Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sleep -

The title says it all. Sleep. We all want more of it. For ourselves. For our babies.
It is one of my top 3 topics discussed with other moms (the other two being food and poop. Yup, bodily functions haven't had this much air time since a 10th grade boys locker room.)

With Sophia, we've been really lucky, on the sleep front. She's a good overall sleeper. She has her moments, as do all babies, but all in all, we've been able to count on a good overnight sleep from her from fairly early on. We have our hiccups, for sure, like anyone else. We just try to roll through them. I find they definitely affect me more if I'm overtired.

I often felt guilty admitting this to people. It's definitely something I don't offer up unless I'm asked about it.
Because, you see, misery tends to love company. I was in Target once when Sophia was about 4 months old. Another mom came over to me and struck up a conversation (she was holding a child who was similar in age to Sophia). Her first question was about how Sophia was sleeping. I responded with my usual - "She's a really good sleeper. We're very lucky. We know it can change at any point, but we'll take it." Her response "Oh. I can't stand people like you. Must be nice."

Um hello? You asked the question!

I remember attending sleep discussions and reading about them nauseum in the beginning. I wanted to "learn the trick" to creating a good sleeper. I kept getting frustrated as everything I read or everyone I talked to would caveat it with "Every child is different." I know that. In my sane, rational self, I knew there was no blanket answer. But I wanted one. So I decided to create my own. That works. For my daughter.
I think moms can have the most success supporting each other, not dragging each other down into their own hell. So give it a shot. Add your own. The more info the merrier.

Here are some of the best tips and tricks I learned. Some may work for others. Some may not. Give it a shot. And some of these may work better at different ages. For the first 3 months just go with whatever works the best and gets everyone the most sleep.

1) Consistency. There is really something to be said for this. Babies do really enjoy a routine. It makes life easier for them when they have a general idea of what's coming. Try and stick to a schedule give or take 30 minutes.

1a) Be flexible. Seems contradictory to #1, but it's true. Not every day is going to be exactly the same as before (at least, not without going crazy). Maybe you get stuck in traffic. Maybe your friend is in town and you want lunch together. Don't worry, you'll figure it out. And one day here and there isn't going to blow the whole thing up.

2) Offer sleep every 1.5 to 2 hours. This one was a lifesaver for us through the first 6 months of Sophia's life. Studies have shown that babies can't really comfortably stay awake for much longer than that. I was a slave to the clock, but I also learned to read her signs. Eye rubbing, yawning and general crankiness were sure fire signs.

2.5) The Ab Ball. I don't think Sophia would have napped or slept without us bouncing her on this in the beginning. Actually, for probably close to the first 4 months. About 10 minutes before I suspected it was time for nap or sleep, we would go to the ball and bounce our little hearts out. Dave was the master at it and my mom even got into it. It bounces and soothes at such a motion that is next to impossible to gain while standing. Just make sure it's pumped up well or your lower back will start to hurt.

3) Swaddle. The swaddle worked like a charm for the first 5.5 months. We used a Kiddopotamus version (velcro included). Sophia would constantly whap herself in the face otherwise. It made everyone much happier at night.

3a) Consider co-sleeping. This worked really well for us in the beginning. Again, not for everyone and not the answer to everyone's problems. The AAP recommends against it, mostly in the case if you have a substance abuse problem that would lead you to possibly roll over your child at night. Assuming that you're not a heavy sleeper (or your partner) it can work. Just make your bed a safe bed (watch blankets, walls, etc.) We had Sophia in bed with us for the first 6 weeks before transitioning her to her crib.

3b) The swing is your friend. Sophia lived in the swing for naps throughout the day until about 5 months. It was a lifesaver for us. We could leave her in the middle of the living room happily swinging away for long periods of time.

4) White noise. We still use this. We might not even need it now, but it's become part of the routine. I downloaded a track from iTunes and hooked it into a iHome that plays on repeat throughout the night. It definitely blocks out loud noises from the city street and most in-house hullabaloo. (In the beginning, we ran the hairdryer to get her to fall asleep if she was really fussing!)

5) Bedtime routine. We have a fairly consistent routine for bed: (at almost 9 months). Eat "dinner" solids around 6, followed by a bath, a bottle and some books. Then it's into the sleeping bag, followed by a quick rock in the chair and into the crib. Sophia still whines a little when we're putting her down at night, but after 5-10 minutes, she generally settles right down.
(See earlier posts on sleep training. Everyone has their opinion, method or thoughts on this. Ferber worked for us. It's not for everyone. Go with your gut).

6) Naps promote good nighttime sleep. When Sophia has good naps during the day, she sleeps better at night. We do a mini-bedtime routine for naps. Morning nap is always the first to develop and afternoon comes later. We just recently reduced Sophia from 3 naps/day to 2.

7) 2-3-4 rule. I got this from one of my friend's sister. It seems to generally apply to babies 7+ months. We started this with Sophia in the past week or so. First nap happens 2 hours after wake up. Second nap is three hours after wake up from first nap. Bedtime happens 4 hours after second nap wake up. Some days it works. Others it doesn't. We'll keep plugging at it.

8) When in doubt - go for a walk. Fresh air, stroller movement, Bjorn (especially when they're little) is a lifesaver for creating naps. And you get the added benefit of fresh air and human interaction.

9) Or go for a ride in the car. I tried to time my longer trips around Sophia's nap schedule so that she'd conk out for most of the ride.

10) Be patient. Just when you think you've got it down, teething or growth spurt or just neural development happens. And it can throw you and your baby for a loop. I remember Sophia waking up at 2am a few nights in a row right around her 6 month birthday. She wasn't crying, just whining. When we came in - she was completely rotated in her crib and was so excited to show us her new "tricks!" You can literally hear the neurons connecting in her brain!!

Moms? Any other sleepy tips or tricks that work?


  1. We're all about the co-sleeping. Not having to get out of bed is the BEST! Now I ony change Josh's diaper once overnight and that's the only time I have to get up. It's really nice for nights like last night where he was up every 15-30 minutes. We took a nice hour-long nap today, too. I recommend co-sleeping for naps for both of us! Dishes and laundry can wait!

  2. I agree about co-sleeping! Short or long-term, if it works, it works! Especially for a nice afternoon nap for baby and mommy :)
    I'd also add babywearing as a great sleep help. William can fall asleep anywhere in the Ergo! The close physical contact and body motion (similar to being in the womb) are so soothing for babies....We used a Sleepywrap when he was a newborn, and a Maya ring sling from about 3-6 months.
    Great list of sleep advice Michele!