Let’s set the stage!
So you get home from the hospital, you go through weeks of waking every two hours for feedings and then finally, blissfully your baby starts sleeping a little longer and you think you are out of the woods. You’re getting up early again and maybe doing your hair, you’re eating breakfast, you’re feeling more rested. Then one night your baby is up every two hours again. It’s a fluke right? Tomorrow will be better! But…it’s not! Night after night he is waking and you are wondering what in the world your doing wrong?! Sleep regression? Teething? Hunger? Bad habits? Why is my baby waking?!
This is what babies do!
It drives me absolutely insane when babies are held to some kind of higher standard. It seems they are rushed into being these little cookie cutter, “I am robot” human beings and are not given the time to just be what they are, babies!
This is my opinion, I know not everyone will agree and that is ok! After all that is the beauty of parenting, passing on traits and habits and lifestyles that you believe in. I believe that the timings for milestones and tiered categories for development should be recognized for what they are…guidelines. Averages. Cookie cutter nonsense!
Every human is different, every child is different! I cannot count how many times I have heard other moms absolutely terrorizing themselves with worry because their son or daughter is “behind”. They should be rolling by now, they should be talking by now, they should be crawling by now. Says who? If your baby is within a few months of a particular milestone, let them be! You will be more relaxed and so will your little one. It’s hard, I get it! Worry is always just around the corner for parents. Shaming is everywhere! If you don’t conform to the latest trend then you are a bad parent.
By far though the most talked about topic is baby sleep (or rather lack thereof!).
Allow me to set your mind at ease. Yes it is normal, you are doing fine, and everything will be ok!
I became a first time Mom last August. My son slept 8-10 hours per night from the age of 1 month to 3 months. Life was peachy…we were catching up on all those lost hours of sleep. I thought, “Man, didn’t we luck out!”. Then one night he woke up every three hours. The next night, every two hours…everyone told me it was a growth spurt. It was a leap. He would come out of it. I needed to do this, I needed to do that. Not knowing any better I assumed that this kind of behavior was abnormal. The exception not the rule.
I had everything backwards!
After a few weeks we finally accepted that this schedule was here to stay and once I did accept that then everything became much easier not only for me but for our son too! I stopped trying to make him adapt to a schedule that he was not ready for and just followed his cues telling me what he needed and when. We started to work as a team to find what worked for our family. For him, for daddy and for me! Now at almost 5 months old, he is only waking once in the night for a feeding and then he is straight back to sleep on a fairly predictable schedule to boot!
It took the pressure off. I felt like I could breathe again just allowing him to progress how he would. This is a mindset that I have since implemented in the other areas of his life too!
For instance, Tummy Time! He HATED tummy time with a red hot fiery passion. The doctors recommendation was to force him to do it, at least five minutes a day. I was told he won’t develop the muscles he needs without it. He won’t roll over on time. He won’t develop good head control. Well folks I am happy to say that we followed our gut instincts and did not force Tummy Time on our son. He is almost five months old…has EXCELLENT head control, rolled from tummy to back last week and is able to stand and sit assisted. We let him tell us what he needed and he is developing just fine doing fun age appropriate activities that he actually enjoys! Now after all this time he actually does enjoy being on his front, but he has more control over himself and that seems to be why.
With that being said we certainly do have some sleep routines that have definitely helped with consistency!
1.) Routine, Routine, Routine – From early on we started a bedtime routine. Once you figure out what works for your family these routines become fun and something to look forward to every night. Early on we were still learning each other and bedtimes were later. Slowly since then his bedtime has moved back to 7PM. This means most nights he is sleeping by 7. We start winding down at 6. His routine consists of a warm bath (if it’s bath night), feeding, book or lullaby and snuggles, then he is in his crib for mighty nights. Over the months he has come to expect these activities at the end of the night and it seems it’s almost like a security blanket for him. Cues that are letting him know what time it is, what that means for him, and what he can expect from us. Otherwise every night is a free for all and I feel he would have a harder time recognizing what we are trying to communicate to him. Keep in mind that these little humans are not 100% predictable and so if the routine is off time or maybe you skip a step it is not going to be the end of the world. Just keep on rolling!
2.) Bath Before Bed – I have found that on the nights we give our little guy a bath he sleeps even better than usual. Warm water? Check. Soothing scents? Check. Last dose of play time before resting? Check. Snuggles and cuddles after? Check. A nice warm bath will pave the way to a relaxed drowsy baby which will equal a nice deep sleep. You know that feeling you get after you go to the spa for an afternoon of pampering? Kind of like a bowl of warm pudding? Pretty sure it’s the same effect! Ha!
3.) Nap At All Costs – We found that helping him get all of his naps in during the day is extremely important. We found this helpful chart for determining approximately how much sleep our son would need as he grew older. As of right now we are still making sure he naps every 1.5-2 hours. Keep an eye out for your babies sleep signals and make sure that you respond to them in a timely manner. I found that trying to “push” the nap because it wasn’t quite time yet only makes things worse.
4.) Drowsy But Awake – One thing I have been working really hard on is to make sure that I put him down in his crib sleepy but awake. Since we started doing this he has been able to teach himself to fall asleep peacefully. That is not to say every single time he drifts off without a fight, that is completely unrealistic. Nine times out of ten though he coos to himself for a few minutes and then is out like a light. The reason this is so important is that in the middle of the night when they wake up, as they inevitably will, it is giving them the tools to drift back off without your assistance…a.k.a more sleep for mama!
5.) Embrace It – They are only this little once after all! As hard as it is, even on those nights that you are beyond exhausted and wonder if you’ll ever sleep again, just hold that baby close and enjoy the moment. There will be a time all too soon that they don’t want you to hold them anymore. That they won’t call out for your help anymore. These fleeting moments are so precious and should be cherished…
Most of all it is important to remember that parenting is a journey of trial and error. Our journeys will all differ from each other and what works for one family may not work for another. Follow your gut instinct…we are preprogrammed to nurture our children and provide the safest most wholesome environment for them!
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**As always please know that this article is written off of my experience and opinion and is not professional medical advise. If you are ever in doubt that something is wrong, please seek guidance and attention from your healthcare provider or a medical professional.**