A Little More on the Whole Sleep Thing

From previous blogs of mine you know that my husband and I have lived through our own kind of hell and have made it through to the other side. Thank god. Sleep, even though not as bad from one person to the next, is definitely something that we all work to achieve in some way or another. And holy hell, there are about a thousand and one techniques found in 500 books that cost you around 1 million dollars, all of which I own and do not hold in high regards. Everyone has a unique baby, and every baby needs something special to get them to sleep. But I write this because I went from having the fussiest baby of all time, to the best sleeper in the entire world. He went from needing hours and hours of work and attention, to zero work and attention. So here is what we did.

ROUTINE!!! Man, this is an IMPORTANT ONE. The power of routine is, in my opinion, the leading factor to Jack learning to sleep successfully. It isn’t great if we take a trip and the schedule gets messed up, but who cares?? It works at home and that’s where I need my sleep the most. So our routine, for Jack, is scheduled to the minute. To the second even. He has a bedtime of between 6:45 and 7pm. So here is how we get there:

5pm sharp: Dinner time. And we really fill him up so he doesn’t get hungry in the night. Usually Mushrooms, Fish, Lentils, Beans, and a few Pureed foods mixed in like Kale and Carrots etc, and fruit with yogurt for dessert. We do dinner at 5 so that he has a little while to digest the food before bedtime, babies have a hard time sleeping on a really full stomach. Don’t we all??? So this gives him almost 2 hours to let the food settle before bed.

5:45pm: Playtime, usually naked. He runs around the most after dinner, so we take him upstairs and let him go wild. Helps burn off dinner and the last energy he has before bed.

6:15pm: Bath time. Usually with daddy but he doesn’t mind either way. Lots of splashing and playing and talking here. And he knows bedtime is soon so he starts rubbing his eyes.

6:30pm: Getting dressed for bed in our room. P.J’s, warm socks underneath, and a binky. Sometimes we do story time if he looks like he needs a little while longer to wind down. Usually he knows the process so well and he knows that it is bedtime so we have to rush to get him dressed because he is ready for sleep right away.

6:45pm: Breastfeeding in the pitch black of his room with the white noise* on high. I make sure that his room heater is set to 74 degrees. He has 6 binkies spread out in his crib so that if he wakes for a moment and needs one, it won’t be hard to find one.

*White noise has been amazing. We have a $20 radio that plays melodies, rain sounds and white noise. It also has a projector that makes great forest scenes on the ceiling that he loves when he wakes from naps. But the white noise allows us to have dinner parties where people are laughing and shouting and he rarely hears a thing! I usually turn the white noise on low when we go to bed at the end of the night.

Between 6:45 and 7pm: Lay Jack in his crib and kiss him goodnight. Some nights he rolls right over and goes to sleep. Some nights he lays there and makes noises while he chews on a binky (sounds like ayayayayayayayayaya) and then falls asleep after 10 minutes or so. But we don’t have him fall asleep in our arms, we just hug him for a minute while he rubs his eyes and then we lay him down. Rarely, but sometimes, we have to go back in and rock him for a few more minutes. But these days that almost never happens.

One thing I did learn from a book that made sense: Babies will associate sleep with wherever they FALL ASLEEP. So if, each night, they fall asleep in your arms, but then they wake up somewhere different, it would be the same as if you fell asleep in bed and woke up on the floor. You wouldn’t just roll over and go back to sleep, you would wake up and wonder how the hell you got on the floor. Then you would have to figure out how to get back into bed. If your baby associates you as their bed, and associates the breast as a means to fall asleep, you would just have to change their sleep association to realize that their CRIB is where they sleep. Then, when they wake in the crib, they know where they are and can roll over and go back to sleep.

Our routine is EXACTLY the same every single night. And if it is even 10 minutes past 5, he will get mad that dinner hasn’t started yet. His inner clock is set to the minute, and as much as Chris and I like to be able to change things up sometimes, we don’t even dream of messing with this nighttime routine because we know that each night from 6:45 on, we have free time for ourselves to do whatever we want. It is guaranteed, and that is so precious.

These are the basics, and it didn’t work for us until he was 6 months old. But we stuck with the routine regardless and I think it has paid off and then some. Jack is such a great sleeper and can put himself to sleep, which is the most valuable thing babies can do for themselves. They need their sleep in order to grow and be happy, same for us parents! We did get desperate and have him sleep with us a handful of times when he was in his early months, but I found that this actually disrupted his sleep more, and I wanted him to get the most sleep he could. The more rested he is, and the more rested we are, the better the quality your time is when you are awake together! The crib just ensured he would get full, uninterrupted sleep action.

So there you have it! Good luck!!

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