How We Got to Sleep

Sleep. It’s a BIG topic for new parents and everyone has unique situations. Some parents choose to “sleep train” and of those, some start early and some wait longer. There are parents who decide against sleep training but change their minds when the day comes they realize everything else they’ve tried just isn’t working.

Some parents believe in the ‘cry it out’ method and others don’t at all. Some use schedules and then there’s parents who solely follow baby’s cues. Some babies wake once a night and for those unfortunate parents, there are babies who wake every hour on the hour. Babies who sleep a lot at the beginning may ‘regress’ or, if you’re lucky, they might even continue sleeping through the night for years to come.

The point is, we all have different styles, different children, different ideas pre-baby vs. once we actually have a baby. If there’s one thing that can have an affect on every area of our lives, it’s sleep. We all need it, we all want it and if we’re not getting it, we’re trying to find solutions or acceptance of a middle ground that works for the whole family.

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When Zander was 5 weeks old…

     a mommy friend visited and during our lovely afternoon she asked about his sleep. I told her he was sleeping great, going to sleep for 9 hours (minus feedings) but that it’s usually 2:30am – 11:30am or some nights 4:30 was closer to when he really seemed to go down, but again, 9 hours since he’d then sleep until 1:30pm. I didn’t have to return to work so I guess in my naiveté I thought this was ‘just the way it was’.  Needless to say, this mom-friend gasped and said something like, “Oh, honey, noooo…”

She went on to share with me some ideas about circadian rhythms. This basically relates to your baby being able to figure out DAY and NIGHT. This is impossible as a newborn, and some think it is impossible until baby is a few months old. Here is my experience.

Starting the very next day I brought Zander for a walk in the stroller when we woke up around noon. This was the beginning of a great habit that I still love to do, getting outside every day in the fresh air and sunlight.

That evening, MUCH earlier than 2am, I dimmed the lights, turned on the Reiki music, lit a candle and gave Z a relaxing massage followed by a bath.

Guess what?

Yep.

He responded by falling into a deeper sleep earlier.

Just like that his whole schedule shifted.

I’m not sure this will work for everyone, I’m just saying, this is what I did, and this is what happened. Needless to say, it was the beginning of our ‘bedtime routine’ and our daily walks. I do still give Z baths almost every night but keep in mind if you try this, I only use a cleanser once a week. Some people like to wash more than that, around 3 times per week, but my opinion is that babies don’t need it. Especially if they are in the water every night.

Zander loves it and I love the routine we share. It increased our bonding exponentially. If you’re having trouble getting your baby to sleep at reasonable times, it may be the right time to start your own Day and Night Routine. While we all have different preferences, it’s beneficial to establish gentle sleep habits at any age. Good Luck! And please, let me know how it goes and what works!

Update 1/14/14:  The above worked until almost 4 months, at which point the dreaded ‘sleep regression’ kicked in. I don’t know if it was technically a regression, that’s what it’s often referred to at that age, but I do know everything changed.

The calming bedtime routine, which has been added to now that he’s a few months older, and the daily dose of sunshine still helps him to sleep as well as he does. He falls right to sleep for naps and nights and my only (big) issue is that he wakes to nurse a lot and I’m feeling really tapped out. Stay tuned for my next Sleep article on how to help a baby that wakes up every hour… I’m doing research now.

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Becca Starr
Becca Starr lives in Southern California with her husband Matt, their two babies, Zander and Athena, and their sweet yorkie, Lulu. She writes articles that support parents in parenting and relationships for IMC and other health, beauty and parenting websites. You can get in touch with her through IMC's contact page.