What my babies taught me about good sleep
When I think back, it still surprises me how different each of my babies were when it came to sleep – and how much flexibility I exercised to get them to catch their Zzzzz’s - Read: I would do whatever worked, for however long it took.
Baby 1, Baby 2
With my eldest, I remember playing a baby lullaby CD at night in his dimly lit room and rocking him while standing, doing squats and different versions of the sidestep until he finally fell asleep - and hopefully stayed that way. With my second, nights were surprisingly easy. I hummed “Edelweiss” from the Sound of Music as I lay her down in her crib and off to dreamland she went. Daytime naps with her were a different story though – my arms got really toned because getting her to nap required gently jiggling her car seat for several minutes, or rocking it with my foot.
And Then Baby 3
Then my third baby came: maybe it was the stress and chaos of juggling three kids under 4 years, but I didn’t have very much patience getting him to sleep and things got desperate really fast. In short, he was not napping during the day or sleeping well at night despite trying what had “worked” with my first two kids. When he was just shy of 5 months, we hired a sleep trainer specializing in babies.
I was a bit skeptical at first but willing to try (and pay for) anything that would work. I was concerned because we were going out of town two weeks after the 10-day sleep training period to spend Christmas with family, and I was afraid he would regress when he was in a different environment. When I mentioned this to the sleep consultant she said, “Perfect, he will be sleeping through the night and doing his naps perfectly by then and you will be able to enjoy Christmas with your family.”
Hmmmm…sounded too good to be true but there was a money back guarantee so we decided to give it a try.
Success in the program required us clearing our schedules for the next 10 days, having a ton of willpower to not pick him up at every cry or whimper, living by the clock, and investing in a couple of things, namely, blackout curtains, a lovey, and a white noise machine (we used a fan). Naps (twice a day) and bedtime had to happen at the same time every day without much wiggle room. And the routine was simple but always the same – bath (at night), drink, book, song, kiss, good night, leave the room. The trick was to lay him down in his crib “sleepy” but still awake - this way he would learn to fall asleep by himself. I tracked everything and communicated with the sleep trainer over emails or phone calls.
I was astonished that by Day 5 he was sleeping so much better – and I had my sanity back. I literally felt like a different person. What had seemed like an insurmountable, unending challenge finally came to a glorious end…I could not stop talking about what a life-changing experience it was.
Sleep Hygiene Lessons
Hiring a sleep consultant for my third baby definitely taught me a thing or two about sleeping better myself. First, discipline is key. Sleeping at the same time every night? Life is not always so kind, or predictable. Yet, as I get older, I more or less stick to the same time for lights out, even on weekends. Sometimes I’m just too exhausted to do anything but sleep, and other times I know that watching a third episode of that Netflix drama will just kill me the next day. So it often comes down to choice- and I choose to be kind to myself (and to those around me!)
Second, a clearly established routine helps me sleep better. I’m not one to pass out in front of the TV and stay there if I’m too tired to get up. I need to sleep in my bed. I can’t skip on changing into PJ’s or washing my face, either. It’s like somehow my body retaliates with broken, fitful sleep if I don’t do the exact same things every night. Which kinda makes sense in my opinion-our bodies and minds crave routine, and when we follow those routines, it’s comforting, and when we’re comfortable, we’re more prone to relax-and sleep better. Ask my family-I get a little hyper if I can’t find my eye mask, am missing a pillow (I need to sleep with 3) or don’t have my version of a white noise machine- a humidifier or bathroom fan on to drown out extra noise. When I have trouble falling asleep because my mind is jumping from one thought to the next, I’ve learned a breathing exercise that is really helpful-I take one big breath in for three seconds and exhale in one breath for four seconds, then repeat. I never have to do this for very long-within a minute or two, I’m out!
While my sleep is far from perfect and I’m sure I could probably be sleeping more, I’m glad I was able to find a few routines and tips that work for me, picking up a thing or two from my kids. Oh, and my third baby? He is now 5 and the easiest sleeper of the bunch….I don’t doubt that his sleep trainer from years before has something to do with it!
Would love to hear what sleep experiences you’ve had with your kids, and ways you yourself find sleep balance today. Share below!