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Sleeping Like A Baby
Since this may be a hot topic for some, let’s start with the usual disclaimer:
I’m going to share another method we use to maintain overall sanity in the form of sleep patterns. This is not a principle that must be obeyed in order not to fall into sin. This is our account of how we are accomplishing a goal that we believe will ultimately help us organize our lives and maintain a good attitude—that pleases God. Mileage may vary; your parenting style may make other methods more suitable for your family; you might think we’re callous fools who hate our kids (in which case we’re right and you’re wrong; read something else).
All but one of our babies slept through the night at 7 weeks. This was brought up in very different circumstances where we could not apply our method and thus saw very different results.
Here are some factors that we believe will help our children get 7 hours of sleep from a very young age:
- I always breastfeed our babies awake and I consciously don’t nurse them to sleep. Our babies sleep near us, but not in our beds. I get better rest this way and baby learns to sleep well without being constantly dependent on nursing or breastfeeding – it also means better daytime naps when mom can’t necessarily go to bed with Baby.
- I breastfeed on demand, but I don’t use breastfeeding as a universal pacifier; I try to differentiate between a hungry baby and a baby who just wants attention – which in itself is a perfectly valid request. Get to know your baby. Learn to recognize his different cries when he’s hungry, dirty, lonely, etc. and respond accordingly. The breast (okay…or the bottle…) doesn’t meet all needs in the best way.
- We do not rock, caress or otherwise “entertain” the baby to sleep. When the baby is clearly tired, we put him to bed; You might be a little nervous, but not much if you do it from the beginning. Thumb-sucking is encouraged. You might think we’re crazy, but we think babies who know how to soothe themselves fall asleep much easier and are generally more content. This is especially nice when they wake up in the middle of the night and don’t *need* mom to put them back to sleep. Many people use a binky for this, but if your baby loses their binky at night, they often can’t fall asleep until someone finds it for them. The thumb is conveniently attached and is standard on all babies.
- When babies wake up at night, we don’t let them “cry it out”, but we make sure they *really* cry it out. We don’t rush to save a whining baby who might fall back asleep on his own. For a newborn, this can mean 30 seconds of real crying. For a bigger baby who usually sleeps through the night, maybe 5-10 minutes for us. It’s not cruel. Babies can learn from the beginning that mom is taking care of them, but she doesn’t have to obey them right away.
- When I feed the baby at night, I keep it dark and quiet and keep it short. This is not social engagement or playtime. I don’t lie down with the baby and I often stop them before they are fully done. No need to be late at 2am. Our middle of the night feeding usually takes 10 minutes or less and baby is ready to go back to sleep right away. I think this trains their system to eat more in the morning and evening, so they are less likely to wake up at night with real hunger. Then when they wake up out of habit, they fall back asleep more easily.
Again, this is just how we do it. We like to sleep through the night and we like our children to sleep in their own beds. Follow your husband’s example.
Consider the season of your life and your own parenting style. Some people just don’t see a problem with waking up with a new baby every hour and a half, or waking up with an older baby once or twice a night. If it works for you and your husband, have fun doing it.
As our helpers get older and my work becomes a little more flexible, I don’t wait as long to pick up a crying baby during the night. It’s not such a big deal if I sleep a little because now I can nap during the day. When we had lots of Littles but no Bigs or Mediums, sleeping through the night was essential to keeping things together during the day.
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