Sleep seems to be high on the agenda for every mother. I know I seriously underestimated it before I had Willow. I thought it would be easy – the baby is tired, you put it down and it will sleep. Can you hear the sound of thousands of veteran moms laughing?
In the early days it was easy and she did sleep when she was tired, but it was the irregular short sleeps of a newborn. I was expecting this phase to be difficult and decided to just go with the flow and I feel we coped very well.
Then we hit four months and all of a sudden the baby who has slept so well initially started resisting naps, taking for ever to calm down and go to sleep at night and then woke up continuously every few hours. I found myself growing less tolerant and more sleep deprived. We needed a plan! This is when my obsession with Willow’s sleep began.
I found out a lot about her sleep habits, what was optimal sleep, how to put her to sleep and I put my plan in place. Sleep settled down and life continued with just a few hiccups along the way.
Then we hit the eight month sleep regression! This nearly broke me. We are out of it now and looking back I don’t know how I survived it. Nothing is worse than being thrown weeks of sleepless nights after getting six to eight hours of blissful sleep. The struggle is real! But as a wise article I read said, the only way through a sleep regression is through it.
That said I tried to keep Willow’s routine and schedule as close to normal as I could. Now I am so glad that I did as we have settled back into a pretty good place. Here’s what I did that I feel helped ease the way a bit. Its not perfect and I am continually tweaking and adjusting, but such is life. If you are in the middle of a sleep regression I sympathise and hope this helps a bit!
I have learned Willow sleeps best in a particular environment. I try to replicate where ever we go (with varying degrees of success). She likes a darkened room, her favourite blanket, her white noise and her routine.
How was that for a segue way? Willow’s routine is simple. That’s the biggest tip I can give – Keep it simple! Why? Because you need to be able to remember it at 3am (not the whole routine, but the important bits). Bedtime is also a little more elaborate than naptime and I find that Willow responds beautifully to a consistant routine. What you need to remember about routine is its not a schedule. A schedule is wake up at 7, eat, play, nappy change, sleep. A routine is like a dance. You do the same steps in the same order every time.
At naptime our routine is:
I tell her its “Naptime for little girls.” (I use the same words before every nap as we are walking to the bedroom.)
I close the curtains and get the room ready for bed.
I change her nappy, giver her any medications she needs (saline spray, teejel, antihistamine etc. note this is not a step we do every day just when she needs it.)
I then sit in the chair in her room with her on my lap and give her a bottle.
When she’s finished eating I put her down in her crib, zip her into her sleeping bag, turn the light off and turn on the white noise.
I pick her up and put her in a cradle hold in my arms and rock. I then tell her “Its time for sleep. I love you, I will see you when you wake up.”
I rock until she closes her eyes (this part takes the longest!) singing her sleep song – I made up words to Brahm’s Lullaby that are super simple and include her name (I’ve been told babies like to hear their names in songs and stories). I can remember it easily and can sing it in my sleep. (A note on songs – use a simple melody and keep it short. This helps you to remember it!)
I then put her in her bed and pat her tummy gently until she settles, tuck her in and leave the room (again with varying degrees of success).
At bedtime our routine is:
I announce its “Bathtime for little girls!” then my husband and I take her to the bathroom to have her bath. (This is the start of her bedtime routine.)
After her bath I wrap her in a towel and take her to her room where I dry her off, giver her a massage and dress her in her pajamas.
She then gets any medication she needs and her dad says goodnight.
I will then settle her on my lap in the chair and read her a story and sing a song and cuddle with her.
I then giver her the ‘last’ feed of the day.
Then the routine follows what happens for naptime.
As previously mentioned I am working on breaking Willow’s sleep associations. I decided on a gentle method of doing this as she responds better to small changes made over time to her routine. We are working our way through one problem at a time.
The first thing I did was refine her routine. I realised what we were doing before was too complicated. I shortened and simplified the routine significantly.
Until now our problem was nursing to sleep. To stop this I changed the order of her routine. Before she was put into the sleep bag, swaddled and then nursed. Now I nurse then put her into the sleeping bag. This has helped a lot!
The association I worked on next was the swaddle. It took us a long time to wean her off the swaddle. I speak about it in more detail here.
I then came across this article on ahaparenting.com which made so much sense to me! I have been trying their method for a few weeks now and it seems to be working! We’ve had fewer tears and an easier bedtime. The article talks about swapping one association for another while slowly teaching the child to go to sleep on their own.
So that’s where we are at the moment. Are you having similar struggles with getting your child to sleep? What are your tips and tricks?