So, my almost 4 month old is going through what most sleep experts would say is a sleep regression. Add to that the fact that my 17 month old is cutting 3 molars all at once and you could say we are really tired over here. I don’t know if my youngest is actually in a regression. I think regression for me just means he’s growing and learning exciting new things so sleep is for the birds. I’m tired, nevertheless.
Soooooooooooo tired. Drink ALL the coffee.
Ahhhhh sleep and babies and sleep training! If you’ve read any of my blog up until this point you will know that I’m an advocate for sleep training. I think sleep training has gotten a really bad reputation over the years and it’s a term loosely thrown around. Sleep training for one family might mean something completely different for another. And here’s the thing. Even if you are staunchly anti-sleep training, you’re still sleep training. Training is conditioning yourself or someone else to learn to do something, right? So, if you are putting your baby in a carrier and wearing them to sleep every day-you are essentially training them to sleep while you wear them. It’s not bad but it’s still sleep training to some degree.
I don’t read those articles anymore about how you aren’t supposed to make your baby self-soothe and how sleep training is dangerous. They are incredibly guilt-trippy and I don’t need that in my life, just sayin’.
Here’s the thing. How YOU choose to help your baby sleep is up to you. Isn’t that great? I think we are pretty fortunate to have a lot of options available to us and we get to figure out what works for us as individual families.
Babywise. What the heck is Babywise? I bought this book when Hudson (my first) was a few weeks old. It’s a book on sleep training by Gary Ezzo and Robert Buckman. It came out in the early 90’s when I was still a little girl. People swear by their method of putting baby on a strict schedule that follows the Eat-Play-Sleep routine. There has been a lot of controversy since the book came out about how people were too strict with feeding schedules. This contributed to failure to thrive in many young infants. That being said, I know many people who SWEAR by the Babywise method.
The general philosophy of Babywise is actually something I agree with and that is getting your baby into a routine from the beginning. But I as I attempted more of their methods with my first, I found a few glitches along the way. Here are 3 reasons why Babywise doesn’t jive with me.
- It’s confusing. I don’t know about you but once I had babies my brain no longer functioned the way it did before. I also don’t have hours and hours every day to figure out complex schedules and routines. Babywise is very complex or at least to me, it seems that way. It has you merging schedules and feedings. It’s not an easy read and it continually changes. Yes, a baby’s sleep changes as they grow. But I feel like it can be (it is) way more simple!
- It’s Too Strict. SO Babywise suggests that you feed your baby on a set schedule of every 2.5 hours to 4 hours, depending on their age starting from a week to 10 weeks of age. I don’t know about you but I had a really hungry newborn. He was 9 pounds 2 ounces from birth and he gained 1.5 pounds a week, at times. He was hungry ALL the time and if I didn’t feed him he was angry baby. As well he should be! I’m not a huge fan of when babies get into snacking but I firmly believe newborns (babies under 4 months) should be fed on demand. Chances are (as I’ve seen with both my boys) their eating patterns level out at around 3 months and take full feeds. Babies go through huge growth spurts ALL the time. Please please please, FEED YOUR BABY when they are hungry.
- My Babies Want To Be Fed To Sleep. Most sleep training methods tell you not to get into the habit of nursing your baby to sleep. Babywise is one of those especially because they teach the whole Eat-Play-Sleep method. So the idea is that as soon as your baby wakes up, you feed them. Then they “play” and then when it’s time to put them down for a nap, you do so. But there is a flaw in this oh so seemingly simple plan. Hungry babies. I’ll be honest-I tried super hard not to feed my first to sleep once I started sleep training him. I didn’t know anything about babies and sleep so I just did what I was told by many sleep sites and books. It didn’t work and I had a hungry baby who only took catnaps. Once I started following my gut instinct to feed my babies to sleep-they slept better and sleep training was (is) more successful. Look. Do you like going to sleep on an empty stomach? I don’t! In my experience with my own babies I have found that a full tummy equals good sleep. If you are worried that your child will never go to sleep without being fed, just relax. My 17 month old gets a bottle of milk before bed but he finishes it and then we put the bottle in the sink. He falls asleep great! There are ways, down the road, to gently wean your baby from needing to be fed to sleep but I wouldn’t worry about it too much.
Ok-so we’ve established that Babywise didn’t work for me and WHY it didn’t work for me. But you are probably wondering what I did instead. Well, I did a lot of things! Here are 3 things I did (and do) to establish healthy sleep habits with my babies.
- Create An Awesome Baby Cave. A peaceful environment is conducive to quality sleep. If you think about what helps you sleep well then it’s easy to apply that to creating an ideal sleeping environment for your baby. White noise is super important in our home. My husband and I even sleep with it! I have two of these Amazon Echo Dots that we’ve hooked up via bluetooth to old iPods/Android phones. My husband ripped a continuous track of white noise onto the devices so that it plays all night long. Make the room as dark as you possibly can. As your newborn becomes a curious baby, they will learn to scan the room to look for you and just have general interest in their environment. If there is too much light, this can make it difficult for them to fall asleep. My almost 4 month old already looks for his big brother like a hawk. It makes naptime a little tricky! Grab some blackout shades to help shut out the light. Keep the room moderately cool. A stuffy, hot room is a factor in contributing to SIDS. It’s also super uncomfortable! We keep our boys comfy in a fleece sleepsack (during the winter) and breathable, cotton jammies.
- Establish A Simple Routine. I’ve probably said this a billion times but it’s because routine, even a simple one, is so important in contributing to sleep success. I do not thrive well if I have no structure to my day. I think babies are the same way. Pick a wake up time every day and start from there. If you wake your baby up at the same time every morning and feed them-their body clock can sync to this time. Be mindful of how long your baby is able to stay awake and start nap-time before they get too tired. Don’t keep them up in hopes that they will nap longer. I’m never afraid of the early bedtime when I have a little baby and when they’ve needed it, they generally sleep even longer through the night.
- Be Ok With Being Boring. What I mean by this is if you want to see success with getting your baby into a routine and establishing healthy sleep habits-you kinda have to be home to do that. With my first I was super strict about his routine and schedule in the beginning. With my second, I’m more flexible but I’m still pretty boring during those first 6 months. Part of that is because we have one car and my husband usually takes it. I’m totally ok with being home the majority of the time because it’s worth it for me. I’ve seen the benefits of keeping my little guys on a good schedule. If you have one baby and find yourself bored with being home all the time-take advantage of this season of rest! Find a show to binge on or a good book! I know for me that there will come a day when we can go all the time if we want. This time of being at home is just a season.
Figure out what works for you as a family and then try to stick to it, if you can. Consistency is really important when you are establishing healthy sleep habits with your baby. I’ll be the first to tell you that we don’t have it all figured out in our home. This morning both my boys were awake before 6am. I’m really tired! But we do have a foundation of sleep to fall back on and that is something worth working towards, for us.
What have you found to work for you when it comes to your baby and sleep? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
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