Getting A Baby To Sleep Well

Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I've had four babies that I've given birth to, loved, nurtured, fed, clothed, and sheltered. Does having had four babies make me experienced? Probably. In numbers and the sheer amount of time I've invested in raising children, yes it does.
Does having had four babies mean I know what I'm doing? Not always. It's amazing how much you forget in the 2 years or so between births. People assume that because I've had four babies, I'm a natural mother who takes to mothering naturally (and in this day and age 4 children is considered a large family. I have several friends with 8, 10, 11, 12 children, so I don't think 4 is large - but the fact is that most people in our society do). But I am a firm believer that a good mother doesn't depend on the size of your family, or the experience you may or may not have had. Mostly I think it is just good sense.

For each baby I have relied on helpful books from Plunket and fantastic websites like babycenter. Since my youngest was born I've received an email from them every week with updates and information on milestones and development stages for her age and growth. Some of it is not relevant for me, but some of it is. This morning I got an email from them about the proper amount of sleep that is required for a baby/toddler. I have an 18 month old who is a really wonderful sleeper, but I was interested to see what the recommendation was for a baby of that age. Including night and day sleeps they suggest 13 1/2 hours per day, which is almost exactly what little Alice is getting right now. Whatever my other mothering challenges have been, sleep has never been an issue for us. All four of them, (and they are all so different from each other) have been good sleepers as babies and toddlers. I get asked alot what my secret is, but I usually just smile. You can tell when people really want to know, and then I tell them - but otherwise I just smile.

But, for the record, there are two things that I have found invaluable when it comes to getting a baby/toddler to sleep.

* Stability and familiarity. I limit my freedom so my baby can get enough sleep. If that means I can't go out in the morning to the shops or a friend's house or to help at some charity thing, because that is when my baby has a nap time, then I don't go out. I find that nobody argues with me over that or makes me feel like it's not a valid reason. It is. So, as much as possible, my babies have had the same sleep time during the day and at night for the first 2-3 years of their lives. It does limit my freedoms. I do sigh over that limitation many times, but the peace and quiet and long night of sleep is worth the sacrifice.

Also, and this one gets harder as I'm homeschooling and the older children have more activities outside the home, but as much as possible I put the baby down to sleep in their own cot/bed. Not in a pram, not in a carseat, not in a portacot in a room close by. The familiarity and security of their own bed makes a huge difference to their being able to go to sleep on their own.

* Routine. I know a lot of mothers who recoil in horror at that bad word. And I know that it can get out of hand for control freaks who do everything by the clock. I am not like that, but I am an avid supporter of naptime being at the same time everyday. And bedtime at night being at the same time too. Again, as I mentioned in the first point, it gets down to that self-sacrificing thing of mothering and giving up your own freedoms. If a day is predictable then the baby will be happy. They're just getting used to the big wide world - loud noises and new faces and daytime and nighttime and warmth and cold and beds and food and nappies. They don't take too kindly to surprises.

That's pretty much it. For a few years while the children are young, it makes for a boring routine, but then again, what is boring about a baby?. Nothing. There's something new and sweet and exciting to love about them everyday.

Little Alice, my youngest, has some unusual sleeping habits. She refuses to sleep under the blankets, and whatever end I put her head at, it usually ends up at the exact opposite. She's a tummy sleeper too, with her legs curled up under her. I have worried about her getting cold in the middle of the night, but thank goodness for those padded, snuggly little sleepsuits you can get now.
I sneaked in and took this picture of her during her daytime nap the other day. It was toward the end of the nap and she'd slept for an extra long time and I was getting worried (as you do), so sneaked in to check on her, took a picture with the flash, and she slept on for another 20 minutes!


softearthart said...

Hi, Some great tips here, my children have grown and flown, but your blog is real cool, cheers from the North Island. Marie

Little Kiwi Chick said...

Aww, Alice looks so sweet all curled up in her cot :o) This is good advice. I am already guilty of not putting Abbey down to sleep in her cot every time... sometimes she sleeps in her bouncy chair during the day, or the porta-cot... oops! But she is an amazing sleeper. She has been sleeping through the night now for the past month or so. I get 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night! Initially when she started sleeping through the night so early on I got concerned, so would set my alarm and try to feed her during the early hours of the morning, but she was so sound asleep she wouldn't wake up or 'dream feed'. So now I just let her sleep through the night and figure she'll cry if she needs me, and occasionally she will wake me because she's hungry. Otherwise, she feeds really well during the day, so I am not worried anymore.

I get babycenter's weekly emails as well - so helpful!

S said...

Thanks for the tips, I found you on KMB, I am on baby no 3 and yet to crack the sleeping thing!
Your little girl is lovely, my baby girl has the same dress she is wearing in the sleeping picture and it is my favorite, looks gorgeous on your little one too :)

momentsofwhimsy said...

Alice looks so sweet, and you are reminding me of how long ago all of this was for me!

We were probably more flexible than you as I also wanted my kids to be able to sleep in a porta-cot incase there was an instance where they had to stay out or if they stayed at Grandma's. That said though, I also did have a loose sort of routine - and you are right, babies do thrive better with some routine in their lives.

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