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Do you find it hard to recall your last full night’s sleep? Are you waking in the middle of the night to find a pair of feet digging into your back (and you know they’re too small to be your husband’s)? Do you have bags under your eyes the size of Texas?
Welcome to motherhood.
Despite the normal sleep deprived episodes amidst rearing four children, I maintained a relatively healthy sleep life.
Today I want to share with you my top 6 secrets on how I did it.
(Plus a bonus on how to tame those scary sleepwalkers!)
It’s a good thing babies are cute
That first year can be rough, and opinions run the gamut on the subject of sleeping.
The internet claims the title of “All-knowing-best-ways-to-teach-kids-sleep-while-making-sure-you-worry-about-their-mental-health”.
So many experts, so little time (to snooze).
You may not like what I’m about to say, and that’s ok if you don’t.
But my advice is if you haven’t tried it or stuck with it for longer than a week,
1. Let them call the shots
By the time mine were 5 months, they were all capable of sleeping through the night (not including the little bouts where they woke up and needed patted back to sleep).
I credit this partly to the fact that I followed their lead on the feeding schedule. If they were hungry, I fed them, usually every 2 hours when they were newborns. (Sometimes more, sometimes less.)
This made the night times eventually stretch to longer periods.
I was a laid back mom. I didn’t really buy into the schedule hype.
And it worked.
2. Let them choose their sleeping pose
I know. It was before we had “the rule”. Back then, “the rule” was to lay them on their bellies or sides, ensuring that they wouldn’t choke on their spit up.
My babies just felt safer on their bellies. You know – the Moro Reflex and all that.
My personal opinion is that babies don’t smother from lying on their bellies (especially if they can lift their heads already) – but you have to be comfortable with this one – otherwise don’t do it.
This is also what my daughter did after Tiny Tornado was around 2 months because she felt he slept better that way (he’s now two).
3. Let them cry it out
Let me clarify that I am only speaking of the baby who no longer requires nightly feedings.
I loved my babes, but I knew a hungry cry from a “hey, I’m over here, come pick me up, I’ve decided to be awake now and you should be too” cry.
Listen. Your child will not be scarred for life and have to go to a psychiatrist when he’s 26 because you let him cry in his bed.
It’s ok for babies to cry sometimes. Go in and pat her back every 10 minutes. Then stretch the time out to 12 minutes and then 14.
It takes about a week, but after that, you’re so excited because you can lay your child down and she goes to sleep.
(And then so can you!)
4. Maintain consistency
Once you’ve started this method, don’t waver.
It takes time to train your baby to go to sleep and stay asleep.
Be loving, but firm. You’ll only confuse him if you let him take back ground you’ve already covered.
And you’ll frustrate yourself in the process.I cannot emphasize this enough: you will be a better mom when you gift yourself with a good night's sleep. Click To Tweet
But only YOU can gift yourself.
5. Remain attuned to their needs
Sometimes I had to pick him up and cuddle (that’s allowed).
One night, just after a move out of state, I went in his room to console him and found him facing the wall, screaming his head off.
I had to laugh. It was the direction I usually came from in our former home, and he had lost his bearings.
Is it wrong to giggle when they’re crying so hard?
6. No bed visitors allowed
No, no, and triple no.
This is the reason I kept returning to my son’s room so many times.
It just wasn’t an option in my book.
Believe me, if you cave on this, you are just doing yourself a big fat disfavor.
I realize kids get sick and there are a few exceptions.
But very, very few!
Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile. I’m telling you, I had four – I should know.
Do you really want your son sleeping with you when he’s 12 years old?
Enter the sleepwalkers
The other was a hardcore full mooner.
She was like clockwork.
Busting in our room, eyes wide in the crazy-stare, she’d walk over to our bed and whine like a dog.
We’d make her go potty and herd her back to bed unless she was still riled up, in which case she laid with daddy for a short while until she realized she was asleep –
…because she finally woke up.
May as well not try to talk sense to the full mooners – they can’t understand you anyway.
Be patient with this strange breed
-cuddle them and be kind. (They don’t know what they’re doing.)
-make them go to the bathroom (more often than not that’s partly the problem).
-start noticing if it happens around the full moon (at least then you’ll know why).
-keep your sense of humor
Otherwise it’ll just drive you nuts. If you say funny things to them or they say weird stuff, be sure and write it down so you can write a blog post about it someday.
The night it all broke loose
3:00AM and our bedroom door bangs open. Kid with giant eyeballs flips the light on and stares at us in a trance-like state from the doorway.
Being jolted awake and not in my right mind, I turn and scream right in my husband’s face (to which he gives a short yelp).
I foggily notice his mollified and somewhat creeped out expression as I finish with another short scream, jump up, and scramble around the bed towards the kid and the light.
Big-eyes sees me coming and runs toward the bed and dad, who at this point is the only sane one in the room.
As soon as I get to the light, I switch it off.
Then, I switch it back on and ask, “Why is this light on?”
Husband guffaws, “Because you TURNED it on!”
“Oh.” I click off and return to the bed and my two dazed bedfellows.
A few minutes later, giggles erupt. I realize I just screamed right in Jim’s face, and he recounts the scenerio.
Big-eyes is lying in a daze trying to figure out if she’s awake or asleep.
Chuckles ripple across the bed, and then –
Eldest, who sleeps on the first floor underneath, bursts in the room. Feeling around in the dark, she asks groggily, “Did somebody call my name???”
It was the night we never forgot. But oh, honey – I could go on.
Someday I’m going to write a book called, “36 Full Moons of Big-Eyes”.
Three years, people. THREE. YEARS.
Bide your time
Fret not, dear mama. The day will come when your newborn will sleep through the night. Once you get through that time, begin the training. Give them a short rock, and then lie them down and be consistent. Stay attuned to their needs, but be firm and protective of yours as well. Be patient with the sleepwalkers (and keep the knives hidden).
Someday, they’ll grow up and leave home.
And that’s when you’ll really lose sleep!