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The moment you have waited 9 months for is finally here! Your precious little one has arrived and you just can’t let go of him or her. Those warm-fuzzy bonding hormones are coursing through your body and you feel like Superwoman!
Like someone once said “All good things must come to an end..”
Now you finally “get” what all the parent-related sleep deprivation fuss is about!!
Sleep deprivation ain’t no joke! Aside from Post-Partum, sleep-deprivation was my number one fear while pregnant! Especially as someone who suffers from low iron and thyroid issues, fatigue has always been a problem for me. I was terrified that I would not be able to be a good mom while dealing with sleep-deprivation.
Skip to me spending hours researching, implementing, and sometimes even changing what I had been doing before, to get my son to sleep. One disclaimer before you read..even if your baby turns out to be one of those 12 hour-a-night sleepers that we all hear about (forewarning I hate you..but really..) then you will STILL have a night or two or even a week where baby is off their sleep game. I just want you to be aware of that before you read this or any other baby sleep advice. In my search for help I would often end up feeling like a POS mom because my baby was not “sleep-trained in 48 hours” like all those other babies.
Even with all my research, first-hand advice and support, I still have a struggling little sleeper. It makes sense that since I am a light sleeper and always have been, that my son would be too. Sure he slept great as an infant, but as he has gotten older I find that different things work at different times and some don’t work at all. Just so you know,I have weeded out all the “sleep -training” methods and anything I didn’t feel helped me create long-term sleep habits for my son.
Below are the 7 most important strategies and tips that not only worked for me, but are certified game changers!!
1.Put Baby Down Drowsy But Awake
Holy Crap! I wish I had known this tip sooner. I would have used this trick the day that M came home from the hospital.
When you put a baby down drowsy but awake, they learn to drift off on their own without needing any props such as a bottle, pacifier, warm body, or rocking motion.
It is especially important to start this habit when they are newborns. Newborns sleep the most and naturally sleep through many background noises and activities so there is no better time to start this self-soothe technique.
The biggest problem you will have with this trick is consistency. Especially when others are over visiting or trying to help you catch up on sleep. I mean everyone loves rocking a baby to sleep in their arms right?? There is nothing sweeter than that. Just make sure that when you think baby is ready for sleep-training, try to put him down before completely falling asleep.
2. Establish Night vs. Day
As soon as M came home from the hospital I started establishing differences between night and day sleep. Something as simple as not talking, singing or using any light for an 8 hour block at night helped him to adjust.
Setting up a Baby schedule can help with the night and day difference as well. For example, say you want to set baby’s day as 8am – 8pm. You want to try to feed baby as much as possible during that 12 hour window. Then try to consistently get baby to sleep at 8pm every night. It is almost certain that he or she will need a nighttime feeding, but as I mentioned before, there is a trick to nighttime feeds as well.
During nighttime feedings, use the least amount of interaction as possible. Try not to talk to, sing to, or fuss with your baby too much. Quick diaper change and bottle or nursing. Vice versa, try to make daytime feedings as INTERACTIVE as possible. This includes making sure your little one does not fall asleep while feeding. This creates a sleep prop (baby needs bottle to sleep) and also keeps baby from truly getting full (full baby = better sleep!)
3. Create a Bedtime Routine
Creating a routine before bed is another precious step to your baby sleeping soundly.
One of the best seasoned-Mom tips I received was that babies NEED routine. In fact they thrive on it. As a teacher, I have known for years that children need stability and routine and rules to thrive. It is mind-blowing that I didn’t think to apply this rule to infants, but it is sooo true.
This does NOT mean you have to do a complicated 10 step. It can be as easy as Clean PJs and bottle before bedtime each night. Ours is a book in the rocker, but sometimes that backfires since M will want to read several books lol.
Here are just a few suggestions for things you can add to your bedtime routine in any order:
- Clean Diaper or PJ change
- Bath & Massage
- Special Book
- Saying Prayers
- Talking softly about baby’s day
- Special Phrase like “Mommy Loves you and I’ll see you after you sleep.”
- Bottle or Nursing
You will more than likely have to change up your baby’s routine to see what works best. Our routine included a baby massage while playing the same lullaby until M got too big and squirmy for the massage. We still used the same lullaby but it became lullaby + swaying or rocking to signal night night. Your routine will become precious quality time for you both, plus it sends the “let’s get ready for sleep” message!
4. Set up a Sleep-Environment
Let me tell you about a mistake I made with my son. In the pressure to be the perfect mom (LMAO) I was always trying to get chores done while he was asleep in his swing, on the couch, or portable bassinet. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when those things are going to happen and it’s ok. For example, sometimes the swing is the only thing that calms your little one when they are overstimulated (think about childhood you riding in the car!). My mistake is that I made a habit out of M napping and sleeping wherever, whenever. Instead, I should have consistently been setting him in a sleep – environment because like I said, that newborn sleep-like-a-rock phase is NOT going to last long!
Baby’s sleep environment needs to be as dark and relaxing as possible for him or her. For M’s room I used blinds to block out sunlight during daytime sleep and street lamps and head lights during night sleep. Some people may prefer blackout curtains, but since I already had these blinds throughout the house, I was fan, Not to mention the cats like to play in curtains way too much :/…
Include White Noise
A good sleep environment should include White Noise. This is a popular tip for a reason..it’s pure gold!! Baby was in the womb for 9 months hearing your voice among other soothing background noises so trying to replicate this will comfort them immensely. White noise is a sound that is said to mimic what baby heard in your womb. It sounds like an old digital tv that goes out of focus haha (younger mommies might not get the reference)
As I said earlier, I looove my Alexa . It’s as easy as saying “Alexa, play white noise.” Boom. I also have this sound machine for when we travel or sleepover with family.
5. Use a Swaddle or Sleep Sack
Newborns and Infants love the feeling of being swaddled. Swaddling is when you wrap baby up tightly to impersonate the tightness and closeness of the womb. This is a strange world for infants. They crave the surroundings they had while growing the first 9 months of life. Wrapping them with their arms and legs tucked in gives them that safe and familiar feeling they want.
Now that M is a toddler I use the Zen Sack from Nested Bean. I honestly wish I would have gotten it sooner!! It is a lightweight gown that goes over his pajamas and gives him the feeling that he is being held. Words can not describe how much better he sleeps with his Zen Sack. He is naturally a light sleeper like me, so to see him in a deep sleep with his arms thrown back, peaceful look on his face for 6 or more hours a night is priceless!
We only ever used swaddle blankets for M, who didn’t like to be swaddled much after 2 months old. I had debated getting the swaddles that had velcro or other closures but never did. However, now that I am a believer in Zen sleepwear I will absolutely try their Zen Swaddle if I’m ever blessed with a second baby!
6. Watch for “Sleep Cues”
Sleep cues are any sign that your baby is tired such as sucking fingers, staring off into space, rubbing eyes, and of course, yawning. Sleep cues can be different for each child, and can change as baby gets older. For example, when M was an infant, the only cues he gave were sucking his fingers and getting “stare-y eyed” as I called it. This is when he would seem to look at something but as if he was looking through it. If he was hysterical one minute, then staring off quietly the next, then I knew he was tired. He was often hysteric when tired because he is a huge sleep fighter and always wants to prove he is not ready for sleep lol!
As M got older he still stares off when tired, but he yawns a lot more than he did. There are also a few times when he is just not happy with ANYTHING..until I put him in his sleep or nap environment (usually crib) to relax and go to sleep. Sleep cues are just another way for your child to show you what they need in that moment. Try observing baby before scheduled naps and sleep times to see what their special cues are. This can tell you a lot about their habits and help you change up your routine or schedule to maximize their sleep!
7. Try not to let baby get OVERtired
When it comes to sleep cues, lots of people will tell you NOT to wait until the yawning stage because at that point your baby may be overtired.
I know it sounds crazy to think that baby might be so tired that they CAN’T sleep but it’s true! I mean just think about all the times that you have been so tired yet when you finally got to lay down, you could not fall asleep..it is extremely frustrating. Moms know what I’m talking about since we will finally get to nap only to imagine hearing baby cry and startle us awake (sob sob)!! Infants are the same way except that they don’t know what’s going on so they can not just go and do something to relax like an adult would. They need you to set the stage for sleep!
Thus wraps up my favorite secrets for baby sleep! The great thing is you can incorporate them at any time, no matter what stage baby is in or even if you are just in Mommy nesting mode!
It might be that you will have to change up your routine every few months and that is O.K. Have patience and try new things when something isn’t working. Every baby is different yet that are all the same in that they NEED rest and so do you Momma! Don’t give up, and just know that you are part of an amazing community of super heroes, AKA – Moms.
Which sleep tricks or trainings do you swear by? Was this helpful?? I would love to hear your feedback in the comments section.
Sweet dreams Mommas!