“Wow, you sure do have your hands full” is the most common comment I get from random people. The second is tied between “I bet you don’t get any sleep anymore” or “do they sleep through the night?!” These babies have seriously spoiled me, but to my credit I did put in some work and research to get here. Both of my girls have been sleeping through the night since they were two months old. Of course, we have the occasional, but very rare, rough night caused by sickness, teething or sleep regression (the wonder weeks app is incredible.) 99.9% of the time I cannot blame my lack of sleep on their lack of sleep. “Sleep when the babies sleep”, they said! Am I supposed to clean when the baby cleans, do laundry when the baby does laundry and meal prep when they baby cooks too?
I acknowledge that there are many philosophies on parenting when it comes to sleep. I respect all other parenting styles and have finally decided to open up about ours after multiple questions. It is my opinion, after much research, that quality sleep for a baby is extremely important to their development and overall well-being. Frequent night waking’s can lead to a dangerously overtired parent as well as negatively impacting the development of the baby. For this reason, I spent months of my pregnancy researching this topic. Every baby is different and what works for one baby doesn’t necessarily work for the next baby so keep that in mind as I go through things that I learned and what we have done for our babies. Before we get into any dirty details, I want to say that the decisions that I made for my family in no way a judgement that on your decisions.
1. Naps are key!
There are several experts that promote the idea that baby nap times and daytime sleep routines can improve nighttime sleep. All babies are different. Some babies will drop from three naps to two, and two naps to one, sooner or later than “average.” Understanding your babies sleepy cues is so important. You may have a baby that will just lay down where they are playing and decide it is nap time, but most of us are not that lucky! Not all babies will yawn or rub their eyes when they are tired but many of them do. Other babies may start fussing when they are tired and it can easily be mistaken for hunger or teething. My babies are actually in a weird stage right now. Sometimes they need three shorter naps and sometimes they need two so I have to watch their cues like a hawk. Thankfully, they USUALLY nap at the same time. That means I can nap right? Just kidding, no such thing.
I try to schedule anything I need to do that day around their nap schedule. The babies rule the roost. I also have them sleep in their nursery in their crib or in the twin Z pillow. We very rarely stray from this while at home. Lights out, sound machine on, and mommy whispering signals that it is nap time. I try to make the environment as relaxing a possible for them and I will usually feed them a bottle leading their nap. Once they have been asleep for at least ten minutes and have entered into a deeper sleep I can start making loud noises like vacuuming or clanking dishes. If I hear one baby waking up, I will try and rush in and grab her so the other baby can continue to sleep as long as they need to. I do try to wake them up at least three hours before bed time. If it is getting later in the day and they haven’t had their second nap I will bring them in their room four hours before bedtime and set up the nap time environment. I will give them a bottle and lay them in their cribs with their pacifiers. One of my babies will almost always go right to sleep. The other baby will whine for about three or four minutes and then go right to sleep. They will rarely fight the nap because they really do need it. Skipping naps can truly backfire,I regret it every time. They are much fussier, they do not go down easily for bedtime and usually will wake up at least once during the night and often will wake up early the next day. It has taken me three days before to get my babies back on their normal routine after a missed nap. When my babies aren’t in their normal routine, they are generally fussier.
2. Routine Routine Routine
I know we talked about naps and that is technically routine, but this is a little bit more involved. At night time we have a routine where the babies know what is coming next. I get the pajamas,diapers and wipes ready to go on the floor in their nursery, turn the light off and the sound machine on. I make their bottles and set them inside the door. I then bring the babies in the room one at a time with their pacifiers. I change one at a time and hand them their bottles (because they can hold them most of the time now…Victory!)Each baby gets an essential oil blend on their feet (fractionated coconut oil, frankincense and lavender) and we put their owlet monitors on. We pray, read the same books and sing the same exact songs EVERY night. When the bottle is gone (or they are done) it gets replaced with the pacifier and they get moved into their cribs. They then know that it is time for them to go to bed independently. The same goes for nap times. I try to have their nap times in the same places in the dark with the white noise on.This is not to say that they haven’t or don’t nap in other places without noises, but I try to keep this as routine as I can. Though I think other routines throughout the day are important I do not think that they are linked with their sleep patterns, so we can save that for another day.
3. Teaching them to fall asleep Independently
This is the fun one. It’s also probably the touchiest subject. I would like to remind you of my previous statement: decisions that I have made for my family are in no way a judgement on your decisions for your family. I was intrigued to learn that sleeping through the night is not a “normal” thing that any human being does, biologically speaking. Looking back on my own sleep patterns I remember waking several times throughout a night to adjust and then falling right back asleep. Babies do this too. If they don’t know how to fall back asleep independently, they may need to fall asleep how they have learned (In their swing, in their moms’ arms being rocked, or being breast fed.) Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you that your baby isn’t hungry (if they are hungry please feed them.) Many nights my babies would fall asleep drinking their bottles. I would get them in the crib and then very gently wake them just enough that they were blinking but still very tired. They would see the crib and their pacifier and any other surroundings before falling asleep. If they ever fussed in the process of falling asleep for more than a few minutes, I would touch them on their hip and gently rock them in a soothing motion or rub their back for comfort. If they were really fighting sleep, I would rock them until they were comforted and getting sleepy and then I would put them in bed before they were fully asleep.Once they learned how to fall asleep independently, I could enjoy rocking them to sleep occasionally without ruining their whole night of sleep. Once your baby can fall asleep independently they can fall BACK asleep independently when they wake up throughout the night…and THAT is truly the key!
4. Sound machine.
I talked about the sound machine in my twin mom daily life hacks blog in the sleep schedule section. While I don’t think it is necessary to use a sound machine, I do think helps with a better quality of sleep. I honestly think it helps ME to sleep better since I now also listen to a sound machine over the baby monitor all night long. A gentle and consistent sound can actually help soothe a baby, similar to the way we “shush”our babies while holding and bouncing them. I know you know what I am talking about. This is actually instinctual. White noise is technically a sound that contains every frequency within the range of human hearing in equal amounts.Having white noise going can help drown out the sound of the vacuum or the wannabe NASCAR driver that passes by your house at 2 am.
That is honestly all it took for my babies to start sleeping through the night. If you are interested in a very in-depth and intriguing book on the topic I would suggest “precious little sleep” by Alexis Dubief, especially if the “cry it out” method isn’t really your thing. This book details 7 methods to teach your baby to sleep. It is evidence based, funny and tremendously helpful. I learned a ton and she is incredibly relatable. You maybe able to choose one of these methods that will work best for your family. I hope I was able to help at least a little with my experience and I really wish you and your baby(ies) happy and healthy sleeping! Here is to the future!