I think most parents will agree with me that, the second time around at the parenting game, we all try and do things better. Parenting is a shitstorm. While not all kids are the same, there are certain things that you learn from one to the other that can save your sanity, and your relationship. And for everyone, that thing can be completely different.
However, I have to say it: CIO nearly drove me crazy. When I learned that I was pregnant, the biggest thing on the top of my list that I would do differently is that I would get my newborn used to sleeping on his own as soon as possible.
If you read my posts from 2 years ago, you’ll learn that my daughter was the type who could not fall asleep by herself. Or that’s the way I interpreted her behaviour. Instead, it was more that I didn’t know how to help her fall asleep on her own. She was always in my arms. She always had my undivided attention (which isn’t hard to do when you’re on maternity leave and are completely enamoured with your child). If she was lying on the couch, staring at whatever most interested her at that moment, I felt guilty that I was leaving her by herself. Call the parental neglect police! I felt like a bad mom for letting her do her own thing.
So I talked to her. I cuddled her and kissed her. And when nap time came up, most of the time she would nap on me. At night, she would fuss in her own bed, but would fall right to sleep on my chest. And when she would wake up in her own crib, she would cry bloody murder until we put her back on our chest.
We all know what happened next (or you can read up about it if you feel like it!). These are not fun memories for me. I cringe when I think back to the feelings I was experiencing when I would be hearing her cry for long periods of time, wondering if what I was doing was really best. I knew that it was bad to let an infant cry him or herself to sleep, yet I didn’t know how to transition my daughter from my chest to her bed. So I waited until she was six months old, and then used the Sleep Sense
program in order to help her sleep on her own.
The thing about baby number two coming so close after baby number one (18 months to be exact) is that it’s physically impossible to give baby number two the undivided attention you gave to baby number one at the same age. And that’s not a bad thing!!
In order to save your sanity, you have no choice but to learn how to put your baby down so that both babies can get the attention that they truly need.
Yes, it took me three months how to figure out how to have my son fall asleep on his own, for both nap time and bedtime. Yes, when he was born, he much preferred to be in our arms to sleep (just like the majority of babies!). And no, I don’t believe that it’s healthy to let a newborn cry it out in order to fall asleep.
So how do you go from one to the other? For me, it was all about putting him down at some points during the day. Getting him used to being in his own space, to explore whatever interested him. While I took care of my eldest, or took the time to clean the kitchen, baby would lie in his swing (that I didn’t turn on), or on a blanket on the couch. I never put him on the floor so that he doesn’t end up getting trampled by the toddler, of course.
What would happen is that most of the time, he would end up nodding off. And then he would nap for a few hours.
Of course, there would be times where that’s wasn’t possible. Times where baby was gassy, or experiencing random growing pains. You do it when it works, and when it doesn’t, you do what you can to stay sane.
Eventually, I was able to place my baby in his crib awake, and he’d just nod off to sleep on his own, completely content to be where he is. At first, at night he was perfectly content to sleep in his crib, but if I tried this during the day, he would scream bloody murder. So I went with it, and tried again a few weeks later. Three months in, and he’s perfectly content on his own, and in his crib. And his naps have gotten much longer and much more regular.
Here are a few other things that help a baby fall asleep independently:
- Avoid the pacifier at all costs. Yes it’s true. Pacifiers help babies fall asleep. The problem is that the pacifier also falls out of a baby’s mouth. Which means that when they wake up, you have to put the pacifier back INTO the mouth of baby. Which means lots of getting up at night. Sometimes, my baby wants his pacifier to sleep. But this is happening less and less. If your baby tends to suck his or her thumb, the pacifier is of course a better alternative. But if you can avoid it, please do. You won’t regret it.
- Use a swaddler or a sleep sack. This is hard to do in the summer time if you don’t have air conditioning. However, the swaddler helps baby not experience the Morro reflex, which has a tendency of waking babies up. That bitch. Some babies don’t like to be swaddled, so a sleep sack is a really good alternative. It puts some weight on babies legs and torso, which helps to settle them down (without confining them which could lead to hip problems), it keeps babies warm (which helps babies sleep much longer), and you won’t risk having it wrap around the babies’ neck.
- Make sure that the room is completely dark. This will help your baby sleep in longer in the morning.
- Turn your baby monitor to low, or skip it if the baby’s room is next to yours. Babies fuss a lot during their sleep. Sometimes, they give out little cries. They might just be half awake and will fall right back asleep, or they might just be passing gas. You don’t need to be a witness to all of this, it will just drive you crazy and keep you awake at night.
- There’s a difference between fussing and crying. If your child is just grunting and fussing, don’t feel obliged to pick him or her up. He or she is not distressed and won’t become traumatized if you don’t immediately do something for them. Sometimes, the fussing will turn into crying (which I would then advocate picking the baby up). However, sometimes, the baby will also work whatever the issue was on his or her own.
- If your baby starts crying, don’t feel the need to run to the rescue. Waiting thirty seconds to see if it will pass is healthy. It’s good for your own sanity, and good for your baby. You would be surprised how a baby will work things out in a few seconds while he or she is sleeping.
- Get a white noise machine. It will help soothe baby to sleep, and will also help baby not be woken up by random noises in the house. Just make sure NOT to put it right next to the baby’s head, and to keep the volume low, because babies’ ears are so much more sensitive than ours.
- Make sure that baby doesn’t fall asleep while breastfeeding. It might be tempting to just let your child sleep, but you don’t want the baby to become dependent on the breast in order to fall asleep. Wake him up by burping him, and then place him down while still awake.
- Don’t rely on the carseat or stroller or swing to get your child to sleep. When the child is lulled to sleep by the movement, the quality of sleep isn’t the best, so your child won’t be well rested after having woken up.
- Of course, between 0 and three months, it’s impossible to have a set routine with your baby. He or she will be going through growth spurts, will be cluster feeding (especially if he or she is breastfed). Sometimes he or she will sleep 3 hours straight, and sometimes 5 hours. However, you might start to distinguish patterns in your baby (it might help to write these things down over the course of a few days in order to help you see patterns visually). Try to keep to these patterns as closely as possible. Eventually a routine will develop. I’m not much into rigid routines with strict times to do things because I feel that, when you’re off the routine, kids get cranky. Therefore, my routine is more about doing things at a certain moment in the day, and in a certain order. There’s a sense of predictability for the kid without the rigidity that is a pain in the ass when you want to go out and do things around town.
Let me say that I don’t have a personal grudge against bed-sharing, when done safely. If it works for you, go for it. However, I hate it due to my waking nightmares
. And do to the fact that I absolutely can’t go without a pillow, a body pillow and a blanket while sleeping. And I don’t want to breastfeed my child to sleep and a million and one times over the course of the night. It just doesn’t make me happy. In my house, we all sleep better when we’re in our own rooms, with our own things. If you’re like me, I hope that this can help you get back to a good place, sleep wise. Because I literally go insane if I don’t get enough sleep.
If you want to learn more about how to get an infant to sleep, the Sleep Sense
has a great program to help your baby out from the time he or she is born. Check it out!