Since I assume that most of you reading this are either mothers or women who want to eventually be mothers, then we each know that our child (or child-to-be) is the brightest and most well-developed child out there (who wouldn't agree?!). Our prodigy child wants to see and do everything - especially at night. And, as mothers, we all know who gets to wake up during the middle of the night to teach Baby that, when the moon is out, we sleep...us! A mother's physical need for sleep seems to diminish during the first months after Baby arrives. But, our mental need for sleep is still ever present reminding us - day after day - that we are exhausted. Well, establishing night time sleep isn't impossible, and this blog will tell you how I did it and had my baby sleeping through the night by nine weeks old (which, for her age, was six hours of blessed, uninterrupted sleep).
I read many books prior to Baby's arrival about establishing a good sleep habit. On Becoming Baby Wise: The Classic Sleep Reference Guide Used by Over 1,000,000 Parents Worldwide andHealthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child were the two most helpful books. Through these books I realized that I could establish a pattern for my child's day - without taking away the basic needs of my child. It was really pretty simple. I started my schedule after Baby woke up. I would immediately feed her and then we would play, read books, or do other wakey time activities. Then, when she was tired, I would let her go to sleep. While I tried not always to comfort her to sleep (i.e., nursing or rocking to sleep), I also realized that occasionally this was going to be the only way I would get any sleep. So, I did what was needed for my own sanity and the health and nurturing of Baby. I will admit, occasionally Baby slept with me just because I knew she would sleep. I don't think there's anything wrong with this because it made me a happier and healthier mom so that I could grow a happier and healthier baby.
Over and over again, I utilized the routine: sleep, eat, play. At first, Baby would sleep for an hour, then eat for an hour, and then play for 5-10 minutes, then go back to sleep. However, as Baby grew, so did the time between each activity. She would sleep for longer periods of time during the day, take less time to eat, and stay awake to play longer. So, as she grew, we were developing her daytime schedule. Throughout the day, we would follow the simple routine and she knew what was happening. I also got to know Baby's cries because they became associated with our schedule. If she had just woken up and was crying, I knew she was hungry. If she had been playing for a while and was crying, then I knew she was probably sleepy.
While this schedule didn't give me immediate nighttime rest (I was still waking up every 2-1/2 to 3 hours to nurse Baby), it did allow me to know if there was something else wrong. If Baby woke up before the usual time, then I knew she was either gassy, had a dirty/wet diaper, or there was another problem. While it sometimes took time to find the problem - and sometimes she just wanted to spend time with Mommy - I had some peace of mind that I was doing what was best for my baby. Through utilizing a daily routine, I was able to determine times that I could take a shower because Baby would be napping and times when I could do chores because Baby would be awake and want to look all over the house while riding in our carrier. Life was getting a little bit easier.
Now, I am not advocating a parent-directed, hyper-schedule. There are always going to be times when Baby needs extra food, attention, or naps. But, I am advocating trying to establish some sort of sanity routine so that both Mom and Baby can find time to relax and rejuvenate. After all, the old adage is definitely true: When Mom is happy, everyone is happy!
So, for those of you who have gotten your kids to sleep through the night, please feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments. As mentioned previously, all babies are different. What works for me may not work for you, but hopefully together we can help each other out!