We don’t realize how treasured those zzz’s are until we’ve kissed our beauty sleep goodbye and fully embraced operating as a zombie from the Walking Dead. It’s a struggle that you hear a lot about from other parents when you become a new parent, but you can’t help but think, “How bad could it really be???” I’m happy to report that there ARE ways to avoid making bad habits and setting yourself up for success early on!
Realistically, odd sleeping patterns are part and parcel of having a newborn. Sorry, no way to avoid that! Harsh reality check. Some newborns sleep the entire day away and some get into fitful patterns of sleep right from the start. What has always worked for us is setting a good routine as early as possible. With some wiggle room for flexibility ofcourse! Children thrive on routine. The predictability feels safe to them when they know what to expect at every part of the day. That doesn’t mean we adhere to a schedule to the point of having it rule our lives! It means there’s a loose structure to waking up, meal times, napping and bed time. That schedule may look totally different at each developmental stage and that’s okay! Your baby is growing and changing and so must you.
When we first brought Norah home from the hospital she lived in our bedroom, but our environment had been created for adult sleeping and needed to be adapted to accommodate newborn sleeping. The first order of business is where is this baby going to sleep??? This can be trial and error to discover what works for YOUR baby. That fancy bassinet with all the bells and whistles might wind up being better used for holding laundry if little one decides it ain’t their cup of tea. After trying a few sleepers we settled on the Dream Glider and Norah slept so peacefully in there. The snug sleeping environment gave her just the right amount of support to mimic the warmth and comfort of the womb, but not so snug that we were worried about any sleeping hazards. Bassinet...check!
Have you ever tip toed out of sleeping baby’s room? Because every time you do your feet suddenly sound like a bison stampede and every creaking floor board sounds like your home is ripping in two. The startle reflex in newborns is strong. Did you hear me? I’ll say it again. STARTLE REFLEX! Embrace it and learn to mitigate it because you can’t escape it. I’m actually a rapper. Did you hear those sick rhymes? Okay, moving on. If you haven’t heard of a white noise machine it’s time to invest in one. They do a wonderful job of drowning out background noise that might wake your sleeping angel while also imitating some of the sounds they hear in utero. This means better sleep for baby and an easier escape route for you! I’m also an advocate for having a portable white noise machine for those naps on the go. This will help baby settle for a nap in the car seat or stroller because you’re able to imitate some of those sleeping cues from their natural sleeping environment. Get it? Got it? Good!
We encountered a period of time where Norah's startle reflex was really preventing her from getting good sleep. As she got older she was not a fan of being swaddled, preferring to sleep with her arms up above her head. This left us scratching our heads trying to figure out how to help her stop from waking herself up after every sleep cycle. After an epic wormhole of research I discovered a swaddle blanket that supported the arms up sleeping position and it was a game changer for us! Norah slept in her Love to Dream swaddles until the weather warmed up and she no longer needed a blanket to stay warm for sleeping. These were able to grow with her through her milestones of learning to roll over and crawling because of the removable arms. Some babies love to be swaddled and that makes life easy, others will fight that feeling of being restrained and we have to get creative to meet their needs!
Making the transition from bassinet or co-sleeping to crib can feel like a huge hurdle. You've finally settled into a routine and bam it’s time for a big change. Or hearing your babies cooing noises may be keeping you up all night and it’s time to serve an eviction notice. I found that a crib nest was a fabulous tool you aid in making these transitions just a tiny bit smoother. A crib nest or lounger is a portable infant bed. It can be used in bed with mom and dad, so everyone has their own safe sleeping environment, it can be used in the bassinet, around the house for naps, and even in the crib! What I found helpful was that this nest was what Norah assimilated with sleeping in, so regardless of where it was located At any given moment it made her feel like she was in her own little bed and that’s where she should sleep. This made transitioning from our bedroom to the nursery a breeze because we simply moved her crib nest into her crib and she slept in it without skipping a beat from the very first night at 3 months old. That’s not to say that transitions are always that smooth because what is motherhood sans a few curveballs? But it is another tool in the toolbox and that’s what we need! Things that make parenting at 3am a little easier.
The final bit of wisdom that I could share regarding sleep is this: routine, routine, routine. From as early on as you can establish that bedtime routine. It’s the last hour of the day before bed when everything we do signals that it is time to wind down. We take a bath and use scented body wash to help her relax. We put on our jammies and get a nice little baby massage. We play quietly in the nursery or read a book. Then it’s time to say “night-night” to everyone in the family and off to bed we go. These are all signals to Norah that bedtime is coming soon. The routine helps her to know what is coming next in her day. She associates the smell of the lotion with bedtime and many times will start yawning and rubbing her eyes as soon as she smells it. This routine will lay the foundation for her sleeping patterns through infancy and into toddlerhood and the dreaded threenager. Even our older daughters have their own bedtime routines that are adapted to their age and development. It’s an excellent pattern to instill in these youngins and helps them understand the importance of resting the mind and body.