Remember how nice it was to get a full night's sleep? Oh, you don't? Yeah, unfortunately those sweet, snuggly babies bring with them a whole lot of tiredness. However, there is hope. You will eventually get a full night's sleep again. I'm hoping to give you some tips that might make that time sooner, rather than later.
Now before I get into this, I need to say that I don't claim to be any sort of sleep expert. I only know what worked for me and my baby. And that may or may not work for you and yours. Every baby is different and every mom is different. You need to do what you feel is best with your child.
Before I had my baby, I was determined to find the magic formula for getting him to sleep through the night from birth. I read a couple different books and asked around to every mom I knew trying to inhale any and all tips I could. I became somewhat frustrated because it seemed like everyone had a different opinion and that every book contradicted what the previous one had said. I knew it was possible though because I could clearly see through my associations (family, friends, co-workers, etc) that there were kids that were awesome sleepers and some, well, not so much. I was pretty desperate to help my child be one of those awesome sleepers because I'm a working mom and I knew I wouldn't be able to do it all if I was getting up multiple times a night for years on end.
So here's what I did. I took bits and pieces of advice from a couple different books (my favorite being Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child) and went from there.
-I knew a schedule was important so that's where I started. My baby pretty much put himself on a 3 hour eating schedule so I went off of that and changed the order of things a bit. He was falling asleep during or right after feedings and only sleeping for short spurts at a time, never really being fully rested. I did everything I could to keep him awake after he would eat, play with him, then when I noticed his "sleepy cues" I would put him to sleep. Which brings me to the next point....
-I feel one of the keys to having a good sleeper is teaching him/her to put themselves to sleep. Put the baby down when they are drousy, but not asleep. He needs to know how to soothe himself to sleep. That way, when your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, he can put himself back to sleep instead of needing you to do it. For me, this involved some crying. It didn't take my son long to realize it was not so fun to be put in his crib, all alone, in a dark room. What baby wouldn't prefer to be snuggled and rocked to sleep? However, I knew it wasn't realistic for me to do that. I wanted to rock him to sleep because I wanted to occasionally, not becuase he demanded it. I'm not going to lie and say it was easy...I hated listening to him cry, but it only took a couple days and to this day he goes down for naps and nightime like a dream. You may be lucky and not have to let yours cry, but mine is a stubborn little guy and I knew it was the only way.
-For a long time (for me it was close to a year!) your baby will be ready to go to sleep after only 1-2 hours of being awake. When I first read this, I thought it was crazy. But sure enough, once I started paying attention, my boy started showing his tired signs after an hour and a half. This was the window of opportunity. If I waited too long to put him down, he was overtired and did not go down as easily.
-Babies thrive on routine and I honestly believe they have a happier, more pleasant disposition when they are getting all the sleep they need. Like I mentioned in my last post, I learned early on that when his schedule got rocked, I paid for it dearly the next day. His sleeping was off and he was much more ornery. Again, this makes total sense- think of how you are when you don't get the sleep you need?
-Create a bedtime routine. Things that you do everynight that cue your baby that it's time to go to sleep. We did bath, lotion rub down, book, singing, prayers, then down he went. He LOVED his bedtime routine.
-For the most part, keeping your child up later will not help him to sleep longer/later. I fought to keep my baby up around 7 pm every night because I wanted him to sleep as long as possible into the night. Finally I decided to just give in and let him go to sleep for the night then. Sure enough, that night he slept for the longest amount of time he had ever done since he was born. He still wakes up earlier if we try to keep him up later. It always backfires.
My baby is almost 18 months and he has slept 12 hours straight everynight (minus a few here and there due to sickness and teething) since he was about 4 months. He has always had a consistent and reliable nap schedule and he loves his sleep. He even asks me to go "na nights"! I definietly got lucky, but I honestly think the majority of it is because of the sleep habits I tried to instill in him.
I have to admit I was a little nervous to write this post. This is a very touchy subject for most people and there are SO many different opinions out there. I just wanted to share some of mine. Right or wrong, this is what I did and what worked for us. You may not want to put your baby on a "schedule" or you may not want to let your baby "cry it out". That's totally fine. This is just one of the many areas that we as mothers have to use our "mother's intuition". You do what you feel is right and I wish you all the best of luck. Sweet dreams :)