This is not a bragging moment. I am happy to say that my kids are good sleepers. When they were 13 months, I remember laying them down to go to bed at my parent’s house. I was visiting them for a few months and wanted to get away from the gray winters in Indiana. Plus, I wanted to be close to my mom. I was walking out of the room that my kids were sleeping in and sat down in my parent’s’ living room. They had company over and I remember my mom’s friend asking me, ” That’s all? They are sleeping?” I was proud to say yes they were good.
When I was pregnant with my twins. I was scared of a few things – giving birth, giving birth the way I wanted to, making it full term, taking care of twins. One of the few things I was not worried about was sleeping twins, yet. In fact, I talked to a few moms who told me one of the blessings of your babies being in the NICU was that they would be put on a schedule. When I came home with my babies, I remember the first few nights wondering why my babies were fussy at 9pm at night. I discovered the witching hour. After I got over the fog of being a new mom and breastfeeding (around 2 months), I thought I need to start getting these babies to sleep schedule.
I want to share what I did to get my kids on a sleep schedule. Thankfully, 8yrs later we have good sleepers. I did not read any books (well pass the first couple of pages) and pieced a few things here and there from the internet. Also, I am going to say right now that my kids did not sleep through the night until they were 8 months and I will address that in a few minutes. The way, I think, to teach your kids to sleep is by creating a consistent routine (or should I say being consistent and having a routine).
I wanted to create a routine for the kids. I started with a bedtime routine. With a bedtime routine, every night they would know exactly what time it is (bedtime). I would give them a bath (mainly run water for 5 minutes over them), rub them down with lotion/oil, put on pajamas, read a bedtime story (we read The Going-To-Bed Book ) and turn on music (Sleep Pillow Sounds: white noise machine app). I started this when the babies were 3 months and added the music when they turned 6 months.
We had developed a daily schedule where I watched for the cues of when they were tired and this helped create their nap times. So, they were on the sleep schedule. So, they were on the same routine everyday. It was not exclusive time schedule except when it was bedtime. I wanted to make sure they were getting enough hours of sleep at night accord to the sleep guide. This was the one thing I was a stickler about. Their bedtime was usually around 6:30pm – 7:30pm. In the summer/spring it helped to have black out shades.
Now, I have to say it was not completely smooth sailing. Here are some additional things I did. They had set blanket that was specifically theirs. And they still have to this day. I am very lucky that it never got lost because I never had a backup. I swaddled them at night around 3 months using a blanket from the hospital at first then using a Halo Sleepsack when they got bigger and move around more.
We left my nursing shirts on their cribs so they would have that scent of me (and I am not sure when I stopped doing that) and patted their back when a few minutes before I left the room. I still breastfed my babies at night when woke up until 8 months. In fact, it was my son waking up 1-2 times a night after 6 months to breastfed. When I put him back in the crib, I would just get my daughter and breastfeed her too even though she quit waking up around 5 months. He wasn’t starving for food (he was a chunkier) and my daughter was smaller so I felt obligated to breastfeed her even though she was not waking up to breastfeed. It was the mom guilt of a first time mom. Around 8 months, I decided to cut out the night feeding around 8 months and it took 3 days for him to get over it.
This is what we did to teach our kids to sleep. In my opinion, 9 years is a good run! Now, I understand not every child is the same, as a mom of twins I understand this very clearly.
Here are the takeaways:
- Start a routine. Children can pick up on the cues of routine. Have you heard that children do well on a routine? Well they do.
- Look for clues. Cues are the clues. Look for the first signals of yawning, rubbing eyes, drowsiness or crankiness. If you are starting a routine this will help give you a time frame of when they should be napping.
- Keep the things to a minimum. You don’t want to have a 30 min. routine every night. Nor do you want to have a book to grab, 2 of their special blankets (which should not be the crib before 12 months due to SIDS risk but a swaddle instead), a binkie and their favorite toy. That’s too much for you and your child.
- An early bedtime is better. Think about how much your baby is suppose to sleep and believe me babies do not sleep in.
- Work as a team. I think this something I did not do very well when my babies were younger due to my husband crazy schedule. I thought it would easier just for me do it on my own and call him (if he was home) and delegate certain things. He was helpful, but I wish they knew his way of doing things when they were smaller.
- Be realistic. We started a routine when my kids were around 3 months. I did not expect them to sleep through the night until 6- 7 months for development reasons. I felt they needed the nutrition to grow and develop for those first 6 months. The first 6 months they grow, develop and change so much during that timeframe. So, I wanted them to eat at night and not sleep through the night.
- Consistency. If you stay consistent with whatever you do, your baby will fall into that pattern. Even you choose to try a different method. It may take 7 -21 days and small priece to pay to create good sleepers.
I hope my story helps. Please feel free to ask me any questions about my routine. Also, if you have any tips please share and comment below.
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Wife and mother of twins. Founder of Pride & Joy Baby Planners and The Expecting Mamas Network.