Ah, sleep. Glorious sleep. Eight hours to rest, clear your brain of clutter and amass energy for the wakeful time to come. Cue the smiling moon and fluffy, fence-jumping sheep. At least, that’s what sleep was like for me before I had children.
Now, I’m lucky if I get six hours in a night: When the kids go to bed after a full day of play, I stay up late because I’ve still got things to do! Of course, once I do curl up for the night, one (or both) of them often wake me up, often for no reason at all other than to make their existence known. (Thanks, kids!)
There’s research showing that failing to get children to bed at a regular time and other poor sleep habits can lead to behavioral problems — that’s another incentive for me to get my kids tucked in post-haste…but, really, it’s about me. Mama needs her quiet time and that only happens when Saucer Eyes and Scrunchy Face are off to Dreamland.
I’m sure you’ve heard many of the sleep tips out there, like warm baths and warm milk. (Side note: Has anyone ever tried a warm bath in warm milk? Would it have double the soothing powers? I have to wonder…) So we’ll skip the conventional wisdom here. Instead, here are some of my nontraditional suggestions to get your little diapered dudes and dudettes dozing.
7 Unconventional Sleep Tips for You and Your Baby 1 of 8
Here are a few things that have worked for us...
Roll Into Slumberland 2 of 8
Sure, you use a stroller outside...but, guess what: Assuming you have more than 5-square feet of space to work with, you can use it inside, too. Scrunchy Face gets real cozy and real sleepy real fast when I roll his stroller back and forth. Once he's out for the night, I transfer him to his crib. I don't recommend doing this every night -- you don't want to get your baby dependent on the stroller technique. But on a tough night, it can be a life (and sleep) saver. Of course, hauling your stroller from your garage or your apartment building lobby into your home just for bedtime is cumbersome, so I recommend investing in the cheapest reclining stroller you can find and saving a nicer one for your standard outdoor use.
Use the White Noise Machine You ALREADY Have 3 of 8
Yes, you can buy a white noise machine just for baby's room. BUT you may already have one and not realize it. I was happy to discover that my old clock radio has several white noise settings, including the sounds of waves crashing and the pitter patter of rain. Scrunchy Face has fallen asleep to those noises on many an occasion, and he didn't seem to mind one bit that the machine that was making them didn't come from a baby store.
Modify Your Favorite Songs to Make Them Lullabies 4 of 8
Traditional lullabies are all well and good if you like singing them...but they tend to bore me. If I have to sing something, I prefer the last catchy tune I heard on the radio. Unfortunately, I can never remember the lyrics. Fortunately, I can look them up on my smart phone. So that's what I do -- smart phone in hand, I Google whatever song strikes my fancy and, provided the lyrics are PG-rated, I'll sing it to my little one as softly and slowly as possible. Just about anything can sound like a lullaby with the right modifications, though I do stay away from the Daft Punk song about being "up all night" -- that is not the message I want to be sending to the baby.
Use a Musical Toy 5 of 8
Didn't buy a baby music CD? Check your toy chest -- certain toys come equipped with musical features, like VTech's Cody the Smart Cub. This stuffed, talking teddy bear can play up to 30 minutes of soothing music, which is ideal if you've already sung yourself hoarse or it's the middle of the night and you can't muster the energy to sing at all. This happened to me recently: The baby woke up at midnight and no amount of shushing from an exhausted me was getting the job done. I turned on Cody and ran away, bracing myself to hear the baby's cries of protest...but the baby stayed quiet! He listened to Cody and fell right back asleep. Suffice it to say I was "beary" grateful.
Clip the Baby’s Nails 6 of 8
What do baby nails have to do with baby sleep? If you don't trim them enough, EVERYTHING. Leave the babies' nails too long, he scratches himself in the middle of the night and -- WAHHHHH! -- he's up crying and your sorry, stumbling self is desperately searching for the clippers. Prevent a scratchy nighttime disaster: Keep your baby's nails short or at the very least, if he's young enough, cover his hands with newborn mittens at night.
Recreate the Night Sky 7 of 8
I'm not suggesting you spend hours on a ladder, painstakingly sticking glow-in-the-dark stars on junior's ceiling. Do it the easy way and buy a toy or a machine that projects stars onto any solid surface. With Scrunchy Face, we found success by taking a projection toy and rotating it very slowly so that the "stars" swirled around his room. Happily, it didn't induce vertigo -- just sleepiness!
Personalize Bedtime Stories 8 of 8
The bedtime story is a staple of many family's nightly routines. But what if your kid is being squirmy and doesn't want to pay attention? Follow the advice of some wise parents and appeal to his nascent ego by changing whatever the protagonist's name in the story is to your child's name. Then, consider ending it with "And they all slept happily ever after."
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