Friday, 1 December 2017

How I got my baby to sleep the night!




"Your future depends on your dreams so go sleep"" 


Hi everyone, this post has been highly requested. Apologies for the delay but I really wanted to make sure that I covered as much as possible. I had read several parenting books before having Isabelle and I had tried to take the best tips from each book. However, the bottom line is that every baby is different and certain sleep tactics can vary depending on the baby. From early on my husband and I had managed to get Isabelle into a decent bedtime routine in which she slept through a decent portion of the night (keeping in mind feeds are generally every 3-4 hours initially) without even realising it. There is no doubt we have had episodes of her waking through the night but she quickly settles and in the past 6 months we have only had one bad episode where we had to physically pick her up to settle her (due to teething). So these are a few of my tips to get your baby to sleep through the night.





                                                   

  Photo cred Sarah Carton

Co-Sleep

**It is important to point out that certain health guidelines recommend that you do NOT co-sleep with your baby due to the slightly increased risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). This post is simply our own experience with what works for us and is not intended to supersede expert advice. **

I had not planned on co sleeping when I was pregnant (you may remember a post about our new and shiny Chico Next to Me cot). However it just seemed to happen naturally. I had an extended stay in the hospital with Isabelle and one night when she just wouldn't settle in the cot I placed her on my chest where we slept soundly all night. When we came home from the hospital the Chico Next to Me was quickly abandoned and we co-slept with the Sleepyhead in our bed. This sleeping arrangement just seems to work for us.  I was initially nervous about it but we made sure to follow the necessary sleeping safety precautions and co-sleeping can be brilliant for both baby and mama. If you don't feel comfortable sleeping with your baby in your bed I would suggest the Chico Next to Me crib as it lets baby be close to you without being in your bed. Isabelle is moving out of our bed into her own crib next week so I will keep you updated with how it goes.

Routine
This is crucial in getting baby to sleep through the night. Currently Isabelle is on a 7-7 time schedule. It is so important that your little one get all their naps through out the day (no matter how tired you are feeling, getting out for that walk during the day is worth it at 7pm!!) Naps for a baby are essential to the development of their nervous system. If the correct amount of naps aren't taken in the day, baby can become over tired and will find it difficult going to sleep for you that evening. Babies love routine and while there are days my husband and I might go out for an evening meal and might be out a little later than expected we generally stick to our time schedule. We found the routine a bit tough to begin with but it really has paid dividends as time has gone on.

Day-time naps

Isabelle tends to wake between 7-7.30am (we have found it is crucial to get her to bed between 7-8pm to achieve this wake time). We start stimulation (singing to her/playtime) straight away and get her nappy changed. Once she is out of bed (and husband is gone to work) I try to keep her entertained and then give her a feed (mixture of solids and breastmilk currently) with a view to first nap at 10.30-11am. Her nap tends to last around about 45 minutes. Once she wakes, I change her nappy again and put her in her day clothes. I always try to take her out for a walk at this time (12.30-1pm). We find this part of the routine is essential. Isabelle will often fall asleep on the walk. I try to meet some other mamas for a coffee and if she hasn't fallen asleep in her pram, Isabelle will take her second nap around 2-2.30pm for 45-60 minutes. Once home, she is often content to keep herself entertained. Isabelle will then tend to go down for her third nap around 4.30 for 30 minutes. My husband tends to get home between 4-6pm. Depending on when he gets home, we do some play time or else start wind down.

Winding down

We start to have quiet time and no stimulation with her 45 mins before her bedtime of 7pm. I remember laughing reading Gina Fordes book about not giving the baby eye contact before bedtime thinking it was a bit extreme but these types of tactics really work. Isabelle subconsciously knows playtime is over and bedtime is looming. In the very early days we would watch TV in bed but after a bit of research we gave this up and noticed a huge difference in getting her to sleep. I also try and sing gentle songs to her and in a very low pitch reinforcing this is winding down time.

Night time rituals

I have the lights off (bar one very small lamp) and the curtains drawn. We generally only bathe Isabelle at night time too and always change her fully including a fresh vest and new baby grow every night. I also use a lavender pillow spray for extra relaxation. She associates these rituals with night time and knows that sleep time is coming. We found that persistence was key with this ritual. It may seem that what you are doing is not working but if you keep the same routine in place eventually baby starts really enjoying this time of the day. We now don't worry about getting her to sleep (a time that was a massive stress for quite a while).

The Dream Feed

I generally give Isabelle a 'dream feed' when she is settling. This tactic can also be used if you are bottle feeding too.

The Pause

This is a French parenting tactic which offers baby a chance to self sooth before rushing to them and picking them up at the first whimper. The science behind it explains that between a baby's sleep cycles they might momentarily become upset. When your little one cries generally give 2-3 minutes before you go to their rescue. Unfortunately, it isn't always that baby will self soothe.  Isabelle certainly isn't great yet at self soothing but it is definitely worth testing for your baby. If Isabelle  begins to cry I tend to refrain from picking her up where I know this will wake her fully. Instead I give her a small feed or try and sooth her by rubbing her back or singing her a lullaby until she nods off again. I would always refrain from tuning on any main light in the room as this would only wake her further.

Leaps

The best piece of advice we can give is to never let a bad night turn you off your routine. In particular in the first few months, routine can be so difficult but stick with it...it is definitely worth it! It may not seem like it at times but babies love routine! It also really important to check out the leaps chart (You can view one here) which might explain why your little one is having a bad time sleeping. The infamous 4 month sleep regression phase is something we thankfully skipped. So its important to remember that your child distributed sleep might be easily explained by a growth spurt/leap.

Make life easy for yourself

It may not be a huge issue now but I swore by black out curtains during the summer months with Isabelle. If you are bottle feeding make sure you have your bottles pre sterilised or considering investing in the Tommee Tippee bottle maker (think expresso machine for baby bottles!) to time save. A friend of mine has her bottles pre dusted in anticipation of the night feed. I thankfully mastered the art of breastfeeding at night and now I barely wake while nursing her. In essence a night feed might be unavoidable but certainly keep the time its disturbs you to a minimum.



Remember you do you! Every baby is different and I am learning something new about Isabelle everyday.
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