I look down at my adorable sleeping baby, fingers curled into a tiny ball, a faint “fuzzing” noise as he breathes. So angelic. I tip toe out of the room, using my stealth-like new mother skills. A sign of relief as I reach the hallway.
My baby is clearly not asleep.
Before we had our first child, I’d bounce out of bed at 7, poking my sleepy husband awake. He seems to have magical sleeping powers that I don’t posses. He rolls over and goes back to sleep. He promised me he’d teach our son to sleep.
Naively I believed him.
When we first left the hospital, after a few days in NICU (where they are very good at routine) we were doing fine. Our night time feed seemed to get later and later.
We may be sleep deprived but we were rocking this new baby thing.
Then one day it all went wrong. We went to stay with my mother in France. Our precious baby didn’t like his new crib. It was big and strange.
He point blank refused to sleep.
In desperation, I read every single sleep book I could get my hands on. I poured over the pages, looking for THE answer. Why wasn’t my baby sleeping “through the night”?
Well, there’s one thing I don’t agree on with most of the baby books. Their definition of “through the night” is normally from 12 to 5 in the morning. When I say I want my baby to sleep through the night, I’m planning to put my sleepy head on a soft pillow at 11pm (possibly earlier) and I’m planning on staying there until the delicious hour of 7.
In what world are there two definitions of “sleeping through the night”?
Yep in the world of baby books!
However, there were 2 things all the baby books did agreed on.
Firstly, that babies like a routine. Secondly that they like a good bedtime routine.
Now I’m the mother of 4 and I do agree that babies like a routine. It signals to them what is coming next. They have a plan. Instead of waking up and thinking “what shall we do today?” they know it’s time for breakfast.
Some baby books advocate a minute by minute routine. At 8.07 you will eat your breakfast. Those books might be great for first time moms who want to be led by the hand. If they work for you, that’s great.
My life has never been that strict. I think I’d get too worried that it was 8.19 and I still hadn’t started thinking about breakfast so my day was clearly going to be a disaster.
The general principle of a baby route goes like this. Eat, Activity, Sleep.
It’s sort of self explanatory really. You feed them, they have some awake time, then they go to sleep.
In the beginning “activity” may mean having your nappy changed, or spending 10 minutes playing with a toy. It’s normally not long but it really depends on your child.
My first son who was 2 weeks late was really active and would be awake for hours at a time. Just observing the world.
My daughter who is a twin and was 4 weeks early (that 6 weeks is a huge gap in terms of development at that stage) spent most of her early days asleep. She was a great sleeper. I hardly had any time to get her into her crib. I’d turn around and find that she’d just gone straight to sleep where she was.
11 Truths About New Babies and Sleep
You know what I wish I could say to that struggling mom nearly 8 years ago?
- All babies are different.
- The “Eat, Activity, Sleep” routine is great, but you don’t have to let it rule your life.
- A baby routine doesn’t have to be “to the minute” (but it can be if you like.)
- If you stick to it, your baby will fall into their own routine.
- All parents are different.
- There is no “answer” to getting your baby to sleep, only tips that work for some people but not others.
- You will find your parenting mojo. Learn to trust yourself (and ignore large swaths of the internet.)
- Making mistakes and learning is part of the fun.
- Establish a good bed time routine.
- Babies cry. You are not a bad parent if your baby is crying. Every parent goes through times when they can’t stop their baby crying. It is exhausting but it happens.
- It’s normal for babies not to sleep through the night. As much as I wish I could tell you otherwise, babies are nocturnal, they don’t understand this whole “day night” thing we’ve got going. They will learn, but especially to begin with, it’s a shock to most parents.
When I read all these informative books, it gave me a great framework but didn’t tell me how. It’s one thing to say it’s time for your baby to go to sleep. Quite another thing to actually make them go to sleep.
That’s the fun of being a parent. Learning how to do it by yourself.
Often the answer isn’t in a book. You just have to learn to trust yourself and get to know your baby.
Of course you won’t do everything perfectly the first time. Parenting is difficult. Parenting a baby is really difficult. But it’s also great fun.
So learn to trust yourself and enjoy your baby who will be tiny for only a blink of the eye.
And learn to embrace naps. I’m talking adult naps as well as baby naps. Naps are what will get your through those first amazing months.
How to Teach Your Baby To Sleep (Free Book)
How to Teach Your Baby to Sleep by Dr Orlena Kerek, mother of 4. Everything you need to know about baby sleep and setting up great sleeping habits. Join my newsletter to receive your copy