We’ve all been there. So tired it hurts, but there baby is, crying again.
Pulling off that cozy blanket in the middle of the night and heading over to comfort baby can be harder than labor, I swear. Your entire body is screaming at you, begging for just a few hours sleep, and you have to soldier onward.
There is no magic wand to wave, no fairy dust to sprinkle that will lull your baby to sleep. But you can create conditions that encourage sleep and provide cues to your baby that it’s time to sleep. Take heart, babies eventually learn to soothe themselves to sleep, I promise! “Baby” may be five years old, but it will happen.
As your child grows, encourage him to fall asleep on his own by putting him in his crib while he’s still awake. Others may encourage you to leave just before baby drifts off, but there’s nothing wrong with staying until he’s asleep. Remember: The goal of nighttime parenting is to help your baby develop a healthy sleep attitude. Below are a couple tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way:
It’s All About the Routine
Infants who go to bed at close to the same time each night usually have less trouble falling and staying asleep. If your baby has difficulty winding down, try a warm bath and lotion massage each night before bedtime. He’ll get used to the routine and be nodding off before you know it! You can also try wearing a baby sling or carrier as you do your thing around the house. Being next to your skin and moving with your body as he did in the womb can help calm baby down and lull him to sleep.
Another way to lull your baby to sleep is to breastfeed or bottle-feed him until he drifts off. To prevent tooth decay and ear infections, don’t let your infant fall asleep with a bottle in his mouth, and don’t leave a bottle in the crib.
Try various sleeping arrangements. With Violet, I discovered having her in a little bassinet next to me worked best. I could nearly sense when she was waking up and I’d reach over and cuddle her. You can move your newborn’s crib next to your bed or buy a co-sleeping crib (such as those made by Arm’s Reach) that attaches to your bed. The idea is to comfort your baby before you and he are fully awake. But keep in mind, every baby is different. Henry doesn’t seem to like the little bassinet as much. He prefers to luxuriate in his crib so I leave him to his business in the crib and, at six weeks, he’s already sleeping in four and five hour stretches. But many mamas find the easiest and quickest way to resettle baby when he wakes at night is to have him sleep in mom and dad’s room.
The Cozy Factor
Make sure you have it all going on. Much like you may don lingerie, light candles and sprinkle rose petals on the bed to set the scene for a night of romance with your fella, make sure baby’s environment is just right for sleeping. When your infant wakes up crying, and feeding or changing doesn’t comfort him, check for ill-fitting sleepwear, a stuffy nose, a bedroom that’s too hot or too cold or nasal irritants, such as cigarette smoke, animal dander or dust. All of these factors can contribute to waking. If eliminating them doesn’t help, discuss possible medical causes — such as reflux, food or milk allergies or ear infections— with his doctor.
The Leave Behind
A good friend of mine first told me about this little trick. She swears it worked with every one of her four children. Leave behind a dirty night shirt, t-shirt, pajama bottoms, whatever. Put the item of clothing next to your baby, just like a blanket. The smell of mom helps soothe your child without you actually being there. Hey, you should be willing to try anything! And you never know, baby may wake up, smell mama, feel comforted and doze right back to sleep.
Each mama carves out her own mothering path, so what about you? Picked up any tips or tricks along the way that you care to share? Go!