Thursday, August 22, 2013

Sleep Habits

I'd just like to preface this by saying what worked for us won't necessarily work for everybody. Babies are different. Healthy sleep habits are a good thing to cultivate, but take time and patience and in general adapting game plans to fit your unique baby and situation. These are just things we did that worked for Aria, and that you might to like to keep in mind if you are working on sleep habits.

There are approximately 4,200,000 books on how to get your baby to sleep through the night! I didn't read any of them. But, I did read a few how to not kill your infant by being a moron books and my favourite, Bringing up Bebe. So, these are things I picked up from those books or mommy forums or other mommies or just what came naturally.

#1. Routine - Routines and a schedule are what won Aria over to longer predictable naps. Before I tried to just follow her cues and let her sleep when she was tired, but she never did. Or, she would just all of a sudden crash without so much as a yawn. And then she would only sleep thirty minutes tops. So, I started trying to get her to nap twice a day - one mid morning and the other late afternoon. At those times each day I would put a fresh diaper on, nurse/rock her to sleep, and then put her in the crib. After she got use to that I took away the first nap's nursing (because it wasn't a time she normally ate) and I would instead hold her and read before putting her in the crib. It took a few weeks, maybe a month, of letting her fuss and cry in the crib before she could put herself down. Now when 10:30 rolls around, I change her, dim the lights, pull out a book (we are reading Harry Potter #1 right now) and read maybe three pages before she is nodding off, and then I lay her down. She curls up on her side and more often than not falls asleep without a peep. Her body is use to naps at that time, and when she sees me pull out the Harry Potter she knows it is nap time.

#2. Self-soothing - I mentioned it a little above, but I think it is super important to let your baby fuss and cry. Even starting around one month I would wait 1-3 minutes before going to Aria when she woke up at night. I didn't let her go any longer than about 5 minutes until she was 5 months, and that is when she transitioned to her crib and decided she didn't want to sleep through the night any longer (she had been since 9 weeks old the majority of the time). And, let me tell you it is hard. So much harder than I ever thought it would be. I would hear her cry and every fiber of my being was calling for me to go to her. But, I would restrain myself for 10 minutes. That is the magic amount of time I arbitrarily deemed long enough. Then I could go in, pick her up, calm her, rock her, etc until her breathing returned to normal before putting her back down. Rinse and repeat for as long as it takes. I didn't want her to not be able to fall asleep on her own, that is just not fun for anybody. It took her a little over 2 months to really be able to self-soothe. The first month was the least fun though - she woke up multiple times at night and sometimes it would take an hour of 10 minutes increments for her to fall back asleep. But, now she can go down for her nap without making a fuss or wake up at night and put herself back to sleep just fine. As a side note, the video monitor made it a lot easier to not go in when she was crying because I could physically see that she was just fine.

#3. Digestion - This is something I specifically read in one of the books that was written by a pediatrician. It said that it is good to let your baby have time to empty their stomachs. You don't need to nurse in the middle of the night past 3 or 4 months as long as baby is getting enough to eat during the day and is growing at a normal rate. Because Aria started sleeping through the night pretty early on, I would still nurse her on the nights when she did happen to wake up. Mainly because it was easier, and I am just plain lazy. I didn't cut out night time nursing until a week after her crib transition, which was again at 5 months. Because she was in a new space I wanted to make sure she knew I was there for her and that everything was okay, so the first week in the crib I went in whenever she cried (after a few minutes, definitely not ten yet) and would nurse her back to sleep. After that week was up I stopped the nursing (my boobs were not happy), and started letting her self-soothe (the whole ten minute deal mentioned above). Nighttime feedings become habit instead of need. Now she nurses purely during the day, and has since started solids too (and I haven't once had to feed her a banana in the middle of the night!).

Good sleeping behavior won't happen overnight. Aria was and is a really great sleeper overall, but it still took about 7 or 8 months to fine tune her sleep habits. She slept through the night early on, but it took a while for her to stop fighting bedtime and she didn't take actual naps until she was 6 1/2 months old. To break out of a bad sleep habit I would stair step down to using a crutch instead of trying to go cold turkey. It is a learning process, not only for baby but for mom and dad. Maybe instead of a routine your baby is happier giving cues, play everything by trial and error. The above three tricks/tips/techniques/etc are just what worked really well for Aria. And, they aren't anything particularly revolutionary, but knowing about a tool and putting a tool into practice are two different things. I wanted to share my experiences with the above three - literally everything I read in a book about teaching your baby to self soothe said oh I did it with my baby and it only took three nights, and for Aria that certainly wasn't the case. But, we stuck with it and she learned and getting a full night of sleep rocks. A baby that can sleep makes for a happier baby as well as a happier mommy.

Need anymore ideas to help out with healthy sleep/nap habits? Try sound machines, black out shades, making sure the temperature is around 74 F, a slightly later/earlier bedtime, add 5 minutes each time you have to go in and soothe (10, 15, 20, etc), give him or her a breathable blanket to hold, vacuum (no I'm not kidding), tell them it is time to take a nap/bed every time.

Now that I put her great sleeping habits in electronic ink she won't sleep for a month just to spite me. She did decide to get up half an hour early today.... blogging is so risky, guys.

Also, Aria has yet to teethe, so I'm pretty sure everything is going to fall to pieces when that lovely event takes place too. But, we have our foundation and being in pain at night is completely different from not being able to fall asleep on your own.

Okay, one more note, when you hear your baby crying in pain you can tell. Basically your heart stops and you've never run to the nursery more quickly in your life. That is not the time to let them self soothe. Aria has done it twice. I can't remember what caused the first one, but the second one was because she got her leg stuck in the crib slats.


  1. So true! A consistent routine is what worked for us since day 1 :)

    IG: megawat

    1. It is amazing how quickly they learn that at certain times they can expect a nap. Such a sanity saver!

  2. This is helpful! My first child just turned one, and I couldn't bear to leave her in crib when she was tiny, so she's mostly slept with us her whole life. I think I created a monster, because now trying to transition her into her crib is TOUGH. I think I'm going to do things differently next time!


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