I can feel the exhaustion even now that I felt when my babies were born…. More so with my 2nd, Harper, since I was already exhausted during the day with an one year old. I remember when my kids finally slept 7-7…… HALLELUJAH! I would put them down to sleep and jump in my bed doing backflips! I’ve realized if I don’t get sleep…. I’m a lot more testy during the day.
Harper and Brooks were different, so I had to take slightly different approaches with both of them.
I started little by little teaching my kids to fall asleep on their own. As a mom, did I want to rock my babies all night and watch them sleep??? Of course I did! Watching those babies sleep was a piece of heaven, but I had to look at the long run. Not only for me but for them. I am not a huge believer of letting your baby cry for 30 mins or hours… To me that was too long. In the beginning, they did have to cry it out to be able to learn how to soothe themselves.
When training my firstborn, I would go in, rub his back, let him know he was not alone, and literally left the room within two minutes. I realized the longer I stayed in the room, the worse it was for Brooks to learn to soothe himself. He always calmed down when I walked in the room which showed me he was ok. The times he would continue to cry let me know there was something wrong, (teething, cold, scared, etc) so I wouldn’t walk out.
With Brooks, the next time he cried I would wait a few minutes more before I went in the room. For example… if he cried for 10 minutes after I laid him down, I would go in there and comfort him (remember NEVER pick them up). If he started crying again, I would wait 15 minutes before I went in his room. I added five minutes every time. He usually never went past 30 minutes in the beginning of the sleep training.
Now going on 2, Brooks is the best sleeper!! We lay him down at 7:30-8 for the night, and he’s good to go until 7 a.m. When I ask him if he wants to take a nap during day, I get a huge grin and quick “yes” as he takes off to his crib! Yes I’m not making this up! Dream sleeper!
Then came my sweet Harper! She showed me that girls are born with a huge amount of estrogen and a set of lungs! I’ve never heard a louder scream in my life… There are days my ears pop from her screaming because she’s mad her baby doll’s hat fell off. So needless to say, she was and is a little bit of a challenge when it comes to nap time /bedtime.
When she was a baby, I still went in her room when she cried to let her know I was still there, but when she was born we learned very quick we could not wait more than 5 minutes! Heck … sometimes I would go in her room after 3 minutes. If I waited longer than 2-5 minutes, my sweet little angel would only get madder, scream louder, and become more alert (meaning no sleep at all). So with Harper, I would go in her room more frequently… Trying my best to sooth without picking her up. I still waited a little longer each time I went in her room like I did with Brooks.
Now at 1 year old, Harper still LOATHES sleep! She is so scared she’s going to miss something (typical girl). She cries every time I put her down. It doesn’t matter how late or how tired she is… So with her and her age, I just let her roll with it. She cries for maybe five minutes , and she’s out.
Tips for Sleep Training:
I DID NOT START SLEEP TRAINING UNTIL THEY WERE A MONTH. THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT WAS PERFECT… IT MEANS I PRACTICED TEACHING THEM HOW TO SLEEP ON THEIR OWN. ALWAYS DO WHAT IS BEST FOR YOUR CHILD AND FOLLOW PEDIATRICIAN ADVICE (MAKE SURE THEY GET ENOUGH FEEDINGS IN THE 24 HOUR PERIOD FIRST).
-CONSISTENCY!! At least in the beginning, I did the same thing every night (eat,bath, read book, pray, bed). Nap time was at the same time unless I absolutely knew they were tired before or seemed more alert than usual at that time.
-Sound machine did wonders for our kids. Especially when Harper was born. It blocked out the sound, so Harper didn’t wake Brooks up and vice verse (I downloaded sleep baby on their iPads…. we always played the fan sound effect).
-Create a relaxing environment. Think about it… could you sleep in a steamy hot room with the sun beaming in your eyes? Heck naw! Feel your sweet baby, is he warm? If so, change those long johns into a short sleeve onesie. My daughter’s room was the hottest room in the house due to the sun. We even had to throw a sheet over her window just, so she could sleep. Do what you have to do to keep your baby comfortable.
-My babies LOVED to be swaddled. They were in the womb all bunched up tight… so of course it would make sense that’s what they would want outside the womb. I was obsessed with the velcro swaddles. Not only did I completely suck at swaddling… but they would bust out of my swaddles in 2.2 seconds flat. The only downfall to swaddling for too long… is you have to undo what habit you start. Since I swaddled Harper for a long period of time, I had to eventually figure out how to help her sleep without the comfort of being smushed together with a blanket (I would swaddle her and leave one limb out at a time. For instance, the first week I swaddled her and left one arm out).
-Know your child’s cry. Even now, I can usually tell if the cry is from them being overly tired or they genuinely do not feel well. I highly recommend the wonder weeks app to help with this! It shows growth spurts, when they will occur, how long they typically last, and signs. It was on target with Harper! If she started to act funny (excess crying, hard time sleeping), I always checked the app and could understand her better instead of running to the pediatrician screaming.
-Use a method when sleep training. Put the baby down for the night/nap and leave the room. Only go in at set times if you know he is just fighting sleep such as every 5 minutes or starting at five minutes and gradually add five more minutes each time. Soothe baby without picking him up or engaging with him.
-Reduce snack times at night by gradually giving him less and less milk. For instance, my son would wake up at 3 a.m. wanting his bottle. I realized after 3 days that he was not finishing the bottle but only wanted to snack. I reduced his bottle by 1-2 ounces every 3 days until he just cut out that snack. Only do this if they are getting the amount of milk they need during the day (Here is a milk intake chart similar to the one I used or you can get information from pediatrician). For example:
Night 1-3: 6 oz bottle
Night: 4-6: 4 oz bottle
Night 7-9: 2 oz bottle
Keep in mind… whatever habits you start, you will eventually have to break. If you rock your baby (nothing is wrong with that… it is the mother’s preference), you will more than likely have to rock them every night until you break it. I know moms who still rock their four year old to sleep. Some babies are easier than others when breaking habits (my daughter was hard when we tried to stop swaddling). From my own experience, the earlier you break habits the better. Keep this in mind when breaking them of the pacifier… it can be brutal
I remember feeling so much anxiety listening to my baby cry that it had me in tears. I kept asking myself if I was doing the right thing. But I’m here to say I’m so glad I did it! It is healthy for the babies and my marriage.
To help with anxiety if you are like me, plug in some earphones with some Christian music and wait out the 5 minutes while you clean or stay busy. Sitting on your couch, staring at the monitor while you are ugly crying will make you miserable… trust me I did it!
Only do this if your child is fighting sleep.
Warning: IT WILL GET HARDER BEFORE IT GETS EASIER. YOU WILL THINK IT IS NOT WORKING. IT WILL. PUSH THROUGH.
Psalms 4:8: I will lay down and sleep in peace.
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