When people talk about how their “such and such” month old baby sleeps through the night I used to get a little hot and bothered. The ears of the little, green, monster would pop up on my shoulder and I would clench my teeth while silently thinking “Eff you and your baby who sleeps.” I happen to have an almost 2 year old who still doesn’t sleep through the night on a regular basis. I remember a friend texting me when my babe was about 9 months old and hers was a few months old asking me “When did you letbaby sleep through the night?” I almost lost it. How could she ask me a question like that? Did she not see my FB posts at two in the morning because I was up yet again? Did she not remember that I had complained repeatedly about my baby who rarely napped for longer than 30 minutes and didn’t sleep long stretches at night either? I typed back a very long and mean text back and then deleted it because the rational me kicked in and said, you should never say anything in anger, if you can help it (especially not in writing).
After finding a good mommy support group of other mothers and having the discussion on sleeping or non-sleeping babies I soon discovered I was not alone. I discovered that there are many other mothers out there who are going through exactly what I was. I could finally breathe a sigh of relief, my non-sleeping baby was normal, AND there are other mothers out there who could relate and sympathize with me. (My family doctor also admitted to me that her own son was a non-sleeper during one of my appointments.) Just the gain of this knowledge lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. When you reach out and connect with other people and find out you are not alone your spirit lifts, you gain a little more confidence and you realize you can tackle your problems in a whole new light. (I highly suggest all first time Mom’s find a support group, either one that meets in person or online, and use them!)
Now, with non-sleeping babies comes a slew of advice from other parents on how to get your baby to sleep through the night and the big ones that comes up is “Let the baby cry it out”. I don’t know about you, but I’m not a huge fan of loud noises and my initial instincts when I’m subjected to loud noises is to make them stop. For me the baby crying feel into this category. It went against my every instinct to let my baby cry while I did nothing. It felt so incredibly wrong. Then I read this article http://sarahockwell-smith.com/2014/06/30/self-settling-what-really-happens-when-you-teach-a-baby-to-self-soothe-to-sleep/by SarahOckwell-Smith and I was glad I went with my instincts.
I just couldn’t do cry it out, so I struggled and learned and struggled and learned some more. For me the biggest challenge was getting the babe to go to sleep. (Although he would wake several times during the night, a quick change of diaper with some patting or cuddling or a bottle with some paddling or cuddling would usually do the trick. On the rare occasion a mid-night episode lasted longer than a few minutes I figured out fairly quickly it was usually related to illness and I would just suck it up and be up with him.) Back to putting the babe to bed… I tried a routine. Bath, then books, nursing or bottle and bed. He would seem like he was falling asleep while sucking away at the bottle, then BAM, bottle done, AWAKE. I tried patting him. I tried rocking him. I tried walking and singing and bouncing. I tried combinations of all the above…Sometimes one of these methods would work (after I tried and tried for 30-60 minutes). Sometimes my methods would fail and I would give up and let him play for a while longer until he tired himself out a little more. Somewhere along the way I got the idea to just try to tire him out before bedtime with physical play. I let him play outside every day I can weather permitting. This seemed to help. I also tried signing with him when he was a little older giving him a warning before bed time. I would sign and tell him “after we read these books it will be time for a bottle and to go to bed.” This seemed to help too. I figured out he was easily stimulated so it was best to stick to routine and also to limit things like the TV being on. (Note I say the TV being on. It doesn’t seem to matter if he is actually watching the TV. Just it being on seems to rev him up a little, so no TV exposure before bed for him seemed to work better.) Sometimes using a drop of lavender behind his ears (we do this when treating ear infections) seemed to help him sleep better so I started incorporating a little lavender into our routine. All of the things combined really helped me. I started to relax and enjoy putting him to bed instead of dreading it. I realized that being able to cuddle my baby to sleep would only last a short time and I was bound and determined that I was going to enjoy it and not be counting my minutes until freedom. My change in attitude seemed to help too. So if you struggle at all with putting your baby to bed, know this: You are not alone and it will get better!
Peace and Blessings and Good Night!