When I was pregnant, I purchased the online Taking Cara Babies “Will I Ever Sleep Again?” Newborn sleep class. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful this class has been for us! I watched it while I was pregnant, but decided to watch it again when he was a few weeks old as a refresher. I can’t recommend this class enough to those of you who are pregnant or have a newborn (and she had another class for 5 month olds +). The class teaches you how to read your child’s sleepy cues and help them self-soothe WITHOUT crying. That was the huge for me. I’m not a cry-it-out fan. That’s just a personal choice, no judgment to those of you who do it! So, this class was the basis for what I had in my “toolkit” for helping Graham sleep. Let me be sure to tell you that we do not have a perfect sleeper. We aren’t masters at this by any means. We are learning right alongside all of you and most importantly, alongside Graham. He still has some not-so-great nights and times he won’t go down for a nap, but he’s a wonderful sleeper overall (for now 😉).
I think the biggest thing for him going down easily at night is our bedtime routine. Not necessarily the specifics of what we do or how we do it, but the fact that it’s a routine that he knows. He can easily predict what will come next and therefore, goes down like clockwork at night, which is amazing! Don’t worry, I know this could change in an instant, but for now, it’s working!
We started this routine between 6 and 8 weeks. Prior to that, he was just going to bed when we did (which was late – like, 11ish because we wanted his long stretch of sleep to be at night and not the late evening). When we started this routine, we slowly pushed it earlier and earlier. He now eats at about 7 and is asleep by 7:30, a far cry from the 11pm we started with! But, I think what I love the most is that it’s flexible. Yes, it’s ideal for him to eat around 7 and be asleep around 7:30, but last night, for instance, we went out to dinner with friends. We didn’t get home until 8. He had eaten at 6 (because hello, he’s breastfed and doesn’t eat on a schedule), fell asleep in the car on the way home, and woke up when we arrived. We went right upstairs for his bedtime routine, and he went down beautifully.
Before we start his bedtime routine, we get everything “ready” so that it can be smooth sailing from the moment we start to the moment he goes to sleep. It takes less than 60 seconds to do – it’s simple! We turn off the lights, turn his elephant nightlight on, and turn the sound machine on (white noise, no music or anything). I lay everything else out, too, just to be sure it’s ready. Other than the bath, everything takes place in his room.
Here’s what we do in the order we do it in:
Bath – We give him a bath every other night. Sometimes we skip a night, sometimes we do a bath two nights in a row. Bath time is relaxing and fun for him. He LOVES it.
Massage – We give him a little massage with Tubby Todd’s lotion. It’s scented naturally with rosemary and lavender. It smells fabulous and he gets excited when he sees me rub the lotion between my hands before I put it on him.
Jammies and Sleep Sack – We love zipper jammies, especially the ones that zip from the bottom. It makes middle of the night diaper changes much easier! Our favorites are the Cloud Island sets from Target (and who can beat $13 for 3 sleepers?!)! The photo has one of my favorite sleepers, but it’s one he wears during the day (snaps at night are a pain!). When I took the photos, I was washing all of his sleepers. Oops!
We use the Nested Bean Sleep Sack and I love that you don’t have to force his arms through little holes like the other brands. It snaps over his shoulders and just makes things simpler. The zipper makes things super easy and I love the weighted egg on the chest to mimic your hand placed on their chest.
Feeding and Cuddles – I nurse him at night when I’m home. I know tons of “sleep programs” recommend a bottle of formula or pumped breastmilk at night because you can tell how much they ate and you can “fill them up” with a bit more. At the beginning, I loved this idea and we tried it for awhile, but I found I was emotionally attached to that nighttime nursing session and decided I just didn’t care how much he ate, as long as he seemed to eat a meal of some sort. The snuggles are well worth it! When he’s finished, I give him his pacifier and we snuggle for a minute. I will say that he struggled with being given a bottle at night when I was first back to work (we are wedding photographers, which means I’m gone for his bedtime on wedding days!), but now he takes it like a champ and goes right along with the whole routine sans nursing!
Down in Bassinet / Crib – Occasionally he falls asleep while eating, but most of the time he doesn’t. He’s very used to the eat-awake-sleep routine so a lot of the time he’s awake after he eats, so we snuggle for a few, and then I lay him down in his Halo bassinet in our room. We did one night in his own room a few nights ago and it went totally fine, but I realized I love having him with us for now.
Asleep – He puts himself to sleep at night while we keep an eye on him on the monitor (we use this Infant Optics one), clean up the kitchen, hang out, etc. He’s usually asleep in a minute or two. Again, just wanted to mention he’s not crying himself to sleep! He’s self soothing and at night time doesn’t even make a peep doing so.
Soon, I would like to add in a story after he nurses, but right now I’m too afraid that will signal “Woohoo! It’s playtime!” to him.
I should also note: The only time I nurse him (or he takes a bottle) in the rocking chair in his room, it’s followed by going right to sleep. He associates eating in that room as “eat before sleep” which has been key, I think!
Middle of the night feedings: If he wakes up hungry in the middle of the night, I take him into his room with the lights off, sound machine on, and his elephant night light on. I don’t talk to him or make eye contact really at all. I change his diaper, feed him, and he goes right back down. It’s all business for those middle of the night feedings! No play time!
He does still wake up a few times a night for the pacifier. It’s an easy “pop it in and go” type thing, but I’m looking forward to that being no-longer soon. Hopefully? Ha!
Hopefully this post gave you a bit of inspiration for things you could do if you don’t currently have a bedtime routine in place! I’d love to hear what you do for your little one’s bedtime routine – I love hearing what others do and getting new ideas! Here’s to good sleep for all of us new mamas and papas!