So. We’re a little more than half way through A’s first year. It has been a wild ride thus far. One saucy little minx who has mystified us in these past few months is sleep.
Everyone’s favorite thing to say when you’re pregnant is “enjoy your sleep while you can!” This is like the punchline to a mean joke for a pregnant gal, because everyone knows that pregnancy and sleep are not synonymous once you’re out of the first trimester (or if you’re lucky, you can sleep until the 3rd trimester and then things get a little crazy).
Then your sweet baby comes and everyone’s favorite question turns into “How’s *insert-baby-name-here* sleeping?” And you stare at them. And you secretly want to punch them at that very moment, though hopefully only for a second.
Because, really, my baby is a day/week/month old, how do you think she’s sleeping? (Yes, I recognize that I can get snarky, especially when my hormones are raging, I’m working on it- I also recognize now that the hormonal haze has lifted that I too, am guilty of asking this question. This may or may not make me a hypocrite).
Of course there are also the people who say “well, my baby slept through the night from the very beginning” as if this is a perfectly normal thing. Cue the reaction from the above paragraph, specifically the punching part x 1,000,000,000. (On a side note, A has been cooking us 4 course, gourmet meals since she returned home from the hospital. She makes a mean Duck Confit. I’m told this is just as normal as those babies who “sleep through the night from the beginning”).
So I’d like to talk about our experience with infants and sleep so far. This is just that, it’s our experience. Every kid is their own unique specimen. I appreciate that fact that our experience may not be that of other families, and what works for us is not necessarily for everyone.
From the time that I was pregnant, I knew that we wanted to get A into her crib as early as possible. I appreciate that attachment parenting is a really great option for some families. It is not for ours. Different strokes, no judgement either way. A is happy and thriving, which is all that matters to me.
On the first night I had a small hormonal break down and made a game day decision to keep her in our room in the pack and play instead of the aforementioned crib. A absolutely hated the pack and play (she has gotten better now that she’s older, but it’s still not her favorite place to sleep- though she doesn’t seem to mind hanging out in there after a nap at Grammy’s and throwing her binks in the air for entertainment).
We had a terrible, sleepless night and made an emergency baby store run the very next day to pick up a rock and play as per the recommendation of everyone and their brother (this is me eating crow for all of the time I spent being cocky and ignoring this good advice prior to actually being in a parenting situation involving a baby that has actually been born).
The rock and play was a Godsend for us and allowed us to get a couple hours of precious sleep between feedings which is way more than that first night home. It wasn’t great, but we began to figure things out.
J and I worked as a team, he would pick up A and change her, I would feed her and then we would bounce/rock her to get her back down. We called this arm day because we would be lifting her in an up and down motion in front of us- she loved it and we hated it, but worked in the beginning and the first month is about survival, after all.
The worst was when she would wake as we were putting her into the rock and play and then arm day would start all over again.
At around 3 weeks, we transitioned A into her crib, which was a relief to all of us. I really believe each of us slept better with her in the nursery. We were getting 3-4 hour stretches at this point, which wasn’t horrible.
It continued this way for a while and we began Zantac for A’s reflux, which really didn’t help or hinder A’s sleep. It had more of an effect on her overall temperament, which vastly improved with the addition of the Zantac.
Through the first few months we never had a set schedule and still really don’t. I quickly noticed a pattern and we transitioned naturally into a routine of eat/play/sleep based on A’s cues. I began to be able to more accurately read her signals and was able to meet A’s needs in a more timely manner because I knew what was coming next.
As a result, A cried a lot less and was taking more quality naps, though they were still spotty and in various locations. She actually ate more frequently for a longer amount of time, I think due to the reflux meds as well.
One thing that helped me figure out A’s patterns was that I noted in my phone whenever A ate and napped from the beginning until I returned to work. I’m actually using those notes now, as I’m writing this to jog my memory.
About a month in, J and I began to implement a bed time routine that was the same each night- bath, change into a fresh diaper and jammies, feed and bed. Eventually, we would like to add a story into the mix but thus far, she’s only interested in us reading to her when she’s awake and active.
It took us a bit of time to pin down a bed time that worked for us but eventually A naturally fell into a bed time of 7pm consistently (I only recently found out that many new parent’s don’t actually put down their newborn for “bed” until 9 or 10pm- part of me wonders if she might have slept through the night earlier if we had done this, but who knows).
We would always pause for a couple minutes after the first couple weeks if she was fussing during her sleep to make sure she was actually awake and not simply changing sleep positions or cycles. We did not let her cry-it-out or anything like that, but just gave her a moment to see what the story was and then attended to her needs accordingly.
After about a month and a half we began trying to put her down drowsy but awake and not let her fall asleep on the boob or bottle at bed time. I think our biggest challenge with this was getting her to stay awake.
We would basically wait to swaddle her until after she was done feeding because it woke her up enough to get her down drowsy but awake. In the beginning of this she may have fussed a bit but she never really cried too much, or if she did it was only for 5 minutes or so. I think this was because we started this early and always made sure that she was swaddled up tightly and well fed.
Also, we were consistent with the bedtime routine and the actual time we put her down which I think also contributed to a mostly smooth transition. Or maybe she is just an easy baby. I’ll let you know when I have another to compare.
To this day she still goes down without a problem- I finish the feed and put her into the crib on her back and now that she’s older, she will glance around really quickly and immediately roll over onto her stomach and go to sleep.
The side and stomach sleeping was scary at first but our pediatrician was clear that once they can roll on their own, if they roll over to sleep it’s fine. We still always put her down on her back, but she rarely stays that way and after a few weeks of frantically checking the video monitor all night, we got used to it (we also still put her to sleep with nothing in the crib except a couple binks for her to grab throughout the night.
We began starting to transition naps into A’s crib around 2 months. She would and sometimes still does fuss for 5-10 minutes before naps. Rarely did it ever reach the point of full blown crying, but I always watched the monitor and timed it.
After 10 minutes I would go in and give her a couple reassuring, gentle pats on her bottom if she was still fussing. I usually didn’t pick her up unless she was full blown crying, and even then, I would put her back down when she stopped.
But in general, after a small amount of fussing (or now playing with her binks and glancing around the room) she would take some decent naps. Sometimes shorter, sometimes longer. She’s never really been consistent in terms of the length of her naps, but we follow her lead.
As a general rule, after the 2 month point, naps consistently occurred in the crib or pack and play (though once in a while she’ll catnap in her car seat at the diner or in the stroller if we’re out for the day).
She now takes around 2-3 naps each day. I’ve noticed she takes an additional nap on weekends while she usually sticks to 2 naps at daycare. She seems to nap better outside of daycare, I’d assume this is because she’s alone in a darker and quieter place, but she really does fine with daycare naps now that she’s used to it.
Around 3 months, we were at the point where she would accept a dream feed (I literally pop a bottle into her mouth around 10:30/11pm- she’ll drink it in her sleep and continue right on sleeping after I put her back into the crib).
She would only actually wake up once per night around 2 or 3am. As per our pediatrician’s suggestion, we began slowly reducing the amount of formula that we gave during this feed by an ounce periodically as we approached the 4 month point and she dropped that late feed by the time it had been reduced to about 2 oz. (down from 6 oz.).
Between 4-4.5 months she began to consistently sleep through the night- she would go down at 7pm, sleep through a 10:30pm dream feed and wake around 6 or 6:30am on most days. The heavens opened up, and the angels sang their beautiful songs and we thanked God for the return of our sleep.
Now keep in mind, that nothing is consistent and we certainly don’t expect that. And of course, all bets are off when your baby is sick. I believe that teething has begun and this week A has woken up a few nights, fussed for a couple minutes and then went back to sleep. She definitely got some extra snuggles too nights ago when she seemed more cranky and uncomfortable than usual.
This may be controversial, but I’m a firm believer that after the first couple of months, it’s ok for a baby to fuss and even cry a bit. I’m not referring to cry-it-out or letting a baby cry for hours or even an extended amount of minutes.
The few times A fussed for more than 10 minutes, I was quick to watch the clock and go in to let her know I was there periodically. But make no mistake, we are not the parents who pick up their baby the minute she starts to fuss, and I think all 3 of us are better off because of it.
A still gets extra love and snuggles all of the time and especially when she is sick, but we don’t coddle her and were very intentional and specific in our routines and the elimination of sleep props from early on.
When we were trying to establish A’s bedtime routine, we were not afraid to make some sacrifices in terms of leaving events early or skipping them all together. As a result, now that A is a bit older, if we stay later at a family member’s home on a holiday or A gets off of her routine here and there, it usually doesn’t tremendously effect her because the foundation is there at this point.
Will the way our family does things be best for other families? Maybe. Maybe not. This is only what worked for us. I also recognize that this could change at the drop of a hat and we certainly don’t expect consistent, perfect sleep for a few years. But I feel that we and A have created healthy sleep habits and we all sleep much better because of it…for now 🙂
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