When your little one doesn't sleep through the night, it can be rough. It's rough on your physical and emotional well being, and rough on your marriage. Trust me, I know.
Our older daughter slept peacefully through the night from about the time she was six months old. She woke pretty frequently the first two months of her life, as is to be expected, but from month two to month six she woke once or twice a night, easily going back to sleep when she was fed.
Our younger daughter hasn't slept well since the day she was born. She is almost two and just barely sleeping through the night, 4-5 nights a week. It has been a long, sleepless journey with her, one that made me shed tears more than once because I was SO. TIRED.
It has progressively gotten better over the last two years as we have tried new things and discovered tricks that worked for us. One thing we haven't ever done is cry it out. While I know some parents swear by it, it wasn't right for our family, so we have searched and tried many different gentle parenting techniques to get us to where we are now. These are the things that have worked for us.
Clothing and blankets. What is your little one sleeping in? I have often found that my daughter was waking up because she was too hot or too cold, so finding the appropriate amount of clothing is paramount. I have all sorts of different nighties on hand for her depending on what the temperature is like. I prefer footie pajamas to help keep the toes warm, so I have heavy fleece footie pajamas and light cotton ones for different nights. For very cold nights, I also use a space heater in our nursery since we try and keep the bed free from all items after we stop swaddling.
My friend Marissa, from Rae Gun Ramblings, bought her little one a magic sleep suit when he was struggling to sleep through the night and it made a world of difference for them. For children that are a little older, consider buying a weighted blanket to help them feel safe and secure. I wouldn't use one with an infant however.
Routine. One of the biggest things that helped my daughter was a daily routine. We would start about 45 minutes before I wanted her to go to sleep and do the same thing every night. As much as I didn't want to add a bath to our nightly routine, a bath with lavender baby wash really helped my daughter wind down and know it was time for bed. She would take a bath, then I would lotion her with nighttime lotion. Then we would get dressed and I would sit in my rocking chair with her and her blanket. We would read a story, she would nurse and then I would sing to her as I rocked her a little longer. Doing the same thing every night helped her know it was time for bed.
Find good sleep associations. Another one of the things that has really helped us is to have things that our daughter associates with going to bed. We played the same lullaby CD for our girls every night when they lay down. It was another signal that it was time for bed. Now that she is a little older, she knows that she will lay down with the same blanket and same stuffed animal every night too.
Establish a sleep cycle. Establish a nap/sleep cycle. For my babies, I usually put them down for their first nap about two hours after they wake. Then about three hours after they wake up from the first nap they go down for the second. If you notice your toddler isn't sleep as well at night, try cutting out a nap to get better night sleeping.
Get your baby used to their crib. Make sure your baby naps where you want them to sleep at night. Adults often have this need too. Do you sleep on the same side of the bed, with the same pillow? Why? Because it's familiar and feels comfortable. The same things holds true for babies.
Sleep environment. We discovered when my daughter was about eight months old that she was often waking up to small noises from around the house. We chose a lullaby CD to counteract this, but a white noise machine accomplishes the same thing. Another good investment we made was black-out curtains. Both of our kids slept longer and better when we hung up black-out curtains.
Move up bedtime. There is nothing harder than trying to get a little one who is over-tired to settle down. They feel fussy and irritable. Try moving bedtime up by a half and hour and see if it helps.
Needs. Make sure their needs are taken care of before you try and wind them down or you are just setting yourself up for failure. A clean diaper, a full tummy, and warm pajamas are usually your best bet to setting yourself up for success.
Tummy problems. Nothing makes a baby fussier than tummy troubles. I love to use Gerber Soothe Products, especially their colic drops, for my nurser. Research indicates that the type of bacteria in the infant’s intestine may determine whether a child is colicky. This suggests a role for probiotics to help support a balance of good bacteria in the digestive tract of colicky infants. In particular, the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri has been clinically shown in multiple studies to reduce crying time in colicky infants.
GERBER® Soothe products (drops and powder formula) contain L. reuteri, a probiotic that is safe for infants and naturally found in breast milk. Gerber® has different experts available (Registered Dietitians, Certified Lactation Consultant and Certified Baby Sleep Consultant) to answer any questions you may have about your little ones. You can call 1-800-203-4565 to get a hold of them.
It is Normal For Babies to Wake. One of the biggest things I think that has helped me with an infant that struggles to sleep is to remember that when she cries, she is communicating, and that it is completely normal for them to wake and want their mom. I saw a post on Facebook once that said 100% of babies have only slept inside of a woman. 100% of babies thing sleeping outside of a woman is scary and 100% of babies need nightly reassurance it isn't scary as they think it is. I try to keep this in mind when my little ones wake up at night.
What are you tips for help babies sleep?