“Babies do not sleep.” The sooner one realizes this the better it is for your health and sanity. BabyT is now 16 months old and he still does not sleep through the night. Then why am I writing this post? Because I couldn’t find a better word than Sleep for today’s #AtoZBloggingChallenge and because I think we have a decent’ish sleep schedule in place and fairly rare crazy no-sleep days till now. Day naps, now that is still a challenge for me and I am tearing my hair out with that, but I survive.
Why then is baby sleep so important?
Because every person who came to meet me when babyT had just arrived or a few months after, asked me the same damn question, “Does he sleep at night?” By the 10th time of being hit with this question I was ready to smash that person’s face in and lost all patience and politeness and usually responded rather curtly, saying “He is a baby. Babies do not sleep at night. He is also breastfed, so of course he wakes up multiple times.” That usually shut them up, they just got a 50 marks answer for a fill in the blank question after all. But things like these put me into tremendous pressure and made me wonder if I was the one blessed with that baby who did not sleep.
No. Turns out I was normal and babyT was perfectly normal too. Most babies do not sleep.
However what we do have is a baby/toddler who goes to bed early, sleeps fairly well and wakes up at a decent hour and is refreshed and happy after his sleep. This has been engineered and did not just happen. I would love to share our baby sleep success and be happy if it helps any of you new parents.
- Build a sleep routine – This is of utmost importance. We started weaving a regular routine around babyT’s bedtime around the time he was a month old. However it is never too late to start building one if you haven’t already. Having a routine which you repeat every night is important to let them know that it is now time to wind up and go to sleep. A sleep routine is basically a set of steps you follow, just before you put baby to bed and we did this:
- Diaper change – remove the diaper, clean the diaper area and leave it diaper free for sometime. Its good to let their skin breathe.
- A wipe with warm water – we would warm up water in a bowl, mix in some coconut oil and wipe his whole body top to toe with a soft cloth. This really relaxed him and put him in the mood to sleep.
- Moisturize & change of clothes – babyT has pretty dry skin so we are constantly moisturizing him. Once he has had his wipe we would do this and then put on his diaper and night clothes. He usually wears a pyjama and a long sleeved top. These are always in cotton and keep him comfortable without making him hot and sweaty.
- BabyT hated putting on socks or caps to cover his head and ears. We did not force him to either.
- A comb of the hair, apply a tika (just part of the ritual and we don’t do this anymore) and I would then show him his freshly preened face in the mirror. Again I don’t know if there is some significance to this, but it was all part of building a routine.
- Lights out, kiss daddy goodnight and mommyT and babyT would then stay back in the room to nurse and fall asleep.
- When we do all of this we make sure we speak in low tones, sing in a soft, calm voice and there are no loud background noises of TV or people talking. Goodbye socialising at home! This helps mellow him down and get him ready to sleep.
- Now that babyT is older we have added a ritual of daddy taking him around the whole house, switching off the lights and saying goodnight to all the rooms and waving tata. Again just another ritual.
- We don’t do books at night because books excite babyT and I don’t want to stimulate him again instead of calming him down.
- Put them to bed early – I have shocked many family members by taking babyT in to his bedroom around 7 pm. But research by experts says that the best time for babies and toddlers to go to bed is between 630 to 730 pm. It is supposed to be some magical sleep hour for them, which helps them stay asleep and sleep better. And contrary to perception it definitely does not mean that they will wake up early. The earlier they go to bed the longer they sleep in. You just have to try it to trust this. I was afraid too, but it works.
Now that babyT is a toddler, he does not go to bed so early. We have extended it by an hour and he now hits the bedroom latest by 830 or 9 pm. But he does sleep longer hours at night without waking up.
- Create the environment – Many people I know don’t switch on the fans, forget Air Conditioner, in baby’s room. Please don’t do that. Good circulation and fresh air will actually keep baby more comfortable and happy, thus helping him fall asleep faster and to sleep better.
Also it is very important to let baby know the difference between night time and day time sleeping. So switch off lights, put up thick curtains to keep away those bright lights from outside coming in.
And don’t worry too much about noise. Babies have an uncanny way of sleeping through the noisiest of noises, perhaps it is the white noise which comforts them. I have found that when babyT fell asleep in an environment which had noise (read: Diwali crackers, Navratri dandiya evenings, noisy society new year parties) he would still fall asleep. However if he had fallen asleep in a situation of silence and then the noise began he would wake up. So go figure.
One important lesson I have learnt is to keep my mobile device away. The glare apart, the times when babyT did wake up and catch me with the phone in my hand he would get over stimulated instantly and want to partake of the supposed entertainment in my hands. *Sigh*
- Be sly like a fox if they wake up at night – Babies will wake up. But its what you do once they are awake that matters. Do not turn the lights on. Do not indulge in eye contact. Do not attempt to talk to them. Do not sing and dance and pick them up right away (unless they are upset and crying.) and definitely Don’t play ChuChu TV rhymes.
DO give them a chance to fall back asleep. There have been many times I have picked up babyT only to wake him up even more and then have a tough time putting him back to sleep.
However don’t wait too long before you do carry them, sway them, pat them and feed them back to sleep. They are most usually looking for comfort and soothing them goes a long way to build the sense of security that they need for developing good sleep habits.
- Don’t force them to sleep – there will be some nights when they just don’t want to sleep. Teething, growth spurts, sleep regressions all happen and sometimes all together. In moments like these its best to just grin and bear it. Something is going on in that tiny little body of theirs to discomfort them and so they have woken, so just hold them, hug them and cuddle up. Or let them sit up, walk around the room or just roll about. Eventually they will tire out and come to bed. If they still don’t, try to enlist the help of whoever else is at home – daddy, grandparents etc. Babywearing can also be a big blessing in times like these. It does put babies to sleep. Try that. If all this still fails, know that its only a phase and tomorrow will be a better day.
Have you put in any sleep routines for your babies and children? What advice would you give to a new parent?