Call me crazy, but I value sleep. I also value routines, they make me happy, they make me feel secure and in control. So when having my first baby, I knew that this was something that was going to be really important for me as a parent. I ALSO knew that the routines I hoped for might not work out, so I did have an open mind… but I was sure as heck going to try 🙂
People often say to me things like “Oh you are so lucky you have a good sleeper!” and although I know I am lucky because yes, Rocklyn IS a good sleeper, there was also a TON of work that went into getting her that way. It did not happen the night she came home and it certainly didn’t happen without a little persistence, consistency and gentle nudging. There were a few tricks/things I did over the first 10 weeks of her life that I feel really helped. The real proof will be if this all works for baby #2, who I am sure will be her own kind of special.
Write it down: I really did make it a mental point to hold zero expectations the first few weeks she was here and just had one goal of getting to know my new baby girl and learning motherhood. However, I DID write down everything she did. The times she nursed and for how long, the times she slept and for how long, etc. This might seem crazy, but it was SUPER helpful for me to understand her patterns. This is also something I still do when I notice she might be going through a change or regression. I am very visual, so it helps me to really see the big picture of what is going on and maybe how things can be adjusted.
Baby led schedule, not yours: When I would mention that I started putting my newborn on a schedule, I got a lot of funny looks. BUT to be clear I didn’t put her on MY schedule. I didn’t force anything. I simply followed her natural patterns that I had taken note of and tried to make them more consistent over weeks and months. When I noticed the magic time she wanted to eat was every 3.5 hours, I decided on set times every day to feed her. When I noticed she would fall asleep around the same times every day, I would put her down right before she was actually asleep and let her practice falling asleep on her own and created those as consistent nap times. This of course did not always go smooth, but I was pretty dedicated on doing the same things at the same time every day, it helped me with being confident l really think it helped her become comfortable quickly in her new world and new routine because her day was very predictable. I am a big believer in sticking to routines with kids, I think it helps them really thrive…and gives Mama some sanity 😉 No joke, Rocklyn has followed roughly the same routine with some tweaks here and there through 16 months old.
In the early stages when I was trying to get her used to napping in her crib, she would wake up and then fall asleep in my arms minutes later. It was a process before she took a long nap in there.
Nursing to feed, not for comfort: This is probably kind of controversial, but to be clear I am not against moms who nurse their babies for comfort, truly! You do you! Nursing my baby was very important to me, but I unfortunately had a weird relationship with it and didn’t love it like other women do. It made me pretty anxious actually (which is another post for another day). I wanted to be able to give her the nutrition she needed, but I also did not feel comfortable becoming a human pacifier. So, I would only nurse her when I could tell she was actually hungry, otherwise I would give her a pacifier, or find other ways to soothe her. Once she was gaining enough weight and we got the doctor okay to stop nighttime feedings, I held off as long as possible to feed her at night. I would not just immediately stick her on my boob to calm her down if she started fussing. I would rock her, sing to her, etc. and many many times she would fall right back asleep. Sometimes I would nurse, but for the most part she kind of picked up quickly that I was not going to nurse her at every cry. I learned a lot of the time she just needed some skin to skin/mamma love and that didn’t have to mean eating. At 8 old weeks she was sleeping through the night and pretty much has been since.
Crib Habits: Something else we did once she was in her crib at night/during nap times was soothe her IN her crib. We would do everything except take her out unless absolutely necessary, especially at night. I did not want her to get into a habit of crying just to be picked up, especially when it was time to sleep. Babies are smart little tricksters! But for us, it helped Rocklyn become a really good self soother and even now when she has her nights of being awake for chunks of time, she typically just talks or sings to herself and doesn’t need us to go in there. To this day, if she is crying at night or during nap time, it means she really needs something like a diaper change, isn’t feeling good or is just going through a regression/phase that usually passes pretty quickly. There is a method in the book “The Happy Sleeper” called the sleep wave that talks about this as well.
Up until about a month ago (when she was right around 16.5 months) we have had little to no sleep issues. However, she just recently started not being super consistent with the length of her naps and having random awake times in the middle of the night pretty often. Nothing too terrible, but it has definitely been a noticeable shift. So we are starting a gentle transition from one to two naps right now, which I am totally okay with as it allows her to be able to do fun stuff in the mornings before baby sister is here!
Often times if we needed to go somewhere during nap time, she was so accustomed to sleeping that she would sleep anywhere during that time frame. Now that she is older, that doesn’t happen too often as she gets too excited. This picture was on a plane ride right during her usual morning nap time when she was 12 months old. Her sleeping in a new environment at night while on this trip was a whole other experience 😉
The downside to doing all of this was that I didn’t leave my house much during my maternity leave because I was so focused on getting her into a routine, getting her used to her crib etc. and taking trips out of the house tended to mess with that. Granted, she was born in December so it wasn’t hard to stay in BUT by the time I went back to work she was in such a good routine and such a great sleeper that it made it worth it.