Let’s talk about sleep for a moment… Sweet sleep, that once glorious, uninterrupted resting time…
Sleep was forever changed once I became a mother almost 6 years ago. It has now taken on a completely different meaning. Sleep has now become something I give a lot of thought to and do everything I can to make sure I get enough of it.
When I became a first-time parent, no one ever told me how incredibly tired I would be. The way I approached sleep with my first daughter created a situation where she would NOT sleep in her own bed for over 4 years…. Yes, four years. I struggled with sleep at naptime and bedtime. Can you relate? The sleep struggle is real!
Looking back, I think I did a lot of things wrong (for my family at least) when I was trying to help my first daughter learn to sleep on her own. In fact, I am 99% sure I did because it took 2 weeks to make things better (2 weeks!!) and I waited over 4 years to do it!
Sleep is once again sweet after my successful changes to my oldest daughter’s sleep routine. I could look back and see my mistakes and because of it I did things MUCH differently with my second daughter, Skyla. I believe I have a good success story to share because of it. Hopefully these tips can help any moms out there struggling with sleep or lack of it.
If you are looking to get more sleep and have your little one sleep better too, follow these tips for the nighttime (or long chunks of the nighttime) for actual uninterrupted sleep (yes its possible, I swear!)
A sweet one month old newborn baby girl is sleeping on her back in her crib, swaddled in a pink blanket.
GETTING YOUR LITTLE ONE TO SLEEP FROM EARLY ON
- Having realistic sleep expectations for the first few months is important to help you adjust. Let’s face it, for the first few months your newborn is going to need to sleep close to you. There is no way around it. Newborns just don’t have stomachs big enough to hold a lot of food to sustain them through the night so they will need to drink milk every 2-3 hours. Knowing what to realistically expect makes the experience a little more bearable. For both my daughters I started with a co-sleeper in the bed. I really like the Baby Delight Snuggle Nest. This allowed me a bit of space where I wasn’t worried about rolling over on my babies, but they weren’t so far away that I had to get up every time I had to breastfeed.
- Ask for help. For me, my husband was amazing and helped a lot, especially after the first 6 weeks. I would pump and he would feed her with a bottle several nights a week, which made a big difference in me getting some sleep. I realize not everyone has that kind of help but if you can even get your husband, mom, sister or friend, to do a night or 2 here and there, it can make the world of difference.
- Be conscious of what you are eating. Pay attention to changes in your baby’s mood, and make sure you aren’t eating any foods that baby might be showing sensitivity to: dairy, wheat, soy, spicy foods, white sugars, (especially that highly processed, non organic items) can all be irritating when passed through breastmilk. The foods you eat can cause colic, gas or discomfort and a fussy baby!
- Practice getting your baby to bed during the “sweet spot”… You know the “sweet spot” when they start rubbing or fluttering their eyes, yawning, not moving much, or making their hands into fists… That is your cue Mama! Time to try and go lay them down! In the very early weeks they are going to sleep a lot and don’t need much coaching. As they get a little older you need to start looking for clear signs that they are tired BEFORE they get overtired. If you miss the cues and they become overtired, stress hormones start to kick in and it will be a lot harder to get them to go down to sleep.
- Make sure the room is completely dark. We use black out curtains as any bit of artificial or natural light made it harder for us to get the little ones down.
- Use a sound maker or white noise machine. They help to create a relaxing environment and drown out loud, startling noises.
- Don’t feed them to sleep. With my first daughter I would breastfeed her to sleep (bad move, (for us at least). She needed our comfort to put her down for 4 years until we broke that habit (very quickly and easily in 2 weeks, but that is for another blog). With my second, I would breastfeed before I started seeing the “really tired” cues (so feeding was not what she was using to comfort herself to sleep).
- Lay your baby down and see if they will go to sleep on their own. I would just sit there with Skyla and often if I got her in that sweet spot, all it would take is a blanket, and she would go down right away (without even crying!). Other nights I would have to gently rub her back or her head and she would sleep easily.
- Allow baby an opportunity to self-soothe. At about 3 months, we transitioned Skyla to a crib next to our bed, where we still currently have her. As she got a little older she would sometimes start to cry when I put her down. With Divinaka, my first daughter I would swoop her up and cuddle her so that she wouldn’t cry at all (another bad move for us). I did the “in-between” with Skyla (never let her cry for long periods of time, but didn’t prevent her from crying at all). I would sit there next to her on the bed and she would sometimes cry for 2-3 minutes but would quickly find a way to comfort herself to sleep. Had I jumped in and tended to her every cry she never would have learned that. If they cry longer than 5 minutes there is usually something else they need, so get them up, try feeding them, comforting them, or trying a little later.
Be patient and don’t give up!
Since I took these steps with Skyla, I have NOT had a dreadful lack-of-sleep experience that I had with my first daughter Divinaka. I don’t fear sleep or lack of it the way I did before, and I have been much happier as a parent because I’m not so sleep deprived. Skyla and the rest of my family are happier as well. I’m sure we can all relate about how lack of sleep can affect family dynamics (not fun!!). Regardless of your experience, keep trying different things and don’t give up as there is always a way, sometimes it just takes us a lot longer to find “a way” than we’d like it to.
– Written by Cassandra Curtis, Founder & COO, Once Upon a Farm