Tips for Getting Your Babes to Sleep
HUGE disclaimer: I'm not a sleep expert or a medical professional. I highly advise you to seek out the advice of those far more qualified than I.
I highly value my sleep. I'm one of those people who just can't function well on little sleep. I don't necessarily need to sleep in late, but I do need a minimum of 8 hours a night to not feel totally off. So for those of you with kids, you know that this sleep requirement and kids don't really mix.
Luckily, my kids have the love for sleep. My twins sleep 12-13 hours a night (and still 3-4 hours during the day) and Isla sleeps a 9 hour stretch most nights at under four months old! Over 20 people messaged me on Instagram recently asking how I get my kids to sleep so much. so I thought it was time to share.
Now to be honest I don't really know how much of this is nature vs. nurture. Would my kids just be good sleepers no matter what I did? Possibly. Are some kids just plain and simple never going to sleep that much no matter what you do? Definitely. But I do think my intentionality in creating healthy sleeping habits helps my kids to optimize their sleeping hours, so I don't think it would hurt to share.
The first thing we work on when we have had a new infant(s) is helping them distinguish night from day. We have the bassinet in a dark, quiet place. I talk less and make less eye contact during night time feedings. I use a special swaddle for only nights. During the day, I open all the blinds and let the light in. I never try to lessen noise. I use mere muslin swaddle blankets.
I also do try to do the whole eat, play, sleep thing but it's way way way more of a basic rhythm to the day than an actual schedule. If my baby is hungry, they're getting fed, end of story. But I also try to make sure they actually want to eat vs. sleep or whatever else.
I do allow and ENCOURAGE pacifier use during sleeping times. I think it becomes more of a hassle when I allow the pacifier outside of those times. My kids associate sleep with the comfort of a pacifier so they look forward to sleeping.
I usually put my newborns down "for the night" at the same time I go to sleep (around midnight). This is so their longest stretch of sleep will match me, and therefore give me less wake ups in the night. "Down for the night" means we do a small night time routine (nurse, night time swaddle, prayer, song) and use all the night time signifiers.
Our favorite night time swaddle is the ollie swaddle. (not sponsored)
Around Four Months-ish
Whenever they start to rollover, its time to say goodbye to the swaddle, but it's also the time when the startle reflex starts to wake babies up more and more. This is when I crack out my awesome Zipadee-Zip which helps babies to stay asleep despite the startle reflex while also keeping their arms safe to roll over. This Zip is a GAME CHANGER. (Still not sponsored). When I switch to the Zip, bedtime is usually so well-established I use the zip during bed and nap times. This is also the time I start doing more formal in the crib naps in a general 2-3-4 rhythm. (Awake for two hours, sleep, then awake for three hours and sleep again).
Around six months we stop room sharing and we elongate the bedtime routine. Books are read. Teeth get brushed. We buy a white noise machine. We also take great care to buy blackout curtains or find another way to make the room as dark as possible.
The Trick of all Tricks
There came a time when C & A would eventually just start waking up around 6 or 7am every day (it lasted, like, a week) and we were dying. Ryan finally came up with the idea to bring them a warm bottle (now a cup) of milk. If they wake up before 8:30 then we still have Ryan sneak in and give it. He goes in there quietly, gives the milk, then says "shhh... night night", makes very little eye contact and quietly and quickly leaves. This allows them to usually sleep 2-3 hours longer. Breastfeeding moms I know have also been successful doing this if they anticipate the first waking by about 20 minutes and offer a "dream feed".
It's quite possible you've already tried all these things, but let me know if you try one of these for the first time and please tell me if it worked for you!
May we all get a lot more sleep!