3 Mistakes I Made that Robbed My Kids (and me) of Sleep

1. A later bedtime does not mean your child will sleep later in the morning.

As fall daylight savings was approaching, I was dreading turning the clocks back. My little three year old lark was already waking up between 6 and 6:30 every morning, despite an 8:30 bedtime, despite the predawn darkness, despite the fact that the entire household was waking up five times a night to the cries of a newborn, and despite my pleas that she played in her room until Mommy got out of bed at the still ungodly hour of 7am. (So not a morning person.) I found myself giving in to my daughter’s frequent request to stay up “a little later,” wishfully thinking it would grant me 15 more minutes of shut eye in the morning. It didn’t.

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But it wasn’t until my own bedtime kept creeping earlier and earlier (so I could muster up enough energy to play cow all night with the baby), that I finally gave in to my husband’s suggestion that we do the unthinkable—put The Bear to bed earlier. 7:30 to be precise. And you know what? She now wakes about a half an hour later. Madness.

2. Not establishing a consistent nap schedule for baby cost us 2 months of sleep.

As a teacher, I live by lists, schedules, recipes, rules, and other type A-ness. My first darling daughter must take after me. She fell right into a predictable eating and sleeping routine after two months, and all I had to do was write it down and post it on the fridge for the times someone else watched her. She was sleeping through the night (10-12 hours) at four and a half months.

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So when second darling daughter came along, it never occurred to me that I might have to establish a routine for her. Flash forward to three and a half months old and The Bean was not only running the show, she was a tyrant. She insisted on nursing every hour for a light snack, day and night. (In her defense, she was suffering through a two week long head cold and 20 hours in the car during our Thanksgiving road trip.) During the day, I was lucky if she took a couple 30 minute naps. At night, we were up at least six times. It seemed like she never slept. Neither one of us slept much.

A month later and at my wit’s end, I started to believe there might be something to the old adage “sleep begets sleep.” I figured what the heck, it’s not like we could be sleeping less. I began putting the five month old Bean down for naps before she was acting tired (about two to three hours after she last woke up.) She didn’t like it. But after grumbling in her crib for a few minutes, she would soon fall asleep… and stay asleep for 45 minutes to an hour. The more she slept during the day, the less she woke up at night. A few weeks later, she was taking two solid naps a day and only waking two to three times a night. And she was much better rested and happier during the day.

 

3. Insisting with dictator like fervor that the house remained silent while the kids are sleeping.

I spent the first two years of my oldest child’s life tip toeing around the house whenever she slept. Heaven forbid Rocksteady flushed the toilet or gasp, the doorbell rang. I’m surprised my facial muscles aren’t permanently frozen into a giant “Do NOT F-ING disturb” sign.

Eventually, I accepted the fact that The Bear was (like most little ones) a heavy sleeper. Things got wild–like using the ice dispenser during naptime. Later, even the baby’s gospel worthy lungs didn’t wake her sister in the next room. If The Bear did happen to wake up in the night, she simply turned on her glow seahorse and the lullaby lulled her back asleep.

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This realization led me to a 4:30 am epiphany (conceived to the soundtrack of a stubborn 6 month old wailing in her crib because she didn’t want to go back to sleep). If noise helped our oldest daughter self soothe and conk back out, then maybe a sound machine would help The Bean (who was still too little to push the stuffed animal to play music). Several clicks on Amazon later, I found myBaby SoundSpa. With six different noise settings and a timer option, it was perfect. As it turns out, a little noise might be just what the doctor ordered. Within a week (and a little lot a bit of fussing about it), The Bean slept through the night for the first time. Eleven blissful hours. As for me? I had a party in my dreams that night.

 

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