Sleeping is one of my favorite things to do. Sleep is amazing. I could probably write this whole blog about how much I love to sleep and all the ways I look for opportunities to sleep, but I’m guessing that most moms feel that way so we don’t need to rehash that. What I do want to talk about is how we get it, especially moms with new babies. I have four kids so I have been through the infant-no-sleep-with-hormones-raging thing a few times. Those first few weeks/months are so hard. The new baby that needs so much from you is also taking away the sleep that makes it possible to do that for them. And that “sleep when the baby sleeps” thing only works for the first kid. After that, your other kids still want snacks, or you to watch them do weird stuff, or just to climb on you whenever you sit down. And you know as soon as they see you doze off they are dumping the "miscellaneous" drawer in the kitchen or deciding they can pour their own cereal for the first time. So I am going to tell you the best thing I ever did for my babies and myself: feeding routines and sleep training.
I recently sat down with a sweet friend of mine who is a first time mom. She’s a great mom with a sweet baby, but she’s tired and we all know how tiring and nerve-wracking those first few months are. I was reminded of how chaotic and crazy it felt with a new baby. My sister-in-law first introduced me to routines and sleep training. It really revolutionized how our family worked and made things so much easier, even though it was a lot of work. I know it seems like just feeding the baby whenever he or she cries and putting them down to sleep whenever they are tired SEEMS like it would be the easier thing. However, there is no order to that. Every day is different for you and your baby. Creating a wake up time for your day, sticking to a eat-play-sleep pattern, being mindful of the clock, and sticking to a feeding time routine are paramount to giving your life order. It is comforting and secure for both of you to be able to plan your day and feel like you have some control over it. You can plan a coffee with a friend or make a doctor appointment 3 days out and know that you won’t be needing to feed your baby during that time. You can also be sure that you and your baby are getting the deep sleep you need to have healthy bodies. Having a daytime routine has always made our nights better as well. When my kids eat well (meaning they get full bellies, not just intermittent snacking) and take good naps, they also sleep better at night and don't need to wake up to feed because they had enough calories during the day.
The sleeping thing is hard. I know. I am pretty sure that almost every parent I know has done the rock them to sleep, tip toe into the room, lay them down like they are a Faberge egg, and back out whispering prayers to the heavens that they stay asleep thing. We all know that feeling when you step on a creaky part of the floor or the dog starts barking or whatever, and you curse your very life. It's horrible. It's also not necessary. Babies can fall asleep on their own! Routine is super important for this too, so have a sleep routine of a song or a quick rocking, and then lay them down awake - before they are cranky! This is key! Most of us wait too long to lay them down and they are already resisting it. This is why having a schedule and a routine help so much;, you will know that they SHOULD be tired and can lay them down before they start yelling about it.
I use a lot of words like “usually” and “for the most part” and that is on purpose. That is also why we call it a routine and not a schedule. Schedules are rigid, routines give us order but allow for flex when we need it. If your kid is sick, or has a growth spurt, or your favorite aunt is in town, you can do what you need to do! But having a routine set will make it so much easier to come back and fall into when the specialness is over.
Now, I know a lot of people have strong feelings about putting babies on a “schedule” or letting them “cry it out” to sleep. I have my own favorite methods, but I’m not suggesting a method right now. I am just encouraging you to choose one. Giving your kids the gift of good sleep and taking care of their mom is a worthy endeavor. Creating order and security in your family’s days lays a solid foundation for all the other things that will inevitably surprise you. Research and find a method that fits your personality and family style and implement it with precision.
Get some sleep. You won’t regret it.