That’s what Vicki asked on the post My Happy, Tired, Hat Wearing Baby, so I thought I’d take some time to share my sleeping strategy.
Little Bean is just over 3 months now, and for the past week he’s been sleeping in much longer stretches. Last night he slept 8 PM – 4 AM. He’s done that now about 5-6 times, and I’m in Mommy heaven.
I’m not sure I do anything that special. Every baby is different, of course, but I seem to have been blessed with good sleepers overall. I remember my first sleeping 5-6 hour stretches at about 2 months, and his nights only got longer and longer to the point of 12 hours in bed. My goal has always been 8 PM – 8AM for both kids.
Before I tell you what I do, let me say I’m not suggesting my way is the best or only way to get kids to sleep better. All I’m saying is this is what worked for me, plain and simple. I’m also sure some of you, maybe even most of you, will not agree with some of my strategies. Please don’t preach to me in the comments. I was asked a question and I’m answering it. If you’d like to share your experience feel free, but don’t bother to lecture me on my parenting choices.
First and foremost, I’m a big believer in a bed time routine. I swear Little Bean already knows after his bath he’s headed to bed. If this is all he knows, there will never be an argument. At least that’s my experience. I did the same thing with baby #1, and even at 6 years old now, bed time is bed time. We never struggled with him getting up or crying in his bed when he was a toddler. Not once.
Our routine is simple. Sometime between 7-8 PM, based on the last time he nursed, I nurse Little Bean again or let the husband give him a bottle of breastmilk. We then take a bath–his most favorite thing in the world–read a short story or sing a sing, and then in the crib he goes.
Once he is in the crib there is NO coming out. Not unless his eyes are bleeding or he’s sitting in poop. Does that mean I let him cry?
And I can distinguish a ‘fussy-I-don’t-want-to-be-here‘ cry from an ‘OMG-I’m-having-some-major-gas-pains-here‘ cry. Babies communicate through crying, and I believe it’s our job as a parent to translate.
For the ‘fussy-I-don’t-want-to-be-here‘ cry, I’ll let him go in 5 minute intervals. Every 5 minutes I’ll go in and soothe him without picking him up. I rub his back, try to give the binky, etc. I never turn on the lights or pick him up. In my mind this reinforces the idea that it’s bed time and you should be sleeping. I want to let him know I’m not abandoning him, but he also needs to learn there is no other option–at night we sleep.
If his cry is telling me something else is wrong, I’ll burp him right there in the crib. Again, in the dark. If he still is inconsolable with a ‘somethings-wrong‘ type of cry, I’ll nurse him.
The first few days, even weeks, of establishing the routine were a test of patience. It required me getting up every 5 minutes to soothe, listening to him cry, staring at the monitor with a broken heart, but now, just a few short weeks later, it’s paying off.
Once I place him in the crib he fusses at most 2 minutes, if at all. When he wakes in the middle of the night I nurse with no lights on. I don’t talk to him or stimulate him in anyway, except possibly a diaper change if he needs it. Again, this reinforces the idea that it’s night time, not play time. We sleep between 8 and 8.
Now this is where I’ll get crucified, that is if you aren’t already horrified I let my child cry.
I also let him sleep on his belly. I gave the back a good old college try, but he never seemed comfortable or able to sleep for more than an hour or so without waking up. Sleep is too important for him and me not to find what works for us.
At first I’d put him on his side, and in a way, let him decide which way to go. Now he goes right on his belly and immediately self-soothes by sucking on his hand/thumb which he only does when getting tired.
I my opinion, the combination of a comfortable baby and a consistent routine is what’s been working for us. I follow the same rules for nap time as well. Little Bean now takes 2 naps consistently daily. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. I try to trust him. When he’s showing tired signs, I put him in the crib and he’s normally out in 5 minutes. I truly believe sleep begets sleep. An overtired baby will have a harder time going down than a well rested one, in my opinion, and I’ve seen that happen with both my kids many times.
So there you have it. My Baby Sleeping strategy. I’m sure you all have some pretty strong opinions about it. Think what you will, but this works for us. I have 2 happy kids and I’m a happy mom who is getting more than 3 hour stretches of sleep. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right.