Friday, March 6, 2009

Sleeping Beauties

I'm going to say something that's not frequently heard: I have 3 children under 4 (including a baby) and...I'm not sleep-deprived. Honestly. How many women can say that? I have the best sleepers in the entire world. All of my children started sleeping 12 hours a night by 3 months old. When people would ask me how I did it with Katie, I would just laugh and say, "Just a great baby!" And then when Paul did it too, I said, "Just lucky, I guess." Now that Averi is also sleeping through the night, I'm starting to wonder. My three children are as different as three kids can be. So it must not be the kids. And after three in a row, I'm starting to think it's not just luck either. I MUST be doing something, right? So I thought I'd write down some of the things I've been doing with my babies to get them to sleep. This list isn't exhaustive, and it may not work for everyone. But it has worked for us, so I thought I'd share them with you.

1. Start at the right time. Honestly, I think that babies younger than eight weeks old are too young to start sleep training. But 8 weeks will fly by, even with no sleep.

2. Decide how important it is to you. Anyone who knows me knows that I cherish my sleep. Without 8 or 9 hours, I'm a mess. So sleep was VERY important to me. If it's not that important, it may be hard at first, and you may be tempted to just give up and let the baby dictate when and where she sleeps. So decide early on just how important getting enough sleep is to you.

3. Decide on an ideal bedtime. For us, it's been 8:00. That gives us plenty of time to get dinner and even run some errands in the evening if we need to. It also means they're not waking up too early. All of our kids go to bed at 8:00. At first, your baby will be on no sort of schedule at all. So watch her for a few days. See if you can find a pattern in when she sleeps. If she tends to go to sleep around 10, try putting her down at 9:45 the next night. Then 9:30...until you've reached your ideal bedtime. Then put her down at that time EVERY night.

4. Find a quiet place. During the first few weeks, you'll want your baby close to you, since she'll be waking up so often. But you'll want to find her her own quiet place soon. All of you will sleep so much better that way. For us, it's our closet. Don't worry--it's not as bad as it sounds! It's quite large and has a window. We've set up a nice portable crib in there, and it's works extremely well for us. It's close enough that we can get to it easily, but it has a door that shuts and it remains quiet.

5. She's gonna cry. I have never talked to anyone who had a baby that didn't cry during sleep training. They will cry. And that's okay. If they're fed, changed, and safe in their crib, it's okay to let them cry.

6. Set a limit. It's heartbreaking to hear your little one cry. So set a limit. Decide that tonight you will let her cry for five minutes before you go and pick her up. It makes you feel like you aren't just sitting there doing nothing. Then increase that limit. You'll find that as you continue with sleep training, she'll start to mellow out as you reach your limit. So when your 10 minutes is up and you can tell she's calming down, leave her a little bit longer. Soon she'll be asleep.

7. Just leave. If you can't stand hearing your baby cry, just leave. And don't bring a monitor with you. Take a note of the time and come back after your designated time. Nothing's going to happen to her while you're gone.

8. Put her to sleep while she's still awake. Honestly, this works wonders. They learn how to calm themselves down and will be able to use that skill when they wake up during the night.

9. Keep it calm. When your baby does wake up at night, keep it very calm. Have the room as dark as possible. Don't smile or talk or play. Avoid eye contact, since this stimulates them. Only change diapers if they're poopy, and then do it as quickly as possible. Feed her, and then take her straight back to bed.

10. Let her put herself back to sleep. After she's going to sleep initially on her own, you'll want to start using the same skills during the night. If she wakes up, give her 5 minutes before you get her to feed her. Then 10. Then 15. I've never gone longer than 15 because if they're crying that long, they're usually starving or not feeling well.

11. There will be setbacks. Sickness and vacation always throw off sleeping schedules. You may feel like you're starting at square one, but it usually only takes a week to get them back on schedule.

12. Enjoy! It only took a few weeks of sleep training for our babies to start sleeping 10-12 hours during the night. And they have all been such pleasant babies. I'm convinced that almost all grumpy babies are simply sleep-deprived. Once they start getting good, solid sleep, you'll notice a world of difference in their attitude and yours.

Averi at 6 weeks


Brad and Lisa said...

I think I better print this and hang it on my wall so that I'm ready to start the training as soon as my baby is born! Great tips - thanks!

JorgenMan said...

Milk dud!

Jessica said...

thank you for the great advice!! you are so kind to share it. i can't wait for myla to sleep that long.

Jen Kesler said...

Yep, my first three were sleeping champs. All of the things you mentioned really do work. Ryan started sleeping through the night at 7 weeks! Tyler at 2 months and Kyle at three months...

THEN, we had Keira...five months and I can get 8, MAYBE 9 hours out of her...will she ever understand that we're in charge and sleep for a super long time? I sure hope so!!!!

Jen Kesler said...

btw, I LOVED Averi's little crocheted beanie and flower today. So cute!!!

averi said...

I love this advice. Ty is 4 weeks now and just wakes up twice/night. I don't feel sleep deprived, but I love all the good tips for sleep training.