Please, Just 5 More Hours

Day 5

I’m so glad to be home from the hospital with Baby. It’s great to see Big Brother and Husband. And it’s so nice to see how happy Big Brother is to see us both. But I’m so tired. It’s the beds in hospital, they’re dreadfully uncomfortable. I can’t wait for a good night’s sleep in my own bed.

Day 9

Baby demands to be fed every three hours. Around the clock. A non-parent friend told me that doesn’t seem to bad. “At least you can sleep for 3 hours between feeds,” she said. Ha! It’s not three hours between feeds, it’s three hours from start to start. Sometimes it takes over an hour for feeding, burping, and changing. And then there’s the time to settle him back to sleep. I’m lucky if I have one hour between Baby going to sleep, and the time he wakes up for his next feed. It wasn’t so bad with Big Brother, because at least I could nap during the day when he was sleeping (one hour at a time). But now I have to play with Big Brother during the day. I’m exhausted.

Day 15

This is the third day in a row with fewer than two hours sleep. Every time Baby cries, I feel like there’s a drill boring into my brain. Big Brother wants to go outside and play. I tell him to sit down and watch TV. Then I feel like a terrible parent. I start to cry. I get myself under control and try phoning Husband at work, but he doesn’t answer the phone. I cry again. I just want to sleep. I sneak into my bedroom and lie down. Baby wakes up and starts crying. I think I’m going to die.

Day 21

I feel on top of the world! I had four hours of sleep last night! And it was in two long bursts of sleep! I feel so energetic, I think I’ll take the boys on a nice long walk!

 

Day 30

I take the boys out to visit a friend, and have trouble finding a car space. In the process of parking, I put the car into Reverse instead of Drive. I crash into a parked car. I want to cry. I really do. But the boys are there, and Big Brother is distraught because I scared him, and Baby is crying because he’s suddenly decided that he’s hungry, and so I suck up my tears and tell the boys that everything’s okay. I’m so tired. Visiting my friend is suddenly way too hard. Can we just go home, please? I need to sleep.

Until you’re a parent, you don’t really understand what it means to physically crave sleep. I used to suffer from insomnia. Now I’m too tired to have trouble sleeping. Both my boys sleep 10 – 12 hours overnight, but I rarely get more than 6 hours sleep. I can’t imagine how I would cope if the boys didn’t start sleeping through the night by 7 and 10 weeks respectively.

When I mentioned this in an earlier post, I had quite a few people ask me how. How do you get babies to sleep through the night when they’re so young? I also had a lot of people tell me that I’m lucky, because their 1 or 2 year old still doesn’t sleep through the night. Quite frankly, that thought terrifies me. I salute you for being capable of working a computer (or speaking in intelligent sentences) after so many near-sleepless months.

After being asked multiple times, I promised that I would share my strategies. ** General Disclaimer ** I don’t claim to be an expert in anything other than my own experiences, and I can’t guarantee that any of this will work for you. Possibly, we’re just lucky enough to have babies with the good-sleep gene.

There are really two strategies that we used from the day I came home from hospital with our babies, and that we continue to use to this day. (1) Routine, and (2) Difference.

Routine

Read any book, column, blog, or diary on parenting and you’ll find this word thrown around about a million times. That’s because it’s important. And it’s just as important for babies as it is for toddlers and children.

(1) Set up a no-excuse bedtime routine, right from day one.

  • It doesn’t matter what your routine is, as long as you stick to it. You can play the Imperial March as you put baby to bed if you want to. Big Brother would have a bath, a “play”, then dinner and bed. Baby has dinner, then a bath, then into bed. Take the time to work out a routine that works for both you and baby, and then stick to it.
  • Once the routine is working, you can make allowances for one night here and there (eg. if you’re not at home). But don’t do it often, or you don’t have a routine anymore. You just have a suggestion.
  • The routine can change. In fact, it has to change as baby gets older. When that happens, decide on the change you’re going to make, implement it, and then stick to the new routine.

(2) Let baby fall asleep in his cot/cradle/whatever.

  • If you’re going to rock or sing baby to sleep, put him in bed before he goes to sleep. Let him learn that he can go to sleep all by himself. Otherwise, you’ll still be putting him to sleep when he’s 2 and 3 years old.
  • I’d rock Baby until he was nearly asleep, then put him in his cot. That woke him up a bit, so I’d keep my hand on his chest and sing to him until he was nearly asleep again. Then I’d leave the room while he went to sleep. Sometimes he’d wake up again, so I’d go back in and put my hand on his chest and sing until he calmed down. But I’d always leave the room before he went to sleep. The end result: By the time he was 3 months old, I could put him in his cot and walk away, and he’d go to sleep without complaint.

(3) Night time is sleep time. Make sure that’s absolutely clear.

  • When you get up during the night to feed baby, don’t play with him. No peek-a-boo, no smiles and cooing, no finger games. Feed, change, and put him back to bed.
  • Limit the amount of light (little to none), and definitely limit the amount of talking. Don’t withhold affection, but don’t be overly cuddly, either. Stick to what has to happen, and get him back into bed as quickly as possible.
  • This  means that baby isn’t getting any special one-on-one time in the middle of the night, so there’s no reason for him to wake up when he’s not hungry. This helps him cut out night feeds quicker, because it’s more fun being fed during the day. (As a note, I’ve never withheld night feeds. I’ve just found that my boys stopped wanting them by the time they were 7 and 10 weeks. But they did want to eat a LOT during the day.)
  • This also works on toddlers. Big Brother went through a stage of coming into our room in the middle of the night when he was 2 years old. We just got up and walked him back to his room without unnecessary talking, playing, or affection. The stage lasted less than 2 weeks.

(4) Make a big fuss in the morning. Let baby know that it’s great that he’s awake. Sing a good morning song, pick him up and give him heaps of cuddles. Make it clear that this is the right time to be awake by offering LOTS of attention, affection, and one-on-one time with his food.

Difference

I’ve never read anything about this in a parenting book, but I’m sure it’s out there somewhere. We came up with it because it made sense to us. Basically, if you want your baby to understand that it’s okay to sleep during the day, but night-time is always for sleeping, you need to emphasise the difference between night and day.

Having a bedtime routine is a big help for that, so make sure you only follow your routine for night sleeps. The other strategy we use is to make sure that baby’s bed is only for night-time sleeping. Whether it’s a bassinet, cot, cradle or wicker basket, the place that baby sleeps at night is his night sleeping place, so don’t use it during the day. Instead, let him nap in his bouncer, on a sheepskin rug, or in a basket in the living area. That way, when you put him into his cot, he knows that it’s sleep time, not nap time.

Not only does this work wonders to separate night and day sleeping, it’s also a great way to help baby learn to sleep in noisy environments. Our boys can sleep through just about anything. The next door neighbours had a party loud enough that the walls of our house were literally shaking, and they both slept through it. Baby was only 11 weeks old at the time.

 

Day 67

Baby slept for 10 hours last night and I slept for 8. In a row. I couldn’t be happier if I won a million dollars.

(I used ‘he’ throughout this post because I have two boys. I’m pretty sure the strategies work for girls as well. :))

Agree? Disagree? Want to try some of this stuff? Think it’s a load of manure? Have your own methods? Share, share, share!

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11 Comments

Filed under Life With Kids

11 responses to “Please, Just 5 More Hours

  1. Ha! Totally with you on the routines. Connor thrives on them, and it means no matter how tired and out of sorts he is, once the bedtime routine starts, he knows that bed is inevitable and there’s very little fuss. Routines are a parent’s best friend.

  2. Pingback: The 4:00am Wake-up Call | The Happy Logophile

  3. I definitely agree with routine, and that routines have to change a little as they get older. Luckily, when the twins were young, I didn’t have an older sibling to deal with while they napped! And bedtime is bedtime and naptime is naptime. (Unless you’re not home, like you said, once in a while). When they were really little they took naps in their swing or bouncer chair because the times were sporadic. Now, they take naps in their cribs. But they sure know when it’s nap or bed time now! They will sometimes even ask to go. 🙂

    • Sounds like you have a great system set up for them!

      An older sibling doesn’t double the exhaustion – I’m sure it increases it by a factor of 7. But then, twins would no doubt do the same. 🙂

  4. I have had the same routine with my kids since day one and I am happy to say that both of them have always been excellent sleepers (both sleep 12 hrs every night and go to sleep without any fuss). The only problem with our routine is my Son is such a stickler for it that he has a mental breakdown when something changes, even the small things (eg Daddy makes him go to the toilet BEFORE he brushes his teeth instead of AFTER…arghhhhh).

    • Yeah, they get really attached to their exact routine, don’t they? I don’t know what girls are like, but I know Big Brother is the same. He hates it if someone tries to rearrange his routine of an evening.

  5. I don’t have kids, but this was really informative! I may adapt some of your techniques to get myself to bed at a more reasonable hour. 🙂

  6. Your post brought back some very similar memories of baby sleeping and me NOT sleeping memories! I have six children (all grown up now) and when the youngest was a newborn the oldest was nine. It felt like I didn’t get any sleep for about five years straight. Each of them had their own way of getting to sleep long enough for me to get an hour or two here and there, but there were days when I wasn’t sure what year it was!

    Most often, the reason a baby wakes up at night is because they are hungry and while each seemed to have their level of tolerance for being hungry, once they were able to get full enough from feeding, they generally started sleeping longer. I definitely remember weeks when I thought I would go mad with desire for sleep, but after a while I started to figure out ways of timing my naps to coincide with theirs, or just be so tired that whenever they went off to dreamland I was right behind them.

    Thomas Edison, during his marathon research bouts in his relentless efforts to come up with a working light bulb, never slept for longer than two hours at a time, off and on around the clock. Even once my children started sleeping longer, the work schedule often required me to innovate ways of keeping them safe while I nodded off for a few hours. By the time my youngest came along I had become pretty good at juggling it all.

    Really enjoyed the trip down memory lane…..John H.

    • Thanks for your comment, John. I’d heard that about Edison, and I don’t know how he managed it. Of course, he probably didn’t have to listen to a baby whinging and crying when he was awake, so maybe that has something to do with it…

      With six children, I’m sure you were very practiced at ways of finding sleep in the middle of madness. Glad you enjoyed the reminder. 🙂

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