Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Finding a sleep schedule

Having a baby is wonderful but it can also be exhausting!  It is hard to get them on a schedule that works for everyone.  This is what works in our home…for now!

The reason for this post is two-fold. First of all, if we decide to have another baby, I want to remember what I did to get Hannah to sleep! The second reason is because so many people have asked me what I do to get her to sleep and I hope to help someone. I also want to say that it might not work for everyone. It is simply what we do. It is what I have done with all three of my kids and it works for us!

When Hannah was first born, the first few weeks were TORTURE! She HATED to be swaddled so I didn't swaddle her. She would sleep all day long and be awake all night...you know the brand new baby routine. Hannah would wake up as soon as you laid her down. There were several nights when she would be awake for several hour stretches. It seemed like I fed her all night long and I was up some nights from midnight to 5 or 6 a.m. It was just awful! We finally went to the pediatrician and she gave us some reflux meds. That same night I decided that part of what was waking her was her startle reflex so I swaddled her. It was like a brand new baby. We also got a wedge for the bed! She slept in three-hour increments and went right back to sleep. It was such a needed change for both of us.  She did that for about two weeks with each stretch seeming to be longer and longer. At about five or six weeks she was sleeping six and seven hours at a time. The first time she slept "through the night" was from about 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. It was AWESOME! She did it consistently after that and now sleeps from 8:30 p.m. or 9:30 p.m. to 5 a.m. and sometimes as late as 7:30 a.m. She also usually goes right back to sleep after her early morning feeding which is nice.

We are still working on daytime sleeping habits, which we have trouble. I mentioned that the first few weeks were rough and I will admit, we survived...that's what our "routine" was. I will tell you that we co-slept (something that I am very uncomfortable with), we slept in the recliner with me holding her, we fell asleep nursing in her room...we slept just about in all kinds of situations. Life was rough...I will not lie. But, after she got the hang of it and we got things straightened out, we were on a roll.

I try my hardest to keep Hannah awake after 7 p.m. Sometimes that is extremely hard because of her poor sleeping habits during the day but I only let her sleep for maybe 30 minutes if she does sleep after 7 p.m. During the day, I wake her if she is asleep after three hours to eat. We are on a three-hour eating schedule during the day. Sometimes I feed her a little early but I try to wait until at least 2 1/2 hours. She is doing well on this schedule. It is not uncommon for me bounce her, rock her or do whatever I can to keep her calm between 7 to 8 p.m. This is her fussy time.  Usually around 8 p.m. I take her upstairs to get ready for night time routine. She LOVES taking a bath!!! She has really bad eczema and I think it soothes her skin. The main objective after this is to soothe her and get her mind ready for sleep.  I accomplish this with low lighting, soft music, sound machine, and soft voice and touch. I feed her and then try to put her down while she is sleepy but not yet asleep.  That is key for us and she does fuss sometimes but it is important for babies to soothe themselves.

I want to add that she sleeps in her crib and has since about four weeks.  We both sleep better when she is in her crib.

That's what we do in a nutshell. Many could/would and do criticize many aspects of it but my babies have all slept through the night around 7 to 8 weeks. I, by no means, am an expert...just a mommy who wants to encourage and help other mommies that might need it!

How did you get your children to start sleeping through the night?

Rikki Hester is a social worker at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital and Mom of three girls.

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