School of Sleep
Raise your hand if you're the type of person who can't function properly without your full 8 hours of sleep? <insert emoji of me raising my hand> Literally, I neeeeeeed my sleep. If I don't get my sleep in then I'm just not myself and I definitely don't operate at the level that I need to for my family. Knowing my need for sleep, when I found out I was pregnant with twins one of my later thoughts was "dear Lord, I'm never sleeping again, how am I going to survive this."
Knowing that I intended to return to work at some point after having the twins I embarked on some serious research about sleeping and babies. I needed to make sure our new little additions knew that in order for everyone to survive they needed to sleep. Apparently, newborns can't comprehend those verbal instructions (who knew?!) so I had to teach them how to sleep. Are you scratching your head yet? Yes, you can teach your baby how to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Before I begin, I realize that not everyone subscribes or agrees with sleep training. That's fine, to each their own. Every family is different and I am not posting this in order to start a debate about whether it is good for your children. It was good for my children and good for my family and that's really the end of that. If this post helps some mom or dad or child who hasn't had solid sleep in months then I am happy.
They're are tons of different sleep training methods out there. I relied primarily on the theories in the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Twins" linked here (also available pertaining to singleton babies linked here) and "Bebe, Day By Day" linked here. Now, I am writing about sleep training because all of my kids sleep relatively well in my book, so I'm just going to pass along what I did and how it worked for my family. But know that as I'm writing this blog post, Scottie is refusing to nap right this second and Nellie woke up at midnight the other night and we stayed up watching three different movies until she finally passed back out (shout out to Mikey D. for tapping me out at 3:00 a.m. so I could get some shut eye). Other than these kinds of occasional hiccups the twins generally go down to bed between 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and wake up between 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. Scottie, for now, goes down at 5:45/6 p.m., wakes up once to eat sometimes, and gets up for the day between 6:30 and 8:00 a.m.
Sleep Training Rule of all Rules: DO NOT SLEEP TRAIN YOUR BABY UNLESS YOUR PEDIATRICIAN APPROVES IT. This will likely not be until your baby is at least 6 months old. Before that, when they wake up, they need to eat, so just get up and feed them in your deliriously tired state.
Now that we have that out of the way, these are the basics to good sleep & sleep training.
BED TIME ROUTINE. So, so important. Your child has literally no idea whats going on. They just know that they eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom. I don't even know if they actually know these things but they definitely do these things. Pick a time that works for your schedule to do a "routine" that signals to the child that it is bed time. For us, that was 6:00 p.m. for all of our kids. I actually started this routine with Scottie right when we came home. For the twins, it was a little different because they were in the NICU and preemies, so special circumstances. But eventually we started a 6:00 p.m. bed time routine. Think of this routine as their wind down/relax time. Our bedtime routine (during their first year) consisted of diaper change, lotion, clean jammies, swaddle (until no longer appropriate), bottle in their bedroom with lights dimmed or off with a nightlight, burp and bed.
SLEEPY BUT AWAKE. After bedtime routine is over do not rock your baby to sleep in your arms (at this point I know you're wondering like what kind of sick, demented mother doesn't rock their sweet baby to sleep – bear with me). I mean I did this for all of my babies when they are really new because it's impossible to keep them awake but eventually you will want to start putting them in their crib still slightly awake. The theory behind this is that if the baby falls asleep in your arms, number one, that's the only way they know how to fall asleep, and number two, when they start coming out of their deep sleep cycle and they realize they're in a crib instead of your arms the baby is going to be startled and wake up fully out of their sleep cycle instead of just sort of waking up and then soothing themselves back to sleep. Put yourself in the babies shoes - if you fell asleep in one place and woke up in another, wouldn't you be totally freaked out? Yeah, don't do that to your kid.
SOUND MACHINE. Get one. I recommend the Dohm sound machines. Available on amazon and linked here. They don't shut off unless you shut them off.
SLEEP-WAKE-SLEEP CYCLES. Alright, baby's asleep, now what? Well, she or he is going to wake up eventually. They sleep just like we do, they fall asleep and are in a light sleeping state until they're asleep for a while and then they're in that good deep sleep, then they come out of that deep sleep and into a lighter state. We do the same thing all night long. But it's when they're coming out of that deep sleep and are in the lighter sleep where things get tricky. If baby starts to fuss, don't go into their room right away. I wait like 2 minutes to see if they're fully waking up or if it's just a "i'm really sleepy and want to go back to sleep" fuss. You'll learn the different cries of your baby. If the fuss gets more energized it's likely that they're coming fully out of that light sleep because they're used to being fed at that time. Here is where you have your first, I love you but I'm not your friend, I'm your parent moment. Go in there, do not pick up your baby, do not talk to your baby. Just soothe your baby by rubbing his or her back/belly, patting his or her bottom/side - whatever your baby likes. At this point, baby might calm down, but more than likely baby will get super pissed when he/she realizes you are not there to feed him/her. So, just keep on patting/rubbing whatever you're doing to soothe through the screaming and crying. I normally stay for like 2-3 minutes and then just leave. Leave the room. Do it. Run. Bye byeeeee. Look at your watch, take note of the time and wait 5 minutes. If baby is still crying after 5 minutes go back in there and repeat the above. This time baby might calm down, if he/she calms down, leave when that happens but if they're crying through the soothing again, just soothe for like 2-3 minutes and leave again. This time, wait 10 minutes before you go back in. Continue this cycle, doubling the time you wait each time until baby falls asleep. The most I have had to go with any of my babies through this is 1.5 hours. It's hard but I promise you will see immediate results. I had to sleep train Nellie and Scottie and with both of them I saw results after night 1. Night 1 is by far the hardest. You just have to remember that you are giving your baby the tools to figure out how to put themselves to sleep without any outside source. That's the best thing you can teach them - how to self soothe.
OTHER FACTORS - BASSINET OR ROCK-N-PLAY. There are a few things that could change how difficult this process is. One of them is whether you put your baby in a bassinet or in a rock-n-play when you first came home. A baby sleeps on a flat surface in a bassinet and on an inclined surface in a rock-n-play. I suggest putting your baby in a bassinet and not a rock-n-play to sleep at night when you come home from the hospital for two reasons. First, it complies with safe sleep standards. Sleeping on an incline, while maybe necessary for some babies with serious reflux issues, is not considered safe sleep for a normal, healthy baby who doesn't need to be on an incline. Second, if you get your baby used to sleeping on an incline in the rock-n-play, when you move your baby to a crib then you're going to have to not only sleep train but also train the baby to sleep on a flat surface. I'm the type of person that doesn't want to create more to-do's so I chose a bassinet for my babies. Their transition into their crib was seamless because they went from flat surface to flat surface. Second, the timing of when you introduce the crib and their own room is important. There are some guidelines out there that say baby should sleep in your room for a certain period of time. I went with what my pediatrician said and moved all of my babies into their own cribs as early as possible. They didn't even notice a difference because they were still in that 'I have no idea whats going on here' phase. I think the longer you wait to introduce the crib and their own room the more difficult a transition it is.
OTHER FACTORS - TIMING OF THE TRANSITION TO CRIB. The timing of when you introduce the crib and the baby's own room to baby is important. There are some guidelines out there that say baby should sleep in your room for a certain period of time. I went with what my pediatrician said and moved all of my babies into their own cribs as early as possible. The Twins and Scottie went into their cribs in their own room at about 2.5 months old. They didn't even notice a difference because they were still in that "I have no idea whats going on here" phase. I think the longer you wait to introduce the crib and their own room the more difficult a transition it is.
FYI Scottie has been napping for almost 2 hours now and I'm probably jinxing myself by posting this blog post. My kids will likely never sleep again after I hit publish – pray for me!