“The days are long, but the years are short.”
They say couples argue the most over three things; sex, family (in-laws mostly) and finances. My husband and I were the epitome of the perfect couple when it came to arguing. We usually would just agree to disagree and that was that.
Until one day…
Let me set the stage for you. We were “fresh off of the boat” first time parents. Our baby was extremely difficult (feel free to read my earlier blog “Why I didn’t like my baby” for more details). The lack of sleep was astounding. My dear, sweet husband had gotten a cold and was doing the usual cough, sniff, blow, hack a loogie. Yes, I said it, hack a loogie. He was even more tired because of the cold medicine he was taking, so I felt like I had to pick up the slack. It was about month 6 of not sleeping and I had hit my limit.
Sitting in our living room, while nursing the baby, I look over enviously at my husband who had just woken up from a nap and snidely say “You know what I’m tired of?” At this point I’m sure every husband reading this is thinking “Oh boy, that’s a loaded question.” My husband tells me now that he thought I might say that I was tired of not sleeping, tired of having a fussy baby, but nothing could have prepped him for what I was about to say. After a few moments of silence I finally replied with “I’m tired of your phlegm and I’m tired of your naps!”
Now lets just take a moment here. Although I may have been tired of those things at that moment, I was really just tired, and those were the things that were on my nerves. Looking back now we can both laugh at ourselves at how comical the entire situation was, but we were not laughing three years ago. Because of my severe sleep deprivation I no longer had my normal thoughtful wife filter on that day. He, of course, did not like my unsolicited comment and left the room. That was the first night in our marriage we went to bed angry at each other. He also got up for the work the next day and because he typically works 48 hour shifts we did not speak at all during those 48 hours. It was the longest, most miserable two days.
Fast forward to when he got home, things were a little awkward but I had been praying for a way to start a conversation. So I suggested we go for a walk. We put the baby in the stroller and headed outside. I’m not sure who began talking first, but we were both able to apologize for the way things had gone. Then he told me he remembered me mentioning something about a baby sleep specialist and that he thought it might be a good idea to finally give her a call. Can I get a Hallelujah?!?
Now enter the best decision we could have ever made and the best money we ever spent for our child and for our marriage. Her name is Heather and she was like an angel. I had read books, talked to other moms, read articles online and still I was lost. I had no idea how to get my baby to sleep, but Heather knew exactly what to do.
So you might be wondering where all of this is going and I am here to tell you a couple important things. Number One, when you are tired do not say stupid things like “I’m tired of your phlegm and I’m tired of your naps.” Number Two, sometimes space and time can give you some clarity when you are having an argument, but try not to go to bed angry. Number Three, and MOST important, don’t be afraid to ask for help (the real reason I’m writing this)!!! As a new mom I was sometimes hesitant to ask for help because I didn’t want people to think I didn’t know what I was doing…but let’s face it…I didn’t know what I was doing! Our sleep specialist came into our house and talked to us about our baby. She had us fill out an in-depth questionnaire about his eating, sleeping (or lack there of), playtime, overall demeanor, the surroundings in his rooms, etc…After our initial meeting we then kept a record of everything he did for weeks following her instructions. We also had four follow up phone appointments to make adjustments and ask further questions. About 2-3 nights after our first visit with the specialist, our son, Colton, was sleeping through the night and taking 2 naps during the day. Our lives were forever changed and our marriage was back on track!If you are further interested in knowing some of the tips that our sleep specialist gave us I am going to highlight a few ideas for you below. By no means will any one of these suggestions miraculously make your baby sleep better, but combined you may have a better chance. In the end, if you are seriously in need of help, contact a professional (I gave the direct link to the sleep specialist we used above)!! Also, all of this advice is based on a baby that is at least 4-5 months old and typically not being swaddled anymore.
-Check the baby’s room: Is it completely dark? We invested in black out curtains to block out any light during the day to help them nap. Are there too many toys in the crib? Sometimes this can be too much of a distraction for them. Is the room a good temperture? Make sure they are not too cold or too hot.
-Invest in a noise maker that never shuts off. We had one of those cute little lamb toys that shut off after about 40 minutes, which was actually disrupting his sleep and causing him to wake up. We now use the ConAir noise machine and it continually plays all night until we turn it off.
-Get to know your baby’s sleepy signs. This is also based on how long they have been awake, but things to look for are; yawns, eye rubs, crankiness, etc…just like us!:)
-Make sure they are getting enough to eat before naps or before bed time. Protein and grains are important so that they stay fuller longer.
-At different ages your baby will be able to stay awake longer and then in return nap/sleep longer. I had no idea that at certain ages they go from 3 naps a day, to 2, and finally down to 1. Here is the break down that she gave us. 0-4/5 months variable. 4/5 months: awake 60-90 minutes until first nap, 90min-2hrs until second nap, 90min-2hrs until third nap. 6-9 months: 2-2.5hrs until first nap, 2.5-3hrs until second nap, 2.5-3hrs until third nap. 9-12 months: 2.5-3hrs until first nap, 3-3.5hrs until second nap, no third nap anymore. 12-18 months: 3-4hrs until first nap, 3-4hrs until second nap. 18-24 months: 5-6 hours until first and only nap. 2-3 years: 6-7 hours until nap. 3-5 years (if still napping) 7-8 hours until nap. My babies always made the transition from 2 naps to 1 nap a couple months earlier than she suggested, but this gives you a general idea.
-It was also helpful to learn that your baby isn’t going to nap at the same time every day because they might wake up at slightly different times. Their sleep is dependent upon what time they wake. So right now our daughter, who just turned one, is still taking 2 naps a day. When she wakes up in the morning she typically sleeps 3-4 hours until her first nap, then whenever she wakes from that nap its another 3-4 hours until her second nap and then another 3-4 hours until bedtime. Our son, who just turned 3, has nap time 7-8 hours after he wakes up in the morning. He is at the age when sometimes he never falls asleep, but we still try to lay him down for some quiet time.
-Once you know their sleepy signs and how long they should be awake it is so much easier to put them down drowsy, but still awake! That way they are more apt to fall asleep all on their own. This is really key! It did take a little bit of crying the first few times, but the crying gets less and less and sometimes there is non at all.
-Create routine, especially at night time. We like to do a bath every night, then a message with lotion, pjs, singing lullabies and then a feeding (bottle or nursing). This tells your baby what is coming and they know what to expect.
-As far as the night goes I have a lot of moms tell me they just can’t let their babies cry. I am hear to tell you I completely understand. But I will also tell you that if you are tired enough you will have to let them cry a little. You don’t have to do the whole “cry it out” method, but there will be some crying. If this is too difficult ask the hubby if he would be willing to help you out for the first few nights so you are not alone.
-During the night if, you are like me, I was picking up our baby every time he cried. Big No No! Picking them up, rocking them, bouncing them, singing to them, etc..it actually only wakes them up more! It stimulates their little brains and it is harder for them to go back to sleep. The best thing you can do is just a quick check in. Go in, pat their back a couple times so they know they are not alone, then quickly get out of the room. Now some babies get more upset when this happens because this is new to them. They want to be picked up & fixed, so don’t be alarmed if the crying actually gets worse after you leave the room. If this upsets you and the baby more than it’s worth than I would only do the checks when you really feel like it is necessary. Some sleep trainers use a key phrase when they do a check like “Shh, its night time. I love you.” In theory it sounds nice, but for my kids the sound of my voice just made them more upset so I decided against it. I had a specialist suggest doing the checks every 5,7,11,15 minutes when they were crying hard. I think that is a good idea, but honestly by the second night I felt like starting around the 10 minute marker was more beneficial because he typically was almost done crying by then and going in would just rev him up again. Also, if you are still nursing the baby can really smell mom. So I highly suggest Dad (or grandma or whoever) helping out the first 2 nights so the baby doesn’t even have to smell mom and her milk.
-If you really think they are crying because they are hungry then you could try a “dream feed.” Here is what to do. About 2-3 hours after you put them down you go into their room, no lights, try not to make any noise, pick them up and give them the bottle. Sometimes it takes a minute for them to understand to start eating, but typically they figure it out. After they are done drinking get them back down in their bed. This is all done without trying to wake them at all. Hence the name “dream feed.” We did this with our son up until about 9months then we weined him off slowly, giving him less and less in the bottle. Our daughter never really needed it. Every baby is different!!!!!!
-CONSISTENCY!! You have to be consistent!! You can’t decide to sleep train then give up on the second night. Babies are so smart and it will only get harder the next time you try! They will cry longer, cry harder and be more mad because they think it will get you to pick them up like you did last time. So if you are not ready to commit, don’t. If you are going on vacation, moving, doing anything that might be a big change for the baby, then hold off. If whatever you are doing is working, then I’m happy for you. This advice is for those that are at their wits end and want their baby to sleep in their own room, in their own bed all through the night.
I hope and pray this helps at least one mommy out there who is just like I was, exhausted! Know that “This too shall pass.” -1 Corinthians 10:12