3 Things I Did to Get my Baby to Sleep
Ever had a day when you're dying to take a shower and the house is a maze of baby toys and dirty washing yet your baby still just. won't. sleep? I had no idea before I became a parent just how important sleep would become. I've always been a light sleeper and an early riser; sleep was never of much importance. Yet over the past year, the subject has left me tearing my hair out and whimpering in a corner.
When Archie was born, one of the hugest things I suddenly had to deal with was the worry over sleep - his and ours - I've never spent so much time googling 'baby will only nap for 30 minutes!!', 'baby wakes as soon as I stop singing', and 'how to emulate the effects of 2 shots of whisky without actually drinking alcohol'. I'm going to be honest, I may have become a teeny bit obsessed with how much sleep my little boy was getting (or not, as the case may be), but after a stressful 6 months, things started to fall into place and I thought 'Maybe I did do something right?'
My first fantastic bit of advice is to ignore the haters whose babies 'have slept for 12 hours since the day we brought them home from the hospital'. Don’t feel bad, most of the time, it simply isn't true. Also, don’t let anyone make you feel as if your baby is naughty for being a
bad normal sleeper! The one thing I was asked the most was 'How does he sleep? Is he sleeping through yet?'
No, not yet. He also isn't tying his shoelaces or wiping his own bum though, so I'm not too worried.
I digress. This post is to outline what I did, what I think I might’ve possibly done right and some advice on how to get through that first year without going batshit crazy. So, here it is, what we did to get our baby to sleep 12 hours a night and 2-3 hours a day.
Nothing. Okay, maybe not quite nothing, but what I’m trying to say is that anything that claims miracle sleep success in 5 days just doesn’t work (and in a crazy sleep-deprived funk, you can sometimes place all of your hope on one thing).
That sounds like a really negative statement, but I promise you it isn’t, in fact it’s a huge positive. It will get better. It could be months, or a year, or perhaps even longer, but something will kick in and your baby will learn to sleep better. You'll become more accustomed to their needs and something will fall into place, things will get better.
My advice is to enjoy your baby while you can. I was so desperate to get Archie out of our bed, into his cot, into his room, that it all flew by in an instant and by the time he was in his own room, I realised I hugely missed snuggling up with my tiny newborn and I wished I hadn’t been in such a rush for it all to end. I even attempted to co-sleep again and it massively failed – by that point, A was used to, and happier to sleep on his own, how sad! Yes, it can be stressful. The days that they won’t nap anywhere but on you, or anywhere at all will feel like the end of the world, but try to relax, (I know, I hate being told that too) because it really is over in the blink of an eye.
Now, at 14 months, we do the same routine every night. Bath at 6:15pm (most days considering A loves squishing bananas and peas into his hair), dressed and in PJs by 6:25pm, 9oz bottle, brushed teeth (with difficulty) and has two books read to him before he's laid in his cot with Winnie at around 6.40pm. 95% of the time, he'll natter to himself for a bit before falling asleep, sometimes he'll even stand up, throw Winnie out of the cot and stare at us for a while through the video monitor, but come 7:30pm he's always asleep. If he wakes at night, most of the time he’ll settle himself back to sleep unless he’s teething/has had a bad dream, in which case we’ll comfort him or bring him into our bed (until he kicks me in the head so much I'm forced to put him back).
So, without further ado, here are the 3 basic things that helped us get to where we are now:
Routine, routine, routine
Not only did a routine help Archie, but it really helped us inject some normality into those crazy first 6 months. I can’t remember how old Archie was, somewhere around 3/4 months before we started to initiate a flexible bedtime routine. We started by bathing him (in his awesome Tummy Tub) in the living room, into his PJs and a nice warm bottle on Mummy's lap. Sometimes he'd fall asleep while feeding, other times he'd finish and doze for a while. If he did fall asleep, I'd attempt mission impossible and put him upstairs in his moses basket. On the occasion that it worked, we at least got a couple of hours to breathe before the next waking, score!
We gradually amended A's routine as he got older, moving his bath time upstairs, his routine into his bedroom, adding reading time in there and moving his bottle to the middle of his routine (to avoid it becoming a sleep prop). Sometimes I'd sing to him or pat his back, until he found this a hindrance, so I stopped. We had no idea what we were doing, we just tried our best to get Archie sleepy & comfortable, and it eventually seemed to do the job almost every time.
The one technique we used consistently was the pick up/put down method (I wrote a bit about this in Archie's 7 Month Update). It took weeks of patting/rubbing A’s back to sleep every night and gradually moving away from his cot before he would go to sleep on his own. I’ve never allowed him to cry-it-out and my end-game was always just to keep A as calm & relaxed as possible (I believe that's what leads to a good night’s sleep) so if I had to stay with him for a while (sometimes for up to an hour or longer) to do that, then I would. There came a point where patting his back seemed to hinder rather than help, so I’d move away and sing instead, I tried to follow his lead. Now he becomes irritated with us if we stay in the room for longer than 5 seconds after putting him down.
We also followed PU/PD during the day but it was always more difficult than at night. If it did all become too much for A, I’d revert to taking him out in his pram so that he could at least get some sleep, then we'd try again the next day, until he eventually became used to napping in his cot.
Of course, we also had night-wakings to take care of and extra feeds, but we tried to be as consistent as we possibly could (without going insane) and as time went on, it all seemed to sort itself out. A naturally dropped his night feeds at around 9/10 months and will usually only wake now due to teething or upset.
Whatever it is you decide to do, stick to it as often as you possibly can. We’re pretty flexible when it comes to A being unwell or upset, but we’ll always eventually settle him back into the same routine as before and I believe it's now so familiar to him that everything falls back into place relatively easily. For holidays, we have no routine, we'll let A sleep in the car or take him out in the pram and at night he'd usually fall asleep from exhaustion, but as soon as we return home, he’s back into his normal routine, and it amazes me how quickly he re-adjusts.
Of course, every single baby is different and I'm by no means an expert on anyone's child besides my own. I'm pretty sure the next one will be the complete opposite and throw me for a loop again, but for now we're enjoying the (mostly) peaceful nights and finally getting some time to ourselves. Enjoy your little (sometimes difficult) bundle while you can, the first year will be over before you know it!
And if all else fails, treat yourself to this little beauty..
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