Our first child didn’t sleep. You know that, I’ve written about it more than enough times. We spent the first year of his life waking up every ninety minutes to feed him before spending the next thirty minutes bouncing incessantly in the dark. He’d wake at the drop of a hat, hated napping and barely touched his moses basket. In fact, I slept in the co-sleeper crib more than he did… the bed-stealing thief. We’d just gotten used to our sleep again when we decided to have another one. After all, how bad could it be?
This time I was determined to not make some of the same mistakes I made the first time around. I wanted to do everything possible to help encourage my second child to be a good sleeper. It seems to be working, from about six weeks she’s slept solid 6-8 hour chunks at night, wakes briefly to feed and goes back down. She naps like a dream. It’s such a different experience to the first time around that my mum was worried she was unusual. No mum, this is what some babies are like!
In the spirit of sharing (because who wouldn’t love a baby that sleeps well?!) here are some of the things that we didn’t do this time round in order to get our baby to love to sleep.
No Night Time Nappy Changes
With our son we’d change him at every feed, even if that little blue line on the nappy was barely visible. This time, unless she’s done a poo or is awake and screaming blue murder, the nappy stays put. I usually change her around 10pm as we go up to bed and that’s it until the morning. Some nights she’ll happily go down around 7pm for a first stint and barely wakes as we move upstairs, so again, if she’s not fully awake and seems pretty dry… the all-in-one stays on!
No Bright Lights
Along with no nappy changes at night, we don’t turn the light on either. We use a bedside crib (the Chicco Next 2 Me) and I feed her sat up in our bed. We use a small nightlight on the other side of the room which allows us to see enough to get her up and positioned without causing us all to have to wake fully each time. It makes night feeds a far less distressing and awakening experience!
Less Daytime Snuggles
Ohhh sleepy snuggles. There’s nothing quite like having a baby snooze on you is there? Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the baby chest nap when possible but with a toddler around, it’s meant there’s way less opportunities for me to hold her constantly and you know what? I think it’s helped. She’s learnt to sleep away from me, my warmth and the sound of my heartbeat meaning that when I put her down, she’s happy to stay sleeping there. As tempting as it was to plop her on my chest in the middle of the night for those first few nights, I’m so glad that we were a bit stricter at lying her back down.
Less Peaceful Naptimes
Remember how people always say ‘shhhh the baby’s sleeping’? Well it turns out that it’s actually more helpful to keep the noise level up as that way they’ll learn to sleep through most things. We’ve gone from tiptoeing around the house whilst our son slept (he wakes at the drop of a pin) to having a toddler crash around the lounge singing at the top of his voice whilst this one naps. Does it wake her? Sometimes, but it’s also what she’s used to and it seems to mean she sleeps more deeply.
No Bouncing To Sleep
If we’re desperate, we bounce but most of the time, I try to put her down to sleep ‘sleepy but awake’. It’s an elusive stage to find but I usually estimate it based on the time that she’s been awake. For example, I know if we’ve had a few hours of awake time and she starts to get a bit grizzly, that I can put her in the moses basket and she’ll slowly drop off to sleep by herself. We always put our son down fast asleep and as such, he never learned to settle himself and needed bouncing or rocking to go back down. Cue hours of misery for us in the middle of the night!
Don’t Rush To Pick Them Up
It sounds cruel and it shouldn’t be because clearly if she’s upset, then we’ll pick her up. But often with another child around it’s hard to go running to them in the same way you instinctively would with your first. As a result she’ll often stir during a nap, fuss and cry a small amount and then re-settle herself back to sleep. First baby me would have had her up in seconds at that mid-nap fuss. Now, I tend to listen for a moment or two, walk to somewhere that I can see her (without her being able to see me) and make a judgement on whether she’s likely to go back to sleep or not. The ability to learn to re-settle herself is currently paying dividends in the night when I hear her wake, move around and eventually hear her suck on her fingers and/or drift back to sleep.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up
The first time around, I double guessed myself at everything. I’d spend hours looking up reasons why the baby wouldn’t sleep. Was I feeding him too much or too little? Was I doing the wrong things? The reality is that every baby is different and there’s nothing you can do to change that. Sometimes, little tips and tricks will work to help stretch those tiny sleeping phases out, other times you may find yourself up at every hour. The best thing about parenthood is that just when you think you’ve got it under control, your baby will change once again and you’ll have to adapt all over. So that’s my final tip for you, if your baby won’t sleep don’t beat yourself up. Relish those extra cuddles, embrace the knee ache from permanently bouncing and book yourself in for a spa day in about a years time.