Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Time to go to Sleepy Town: How To Gently Get Your Baby There

Adequate sleep in essential for everyone! Perhaps it is most important for a developing, little person. There is a certain sleep criteria that is recommended for healthy brain development as your sweet pea grows. Keep in mind your child is unique and may need more or less sleep than the chart below states. The most important thing to remember is you know your baby better than anyone else.

1 week 16.5 hrs
1 month 15.5 hrs
3 months 15 hrs
6 months 14.25 hrs
12 months 13.75 hrs
2 years 13 hrs
4 years 11-12 hrs
5 years 11 hrs
10 years 9.75 hrs
Adolescent 7.5 hrs (school night)
Adolescent 8.75 hrs (weekend)

The subject of having a baby is synonymous with sleep deprivation. So what is a parent to do? For the first few months it is common for the mother to breastfeed or give their baby a bottle every 2 to 3 hours. But what happens when someone tells you that after 3 months your baby should have all of their nutritional needs met during the day and be sleeping completely through the night? What is the definition of sleeping through the night? What if your baby is 6 months old and still wakes up during the night? Whose way of dealing with a waking baby is the right way?

To answer the last question, usually YOUR way is the right way! As a new parent, we are experiencing everything that comes with parenthood for the first time. So we take the advice that others have to give us very seriously, trying to implement what we have been taught in the way we care for our child. Sometimes the advice is spot on and sometimes it is as useless as a wet match.

For instance, I was told by several people in my circle of family and friends that when my baby was 7 or 8 months old and going to bed at 10 or 11 o’clock at night and still waking up for a feeding in the middle of the night that it was way past due to let her “cry it out”. This method is very common and used by many parents to get their children sleeping through the night. My problem with this method is that in my gut I felt that for me and my child this was NOT the answer.

I’m not knocking those that use the cry it out method, but what I am saying is that there are other, more gentle ways to teach your child how to develop healthy sleeping habits without leaving them to feel abandoned. I strongly believe that the relationship that I had/have with my daughter did in no way warrant me leaving her in her crib to cry for an hour and a half until she was so exhausted she simply gave up, realizing that mommy isn’t here, and isn’t coming for me. In essence that is exactly what the cry it out method teaches.

I was afforded much flexibility with my daughter’s sleep schedule (or lack thereof) because I am a stay at home mom. For the first 7 months I basically had NO schedule! It was nice to have the ability to be flexible, but never feeling like I could make plans for my day or counting on a restful night took its toll on me and I’m afraid to say my baby as well. So I took it upon myself to create a schedule that would make life easier!

I first had to make up my mind on what sleeping schedule would best suit my lifestyle as well as taking into account what is the best for my child. You will have to figure that out and then forge ahead working towards that goal. I will just talk about what I decided and implemented and you can feel free to tweak it to you and your child’s needs.

Set a goal:
My ideal sleeping schedule was 12 hours and night with a bedtime at 8:00 P.M. and a 2 hour nap during the day. This gave Chey adequate sleep and gave me a much needed break in the evening and once during the day!

Night time feedings:
I decided that I would not wean my child off of night feedings until SHE was ready. I did not care what a family member, friend, expert, or doctor had to say on this subject. If my child wanted fed, whether it be for nutrition or simply comfort, I was willing to wake up and feed her. If you are a working mom you may want to wean night-time feedings sooner than your child stops asking to be fed at night, and there are steps you can take to do this tenderly. See the bottom of article for suggestions on this subject.

Set up a night-time routine:
This is something you will carry out every single night with consistency. Be sure to begin the routine every night at the same time or as close to the same time as possible. Unless there are plans that keep you from doing this routine, it should be followed precisely to get the best results. Your routine will cue your child that bed time is right around the corner and then they pretty much ask you to put them to bed!

Implement your goals:
At 7:00 P.M. I start Cheyann’s night-time routine which is dinner, bath, snuggle time with mommy and/or daddy, then bed. You could add story-time to this routine if you choose. At first your child will act pretty much the same as before, but there is another series of steps to do after they are put down to go to sleep which are just as important as the night-time routine. Below is a list of steps that you can take if she doesn’t fall asleep right away and begins to cry in her crib. They should be helpful in getting your baby used to having a regular bed time.

First, rule out any possibility that your child is sick or in pain being the reason for not sleeping. Also, be sure to rule out hunger or a dirty diaper as the cause for not sleeping. Sometimes a last minute poopy can escape our attention and wreak havoc on our attempts to put the kiddos to bed! If it is simply that your child does not know how to sleep without YOUR help continue on with the following steps.

Step 1:
Make sure the environment in conducive to sleeping, i.e. dark, calm, and quiet.

Step 2:
Lay baby in crib at desired bedtime while they are still awake but sleepy. If baby cries and wants you to pick her up be sure you DO NOT pick her up. Instead lay her back down, pat/rub her back, then simply walk calmly and quietly out of the room.

Step 3:
If crying persists, wait 3 minutes and then go back into her room and gently lay her down in her crib again. Pat/rub back or tummy but DO NOT pick her up and do not stay in the room longer than 1 or 2 minutes. Leave room again even if your baby is crying or standing up in crib.

Step 4:
Now wait 5 minutes to go into room to comfort child if crying persists. Gently lay baby back down and rub back but again DO NOT stay in the room longer than 1 or 2 minutes.

Step 5:
Repeat the process but waiting longer and longer intervals between the times you go back in the room to comfort until the child falls asleep for the night. Your intervals should be something like 3 minutes, then 5, 7, 10, 15, etc.

A few nights of doing the night-time routine you set up and following the suggested intervals of leaving the room and returning to comfort should work like a charm and soon your child will be ready for bed at the same time every night! You have to be flexible too in the sense that if your child is teething or has a headache you may want to be more consolatory for your little one. However, more often than not your baby just needs more sleep and consistency is key!

One more common problem parents create for themselves and their children is waiting to long before putting their kids to bed. I am a strong believer that children should be on a schedule that makes sense with yours. However, don’t choose a bedtime for your kids that is so late that they are overly tired which now makes it that much harder to be put down at bedtime. Watch for signs of sleepiness. Is your baby rubbing their eyes or have a red ring around their eyes? Do they yawn or act fussy and more needy than usual? Any of these signals indicate that you’ve already waited a bit too long, so act fast!

Night time feeding weaning suggestions:
If you are hard pressed to wean your child off of night time feedings there are a few steps you can take to do this. First, make sure your child is receiving nutritious meals during the day that are sure to meet their daily nutritional needs. A good tip is to feed your baby a dinner high in protein since protein is known to make you full for longer periods of time. Then, take a good look at how you are putting your child to sleep. Are you letting them fall asleep while nursing, bottle feeding, or rocking? This will, for most, unnecessarily interfere with you and your baby getting a full night of sleep. Think about it, you nurse your baby to sleep, put them in their crib asleep only to wake up a few hours later in a dark place without the warmth of their mommy or daddy. So they cry out for you to come repeat the nursing/feeding/rocking process all over again. It is important for a child to develop their OWN sleep soother such as playing with a soft blanket or animal, twirling their hair, or singing a song softly to themselves. Each baby will develop a soother unique to them! By following the steps above you will most likely promote your baby to sleep sounder and for longer periods of time.

Good luck and hopefully you and your precious gem can get into a routine that is easier and healthier for everyone involved! Would love to hear what has worked for you! Love the sleep talk in the words of a mother!

Good night
Sleep tight
Don’t let the bed bugs bite

And if they do
Beat ‘em with a shoe
Until they’re black and blue


  1. Good Night.
    Sweet Dreams.
    Love You.
    Dream About Angels...and Hawkeye victories.

    Great article!

  2. Hawkeye victories!?!? You can't add that to our saying! LOL Thank you!

  3. awesome amber, i'm so proud of you and the steps you are taking to inform new mothers, i with you would of been around when mine were little......luv ya cinda

  4. Oh thanks so much Cinda! Love you too!

  5. Kind of sounds like the Ferber Method...I think that mama knows best and whatever works for you is great! Good post though because I didn't know about the different methods until a friend of mine lent me a book a while back...so its good to provide information for other Mommies! :)