Let me just start off by saying, remember folks- you’re raising a little human, not a robot. Every person is different, and your little person is not going to sleep the same every. single. night. no matter what you do. Just like adults don’t sleep the same every night. It helps to remember this, when you’re trying to figure out why baby is crying in the middle of the night, or waking up an hour earlier one morning, or having a hard time going to sleep.
Now, with that being said, I’m picking up where I left off last week…
1. Be consistent– this is probably the most important thing you can do as a parent in general. Don’t send mixed messages!! Here’s a good example for you, and I’m going to try to keep in real here (B is a decent sleeper but he still has his moments)
I made a rule very early on that if B were to wake before 6am, I would help him get back to sleep. I did this because he goes to daycare during the day, and if he wakes before 6am and then has to go to school, he’s a mess. He doesn’t nap well there (play play play all the time! sleep is for babies!) so I wanted to make sure I maximized his sleep at night to help pad him for the day. Obviously, if he were to wake at 5:55am then I would call it close enough- but mornings when he’s waking at 5:30am or earlier, I try to get him back down for awhile. So I made up a routine:
- Go in, keep the lights off (it helps the our baby monitor has a night light on it that I can turn on so I can see) and don’t say anything to him
- Take him out of his crib – check for wet sheets
- Change his diaper and clothes if necessary (he occasionally wakes up due to wetness)
- Offer a bottle
- Song- same as bedtime song
- Into the crib
I make sure I’m very consistent when it comes to this- I don’t want to send mixed messages by going in and saying “good morning” but then trying to get him back to sleep. Or doing the routine and then thinking “oh you’re not tired- ok time to get up!” Once I make the decision to put him back in the crib for more sleep, I have to commit to that.
Not too long ago, I was not consistent and we had a meltdown. I did not stick to the routine- I forgot to check the crib for wet sheets and they were WET. I don’t know what happened, but he totally soaked through his diaper for some reason. So I go to put him in the crib at the end of the routine, and realize that his sheets are soaked. I obviously cannot put him in the crib- and he’s already half asleep- but I also cannot change the sheets one handed (this is when I wish I had 3 hands). I had to set him on the floor to change his sheets- let me tell you, he was NOT ok with that. I stripped those sheets as fast as I could!! I repeated the end of our routine and then set him in the crib- and even he was tired, he let me know he was NOT pleased with this. However, I needed to be consistent, so I left the room and gave him 10 minutes. He was asleep by the end of 10 minutes- and slept over an hour and a half more. (If he had still be fussing after 10 minutes I would have gone in and turned on the lights and said “good morning”)
Which brings me to my 2nd point:
2. Wait 10-15 minutes before responding to baby. Back when B was brand new, I used to wake up at a mere change in his breathing- and try to attend to his needs prior to him waking up fully. Which was great- except I was exhausted.
Then I tried giving him 10 minutes, just to see if he really needed me. 9 times out of 10? He was back asleep in less than that. We went from waking up 3-4 times a night to 1-2 times within a week.
The only times I break this rule is if he’s frantically crying OR sick. Like the one time he managed to get his leg stuck in the crib slats- even though he had breathable bumpers on- I ran in there as fast as I could.
3. Age appropriate wake times
When we had B, I had no idea how often he was supposed to sleep, or how many naps he should be taking in a day. Looking back now, that poor kid must have been exhausted all. the. time. You’d think I could have read a sleep book or two prior to having him, but apparently I was too much of a scatterbrained preggo lady to think of that.
After awhile, we got our routine down, and I was able to figure out how long he could be awake before needing a nap. This changes as they grow older- in the beginning he needed 4 naps a day (especially since he went through a 30-45min nap phase) and now he’s down to 1 nap a day.
Watch your wake times (time between naps) and make sure they are age appropriate. Also watch baby for clues that they are sleepy (B’s “tell” was rubbing his eyes, then it was tugging his left ear, and now we’re back to eye rubbing) and get them in bed prior to complete exhaustion (otherwise you risk an overtired baby who physically can’t nap).
4. 12 hour days, 12 hour nights
This is another big one-I go by the rule that B’s bed time is 12 hours from when he wakes for the day. Say he woke up at 6:30am- that means bedtime is 6:30pm. Now, not all little ones are going to need a full 12 hours of sleep at night- but they usually need at least 10, so aim for a 10-12 range. And baby bed times are always earlier than adult bed times!
Like I said before- babies are not little robots. And all babies sleep differently. The best thing you can do is to not have crazy expectations, be consistent and start a routine. Any changes you make are going to take a few days to become the new routine. And there will be bumps in the road!