Ahhhh sleep. That thing that becomes so elusive after having a baby. Late nights spent nursing, days filled with feeds and play time, and overtired, overstimulated babies that refuse sleep.
Oh, is that just me? No? I didn’t think so.
I’ve been blessed with good sleepers until A came around. She is 5.5 months old and until very recently, not a great sleeper. Not even a little bit. I’m not really sure where things started to go wrong, but they did. Awful, terrible wrong.
I had a cranky babe on my hands that downright refused to give in to sleep. And in case you were wondering about the adage “sleep begets sleep” yeah… so true. Oh, so true.
A was refusing her naps and then not wanting to go to sleep in the evening! She was up all. day. long. It was 11 o’clock, sometimes even later, before I was finally getting her down. I had to hold her or wear her constantly during the day and she still just would not sleep!
It was torture. I love that little baby oh so much but mama has two other littles that need my help and attention. And, let’s face it. Mama needs her sleep. I do not function well on no sleep. I don’t remember how I did it with my other two. Maybe it was easier because I was younger, but now that I’m older. Nope. Mama becomes a bear when she doesn’t get sleep.
And so does A, truth be told.
We needed a solution. We needed it yesterday.
Thankfully, three days into these steps I have a baby girl who sleeps. She plays. She eats. She’s in a better mood. And since she’s taking good, healthy naps during the day, she sleeps at night!
I have to say, it’s ahhhhmazing! Everyone in the household is better for it.
10 Easy Steps to Get Your Baby to Sleep
Disclaimer that obviously, I’m no expert. This has worked so well in my experience. I honestly don’t remember what I did with my older two, but this works amazingly well for Anya. I’m willing to bet these tips will help you and your baby, too.
- Establish a schedule. Babies, children, even adults, thrive on a schedule! Your little one needs to know when it’s time to eat, play, and sleep! If you don’t get baby on a schedule, neither one of you are going to know what you’re doing from one minute to the next. You’ll question when baby is tired, when they’re hungry. If you establish a good wake, eat, play, sleep cycle, you’ll never wonder and baby will be happier for it! Note: We implement Baby Wise scheduling and it works wonders. I’ll be posting our schedule here soon!
- Start a good before sleep routine. Whether it’s nap time or bed time, you need a routine. Your little one needs to know when they get a bath, or get a story, or get laid in their crib that sleep time is approaching. Nap time routines can be simple, condensed versions of your bed time routine. Just pick a few simple actions and stick with it. It doesn’t need to be involved, it just needs to work.
- Put baby to sleep awake. This is so important! You want to lay baby down sleepy, but still awake. Heavy eyelids, but not knocked out. Lay them in their crib, or wherever their sleep space is, and allow them to naturally drift off to sleep on their own. This will help in the long run by allowing them to learn to self soothe. This will become really important, especially at three in the morning.
- Keep the room dark, cool, and quiet. I’m not a huge fan of shushing everyone while Anya is sleeping. It wouldn’t do me any good to get my older two to stay quiet anyway. I do try to keep them quieted down, though. I do insist on a dark room (we use ahhhmazing room darkening shades in all of our bedrooms and I cannot recommend them enough) and a cold room. Not cold, just comfortable. I close the doors and have my other two quiet down a bit or come in the family room (which is further from the baby). The cool dark room helps a ton all by itself, though!
- Use a white noise machine. This helps with drowning out our daily activities so much during nap times. We don’t have a ton of traffic noise where we live, but if you live in the city, you probably do (I know we did) and a white noise machine will help drown out the traffic and sounds of the city that most of us have become accustomed to. We love this, but it only stays on a max of 45 minutes. It doesn’t bother Anya when it turns off, but it could be a problem for some because….
- Put baby to sleep in the same environment they are going to wake in. When your little one cycles through sleep, they will often stir. If they begin stirring and their sleeping environment has changed (i.e.. they fell asleep on you and now you’re gone, the noise machine was on and now it isn’t) they are more likely to rouse completely.
- Do not go after baby as soon as they start to stir. So many people are guilty of this. Myself included. A starts to wake (I think) and I go after her before she starts wailing. Bad idea. Just because they’re stirring does not mean they’re awake. Not even a little bit. Lots of times they’ll put themselves back to sleep within five minutes or so. So, give them at least 5 minutes before you go in to get them. We use this video monitor and check to see if she’s actually awake or listen for playful coos instead of grunts.
- Put them to bed with a full tummy. If it’s time for them to eat in a half an hour, feed them early. Otherwise, they’re going to wake up early simply because they’re hungry. Try scheduling out your day so that their nursing and eating sessions are close enough that they won’t wake up famished in the middle of a nap.
- Use a pacifier, or don’t. A was a huge comfort nurser from the get go. Always wanted to be on the boob. Always. It was exhausting. Finally, after the advice of a lactation consultant, I gave her a pacifier. It was our saving grace, it really was. The downfall to pacifier use? They fall out and the sleeping environment is different (see number 6). This doesn’t seem to bother A, but she’s not obsessed with it, anyway. Take it or leave it, she doesn’t care.
- Give it time. Establishing a good sleep schedule and routine takes time and patience. Plus, it’s constantly evolving. Just when you think you’ve got a good schedule going, baby is ready to drop a nap. Just be patient and tweak what needs tweaking. Give yourself, and your baby, some grace because no matter how many babies you’ve had, they’re all different and not one of them came with instructions.
Above all else, be grateful. I know how hard it is to be sleep deprived with a screaming baby and a million responsibilities and distractions. Believe me, I totally get it. But, it won’t be like this for long. Here soon your screaming, overtired baby will be all grown up and you’ll wish you could make them little again. Even if they’re screaming and fussing. Hold them a little longer, savor their smell, and allow them to be babies. You’ll both figure it out, together.