:45-10
(Keep in mind that this was routine by 2 months, but before there were more feeds before and after naps, a small nap from 4:30 to 5pm for a while when they were tiny, and of course one middle of the night feed they would need, normally around 2 or 3am…this feed though they all naturally dropped around 8 weeks.)
I hope this is a start and I will blog my other Sleeping Babies tips next week!