Sleep... it's pretty much one of the top items on my "I LOVE..." list. We all know, most new moms struggle in this department the most... and so I knew it was pretty much going to be my biggest battle with Marley. Sleep deprived Karen... is just... not pretty, to say the least.
As soon as we found out we were expecting... it was GAME ON to get Marley to sleep in her crib. Especially because, as soon as I'm pregnant, my body REJECTS coffee, like its it's job. Since 7 weeks old, Marley was able to sleep through the night, and then right around 3.5 months... during one of her first big growth spurts, everything went haywire. She refused to sleep through the night, she wouldn't fall asleep unless she was snuggled or fed to bed, and here's the biggest problem... she wouldn't sleep anywhere but on me. I knew as I would get further along in my pregnancy, these sleep habits were just not going to be acceptable. She used to sleep on me, ALL NIGHT long... I'd try and put her next to us in bed, and she'd fuss... laid her in her crib... fuss... unless she was on me, she'd fuss. It got to the point, where it was even difficult for her to fall asleep in her car seat or stroller for naps. I wasn't able to get chores done while she was napping, because I was forced to lay down with her... it was a huge mess... but a mess I needed to clean up. A problem, that needed a resolution.
There are SO many books out there... seriously, take a trip to Barnes and Noble and you'll see a gazillion books in the baby section regarding "sleep". There are crazy amounts of blog posts as well if you do a search on GOOGLE... people offered a million and one pieces of advice. I ended up specifically asking a friend... who in my mind is the "sleeping guru"... I have always admired the way her children sleep so well, and how she made it a top priority in their lives. She stressed the importance of routine... aka consistency (which we all know, this sporadic girl has always had an issue with), nailing down a soothing method so that Marley could put herself to sleep, and sticking with it. She highlighted for me pages in her "go to" book, so that I didn't have to read through it all. It made complete sense to me... for some the method, Ferber Method, would work... others, it might not. It's not co-sleeping, and it's not the cry-it-out method... it's somewhere in between. Yes, Marley had to learn how to put herself to sleep... yes, she cried a bit... but within a few days, she completely "got it". Her body naturally LOVED the routine, and it LOVED the sleep that it was getting when it wasn't on Mommy. Sometimes, there are moments (teething, growth spurts, sickness, etc.) where all these lessons learned are thrown out the window... and it's okay... other times, things might even need to be altered a bit, because they learn something new (like rolling over... we went through almost 2 weeks of not sleeping well because of her rolling habits).
Before Marley started to sleep in her crib (during transition from her rocker to her crib), we started bringing her into her room on a daily basis. Some people transition, by having the crib in their room, and then moving it into the baby's room... but we don't have the space, and with my hubby's work schedule... we felt it best, to keep the crib in her room. We wanted Marley to be familiar with her surroundings in her room, so it wouldn't feel like a strange place... so I usually plop her on the floor, and let her "play" in her room for at least 15 minutes a day.
Routine is SUPER important. I am not a routine person... but kids CRAVE routine, and so for the first few weeks I had to be extremely diligent on when Marley went down for her two naps (always at 9 am, and always at 1pm). I try and schedule doctor's appointments before or after those times... obviously, it doesn't happen all the time (especially when we have a field trip or errands to run). When it's close to nap time or bedtime, I start to introduce "cues" to Marley... so she knows what's about to happen... Since birth, Marley has LOVED the sound of running water, so we have a noise machine in her room, that has a "babbling brook" sound (as well as a whole bunch of other noise options). It is turned off, as soon as she's taken out of her crib... and turned on just minutes before being laid down. Obviously, I don't travel with my sound machine... it's just something, that I've noticed (especially at night), to help her during her sleep transitions. It's a constant noise that basically tells her it's still "night night" time.
Two more important parts to her routine (especially bedtime routine), are night time baths, and reading a book (which doesn't always happen, but we try our best).
Another cue that we use is... "Marley, it's time for 'night night'... say 'night night' to Charlotte."... and that's when Charlotte will hug/kiss her near her crib, or if we're out and about, before she's placed in her car seat/stroller. I give her tons of smooches emphasizing loudly the words "night night"... and then I whip out the magical little item that soothes my dear one (so she doesn't associate ME with her need to soothe herself to sleep).
What helps soothe my baby? Well, Marley likes her pacifier, so I was sure to ONLY pull it out during nap time, and bedtime. When she's out of her crib, she leaves her pacifier behind... if we're out and about and it's nap time, I ONLY pull out her pacifier when I'm trying to get her to sleep... so it not only does it soothe Marley, but she associates sleep with it. The only exception I have to this pacifier rule, is that if she's sick or teething, she gets to use it as well, ONLY if it helps her... if it's not doing the trick, it's immediately removed from her line of sight.
A snuggly blanket is also something that soothes Marley. She's been hooked on this sweet crocheted blanket that a dear friend created and sent our way (all the way from the Netherlands)... and as soon as she lays down, she usually snuggles it tightly. I try and remember to bring a blanket with us, whenever we leave the house and it's near/during a nap time. I pull it out right when it's time for Marley to try and soothe herself to sleep. Between that and her pacifier, she usually gets the "cue" and falls quickly to sleep. Unfortunately, naps that are out and about, are a little shorter than I would like... but she usually makes up for it during the other nap... or insists we put her to bed earlier at night.
A couple of other tips/tricks that I've learned (or been taught by my "sleeping guru" friend):
- Always put an awake baby in their crib. I NEVER put Marley in her crib after she's fallen asleep on me... If so, I would gently wake her, if it was after a feeding... and that way she would always see that she was headed to the crib, and not wake up in a panic not knowing where she was.
- A nap should never be longer than 2 hours...(if you're working with an infant that still takes 2 naps a day)... if it does, it'll interrupt with her other nap time, or bedtime.
- I keep toys in her crib (3 stuffed animals) that are used for after/before nap/bed time. One of her animals, the elephant plays soothing music, and vibrates... she usually uses this after her nap when she first wakes up... I let her play for a bit before going in there to get her. She also uses the elephant at night, sometimes, during her "times of wake"/transitions. I heard some toys were recently recalled, so always be on the lookout.
- I recently purchased an owl buddy from my dear friend who sells Scentsy... it's been fantastic. You can insert a scent pak (a little pouch) into their bodies, and it last about 6 months. I chose French Lavender... as it is usually known to be a soothing/relaxing scent.
- NEVER introduce a new food to your baby in the evening. YES YES YES. I have never made this mistake... but there are foods that make Marley's tummy a little gassier than other foods.
- If all else fails, go back to the basics... swaddle. I know the older/bigger your baby gets... the harder it is. This is where sleep sacks are also helpful. As stated earlier, we had a problem with Marley rolling over onto her back, but not able to flip back onto her belly... I recently noticed that if she wears a sleep sack to bed, it's tougher for her to flip over... which means less wake ups for us in the middle of the night.
These are just some of the things that have helped me over the past few weeks... obviously, it's not for every baby... or for every Mommy. People have asked me, what has worked for me, because of our success... and this was just a way of answering most of those questions in one general blog post... and also keeping this as a reference for this next baby when he/she makes their appearance in August. If there are tips/tricks that have worked for you... please feel free to comment....
Lets face it... A restful baby... makes a happy baby... which in turn makes a restful, productive, happy Mommy.