|

Sleeping

Sleep is probably the most talked (and worried!) about topic among new parents. Even if you think you’re prepared with what to expect and have a plan, managing the day-to-day with a new baby can make you question your sanity!

Before Mia was even born, I had read sleep books representing every philosophy – from co-sleeping to “cry-it-out”. As she approached her first birthday and was still waking several (at least) times a night, I began searching numerous forums and websites on a daily basis, and asked every friend and stranger I met in new mom classes how their baby slept and what they did. There was no shortage of inputs and advice, but nothing seemed to work for US. Until I happened upon 1) a flexible and loving, proven method and 2) an angel (a non-judgmental mom who had lived through 4 babies of her own). I’ll get back to these saving graces in a bit. Overall, I learned a few key lessons:

1. Every baby (or child) eventually will sleep on his/her own

2. Some parents really do get that rare baby who just sleeps without issue

3. But most of us get babies who sleep less than perfectly (understatement!)

4. NO judgement! Don’t put it upon others and for sure don’t accept it being directed at you. The best thing to do is to tune into your own child and develop a sense of what works for him/her. Any approach that feels instinctively right for your baby and is loving and patient is worth trying, and will instill in your baby a sense of trust and feeling safe and loved.

In the first few months when you have a newborn, your baby is probably waking to feed every 2-4 hours. During this early time, it’s normal for your little one to fall asleep nursing or feeding, and you can either put her back in the bassinet (or wherever you have her sleeping), or even keep her in bed with you (as we did). Naps present their own challenges and with your first baby you have more options because your attention is fully focused on her. For a while Mia loved napping on me, which I also loved because it meant I could nap too! But as she got a little older we discovered a solution that was both creative and a little wacky. In the early months Mia and Ben really liked their infant carriers and comfy, supportive infant chairs (sort of like bouncy seats that didn’t bounce). They also loved white noise and were deeply soothed by it. So to keep them near us and increase the likelihood for a successful nap, once asleep we put them in their carrier in the downstairs powder room with the fan running and the door slightly open so we could see and hear them. 🤭 You do what you have to do – as long as your baby is safe.

pic.jpg

After 3 or 4 months, babies probably need to eat a little less frequently, and this seems to be when everyone is looking for the magic sleep solution. Let’s look at the main approaches to getting baby to sleep and then I’ll weigh in with what worked for us, and for many others. Important note – just because we preferred one approach over another does NOT mean we passed judgement on others who disagreed with us. Everyone has to do what is right for them and their own baby.

Cry-it-out – This approach suggests you put your baby to sleep in his crib, and let him cry himself to sleep. Supposedly Baby will eventually learn to go to sleep when put in the crib and will know that this is sleep time. Yes, this method has worked for many people. BUT – For me this is counter-intuitive on so many levels! As parents we have a natural urge to comfort our baby, and our baby is still very new to the world and needs to feel safe and loved. What message would we be sending if we ignored our child’s cries? We decided that it was not one we wanted to send.

Sleep train – The Ferber approach was all the rage when both Mia and Ben were little. There are probably more updated versions of it now, with different names. It offers a less severe method of crying it out. Basically you put your baby to bed in her crib, and go in at intervals while she’s crying to offer comfort for a few moments, and then leave. This is repeated until baby falls asleep. This did not work for us because those comfort visits only served to upset Mia, and brought her even further from sleep.

Co-sleeping – This attachment parenting approach, advocated by Dr. Sears, espouses the benefits of sleeping with your child near you in bed. There are special co-sleepers that are like mini bassinets that can be placed in your bed, you can cuddle next to your baby, or have your baby sleep on you with your body and arms supported by pillows. Many parents worry about the safety of this, so it’s important to educate yourself fully and be comfortable with the kind of sleeper you are before trying it. I became a very light sleeper when I became a mom, so having Mia sleep on top of me while my arms were propped up by pillows with me in a semi-sitting position was not a concern. In fact, we both got some of the best sleep ever for the 6 weeks that we did this.

For those who choose to co-sleep into toddlerhood, you will need a weaning plan. Gradual is best for everyone, maybe not fastest, but certainly will result in the least distress all around. How might this look? I had friends who put a toddler bed next to their bed — their child was involved in picking it out so there was a sense of excitement and ownership. Some started with having only naps in the new special bed. Eventually night sleep was started out in the new bed, and if (when) the child woke in the night, they were soothed while remaining in their new bed. In time, the night wakings decreased to almost ending and the bed was moved to the child’s own room.

What worked! – Looking back I’d have to say that we took in as much information as we could find. Two inputs deeply resonated with us — 1) the sleep method of Dr. Jeffrey Hull known as the “Sleep Tight” commonsense sleep approach. 2) the heartfelt advice from a loving, experienced mom we met on a sleep message board. The bottom line is to trust your instincts and only try approaches that feel right for YOUR baby or toddler.

Dr. Hull’s method was based on gradual separation and helping your baby/child to fall asleep on his own. The mom we were blessed to meet had teenage children by the time we found her and she was interested in helping new moms to understand, enjoy and cope with their babies. One of the most powerful points she made was that if we want to have the meaningful, trusting relationships with our kids when they are preteens and teens, we need to help that take root when they are babies. They need to have an innate sense that WE are their reliable source of comfort and always there when they need us. She also emphasized that our babies and little ones won’t need us to nurse/rock/soothe them to sleep forever. This time may feel like it is never-ending but just as she assured me, I can assure you that it does end. Please know that as I offer this reassurance I am NOT trying to invalidate your feelings. Just because something will be easy in the future doesn’t mean that you should push away your frustration with how hard it is NOW. Your tired self has every right to feel frustrated and any other way you might feel. And you deserve support.

So our approach to get Mia to sleep wasn’t very complicated. When she was a little over a year and a half we dedicated a couple of weeks to letting Dad put her to bed and go to her when she woke in the night. We had discovered that her sleep difficulties were connected to her attachment to me, and since we wanted to foster the love and trust we knew was essential, we chose to have David offer that. Yes she was upset and cried for Mommy. But she did that in the loving arms of her daddy, who gently explained that it was time for sleep and that Mommy loved her and would see her in the morning. I think the first night we let me come in and explain that to her myself while David held her. Within a week’s time Mia was going to sleep with her Dad sitting on the rocking chair by her door and no longer waking up in the night. Within another week she was going to sleep after some hugs and cuddles with Dad coming back in to check on her. And after that I was able to return to our normal bedtime routine and sleep troubles were no more.

Similar Posts