I am going to post a few things – primarily for myself – on what we did really right, whether on purpose or just happened to guess, to get Timothy to be such a good sleeper. Almost all of this should start at birth – I doubt it will work if you start doing this later on.
Timothy has always been an awesome sleeper, from the get-go. I attribute it to a few things:
1. I focused on staying calm all throughout my pregnancy. I stopped reading news, I watched only cartoons and romantic comedies, I read positive books, and so on. I deeply believe it contributed to my baby’s calmness.
2. I never kept Timothy in my hands after feeding for his night sleep. At first it was simply because my belly was too sore after the c-section, I couldn’t handle his weight’s pressure (and he was born almost 10 pounds). So I would pick him up, feed him, put him down. And I tried to calm him down without picking him up (unless I thought he was hungry) – again, because it was too painful. His naps were a different story, but this post is about night sleep.
3. I did not co-sleep. I believe/suspect that some of the sleep problems arise from the closeness of the milk-smelling boob. It wakes babies up and they nurse and nurse and nurse endlessly through the night. Imagine sleeping in a bakery or coffee shop or something similar (whatever tickles your appetite). Right after the c-section, for the first 3 weeks or so, Timothy slept in a moses basket in my bed. Moses basket so that I won’t roll over him. I put the basket as far from myself as possible so that he won’t smell me, but close enough so that I can pat his back or give him the pacifier without sitting up (again, because of the post-c-section soreness).
4. I did not bathe him in the evenings. For one, I read that bathing too often leads to stripping his tender skin from good oils (which might cause eczema and stuff), and then I didn’t want him to rely on bath to fall asleep – because obviously I won’t be able to bathe him every single night for the rest of his childhood – and what then? Sleepless nights and hysterics?
5. Put him in bed drowsy, slightly awake. I nursed him in the evening, but he always woke up a bit while getting burped. I would put him in his crib half-awake and leave the room. Again, it might be just his character, but he never protested – for the night-time sleep (naps were trickier, I often had to rock him a bit).
6. No pacifier for the night. After the first couple of weeks, I decided not to give pacifier for the night sleep. Reason: I have zero interest in jumping out of bed repeatedly through the night to stuff the pacifier back in his mouth. Timothy is almost 7 moths now and he still cannot figure out how to put the pacifier in his own mouth. For his naps, I often have to go in and reinstall the pacifier. At night he is used to not having it.
7. Environment: I invested in good blackout curtains and humidifier. I focused on creating very crisp distinction between day and night. When it’s night time, time to sleep – it’s really, really dark and there are no distracting noises. The humidifier goes shhhhhh, the blackout curtains allow me to put him to bed at 7:15 pm now and they keep him asleep until 7-8 am. I can see on the video monitor that he wakes up every now and then – but he opens his eyes, sees that it’s dark and settles back to sleep. Again – when he naps, he wakes up and sees that it’s day time – and calls for me.
8. Let him sleep at night! I heard from many, MANY people that in the first weeks you have to feed the baby every 3 hours. As in waking the baby up to nurse – so that you’ll have enough milk being produced (and so that the baby gains weight properly). I LOVE my pediatrician for advising me on waking Timothy up only through the day hours – and letting him sleep at night as much as he wishes. There are so many babies whose nighttime sleep cycle was ruined in the early days and it took them months to stop nursing every 2-3 hours at night.
9. As opposed to setting up a bassinet in our bedroom, I moved into Timothy’s room. On the one hand, it allowed me to not jump to his side at the first peep (so as to avoid hubby’s sleep disruption). I read that often babies settle back to sleep on their own – while if we jump in to soothe them, we actually wake them up; and we create bad habit, too – they get used to it. On the other hand, when Timothy turned 3 months old, I simply moved back to my bedroom – and Timothy never noticed. I think it’s a more humane way than having the baby sleep with you in your bedroom, and then not only kicking them out to another, unfamiliar room – but leaving them there alone! that must be scary.
10. Gradual go-to-bed time extension. Timothy was sleeping 12-4 or 12-5 when he was born. Once he started sleeping until 6 am, we moved his go-to-bed time by half an hour. If he continued sleeping until 6 am, we moved it another half hour, and so on. A couple of times earlier bedtime caused him to wake earlier – then we went back to the previous, later bedtime, and tried moving it again a week later. Timothy is almost 7 months old and he now goes to bed around 7:15-7:30 pm.
11. Pay attention. If the baby cries, it doesn’t mean the baby is hungry. Don’t stuff your boob in his mouth every time he peeps! He might be just bored, he might have difficulties falling asleep, he might be hot or cold… Try to pay attention and guess what’s wrong before you create a habit of nursing during the night hours.
12. Swaddling. I swaddled him for the first… I think 4 months. I stopped once he started escaping the sack the minute I put him down – I now cover him with a muslin blanket, ensuring that it touching his face on one side. He loves the familiar smell of it. I try to send either the blanket or the bedsheet to laundry – but not both of them simultaneously, to always have something familiar smelling in bed.
13. Magic number. All throughout the changing schedules and moving bed times, I noticed there is a magic number when it comes to getting your baby to sleep. 9 pm doesn’t work? Well, try 9:05. Or 8:45. Or… well, you get the idea. I don’t have any rationalization behind this, but it works, weirdly enough.
Timothy still is a pretty bad napper. Timothy still nurses once around 5-6 am. But that’s okay. He sleeps until 7-8 am afterwards. And overall, he gets a really good night time sleep – and gives me plenty of time in the evening to spend with hubby, or read, or do laundry – or even go out with girlfriends after 8 pm