As a new mom, there is one question I get above all others, “does she sleep through the night yet?” It seems that everyone is obsessed with babies sleep routines. Belinda and I have had lots of discussions with each other and other moms about our babies sleep routines. Deyton and Hank are very different sleepers. Hank loves his routine. In typical type A fashion, Belinda did a lot of research about infant sleep schedules and routines. She designed a sleeping routine that would surely earn Sir Henry the title of napping king, she implemeted it flawlessly and it worked like a charm. (It didn’t come easy at first though, don’t worry! This was after much trial and error! See #2 in this blog post.) Henry loves his sleeping routine and he is an amazing sleeper.
Then there is our family. We suck at routines. We have gotten better since having a baby but we thank our lucky stars every day that Deyton is pretty flexible. When trying to develop a night time routine we made a very deliberate effort to create a routine that could be replicated any where at any time because we wanted to ensure our busy lives didn’t cause her to lose too much sleep. Luckily Deyton loves to cuddle, which we can do anywhere. She would be perfectly happy and the best sleeper in the world if I would just rock her to sleep every night. While I love to rock her to sleep I was warned by a friend of mine with three kids that rocking a 18 month old is not nearly as easy as rocking a newborn and so we made it our goal to build a routine that helps her self soothe.
Because we each have developed effective, yet different sleep routines we thought we would share them. Mostly we wanted to showcase that there is no right or wrong, but rather what works for your family and baby. Hopefully there are some tricks in here you find helpful! We have also included links to a few items that have become extremely valuable tools in our qwest for the full, uninterrupted night of deep, dreamy sleep.
- When considering Henry’s nighttime routine I knew I needed to choose relaxing activities than I could consistently maintain, including times when we travel or are kept out late for family dinners and such. I wanted to choose multiple powerful nighttime signals so that if not all portions of the routine were possible every time, there would still be other signals telling Henry its sleep time. We took the general bath, bed, book routine and made a couple of tweaks. First, Henry learned to sleep in his crib in his own room at 4 months old. Location is still a big sign for him. He now prefers to sleep solo and horizontal. This leaves me mourning the days when I held him to sleep on lazy Sunday naps but most nights I am thankful to not have to rock a 17 pound baby to sleep. The idea behind doing the routine prior to putting him in his crib is that if he needs to sleep elsewhere like a pack and play when we travel, the routine tells him its bedtime despite the new and potentially distracting location. I also wanted a routine easily replicated by care givers if necessary.
- So, around 6:30, after nursing and some cuddles when I get home from work we start our routine with bath time. Hank loves to kick his legs, suck on his washcloth and listen to me sing Baby Beluga (not done every night, but he will sleep better and longer after a warm bath). I like the Aveno calming lavender bath wash.
- Massage with Burt’s Bees Lavender Calming Lotion. Here is a good baby massage guide.
- Put on his baby pajamas with zippers. I prefer zippered pajamas for easy diaper changes in the middle of the night.
- Put on his sleeper. When he was a newborn we used swaddles. HALO sleep sacks were our favorite because the design is simple and the velcro makes it quick and wiggle proof. At about four months we transitioned to the zipadee zip. Now that he is able to roll we have transitioned to no sleep aid, just a fleece sleep sack blanket.
- Sing “Now I lay me down to sleep” and lay him in his crib with a nuk pacifier, fuzzy blanket and a small fan for white noise. The fan doesn’t help him get to sleep, but it does keep him from waking as easily due to noise as we continue our evening downstairs. Henry also sleeps on a lamby lambskin, and he usually turns from his back to his side and rubs his face on lamby to soothe to sleep. There is nothing in his crib besides a sheet and lamby.
- He will touch and pull the blanket, bring it over his face, turn onto his side and go to sleep within a few minutes. If he cries it is usually because he has lost his pacifier so we quickly and silently slip in, put the pacifier back in his mouth and slip out again.
- Since I typically don’t get home until 6:30PM and Deyton’s bedtime is around 7:30PM I usually come home to a cranky, hungry baby. So the first part of our sleep routine is a feeding. Because I am still breastfeeding this is the first step in our cuddle routine.
- Next we get ready for bed. When she was a newborn I put her to sleep in a fuzzy fleece sleeper and her swaddle. However, it did take her time to learn to love her swaddle. I learned from experienced moms that they will get used to it and will be a lifesaver if you can get past the initial fight. The number one reason she fought the swaddle was because she liked to have her hands up near her face. When she was less than a month old I would swaddle her with her hands up next to her face and she was content. As she got older, I started swaddling her arms down because she would struggle to get her hands free. After a little fight she would calm down, relax and go to sleep. At three months she started rolling and we quit the swaddle cold turkey. Now that she has some baby fat on her she is happiest in just a diaper.
- Next I give her a pacifier, cradle her in my arms facing towards my chest (fake nursing position) and rock her 50 times. This is her first cue that it is time to wind down. 50 times is our golden number because its enough to calm her but not enough to put her to sleep (unless she is really tired). I have chosen to rock rather than bathe because I can rock her anywhere.
- I lay her in her crib (she still sleeps in our room). Her crib materials are my secret weapon. Deyton, like most babies, is very tactile and I am a rebel. I have decided to ignore the warnings and Deyton sleeps every night on a lamby sheep skin and her lamby pillow. My comfort item, like almost all 30+ cousins on my moms side, was my lamby made for me by my Poppi and every single one of us has survived to tell the tale. However, because the SIDS prevention instructions have been beaten into me I splurged and purchased the Levana Baby Movement Monitor for peace of mind. This was one of the best purchases I have made. It allows me to get a worry free night of sleep. I highly recommend it. While she loves her lamby and pillow, she is happy with just about any fuzzy item. So, if I need her to sleep somewhere new or even in her car seat all I have to do is give her a fuzzy blanket to cuddle with.
- Then I turn off the lights and turn on her Lullaby Gloworm and lady bug night light. The Gloworm sings to her a short song which is her cue that it is now time to go to sleep and gives her something to cuddle. The night light gives her something to look at if she isn’t quite tired enough to close her eyes. Note: this is her routine most nights however, we also practice sleeping in different places around the house. For example sometimes I put her to sleep in her crib in her own room. Sometimes I hold her and make her fall asleep in my arms (on those nights I am especially needy) and sometimes I lay her on our bed to fall asleep. I switch it up at least once a week so that she doesn’t get too used to her crib and sleep aids. It also helps us practice transferring because when I am ready to go to bed we transfer her to her crib in our room.
- Finally, I cover her with her blanket, give her a kiss goodnight and leave the room. Deyton is blessed with a few very talented people who love her who gave her beautiful crocheted and knitted blankets and these are her favorites. She loves to stick her fingers through the holes and pull them up over her head and rub her face until she goes to sleep. After she is alseep I go back into the room and pull the blanket down off of her face.
It should be noted that despite all our research, trials and best efforts neither of our babies sleep through the night. This is very normal for breastfed babies who still need to eat at night. Henry and Deyton generally wake twice a night because they are hungry. Because they’ve become skilled self soothers, they just barely wake up, eat a quick meal and then go right back to sleep. It has become such a routine now that we both go through our night time feedings in a only half awake state. And now that they’re older and better at breastfeeding (newborn feedings were miserably long) we often look forward to extra midnight cuddles. We would love to hear your routines! We are always looking for new tips and tricks! Please share any tricks you have in the comments below!