Baby sleep. It's the elusive enigma we mamas research, question, chase, and worry over (especially those of us new to the playing field!). Are we doing the right things? Are we harming our little ones? Are we scarring them emotionally? They're crying, and we're tired. SO tired. There's got to be an easier solution rather than all this getting up at night. There is, and we're here to help. Chances are, if you've come to this post, you're making a mistake or two. But these mistakes are one hundred percent fixable. Read on for some sleep (and therefore sweet) relief.
Rocking or Nursing Baby to Sleep
We KNOW. Your baby is so teeny and small and utterly adorable. It is so lovely and tempting to rock that sweet little bundle to blissful slumber every single time she needs to sleep, but, sweet mama, it's important for that bundle to learn to fall asleep on her own. Absolutely rock her, but do so as part of a larger routine, not as your singular method of getting her to sleep. The same goes for nursing. Baby needs to fall asleep independently of you so that she can get herself back to sleep when she wakes in the night. If she's used to rocking or nursing to get herself to sleep, she will need just that, over and over again. Make rocking or nursing what you do before you lay her in bed, drowsy but still awake. Then you get a double win: cuddle time plus longer stretches of sleep. Sidenote: you'll want to avoid letting baby sleep too often in the car, a stroller, or in any other kind of motion. If that's what she gets used to, that's what she'll need time and again to sleep.
Picking Up Baby as soon as He Cries
Here we need to find middle ground. No, we're not advocating an all-out, cry-it-out marathon in the wee hours of the morning. But we're also not going to rush to baby's cribside with every squeak and rustle. Again, if you are practicing the latter, you'll train baby to need you every time he moves, and what we're going for here is independence. So, when your little one wakes in the night, give him a few moments to settle himself back, maybe with finding his thumb or a finger to suck on. It's quite possible this will do the trick and he will go right back to sleep, which means so can you.
Letting Baby Sleep in Your Bed
We've all done it, brought the baby in bed with us out of sheer desperation in the middle of the night. But doing so can confuse a little one, and it's important to establish where baby sleeps. Being walked into her room with only dim lights on and being laid down in her crib are both cues for your sweet one to nod off. Having multiple locations for sleep won't carry those same cues, lessening your chances of a good, solid night's sleep. So stick to just one place for baby to sleep, and make sure she gets there with every nap and bedtime.
No Bedtime Routine
This is perhaps the most important of all. Establishing a consistent, simple bedtime routine will do wonders for your baby's sleep. And it doesn't have to take all night. In the early-ish evening (think between 6 and 8pm), tune in to how your baby is acting, looking for sleep cues (more in the next tip). Then begin a simple series of routines, say a nightly bath and then jammies, followed by a little rocking or nursing, maybe a story or a lullaby. Tweak it to your desires, baby's enjoyment, and your timeframe. What's important here is to relax baby and help him to settle in before he goes to sleep. Then when he is drowsy, lay him in his crib with a final snuggle and leave the room, letting him put himself to sleep peacefully.
Ignoring Baby's Cues
We know what it looks like when we get tired (yawning, slower movements, dulled interest), but do we know what it looks like when baby is getting sleepy? It's important for baby's sleep that you recognize and respond to all her ways of communicating to you that she is in fact ready to call it a night. Keep your mama intuition tuned in for yawning, fussiness, a furrowed brow, rubbing eyes, wanting to be held, or loss of interest in what baby ordinarily finds engaging. Then begin your bedtime routine. This reading her cues early on will ensure she doesn't get overtired, which makes good sleep that much harder for her to achieve.
If sleeping through the night isn't your baby's MO just yet, take into account what you can do to right any sleep mistakes you inadvertently have been making. Soon (we promise!), you'll be living the phrase “sleeping like a baby” without cringing.