Since I have several emails from readers sitting in my inbox, awaiting replies, I’m devoting the rest of this week to answering a few questions.
This one is from Melissa:
I am curious, and wondering what you have done with your children to encourage them to sleep through the night? My little boy is now 3.5 months, and I am wondering what you recommend? Do you have specific routines, etc? Or do you just take it as it comes? I have just been so tired lately, because he is constantly waking up! I know that he is probably teething at this time, which can also interfere with things too, but just wondering what you would do, and do your kiddies sleep through?
Girl, I remember those days (which haven’t been all that long ago, and will soon be upon me again!). I definitely feel for you and the exhaustion you’re going through with a newborn. Those are some precious but tiring days (and nights!).
I wish I had a sure-fire method to share with you for getting your infant to sleep through the night.
Unfortunately, I don’t.
I’ve had three babies so far and have never managed to find a “cure” for a newborn who wants to wake up and eat every two or three hours. Unfortunately, this seems to be the normal course of raising babies.
One thing I recommend to new mothers is to sleep during the day whenever you are able. I’m not talking about lying around on the couch eight hours a day, but there’s nothing wrong with napping while your baby sleeps in the morning or afternoon.
I didn’t learn to do this until after Keith, our third child, was born. Sheer exhaustion drove me to it– and my husband begging me to take a nap. When Jeremy begs me to take a nap, it’s usually because I am turning into an absolute ogre and he doesn’t have the heart to tell me. 🙂 So, mamas, do yourself and your family a favor- take a nap!
You asked if I have a routine with our children. We do have a bedtime routine for our kids, but it certainly didn’t begin in their first year of life!
Maybe it’s just me, but I found it completely impossible to establish much of a routine (be it sleeping, eating, or anything else) with a tiny baby. My babies seem to enjoy setting their own “routine”, which usually involved waking frequently to eat day and night.
I did find a few things that helped keep things from getting completely crazy:
We learned early on, especially with our second child, Emily, to keep Baby awake during the late evening. Emily was born with a habit of taking a long nap right after our dinner time. She would sleep several hours, then be wide awake and fussy right at bedtime. Jeremy and I got very little sleep until we learned to keep her awake from about seven o’clock in the evening until bedtime (around 9:30 or 10). Keeping her awake in the evening didn’t make her sleep through the night, but at least she was willing to go to sleep at night!
Another “trick” I always try, is to bathe my babies right before bedtime to encourage them to relax. As they grow older, is does help set a routine as the child learns that bath time is synonymous with winding down to sleep time. Again, it’s not magic, but every little detail helps.
Some moms I know use lavender essential oil to help their children relax and sleep well. You can either “dab” a drop onto your baby’s pajamas or use it in a massage oil. Because of the controversy surrounding using lavender oil on young boys, I recommend purchasing a medicinal grade essential oil, such as the oils available at Youngevity. From what I understand, it is not the lavender oil itself that can interfere with puberty hormones, but the toxic additives used to keep the oils diluted and cheap (such as those used in baby bath products). All oils labeled “pure” are not pure. Essential oils need to be medicinal grade in order to be completely safe.
Another factor I found in getting a good night’s sleep with a newborn is sleeping arrangements. If your baby is sleeping in his crib in another room, try putting him in bed with you for a while. If he’s already sleeping with you and neither of you are actually sleeping, try letting him sleep in a bassinet beside your bed. It usually takes a few nights to adjust to a new sleeping arrangement, but give it time and see if changing something around doesn’t help.
All babies don’t necessarily like lying on their backs in a crib with Mozart’s classics “soothing” them into dream land. When our Emily was an infant, she slept in a baby swing for about a month. We went through a load of C-batteries to keep that thing going all night, but she loved it!
If you are nursing your son, realize that it’s pretty normal for breastfed babies to wake-up to eat more frequently than bottle fed babies. The reason being, mama’s milk is more easily digested than formula and Baby feels hungry sooner.
My Amy was born three weeks early and was not a good nurser (or sleeper) the first few months of her life. She woke all throughout the night to eat, sometimes more than once every hour. I finally figured out that she was nursing just enough to pacify herself back to sleep without actually filling her tummy. I learned the hard way to try and keep her awake to nurse at least twenty or thirty minutes before letting her doze off. When her tummy was full, she slept longer periods of time between feedings– and so did I. 🙂
You mentioned that your son might be teething. When babies are tiny, it seems there is always something to interrupt their sleeping! Here are a few “helps” I found for common baby ailments that interrupt a night’s sleep:
Colic- Amy was colicky for about a month when she was an infant. Any parent suffering through that trial has my deepest sympathy. It is exhausting.
The only “remedy” I discovered that offered any relief was Gripe Water. It is an all-natural remedy (made from herbs) and it works. We have given it to each of our children for everything from colic to tummy aches and gas. After administering a dose, I usually hold the baby upright, with his or her head resting on my shoulder, and pat their back with the palm of my hand. Usually within twenty minutes their tummies would ease and they fell asleep. I always keep Gripe Water on hand when I have a baby in the house! It is available at health stores.
Teething- Two of our three children suffered terribly with teething issues. Miserable! I keep Tylenol on hand to relieve pain when necessary, but the remedy that works best for us is the homeopathic remedy Chamomilla. I have a homeopathic remedy kit, so I refer to it whenever I need it. If you don’t have a kit, check a health store for a remedy including the ingredient Chamomilla. Hyland’s Teething Tablets also work pretty well.
Constipation- The best helps for a constipated baby are this tummy massage, a trip to the chiropractor (completely safe and very beneficial for babies), and a suppository when all else fails. I learned early on in parenting to keep child-size suppositories on hand for emergency tummy problems. We didn’t need them frequently, but they saved our babies lots of unnecessary misery a time or two.
This is just your basic, run-of-the-mill common sense stuff… nothing profound. Hopefully, something will spark an idea than can help ease the exhaustion during this season of your motherhood, Melissa!
If nothing else helps, maybe simply realizing this too shall pass will offer a little comfort. The long nights and exhausting days seem to last forever, but they won’t.
If I remember correctly, none of our three children slept through the night much before they were six months old. Our Emily was two years old before she started sleeping all night!
Thankfully, all three of our pumpkins sleep through the night now. It’s very seldom I am wakened by one of them, unless they are sick.
I’m sure I will be referring back to this post later this summer when Baby #4 arrives. Then it will be your turn to offer me some encouragement. 🙂
I know some of you mamas have young babies… How are you handling the sleep deprivation?
Any tips or suggestions you’d like to share with Melissa?