One of the main questions I get asked from parents and friends is about their children’s sleep (or lack of it!). I’m definitely not a sleep consultant or expert but there are a few things I have learned. Have you ever found yourself saying to someone who’s child is a good sleeper “Oh you’re so lucky!” or “I wish my baby was a sleeper!”. Well – I don’t believe in luck when it comes to parenting, you have more control and influence than you realise.
We all know those parents with the unicorn babies that seem to to sleep well with no apparent training or help from the parents. When you desperately ask them what their secret is and they shrug their shoulders and say “We just got lucky”. We hate them for it! It also reminds me of those gorgeous women that thrive when pregnant, we hate them too! They have no idea of the real struggle of a difficult and painful pregnancy or labour, it’s quite traumatic (but worth it!). The same goes for actual sleep deprivation! It’s total and complete hell and functioning is near impossible. There is nothing left in you but to ‘survive’ each day and night until your prayers and lamb sacrifices hopefully one day give you a break!
If you are currently in this stage of life there are two things I want to say.
1 – I sympathise! The hell you are in is real and I’m sorry
2 – Hang in there! It’s temporary. Everyone always learns sleep at some point because it is necessary to function. Eventually your body will take over and force you to sleep. It might not be an easy road but it will not last forever.
3 – When you know you aren’t functioning well please remember to be kind to yourself. Life doesn’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be perfect. Just take the pressure off yourself when you are having a particularly bad day, let the laundry stay there, cook frozen dinners and BE KIND TO YOURSELF!
Being kind to yourself in these times is the best gift you can give everyone. At the very least it might stop you from turning into a worse cranky version of yourself!
Sorry guys! I divert!
So you want to know what I did to help my babies sleep through the night early on? Well as you have probably heard, every child is different. We are blessed by God to have different temperaments and preferences that help us grow into the adults that we are. Babies are exactly the same. They are tiny humans and that means that some children just don’t need much sleep while others will need more than average. This does not automatically mean that your child is naturally an awake baby and just ‘doesn’t need much sleep’. My eldest child has never needed a lot of sleep and has always struggled to shut his mind off at the end of the day. He was able to sleep 7 hours straight from 12 weeks old and by the time he was 18 weeks old he was doing 12 hour stretches most nights. Our second child always embraced sleep so he was 5 weeks old when he did his first 5 hour stretch and by 7 weeks was doing 7 hours.
Remember those parents that we hate because they shrug their shoulders and say it’s all down to luck that their baby sleeps? Well I can assure you that they would be unknowingly doing several things that is contributing to a baby that learns sleep.
Sleep is a skill that we all need to learn. Some of us are better at it than others. I’ve always been a light sleeper and I get so envious at my husband when he hits the pillow and is happily snoring away within 10 minutes. You can work at it and eventually help your child learn.
Is this a good place to add that this is just my advice from one Mum to another? I am not a sleep expert and some children really do have underlying health issues that should be looked at by a doctor.
Alas! Here is a summary of what I did to help my babies learn the skill of sleep. If you have any questions or need a little extra advice, please put it in the comments.
1. I made sure to avoid snacking with feeds
From birth your focus should be learning how to feed your baby. It’s important and the most beautiful bonding time with your bubba. After a week or two when feeding is not so foreign it’s helpful to try and stretch out each feed as long as possible. Obviously if the baby needs food – do not deprive them! Just be aware if you notice a pattern of snacking and try to hold off if they have been fed in the last hour or two. It won’t always work but what you want to avoid is a baby that learns to feed every hour all day long.
2. I made sure each feed was as filling as possible
The best way to help your baby avoid snacking is the ensure that each feeding is as big as can be. Fill them up! If they keep falling asleep on you, switch sides every 5 minutes, gentle blows on their face or water on their feet. Don’t let them fall asleep on the breast/bottle as a habit.
3. After each feed I would give some play time
Keeping them awake after each feed helps them to digest the milk which in turn avoids wind building up during the day. Bad wind/colic can often be a build up of wind from not digesting their milk during the day.
Repeat after me “FEED – AWAKE – SLEEP” In that order!
1) Feed – 2) Awake – 3) Sleep
4. Create a set bed time each night and wake up time in the morning.
This won’t do much initially but it will eventually help them to know the difference between night and day. Make the environment warm, dark and quieter at bed time and when it is morning make it bright and happy with lots of tickles and kisses.
5. When your baby does wake in the night, do not go in immediately.
If you can avoid going in straight away it allows your baby a chance to be in their cot alone and hopefully resettle. If they wake up screaming then of course – tend to your baby, however if they wake up and are just fussing or quiet then leave them alone. Sometimes I would leave my son in his cot/bassinet for 45 minutes to see if he would go back to sleep. Often he did! It’s all about teaching them to be comfortable and at peace when in their bed.
Some babies wake in the night crying/screaming and it is too stressful for the parents to let them fuss alone. Often this is a case of the child needing to learn how to resettle on their own. If you are in this position – I will be releasing an article soon on what you can do (conflict free). So please subscribe so you are updated when this is released. Watch this space!
One of the best programs I have ever come across is that from the Babywise book series. This is a gentle approach that seriously does work and has amazing advice and hints from real parents over 30+ years. This advice is best implemented from birth. For more information you can follow this link.
Just remember Mum’s, be kind to yourself and try to remember this stage of life will end one day. It is only temporary.
Thanks so much for tuning in to this article. Please feel free to comment if you have questions and don’t forget to subscribe to receive all new posts!