The Baby Sleep Saga Part 3: Tips, Tricks, and Trade Secrets
This is how my OCD brain got my kid to sleep through the night.
1) Bedtime Routine = Magic Sleepytime Maker
8:30 p.m. Commence bathtime
8:50 p.m. Dress baby in PJs. Start the bedtime feed.
9:15 pm ish Swaddle baby and tuck her into the swing. Turn off lights in her immediate vicinity and get out of her eyeline. Baby falls asleep within 10 minutes (if baby is crying or fussy in the swing for more than 5 minutes, she's still hungry, unswaddle and feed her some more then go right back in the swing)
10:30pmish (or whenever YOU want to go to bed) Dream feed baby in your bed for at least 15-20 minutes. Tuck baby into crib (if baby wakes up or cries, feed more!)
11pm- sweet sweet sleep for mommy and daddy
There were kinks along the way (figuring out the crying means still hungry thing, and every now and then she'll still do this *grumble grumble last night grumble*), but MOST nights the kid falls asleep within a minute of her head hitting the swing cushion and she stays asleep until between 7-8 am.
The dream feed... it's an art and it takes practice. This routine is SO ingrained in my kid that the moment I pull her out of the swing she starts turning her head over and trying to latch without waking up at all. My friend, Evelyn, doesn't have to do it with her kid, but Daphne loves it and it keeps her sleeping longer.
This little 2 hour window is the closest my kid ever comes to being predictable. Despite all our best efforts (and daycare's), she wants nothing to do with a day time schedule. Sometimes she will be a right turd for that last hour before 8:30. She's tired, because she didn't sleep at day care, or whatever reason. HOWEVER I have learned the hard way NOT to be tempted to push up bath time by any more than 15 minutes or that kid WILL wake up earlier the next day. Damnit, baby, everything else is on YOUR schedule, this is the one thing where you shall bow to MY will!
2) Tips, Tricks, and unpaid product endorsements
Quest for the Perfect White Noise- First, Sleep Sheep. I could have praised this guy as my Lord and Savior during the dark ages. A good friend gave it to us at a baby shower, and Ian remembered we had it the second night home. Daphne LOVES white ocean noise. Sleep sheep has one problem, though- it automatically shuts off after 45 minutes. Picture me at 2am, trying to dose while the kid is napping, Sleep sheep shuts off and I LAUNCH myself to turn it back on before Daphne notices and wakes up. Needless to say, I had to find a better way! I looked at noise machines and all that, then it occurred to me: I have an ipod and speakers, can't I just download some ocean tracks? So I did. I downloaded a whole album of natural ocean sounds and hooked some speakers up next to the crib. We all liked the ocean sounds but there would be these long pauses between tracks, and some tracks were a LOT louder than others. I went back to the itunes "drawing board," looking for a track that would loop seamlessly. I did some research and found some interesting things out about baby sleep patterns. Babies have 45 minute sleep cycles (they wake up pretty much every 45 minutes), so the key is to get them into a comfortable enough state that they can fall right back to sleep. I found a track that claimed to use binaural beats and cycles with white ocean noise to ease the transition between sleep cycles. It's called "ocean waves and binaural beats: 18 hz beta wave to 6hz theta wave 5 minute entrainment sweet and 6hz theta wave 1 hour loop" and it cost me $1.99. I set it up to loop on my ipod. I noticed a lot less intermittent noisemaking from Daphne throughout the night and, a happy side consequence, the hubby and I seemed to wake up fewer times as well. So that was $1.99 well-spent. We still use Sleep-sheep in the swing when Daphne first goes down or to help with the daytime naps.
Swaddles- I cannot emphasize enough how important this was to taming the beast that was my child. To this day she still loves her swaddle. Sometimes she wakes up before us and as long as she stays swaddled she will stay contentedly in her crib, mumbling to herself. The moment you open that swaddle, you better be ready to stick a boob in her face within a couple minutes, or you will face her wrath. We tried a lot of different swaddles, and in the end the SwaddleMe velcro was our favorite. It was the only one that, once we had her in there properly and snugly, she could NOT escape. So many times in our early days of working on a schedule with her, we'd get woken up in the middle of the night by Baby Houdini. Observe!
I can't even begin to guess how she pulled that off, but at 3 am I heard what, to me, was a sadistic chuckle but I'm sure was just a coo and THAT was what I saw.
Ah! Also note another handy dandy trick I picked up on a website- you can use a 4-sided changing pad for them to sleep on when they're younger to discourage them rolling around. We also used it on the floor, as a travel bed when we took her to St. Pete for a weekend to avoid dragging around the whole cosleeper.
Proper/optimal baby temperature- This took a lot of tweaking on our part. Daphne spent her first 3 weeks in diapers and short sleeved snap-tees (July in florida). At bed time, we would tuck her into the stretch cotton swaddles with no additional layers. She would wake up with chilly-ish feet/legs. So we started doing the green flannel blanket (above) and, when she didn't escape it, she slept a lot better and longer. So we returned to the velcro swaddles but started dressing Daphne it footed PJs before going into the swaddle. THAT has been working quite nicely for the past 2 months.
OCD MOM IS OCD- ok here's where I get a little crazy, but I promised I'd share everything I did to make this happen. This may or may not have contributed to getting a night time sleep on my terms. First, I read a lot of times that babies could get confused by daytime/nighttime and have their most wakeful hours in the middle of the night. I gave that a big F-U and decided to get my kid to keep even her daytime naps being a completely separate entity/idea from the nighttime sleep. Any daytime naps would NOT be in her crib (on me, on the couch, on her recliner seat, in her swing, just not her crib). I let natural daylight in the room all day and kept lighting to a minimum once the sun went down.
There you have it. My gift to other new parents, may it work for you as it did for me. Remember, it can take time, and different babies will want different things. In the end I'd say the two things that were the most important to getting this sleep thing under control were the cluster feeds at night and a consistent and predictable bedtime routine. I know this kid could change any day and this sleep thing could go out the window, but so far I am SO GLAD we spent the time establishing this with her at such a young age. Daphne got her first cold a couple of weeks ago. She was snorting and coughing and had a slight fever a couple of times. I was TERRIFIED that she would wake us up in the middle of the night, coughing and sniffling and miserable. Well, she DID wake us up coughing... but she stayed asleep! Which meant we got to go back to sleep!
Baby Sleep. Make it happen!