Babies sleep many hours in a 24-hour cycle and yet somehow those sleeping hours are not during the night. Parents go through many sleepless nights. Hopefully after reading this post, your ‘many’ sleepless nights may reduce to a ‘few’.
A quick preface:
We have 2 children (who are as different as chalk and cheese) who were both sleeping in their own room by the time they turned a year old.
And both our children’s bedtime is no later than 8pm.
It was a conscious decision on our part for many reasons –
- We are a nuclear family with no help/support .
- Hubby and self (once I rejoined work) needed our bed – kid free and we needed continuous sleep; to get to work with a sane and relaxed mind • And we wanted time for ourselves to enjoy our own individual and couple passions.
- The only time that worked for us was at night, IF the children slept early .
With that we embarked on setting a pattern. We read and shared countless books and articles on how to achieve this, tried all possible tactics (deployed different parenting strategies for our chalk and cheese babies), stuck with a few that worked, and finally came out successful in the end.
Lucky You! I cannot put a number to the amount of times we have heard this with regard to our kids being fast asleep by 8pm. Sure, the God’s did favour us with our first born. Peanut was a dream child who very quickly adapted to all our tricks and was soon a full night sleeping baby. But the birth of Buttercup really pushed our buttons, especially considering we were not used to so many sleepless nights. But we persisted (admittedly with her it was a real uphill battle and she was a tough nut to crack) and soon she too had joined her big brother in the nighttime sleeping routine. So really its no luck but a hell lot of work (depending on the child the work can be arduous or easy but there is WORK) that goes into setting a sleep routine.
Here’s what we did and came out successful (a big high five Hubby) .
- Relive your all-night party days: Jokes apart, keep your sleep expectations low. For the first couple of months just assume you are a zombie and play the part, unless you get lucky ;). This doesn’t mean that you have a pajama party with your little one. DO NOT encourage play/ talk. Keep it business like, baby cries – you wake up, feed / change diaper and pat baby back to sleep. That cute button will coo and your heart will melt, give a hug but do not open your eyes and engage with that cuddle ball. Nighttime has to be established as SUPER BORING. Don’t get disheartened if the baby is all up every night in spite of all your efforts. Your efforts will pay off. Suddenly one fine day, just like that, they will stop playing and get back to sleep. But if you waver from this even ONCE, the whole cycle will begin again. So absolutely no exceptions to make it one fun night with your baby.
- Stick to the bare necessities and keep the light as dim as you can. I had a zero watt bulb initially but quickly got used to the little light streaming from outside. Hubby still cannot understand how I could feed and change diapers in the dark, let alone see in the dark. Dancing away the night in dim lit conditions during my hey days may have helped. ☺
- Morning madness: Draw open that curtain and let that gorgeous sun shine through in the morning. You would have barely slept and your baby would have only slept an hour ago. But pull those curtains. Open your room door. Let the house cleaning begin, switch on the machines. Talk with your husband even if all you can do is mutter a few words. Do not tip toe around the baby in the daytime hours. In all probability you would have a wailing baby. Soothe the little one but do not hush the regular sounds of your home. Whether Buttercup liked it or not she has been born into a Punjabi family and our regular tone is loud, add to that her toddler brother’s mischiefs ensured that mornings were exciting and worth not missing. So apart from the baby naps, she was up and about trying to be a part of the hustle-bustle.
- 6 month cut off: Buttercup had got into a routine of feeding every half an hour from 6pm onwards till about 10pm, till she finally got tired (I assume) and slept for a while longer. It was exhausting and those 4 prime hours I could do nothing but feed her. When Buttercup was around 4-5 months old, her paediatrician helped us introduce a soft porridge to her. She had this one solid meal in the evening (click here for the recipe), then I fed her milk around 10ish at night and next meal was early morning say 4:30/5. I couldn’t believe it that I was baby free from 6-10!! It’s important to start this when the baby is around 4-5 months. Only then by the time the baby turns 6 months are they off for the night. Also the later you start the longer it takes. Its surprising how quickly babies form personalities and stubborn ones at that!!!
- THOSE couple of days: When we started this routine (around the 4th-5th month), it was far from easy. She was still sleeping with us and mama’s smell was enough to arouse the desire for a quick swig of the good stuff. But we knew (and were assured by the Paediatrician that her tummy was full) so even if she woke up, hubby patted her down (since she had not woken up for the pats, there was quite a bit of resistance and crying also). My dad had taught us a neat trick. Offer water in a spoon when they woke up at night and it took only a couple of days till Buttercup realized she’s ONLY getting plain water and not the good stuff. So why bother waking up! And soon she had stopped her nighttime waking up. Those couple of days can stretch to a week or more, but stand your ground and you will be rewarded with your beauty sleep sooner than you can imagine.
- Hubby stand guard: This is crucial if the baby is breastfed and is used to her mother’s smell. Around this time, after Buttercup’s last feed for the night, she would sleep on Hubby’s side and patting down, water trick was all done by hubby. Who am I to come between the father – daughter bond? ☺ Hubby may not have felt those sentiments at that time but this nighttime activity was super helpful once I got back to work. Buttercup was equally dependent on hubby and me and so it didn’t all fall on me to look after her.
- Moving out, to her room: Once Buttercup was off my feed during the night, (around 6-7 months); we got her to sleep with her brother in the children’s room. Peanut had been in the crib next to my bedside till he was a year old and then was moved into his own bed in his own room. His transition was quite a happy one for parents and child alike. (Remember: dream child). Then Buttercup joined him when she turned 6 months.
We had done it. 🙂
2 kiddos down and we had a kid-free bed as per our plan. 🙂
What we didn’t realize is that the WORK had only just begun. Buttercup was only just starting to enter into her element and she had quite a few surprises up her sleeves for her smart parents.
Setbacks aside we persisted to ensure that sooner than later the kids had an 8pm sleep time (at the very latest). More on that in Part 2: Establishing a sleep and bedtime routine.