Written by Libby
Here’s the secret to a sleeping baby: You already know what to do!
The only reason we feel like we don’t, is because our society is telling us that our instinct is wrong. So we google and rack our brains on ways to get our baby to sleep when we should really just stop… listen…. and answer.
If we just ignore the naysayers that try and convince us that there is a magic potion or a sleep trainer that can get our baby to “sleep through the night”, we’d be able to just listen to our babies, and ourselves.
And we’d be able to answer and do what feels right without worrying about if we’re doing it right or wrong. We’d be free of ridicule, judgment and the guilt that we might be spoiling them.
I hereby give you permission to ignore everything except yourself and your baby. Do whatever it is that works for YOU and whatever it is that FEELS RIGHT.
You are the truest, most authentic resource that no Google search can touch, I promise.
So here is a peak into our world regarding all things sleepy. It turned out quite differently than I had imagined before becoming a mother. And yours will too — and that’s OK.
Our Sleep Story
My daughter Madison is 25 months now and more often then not, sleeps from 8pm till around 6am.
But that has not always been the case and there are still nights when she wakes up, and that’s ok too.
So let’s back up.
Newborn Co Sleeping
Her first nights home she spent in her cosleeper and took small naps here and there throughout the night as most newborns do.
I still remember the very first time she slept 4 hours straight. I was so worried, just watching her at 3am when she normally woke, as her chest went up and down as she took every breath as if they were so fragile and just might stop for some reason. I was so relieved when she woke to nurse. I literally missed her when she was sleeping for that first four hour stretch.
This fourth trimester, they need us the most. It’s that simple. And by answering them, we give them the smoothest transition possible to the outside world.
From Co Sleeping to Bed Sharing
She remained in her cosleeper until about 11 weeks when I went back to work. Between her absolutely refusing a bottle, reverse cycling as a result, and her getting her lip and tongue tie revision, the cosleeper quickly became a bed rail so she could sleep next to me, attached to my boob.
We stayed like that until 18 months.
We went through sleep regression, teething, reverse cycling, illness, you name it. All causing her to wake and need me at any given moment in the night. Having her next to me was our saving grace.
I had diaper changing supplies next to the bed and anything else I might have needed throughout the night including a big jug of water and midnight snacks so I didn’t have to leave the bed.
Then she was transitioned to her crib.
How on earth did we do that, you ask?
Well, it’s quite comical, actually, and won’t work for everyone.
Knowing It’s Time To Move
First I’ll share how I just knew it was time.
Short story – she grew!
Right before her 18 month birthday she was so big and long that I started to get uncomfortable throughout the night while sleeping. She would want to stretch and in order to accommodate her I would move over… and over… until I was in a sliver of the edge of the bed in the crack of the bed and the bed rail. Some nights I moved down, not over, and ended up in a ball at the foot of our bed.
I remember sitting up one night, sore from contouring myself, looking at her sleeping peacefully all stretch out, thinking, “Ok big girl, it’s time.”
Her Own Room
So, just like that, we started trying different things to get her into her crib overnight in her room.
I considered moving into her room with her for a few nights to help her get used to the new sounds and feeling of the room with me next to her. It helped that she was already used to her crib from naps during the day. So I didn’t need to move in completely.
What I did find out, and already knew, was that she still wanted me next to her when going off to sleep.
You see, every beginning of the night in my bed was peaceful, it was just after she was done nursing and ready to just sleep that she would push and stretch, needing her own space to do so.
First we tried to nurse in the rocking chair and have me put her into bed, but that didn’t work. My back was screaming at me the bigger she got and I wouldn’t be able to place her in her crib peacefully.
At 5 foot, I would end up almost placing her except I could reach all the way down and she’d sort of fall that last inch down. Needless to say it was not peaceful at all and she’d always wake needing me again.
So now, every night, I crawl into her crib and nurse her to sleep.
We cuddle and do everything like we did in my bed but just in her bed. Before getting comfortable I talk to her and tell her that when she’s asleep I’ll go so she can spread out and I can spread out in my bed and we’ll both sleep soundly. This conversation helps her understand so it’s not a shock if she wakes and I’m not there.
I would sometimes ask her, “Show me how you spread out!” And she would stretch her little arms out wide. I would show her, “No room for mommy! And that’s ok, because I’m going to do the same thing in my bed!” She would smile and we would carry on with our routine.
It took a few times for her to get use to waking at night without me there. I started by only having her sleep in her bed until her first waking around 1am. When she woke she would come to our bed. Next phase, at her first waking I would nurse her back to sleep in her bed again, then she’d sleep until 4am then come to our bed.
Slowly I began to commit to “all night” where I would go back into her crib and do the same thing, nursing her back to sleep, and then leaving so she would get used to me not being there. Eventually she woke up in her bed in the morning.
It’s a fact that she still wakes at night. The difference is that she’s able to go back to sleep on her own now. This is not because I trained her, but because she is developmentally able to do so.
So, now, at 25 months today she rarely needs me in the night, but if she does I go back into her crib and cuddle and nurse her. Then I slip away.
If this hadn’t worked and she still needed me several times during the night I would have brought her back to our bed. Simple as that. I would have made a side car bed next to our bed so I was able to tend to her needs without needing to get up completely.
But this worked for us!
Sometimes if I fall asleep in her crib she will wake not to need me, but to push me to leave!
Every baby is different, and there are nights when she will need me more.
So my best advice on sleep is simply this:
Try new things.
If there is something truly wrong, and your baby is awake, inconsolable, seek medical attention.
But if they are consolable but they are crying because you’re trying to force them to sleep alone or on your schedule, then my advice is to simply.. stop.
If your baby wants to be near you to sleep, that’s normal. So do it.
If your baby wants to nurse to sleep, that’s normal. So do it.
If you’re baby wants to sleep attached to your boob all night long, that’s normal. So do it.
If you’re baby wants to stretch and doesn’t want you next to them, that’s normal. So do it.
My point is, my solution, if you will, is to do whatever your baby is asking for. They will sleep. They must, and they will. The schedule will not be a schedule for quite a long time, but it will get there I promise. Until then, follow their lead. Try new things to see if they like something new if your current situation isn’t working.
When they want to have a dance party at 2am promote sleep by keeping very little lights on and don’t engage in play. Offer the breast to better promote sleep. Reverse cycling can happen but it does pass.
When they aren’t feeling well they will need to nurse more, especially at night so cosleep or bed share safely if that works for you so you can be there and you don’t have to wake up all the way. In addition your baby won’t have to wake all the way either and you will both get a better nights sleep even when your baby wakes 16 times. (TRUST me on this)
When your baby is going through a growth spurt do the same. Or a Mental Leap.
Your baby will most likely wake in the night and need you until they are 3 years old. Yup. THREE.
And it’s normal.
It could be less, it could be more. It could be that they sleep through the night for a year then stop.
So trust them. Answer them. And love them.
They won’t be little long and I promise, you’ll miss the midnight cuddles then more than you miss the sleep now.
Kellymom.com: Cosleeping Info and Safety
Have you experienced cray nights and survivor ecstasy with your totally-normal-nocturnal toddler? We would ❤ to hear from you. Contact us, comment below, or tag #WokeMamas on social media.
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