As I mentioned yesterday, the book No Cry Sleep Solution changed my life. After nine months of sleepless nights, I had resigned myself to fatigue until the girl moves away to college in 18 years. Luckily, a quick read, a little bit of sound advice other than “just let her cry,” and a little time, and I’ve got a sleeping baby on my hands. I’m still not getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, but getting woken up only a time or two during the night—as opposed to hourly—has been a massive, huge, monumental improvement. (Can you tell I’m excited?)
Because I believe that every parent deserves sleep, I’ve listed a few of the tips that I believe really helped us.
5 Life-Changing Infant Sleep Tips
1. Keep a log. It might seem silly to log every nap in a spreadsheet, but it will do three things. First, like a food log, it will force you to evaluate how much sleep your baby is really getting and what the overall “sleep environment” is like. Second, seeing everything in black and white will help you be more consistent with a sleep schedule. And third, it will allow you to see your progress in cold, hard numbers. (Download sleep logs here.)
2. Don’t jump at every peep. I would sometimes jump out of bed at the slightest whimper to get the baby back to sleep before she started all-out crying. Problem is, sometimes babies make noises and even let out cries in their sleep. I was only causing problems by picking her up when she probably wasn’t even really awake. Now I wait to see if it’s a sleep-cry or an I-need-attention-cry before I give her my attention.
3. Naps are so important. Good sleep begets good sleep, so good daytime naps equal good nighttime sleep. It can make those daytime naps super frustrating, but I’ve found that the better and more consistently she sleeps during the day, the more sleep everyone gets at night.
4. Early bedtimes. We started watching for sleepiness around 6:30 p.m. It’s counterintuitive that an earlier bedtime would mean better, longer sleep, but if we get her down during her sleepy sweet-spot, she’s down for the count. Within a few days of putting her to bed earlier, she started sleeping several hours in a row—previously an unheard of feat.
5. Break the nurse-to-sleep cycle. This was the toughest part, and it caused some overnight power struggles because the baby was used to one way of doing things, and she wants what she wants when she wants it. I had to call in reinforcements (my hubby) more frequently because sometimes my presence with the absence of boob made her angry. But she knew boob wasn’t possible with Daddy, so she’d pass out nearly instantly (which as you can imagine is slightly frustrating for mama!). It’s now getting easier for me to go in to soothe her—and keep my shirt on the whole time.
In addition to these tips, parents should be sure to manage their expectations. A tiny baby, for instance, may not be physically capable of sleeping through the night without a meal. But if you’re well past the point when your child needs to eat overnight (like, your child is in first grade), be sure to check out the book.
Did you have a sleepless infant? What tricks did you think helped you the most? —Erin