One of the principal changes after having a baby that all new parents come across is the change in sleep patterns. While it is completely normal for babies to not sleep through the night, it is also extremely exhausting. If you’ve ever found yourself in a sleep deprived state endlessly searching Google for the magic tip on sleep training or how to get your baby to sleep longer, you are not alone.
And *spoiler alert* there is no magic tip.
When my son was born, it seemed like all the other newborn babies were adapting miraculously to their parent’s sleep schedule while my little guy was, well… a dud.
It took me months of scanning Amazon books, taking online courses and consulting professionals to finally realize that my babe was in fact, not a dud. And I wasn’t doing anything wrong. He was just being a normal baby.
I am a firm believer that everyone exaggerates when they talk about their kids. I mean, it’s human nature. We want our babes to be the best. So that’s why we need to take what others say with a grain of salt. Especially when it comes to the topic of sleep habits. Sure, your neighbor might go on and on about how little Sophie sleeps from 7 to 7, but is she really doing that every single night? She probably is not.
While it is true that some little ones will naturally sleep better than others, most babies won’t make it a full night with no waking until almost a year old. And even that is relative. What makes a “full” night? Is it 6 hours? 8 hours? Is it waking up, but being able to self-soothe back to sleep? What makes ‘sleep training’ successful?
Then comes the sleep regressions. Just when you think that you’ve mastered the routine, *bam*, a new sleep regression. A sleep regression is a period of time when a baby’s sleep patterns will shift, and they will wake more frequently and at different times during the night. These are usually temporary, however, the previous sleep pattern will be lost, and a new one will be formed.. no matter how much sleep training was done beforehand.
While some parents swear by sleep coaches, online courses, and specific training books, the slightest regression or lifestyle change can shake everything off balance and send you right back to square one. So instead of getting caught up in finding the best technique of the week, my husband and I decided to accept our sleep situation and make the best of it.
Here are the sleep tricks that worked for us to get us through those painful nights:
1- Take turns with your partner waking up.
Since I was exclusively breastfeeding, I thought that I was the only one that could soothe my son back to sleep. But then I started pumping and leaving bottles in the fridge so that my husband could also put him to sleep. It took a while for the little one to get used to my husband rocking him back to sleep or giving him the bottle, but once he did, it took a load off of me and enabled us to both get some adequate sleep while the other took the lead that night.
2- Get a comfy and safe baby bed or crib.
We were moving houses a lot before we finally bought our home, so we didn’t have the luxury of having a separate crib for our son. He co-slept with us until he was 15 months old. At that age we figured that he was too big for a crib, so we bought a low-to-the-ground Montessori-type bed with pillows all around the sides. And it worked like a charm! We put a camera in his room so that we could hear him wake up at night and were surprised to find that he adapted quite quickly to a bed of his own.
3- Establish a nighttime sleep routine.
Every night we have dinner, play for a little bit, do bath time, put on our pjs, say goodnight to the squirrels from the window, and pick out a book to read in bed. With each new activity we tone down the energy level and turn down the lights so that when we are finally in bed the tiredness is already there.
4- Don’t sweat the regressions.
Of course, no matter how prepared we were and no matter how tired our son seemed to be, there were often surprises that caught us off guard and sent us scrambling for the hills to figure out where we went wrong during the night routine. The truth is, the first two years of a baby’s life are a time of rapid change and discovery. There are too many variables out of our control. When a sleep regression hits and you find your babe not going with the flow like before, it’s best to try and remember that it won’t be like this forever. We don’t need to have the answer because there might not be a solution.
The opinions and tips listed above are my own. I realize that not everyone may have the same opportunities or experiences. Please share your tips and tricks below in what worked for you to get your babe to sleep!