I remember as young as 16 or 17 feeling so afraid of having kids because I LOVE my sleep and knew they would put a big damper on that. I didn’t pull a single all-nighter in college. How could one grade be worth sacrificing my beloved sleep?? And could rarely be found out past 11. You better believe when I got pregnant, sleep training was one of the first topics I researched. You hear people say all the time that parents don’t sleep again once they had kids. That was a depressing thought.
Well y’all, I am sleeping like a baby. A baby that sleeping 18 hours a day. Or atleast 7.5 hours a night. And could sleep 10.5 hours if I didn’t wake up at 5 AM to read my Bible, read books and get a jump on the day.
From birth (besides hospital when they wake you up every hour!), Vivi slept 3 hours straight at night. At 4 months, she slept from 7:30 PM – 7 AM. And when she went down from 3 naps to two a day, she began sleeping from 7:30 PM – 8 PM.
I will say right of the bat, this might feel too strict for you. And that might be true. But we have experienced so much freedom because of this routine. People ask how we can have so much margin and I strongly believe a routine makes it happen. She consistently is in bed by 7:30 PM so we have 2 hours or more every night to enjoy and refresh for the next day. (Right now during pregnancy, I am going to bed a bit earlier though but thankful to have an hour or so to decompress.)
But of course, this is what worked for us. This might not work for every kid. It might not work for Vana, but we are going to try this method before anything else.
I read Baby Wise and this book shaped a lot of my principles. They even mention in the book that you can’t be hard and fast in every moment. You need flexibility. What I found was that when we had a consistent routine, those days where we were off schedule, Vivi was very easy going. So just know, if routine scares you and you feel like your baby won’t be able to nap at a different time or a different way, routine shouldn’t play a factor.
1. The bouncy ball. I have referenced this here already, but I think it definitely made a difference.
2. At the hospital, we let Vivi sleep in bassinet. I have friends who let their babies sleep on them and are perfectly happy having that the way their baby naps. For me, my alone time refreshes me and gives me the energy I need to be fully available when they are awake so it was important to me to make sure I didn’t make this a habit. This doesn’t mean she never slept in our arms, but it was not the norm.
3. Leave room bright during the day so they can begin to know difference between naps and nighttime sleep. (Currently at 2 years old, we do close the curtains because she knows the difference between naps and night time now).
4. Swaddle swaddle swaddle. If your baby breaks out of a swaddle, don’t jump to the conclusion that they hate swaddles. It’s normal for them to break out and probably means they just need a stronger swaddle. Vivi was super good at breaking free so we actually did two swaddles. First the miracle blanket and then wrapped a muslin blanket around that. We kept the place very cool so this worked well for us.
5. Diffusing oils! We would run Joy during the day (which might have been more for momma than baby ; ) and at 5 in the afternoon like clockwork, we’d switch to Peace & Calming or Lavender.
6. Feeding. I had planned to start working on a routine not for a few weeks from her birth (like Baby Wise recommends) but I found it happened really naturally that she ate every 3 hours. She’d basically eat for 45 minutes, play for 15 minutes and then sleep for two hours except at night where she’d normally sleep 3 hours which I can’t really explain why other than the bouncy ball “training” and LOTS of prayer.
7. Cry it out. You are either in this camp or you are not. I am in that camp for a few reasons. Anyone I talked to who had done it, was sleeping and anyone who hadn’t done it was not. It was amazing how cut and dry it was. Also, I read up on how to do it and it is much more humane then we think. A chapter in Bringing up Bebe also talks about how this idea. I think it really helped me mentally to know Vivi wasn’t going to starve or hate me for life but that it was a natural pattern and the sooner she learned to self soothe, actually the happier she’d be. Here’s a snippet from Bringing up Bebe.
“One reason for pausing is that young babies make a lot of movements while they’re sleeping. This is normal and fine. If parents rush in and pick the baby up every time he makes a peep, they’ll sometimes wake him up. Another reason for pausing is that babies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect those cycles. If a parent automatically interprets this cry as a demand for food or a sign of distress and rushes in to soothe the baby, the baby will have a hard time learning to connect the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle.”
8. 3 Days. That’s what they said it would take. And guess how long it took? Three days. We were living in our apartment at the time and Vivi shared a room with us. We knew if this was going to work, we had to sleep in the living room. So we moved our mattress and camped out in the living room for three days. We have a video monitor so we were able to watch and hear her to make sure she was fine. And she was. The first night she cried off and on for an hour. This was the toughest. Having a partner is essential even if you are a single parent, if you have someone who can come over those nights for support, let them. You will have moments of weakness where you want to go get them because you think it’s the right thing to do or simply hate to see your kid cry so having someone there to be strong and remind you WHY you are doing this is essential. We both had our moments of strength and weakness and luckily they didn’t happen at the same time. The second night, she cried for 10 minutes. And the third night she didn’t cry at all and slept through the whole night!! She has been sleeping ever since with the exception of some rough teething, growth spurt nights or sickness.
9. Some people may say babies need to eat during the night. I think this is obviously the case for 0-3 or 4 month olds when they hit that growth spurt but a good point I read was that if adults wake up in the middle of the night, we might be hungry but it doesn’t mean we go to the kitchen and make a sandwich. More than likely, babies are developing a routine on their own and will want milk even if they aren’t hungry simply out of habit.
10. For naps, I would always put her down drowsy, but not totally asleep. This has done wonders. (By a year, I was able to put her in her crib wide awake and could walk out without her crying and she’d fall asleep on her own.) This is super hard to do because who doesn’t love baby cuddles? I was not as hard and fast about this at night so I could enjoy her, but the fact that 3 of the 4 times I put her down she was not fully asleep, definitely helped train her to not need me to rock her to sleep completely.
11. She transitioned out of the miracle blanket and started sleeping with her hands free, which was more of an adjustment than I expected. She’d wake herself up with her jerky movements so we did this at the same time as the 4-month regression. We used a sleep sack at night and used this up until 2 years when she started unzipping them herself.
ONE YEAR OLD
12. Our nightly routine. Bath by 6:45. Jammies, thieves oil on her feet. Milk by 7:00 PM rocking in the chair. In her bed by 7:30 PM.
13. In the morning, she plays in her crib and can stay in there entertaining and talking to herself for 30 minutes or more because she knows I come get her when it’s time to wake up. She would definitely get up before wakeup time at 8, but was never more than 30 minutes early. I’d still wait to feed her earlier till 8 to make sure she didn’t develop a habit to wake up earlier and earlier.
14. I make sure she is dressed comfortably before naptime. I usually dress her in a t-shirt and diaper even if it means changing her shirt before she goes to sleep. As someone who loves her comforts, I know I’d much rather sleep in pajamas than jeans. She obviously does this at school but at home, when her naps can stretch to 2 hours, I don’t want anything interrupting that! 😉 I also do this because our house is much cooler at night during the day so I don’t want her to get too hot during the day.
TWO YEARS OLD
15. Our nightly routine. Bath by 6:45, every other night. Thieves, jammies. Milk by 7:00 PM rocking in the chair. Then a story, prayer time and song in her bed. We just transitioned to Vivi’s big girl bed. First with a nap in the day and since this was successful, she slept that night in it. It’s been a few weeks and has been pretty good. I find it a lot harder not to want to stay and let her fall asleep on my shoulder (now that I fit in her bed with her! 😉 and it has definitely made her a bit more dependent on me. She has actually had a few mornings where she’s woken up before 7, instead of 8 like normal but this is mostly on the nights when we put her down later than her normal bedtime which is strange to me but the earlier she goes down (within reason) the better she sleeps.
16. We haven’t actually tried this yet, but I bought her this clock that is supposed to let her know when it’s time to wake up and when to go back to sleep if she wakes up too early.
** And I can’t not mention one of the biggest things I “did” regarding her sleep routine. I literally prayed every single month for her sleep. It’s been in my prayer journal since I was pregnant. I also prayed a lot for flexibility as a mom. I’m realizing as I’ve gotten spoiled by the amount of sleep over the last year and a half, I was less flexible and will be praying for this more consistently as Vivi wakes up earlier and as we get ready for Vivi!
I hope this is helpful! I honestly wanted to make sure to blog this before Vana comes so that I could have something to reference when I’ve get newborn mommy brain and can’t remember a thing! 😉
Oh Val, I have always admired your laid-back, but structured approach to parenting! Sleep has been my number one fear as well so I am definitely soaking this up for April!
Yes and amen to everything. We love baby wise and after following those guidelines since Milly was born, we never even had to do “cry it out.” She naturally started sleeping through the night on her own! We love our routine and our sleep!! Great post!!
Perfection. I love seeing people brave enough to speak up about the miracle of Babywise because it is definitely (and disappointingly) controversial. They say babies don’t come with instructions? Yes they do. It’s called Babywise. Our son slept through the night at 7 weeks and we never had to let him cry it out. He just did it on his own. Your routines sound amazing. Yay, mama!!