Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tips to getting your Infant to Sleep

I debated whether or not I should write this post because I don't generally offer parenting advice.  My opinion is that all children are different so something that worked for my kids may or may not work for other kids.  But if you are interested to hear what worked for my kids, read on!

I have three girls, Ava (4.5 yrs), Sidney (2.5 yrs) and Clara (3 months) and all three of them slept through the night (meaning 8 or more hours at a time without waking) at 3-4 WEEKS old.  Ava slept 8 hours a night at 3 weeks old, Sidney slept 8 hours a night at 4 weeks old and Clara is my rock star sleeping a whopping 10 hours a night at 8 weeks old!  

I'm not trying to brag.  I was actually embarrassed to admit this at first; thinking that I hadn't earned my "mom stripes" if I hadn't endured countless sleepless nights with my babies.  But after using the same techniques with 3 VERY different girls, I no longer think it's a fluke that my girls are good sleepers.  And now I'm ready to share my secrets!!!!

1.  Baby Plus
When I was pregnant with Ava, I read about the Baby Plus.  The Baby Plus is a device that you wear in a fanny pack (I'm not kidding) around your waist.  The device is programmed with 16 different sounds that resemble a mother's heart beat.  The researchers claim lots of good developmental things will come from using the Baby Plus.  The one that got me was the claim that babies exposed to Baby Plus slept better.  I was sold.  Embarrassed that I believed it, but sold none-the-less.  I told Tim that I was going to try it and if Ava wasn't a good sleeper, I'd never use it again....but she turned out to be a great sleeper.  Coincidence?  I wasn't sure so I used the Baby Plus when I was pregnant with Sidney and she turned out to be a good sleeper too!  There was no way I wasn't going to use the Baby Plus when I was pregnant with Clara.  She is my best sleeper of all.  Whether or not I just got lucky with 3 good sleepers, I'd still recommend trying the Baby Plus.  It can't hurt!

2.  Get your baby out of your room
If you're determined to co-sleep with your baby than just ignore this part.  I tried keeping all 3 of our babies in our bedroom in a separate crib but they never lasted more than 2 weeks.  To be honest, I think it was best for all of us.  My babies made little sounds all night long that woke me up and kept me awake and I'm sure I made sounds that woke up the baby too.  None of us could sleep!  Once I put my kids in their own room, we all slept better.  I have to admit that at first I was always nervous to be away from my babies at night.  I worried that they'd stop breathing or choke on spit up or something terrible.  You have to be comfortable with this.  If you're not comfortable, you'll just keep yourself up worrying all night.

3.  Let your baby sleep how THEY are most comfortable
I read SO many parenting books when I was pregnant with Ava.  One of the books, The Happiest Baby on the Block, gave tips on how to soothe a baby and get the baby to sleep.  All babies are different and what works for one baby will not work with another.  I swaddled all my babies for the first couple weeks then I let them "tell" me what they wanted.  Ava slept well super tightly swaddled in a Miracle Blanket as Happiest Baby suggested, however, Sidney wanted to be wrapped in a million blankets but not tightly, and Clara couldn't care less about blankets.  She can sleep anywhere!  

I also have to confess...while I'd prefer my kids sleep in their crib at all times, Sidney liked to sleep in her car seat when she was an infant.  Being the second child she was in her car seat a lot, as is Clara.  She loved to be all snug and cozy in her car seat with a blanket over her.  She'd almost immediately fall asleep and I adhere to the rule: Never wake a sleeping baby.  The downside to sleeping in her car seat was that she eventually needed a helmet because her head got flat in the back.  It's also probably frowned upon by the AAP for safety reasons so I obviously can't condone it.  You have to make the call.

4.  Stick to a schedule most of the time
I like predictability and that's hard to come by with kids, but once my babies demonstrated some sort of schedule (which was usually around 6-8 weeks old) I stuck to it.  It was the only thing that I could do to make things somewhat predictable.  As they grew older and had defined nap times, I tried my best to make sure they were at home and in their cribs during nap time.  Sticking to a schedule is paying dividends now that they are toddlers.  We rarely have push back from the girls at nap time and bed time.

5.  Bottles
I'm not trying to be controversial and I don't want Le Leche League up in arms at me, but I like bottles.  My body doesn't produce a lot of milk.  I worked with a Lactation Consultant when Ava was born and her recommendation was to feed the baby on one breast for 5 minutes, then the other for 5 minutes, then back to the first breast for 5 more minutes, then pump, then feed the baby whatever I pumped.  I was drinking gallons of water and mother's milk tea, taking supplements and even drinking beer to try to increase my milk supply.  It was exhausting and I felt like I was half naked all day long and trapped in my home.  

I decided to switch to just pumping.  This way, I knew exactly how much milk I was making, whether my milk supply was increasing and exactly how much milk the baby was drinking.  For a "numbers girl", it was worth the work.  I tracked the number of ounces my babies drank each day and looked for patterns.  For example, Clara drinks ~26 oz a day and the majority of milk is consumed between 6pm and 11pm.  When she gets close to 26 oz at night and she refuses the bottle, I know that she's ready for bed.

I'm not an expert and what worked for me may or may not work for you and your baby.  One thing I've learned is that every child is different.  I've had to make adjustments to my expectations and parenting style for each of my girls.  Even though I read countless parenting books and took lots of parenting classes before Ava was born, in the end I had to go with my gut and do what worked best for me and my baby.

Good luck!

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