Infant / toddler sleep has become suuuch a sensitive issue. Everyone has an opinion about it and thinks they know the best way to make your baby sleep (and sometimes, they actually do). Dilan was a horrible sleeper as an infant. We were given the usual advice: to put rice cereal in his bottle, rock him to sleep every night, and swaddle him religiously. Rice cereal didn’t work since hunger wasn’t his problem, rocking him to sleep failed as soon as we put him back down, and he broke out of his swaddle to the point where we had to double and triple swaddle the poor pickle.
After over 6 months of only sleeping 2 to 3 hours a night, we decided to do some serious research into what causes sleep problems and what we could do to help our bundle of sunshine sleep more peacefully. Both Anil and I can handle a bit of sleep deprivation, but I find it particularly difficult to try to code or do anything heavily analytical with such little consecutive sleep. I know six months does not sound like a long time, but when you’re going back to work full-time or have other kids / people to manage at home, it can feel like an eternity. I’ve gathered our favorite bedtime resources below. If I could do it all over again and didn’t decide go back to work, I would have tried to sleep in the same room longer, or wouldn’t have cared about routines as much as I do now. Snuggling up with a newborn is just heavenly and there is no way you can spoil a baby…until they get around the 4-5 month mark or so. Right around that time, is when the sleep regression started for us. That’s when we seriously started to sleep train. Some prefer to cry it out, but we took five weeks (the “get me a Don Julio shot right now” type of weeks) to gently teach Dilan how to put himself to sleep. Whatever you do, to me that’s still the key to your infant / toddler sleeping well: teaching them how they can put themselves to sleep when you’re not holding / rocking / feeding them. Unless, of course, you have the time and desire to keep doing this – nothing wrong with that.
But what do I know? I’ve only compiled these resources because they made a huge difference for us and because you asked for them :-). We take bits and pieces from these sites and books and apply the ones we think will work best. Every child has a different personality, so you can’t count on any of these to work perfectly by themselves (unless you have an easy baby). However, string a few of these together and you may just get rest sooner than you think. To Anil and my future self (4.5 months from now!): if you’re reading this, you’re probably up and desperately looking for something new to try at 3 AM. Don’t lose hope. You’ve done this before. You’ve got this.
Sleep Resources (in order of effectiveness for us):
1. Sleep webinars from ISIS Parenting – Hugely helpful. We watched a ton of these while eating one-handed dinners and holding Dils at night. They’re usually 30 mins each, so you can have this running while nursing / pumping / eating.
2. Troublesome Tots – An amazing and realistic blog on all things sleep, and hilarious too!
3. The Wonder Weeks – If you don’t have time to read the book, at least sign up for the wonder weeks alarm. You’ll get an email in your inbox whenever your child is likely to go through a developmental leap. Dilan was just textbook when it came to this and it helped us understand why he had a difficult time sleeping and settling down. I wish they would continue for the toddler years, since we’re sure Dilan is going through a developmental phase this week.
4. The usual suspects: The Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child book and the Happiest Baby Books. I’ve read the first book listed, the Happiest Baby on the Block, and the Happiest Toddler on the Block – all great to read before you have your child, or before they grow up. Easier said than done, I know, but good tips in all of these.