BurlingtonVT Moms Blog is partnering with Phoenix Physical Therapy to bring you our latest series titled “50 Shades of Sleep”, about…you guessed it….sleep. Like an elusive treasure, we find ourselves obsessing about sleep not only for ourselves but for our children as well. Although we may not consciously recognize it we are constantly making decisions surrounding the subject of sleep. Is it OK to co-sleep? Can babies really be trained to sleep? What are night terrors? When do you move your child from your bed to the bassinet or to his own crib or into his own bed? Does the thought of SIDS scare everyone? Is it normal for kids to wet the bed and up to what age? And does it all change when they get older? Our goal through this series is to invite you into an open conversation about all things sleep, and to acknowledge that no matter your struggles or choices, you are never alone.
In Defense of Early Bed Times and Self Soothing
Let me start by saying, I am no sleep expert.
I’m just a mom with two little girls who has learned a thing or two about sleep, babies and toddlers through moments of frustration, exhaustion and triumph. In this post I plan to share several things that have worked for us when it comes to our children getting a good night’s sleep, but I hope you mommas out there remember that we are all in this together, no matter how we handle sleep patterns and bed times.
I love sleep. Really love sleep.
I never realized how much I loved it until it was gone. I remember those blissful days of newlywed life where the hubs and I would sleep in on weekends, grab a late breakfast and meander through the day as we pleased. Oh how glorious, and oh how far away those days seem.
I think all of us mommas would say that our kids are totally worth it, but it still doesn’t take away the sting as you roll out of bed at 6am to take care of a tiny human being on just a few hours of sleep (if you’re lucky).
It’s. tough. Definitely not for the faint of heart.
Then we move along to the toddler years where they learn the stalling game. You all know the game…”I need water. What’s that mommy? Can we read a book? Mommy, I need socks. No, that’s the wrong socks. Mommy, I want teddy. No, not that teddy. I have to go to the bathroom.” I read this list of 100 steps to put a toddler to sleep from the Honest Toddler the other day and was laughing/crying by the end. So. true.
Our first, Nora, was/is a great sleeper. She was sleeping 10-12 hours a night at 7 weeks (don’t hate me) and two great naps throughout the day. I really didn’t know how good I had it. Then came Maggie. Honestly, she is still a pretty decent sleeper, but it took her a lot longer to get the whole sleeping through the night thing (like 7 months longer), and she takes shorter naps than Nora ever did.
While both of our girls have been very different sleepers, there are a few things that the hubs and I have seen work for both of them and that have helped us keep our sanity.
Early Bed Times
This one has been crucial for my girls. When I was pregnant with Nora a dear friend got me the book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child” and I devoured it. It was a book I went back to over and over as Nora grew and her sleep habits changed. I really liked it because it didn’t take a hard stance on any particular method, but shared some guiding principles with several different ways that you could implement them. The one thing the book does hammer home is the early bed time. He focuses on the fact that kids just aren’t getting enough sleep, which leads to behavioral issues, bad sleeping habits, etc.
So I started implementing this with Nora right away after we waded through the early newborn stage with no defined sleep patterns. Once we got into a routine you could find me putting Nora to bed sometimes as early as 6pm. Most nights would fluctuate between 6-7 and as she grew older, bed time got a bit later. But even now (at 3 years old) you can find us putting her to bed around 7:30. We now do the same for Maggie as we’ve found that an earlier bedtime really does equal better sleep.
I know what some of you may be thinking…what?! I know this one can be hard, especially for working parents. You pick up your child from daycare, rush home to make dinner and then you are having to put them straight to bed. While I don’t work outside the home, my husband does and there have been many times that he hasn’t gotten to see his girls before they go to bed. But it is a decision we’ve made because we feel that it is ultimately best for our girls. We notice a difference in their day and behavior if they get less sleep than they need.
Now, we aren’t super rigid in this and we definitely have later nights at times if we have something going on. But overall, we try and make sure that we stick to the early bedtime routine as much as possible. If you are wondering how to start transitioning to an early bedtime, I would definitely recommend grabbing a copy of the book I mentioned above, “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child”. It’s chock full of great guidance and insight on how to make the early bed time work for each child.
This is another one that I know everyone may not agree with, but we’ve found it to be very helpful for our girls. From the very beginning we have allowed our girls to learn how to self sooth themselves to sleep. We do very little rocking, soothing, etc. to get our little ones to bed. Once they passed the newborn stage and started to develop sleep patterns, we began formulating a routine that helped aid bedtime and give the girls cues that it was time to go to sleep. Feeding, swaddling, sound machine on, a light rock and then down in their cribs. They were often fully awake. At the beginning they may have fussed a bit, but they quickly learned that those cues meant bedtime and, therefore, sleep.
Now, this didn’t always work perfectly and there are times where they were fussier and needed more soothing (teething, growth spurt, etc.), but those are the exceptions. I didn’t want my girls to form habits of needing something from me to always fall asleep (rocking, nursing, cuddling, hand holding, etc). Again, this may not be what is best for every family or every mom, but it has definitely helped us keep our sanity that our kids can be put to bed without being asleep and self sooth if needed.