R. >> This is one of the posts where you’ll get to see how different V. and I are as mothers and why we love writing WWST. There’s no one right way to raise your child – only the right way for YOU. Check out V.’s post on co-sleeping.
3 a.m. crazy bags and tears lining my eyes. Sleeping on the couch with my daughter asleep in her Boba wrap, exhausted from a night of gas. 2 a.m. the next night: my husband walking around the kitchen partition with Baby Girl in his arms for an hour straight singing lullabies in a pleading tone. “Shhhhh baby, time to sleep, shhhhhh.” Sleeping in our bed toe-to-head in order to look over into her crib 15 times a night and make sure she’s still breathing. 4 a.m. the following night, baby in her swing waking up while I watch another repeat episode of “Secret Lives Of” on National Geographic. 9 a.m., everyone asleep in the house, exhausted from a night of barely there sleep.
When my daughter was 5 weeks old, my husband and I had had enough of the choppy nights of sleep. We were expected to do this for how long now? Yeahhhh. I don’t think so. As he was returning to work after taking a couple weeks of paternity leave and I felt I had to ensure he got the sleep he needed for work – and me, too, of course! – I decided it was time for a routine. I googled and read… and then I remembered my sister-in-law giving me her copy of “The Baby Whisperer” and my mother-in-law telling me I should read it. Now I don’t agree with everything the author says, but when it came to routine, I heard the angels sing within one week. This is how I got my 5 week old (and my husband and I) to enjoy nights from 8:30pm to 7:30am.
Of course, I know that having spent the first week and a half of her life in NICU, sleeping while there was activity all around her but still submitted to a routine definitely helped. She slept every night in a white crib similar to the one she has at home. I get that not every baby has that experience at birth and that maybe we’re lucky that our baby took a routine so quickly and without much ado.
Before trying to set a routine for your baby, it’s important to first pay attention to their natural pattern of eating, sleeping and so on (not that they do much more at 5 weeks), like they suggest in the Baby Whisperer. Being used to managing projects, I admit I’m a little anal with schedules and organization, so what I did might sound a little much to you but it was really simple and made for a huge Aha! moment for me.
First, I printed out a 24-hour week-view calendar from my computer’s calendar application (I have a Macbook, so I used my iCal). I grabbed my coloured pens and started noting the following information in blocks of time, each with their own colour (I would normally do this during naps or right after pumping, and I always kept the sheet handy on my living room table):
- sleep/naps (where did she sleep?)
- feedings (how much time on each breast)
- pumping sessions (because I used a breast pump, I also noted the amount of ounces I pumped)
- play times (what we did: tummy time? play mat? sing alongs?)
- when we went out or had guests
I quickly saw a pattern start emerging – which surprised me because I was positive her days were just chaotic. Okay so they were still a little chaotic, but in a weirdly similar way each day. Keep in mind, I only did this for that particular week, afterwards it wasn’t necessary once I knew the routine.
A routine isn’t based on times but patterns. So it’s okay if your baby doesn’t wake up at the same time every day or play for the same duration every morning. That’s not the point. What you will notice, though, is having a routine will help them get in tune with their biological clock, so eventually your days will get more and more similar.
So here’s the routine I set in place after a week of scribbling on this little piece of paper:
DAYTIME: 7:30 a.m.
- Change diaper
- (switch from PJs to play outfit)
- Nap (used to be in her swing or on me, but now at 12 weeks, I’m getting her more structured with naps in her crib)
- Repeat (minus clothes, obviously)
The key is to feed THEN change the diaper. That way it prevents your baby from falling asleep while eating. I also talk to my baby while feeding her, or play with her fingers to keep her awake.
NIGHTTIME: 7:30 p.m.
- Bath (15-30 mins, I don’t wash her everyday, I find that soap everyday on a baby’s skin is overkill, but I let her splash around)
- Feeding in her room (rocking chair)
- Crib (I always wish her a goodnight and give her a kiss, and from 5 weeks to 8 weeks we swaddled her
- 11:00 p.m. – DREAMFEED
In her nursery, we have three things we’ve always done that I believe help her sleep:
- White noise on a small sound system. My husband got mp3s of white noise that we put on an iPod (at first we started with the womb sound, now we just play straight up white noise)
- Ceiling fan is on (yes, even in the winter, having circulating air is good and the sound it makes adds to the white noise)
- DREAM FEEDS – I write this in capital letters because it’s the staple in our nighttime routine
A dream feed basically consists of giving your baby a bottle before you go to bed to cap them off while they are still asleep. Yes, I breastfeed but we’ve found that it’s easier giving her a bottle for two reasons: my husband gets to snuggle her while feeding her (and I get to be in bed at that time, sleeping away) and a bottle doesn’t require the baby to suck as hard on the nipple as they would on your breast to get the milk out. The trick to the dream feed is to gently lift the baby out of their crib without waking them up, with the lights still off in their nursery (just a dim hall light suffices so you can at least seem them and not shove the bottle up their nose), tickle their bottom lip with the nipple of the bottle so they get a taste of the milk and then gently insert the bottle in their mouth. The suction will naturally kick off and they will eat away! If your baby stops sucking at one point, just lightly pull the bottle as if to pull it out of their mouth, or turn it around. That will get them going again. Normally my daughter drinks 3-4 ounces that way before she’s really done.
Then, boom, put them back in their crib WITHOUT changing their diaper – they’ll be fine, you can change it in the morning. Just put cream on if you’re worried about rash. And HAVE A GREAT NIGHT SLEEP.
Remember, if you hear the baby stir, don’t go jumping up and running into their room. Let them make noise and learn to fall asleep on their own. If it continues for more than 5 minutes and turns into cries, yes, by all means go see what’s up. But normally they fall asleep on their own.
Our daughter is 12 weeks old now and she normally goes straight through to 7:30 the next morning, but sometimes she wakes up at around 5 a.m. still a little hungry. When she was a little smaller I would go feed her and just put her right back down and go back to bed myself. But lately I’ve been listening closer to see if she falls back asleep, and she has two days in a row. Hopefully it continues.
Voilà! Long post, I know, but I wanted to make sure I shared everything in case you found something that you could pop into your own routine.