I'm thrilled to kick off this new series with an all-star group of fellow mamas today! We will have a variety of topics in the coming months, but today we are chatting about the ever elusive pastime of sleep. Here's the deal - there's no one way to parent and no two babies are the same. We came together to write these posts as a way to share each of our experiences knowing that the internet is a powerful tool for new moms, seasoned moms.... heck, just for parenting in general. Between the ages of 0-15 months, I Googled the heck out of everything that was happening with Parker. Take all the blog posts and commentary with a grain of salt, and in the end, you know your baby best. But it was nice and refreshing when I knew I had found a mother who had a baby similar to mine who was dishing out some sound and solid advice.... free of any side of crazy. So we start this series off with one of my favorite things in life..... sleep!
Sleep. You are a different person if you don't get enough and you are a different person if you get as much as you want. Am I right, or am I right? It's the same for babies and they need all their beauty rest too or they cause havoc. Now that Parker is 2, she's sleeping 11 hours a night with one 2-3 hours nap in the afternoon and we're all in a happy place. She may not be sleepy when we put her down, but she'll play or entertain herself and put herself to sleep. But, the first few weeks you just live in a household of tired zombie humans crying all the time because they just want to sleep. At first, Parker slept in her bassinet in our room (all those days are a haze) and then at around two or three months, we transitioned her into her crib. At four months, we began sleep training for both bedtime and naps. I know this is a hot topic amongst parenting circles, but it was important for us that she could be an independent sleeper. It's not everyone's choice, but it worked wonders for us as parents who both had jobs outside of the house to get too in the morning. I can't tell you how many 15min naps I took while in my pumping room at the office. Trust me, you can sleep while pumping.
Did we start sleep training and then everyone miraculously started getting 10 hours of sleep a night? No. We realized it's a gradual process. Parker was learning how to sleep, learning her nighttime routine, learning what to do when she woke up and didn't know how to get back to sleep. She did start sleeping in longer stretches most nights, others it was still touch and go. There were many nights of crying (both her and me), bouncing on our huge yoga ball to soothe her, nursing her back to sleep and sleeping with her in our bed or on the couch cause girlfriend just wanted to be cuddled. Some nights I was so tired I thought I'd never get to sleep a full eight hours straight again.... ever. In those moments at 3am, you will do anything to just get the both of you back to sleep. I remember a patch of time where she was still tiny and she'd be swaddled like a burrito and her soothie would fall out and the hysterical crying began. I would glide into her room like a ninja in the night, hide behind the crib, locate the soothie and then slyly put it back in her mouth and then ninja crawl back out of the room. It was really quite impressive. Eric would give me a high five and we'd both be back asleep in less than a minute.
At around five or six months, she was really sleeping like a champ. But it's right when you start to get cocky that the baby Gods really set you straight. Here's the thing about sleep. If you take one thing away from this post.... it is this. Sleep is an ever changing process for your child that will go through waves of consistency and then weeks where you feel like you're living in the twilight zone. It changes as they change. It gets disrupted by teething, traveling, growth spurts, nightmares, potty training and colds. The most important thing everyone can agree upon is to establish a routine with your child that works for your family.
I'll share a bit of ours in case it's helpful for anyone. We've always given Parker a bath before bedtime - it's relaxing. This signals that we are winding down and bedtime is in the future. We read a couple of books, hand her a 'lovie' and her soothie and say 'night night'. We started using the term 'night night' every time we laid her down to sleep - naps and bedtime. Eventually, she began to actually understand what that term meant - babies, so smart! She has some stuffed animals in her crib and her Baby Einstein toy (best gift ever) that she plays with and it still entertains and keeps her occupied her in her crib to this day. At around 16 months, we started leaving a water bottle in the crib with her. This was nothing short of pure genius! Every morning since, it has been empty when we go in in the morning. I think that water bottle buys us at least an hour extra sleep in the morning cause she'll wake up, drink water and hang out with her animals instead of crying. Or if she wakes up in the middle of the night, she'll drink water and then fall back asleep. She still has a soothie that she uses only when she sleeps - figuring out how to remove that is our next step in her sleeping process (tips/tricks gladly welcomed!) A routine also makes it smooth sailing for sitters, nannies, grandparents, etc to get your kid to sleep with ease.
I could write a novel on all the different sleep chapters we've encountered in our two years as parents. But key things are consistency, routine and what works best for your family (co-sleep, cry it out, soothe, nurse, etc). Here's the deal, at the end of the day there will always be a light at the end of the tunnel. You sure as heck don't feel like it when you're in the thick of the newborn stage, but there's an end. No kid goes to college not knowing how to sleep. If you are a first-time parent of a newborn reading this, trust me, you will sleep again! You may never feel like you're ever fully rested again, but things will find a rhythm.
** I'd love to hear from others on their experiences with sleep training, not sleep training, co-sleeping, tricks to napping while working and anything to expect in the coming toddler years in the world of sleep! Please share! This series is meant to spark some conversation so we can all learn from each other! **
Be sure to check out and follow along with the other amazing mamas who are sharing their stories as part of this series. Links below! #realmomseries