Category Archives: Basic Tips

Breaking all the Rules.

I have a confession to make.

All these basic tips and posts of ways to get your baby to sleep better, are only best-case scenarios.

Softly Sleeping

Every book you’ll read is selling you a dream… Because the idea that there’s a magical way to make your baby sleep uninterrupted all night is a sham.

I’m not being pessimistic! I assure you, I’m perfectly happy now that I’ve accepted that my little guy wakes up at least 3 to 4 times a night. That’s just who he is: a very intense, spirited child.

Some will say that I’ve created my own little monster. Yes, I have. Don’t we all? And I LOVE my little monster.

So here’s a review of my baby’s sleep progress in one line: it’s better but not perfect. I doubt it ever will be.

A few basic tips like

Creating a quiet environment,

Good habits,

Being consistent and compassionate,

Establishing a nap schedule,

do help considerably. Without these rituals, it would be a million times worse.

And we’ve outgrown other steps, like the Transfer (part 1, 2, and 3). Those tips were useful when he was very little. Nowadays, I can pretty much roll him out of my arms and he’s used to flipping on his tummy to fall asleep.

But mostly, it’s a work in progress… Like staying asleep, or falling back to sleep without my help. Since I’m pretty categorical about not letting him cry it out, I’ll just have to patiently continue rocking or breastfeeding him back to sleep. I pass no judgement on others who have “ferberized”, as long as they don’t judge me for using the boob or for co-sleeping.

So, hang it all to heck! Here’s another basic tip: Just do the best you can. Do whatever works for your family. Politely nod your head to anyone who has advice about your sleep issues, ask them to pass the guacamole, and carry on.

And if you can’t stand it any longer, make a plan and change it.

I’ve made my bed (harty-har-har) and I’m fine sleeping in it.

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The Transfer, part 3

Finally, here is the last part of my trilogy in Transferring your Sleeping Baby into the Crib.

So you’ve prepared everything in advance, as described in part 1, and you’ve tried my little blankie trick, part 2, to cradle his head for a smoother transfer…

You are now facing the crib.

 

This is the moment of truth, and as I have often faced it and failed, here are the final tricks that kept my little baby asleep.

Avoiding The Drop

Push your lower body against the side of the crib, then lean your entire upper body and lower your baby inside. The sensation of “dropping” out of your arms is a big culprit in waking him up, so keep your baby in your arms and against your chest for as long as you can before he gets to the mattress.

Keep your Arms in the Crib.

You made it, but don’t release your arms just yet! This is another crucial point and you will have to muster all your patience not to let go and peel out of his bedroom.

When you’ve laid him on the mattress, you will have one forearm under his head and your other hand over his legs and cradling his little bum. Stay in that position, leaning into the crib. I would count ten of his deep breaths before even thinking of letting him go.

First, wiggle out your arm from under his bum. Simply, pivot your hand under him until it’s out. Second, slide your newly-free hand under his head-blankie, to keep his head steady when you pull your forearm out from the other side.

Anytime he stirs, freeze. Leave your arms perfectly immobile. Try breathing softly close to him to reassures him of your continuing presence. Then count ten breaths again and resume your “extraction”.

The rest is just practice. If your baby wakes completely and cries, pick him up, cuddle him in your arms or in the rocking chair, or breastfeed him until he’s settled, and try again. At any time, if you and your baby have had enough, go back to co-sleeping and practice another night.

I know I must sound bonkers to describe every little step like this, but I’ve found that attention to every detail has brought me success. With time, I could be a lot more sloppy, because my baby got used to this routine.

In fact, one fine night, he decided to roll out of my arms and onto his tummy. My breath caught in my throat the first time, but he now falls straight to sleep with his bum in the air. So cute! At this point, I keep my hand on his upper back and again, reassure my presence until he’s off and dreaming.

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Sleep Deprivation.

7 Signs that you’re sleep-deprived:

  1. You feel nauseous. A stomach ache is a sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
  2. You have a buzzing headache.
  3. You are especially crabby.
  4. You cry easily and your morale is low.
  5. Resentment sets in. This is not pretty. You are mad at your baby for not sleeping, but you hold it in. Then your husband asks what’s for supper and you rip his head off.
  6. You’ve lost your patience. You are singing a heavy-metal version of Rock-a-Bye-Baby.
  7. You are reading this blog post.

 

When things can’t get any worse, just remember you are not alone. Everything’s going to be alright. Here’s what can help:

 

 

  1. Get someone to do ALL the housework and ALL the meals. Your husband should now be your manservant.
  2. Limit visitors and outings. The world can wait. Mommy getting her sleep and regaining her sanity is the best gift for the baby.
  3. Take efficient naps. Yeah, I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times: sleep when the baby sleeps. True, this helps, but try to control the length of your naps. If you go over 30 minutes, you’ll fall into a deep sleep and wake up all groggy and really pissed off that you can’t stay in bed. The ideal nap lengths are either 20-30 minutes or 1.5 hours long. It’s also best to nap earlier in the day. “Sleep when the baby sleeps” also means going to bed at 8pm, even if it’s still daylight.
  4. Learn to co-sleep and breastfeed in bed. This will be easier when your baby is older (maybe around 3 months) and able to reach your breast while you’re still lying down. You may not be actually sleeping, but you’ll preserve your energy by remaining in bed.
  5. Don’t panic if you can’t fall asleep. Just do something relaxing. Resting is the next best thing to sleeping. If you are stuck in bed with your baby, who won’t let you leave his side, have a book next to your pillow so you won’t go stir-crazy.
  6. Take care of yourself. Eat well and regular meals. Drink plenty of water. Avoid caffeine. Give yourself positive affirmations (“I am a good Mommy. I am doing the best I can. Everything will be fine.”) And get out there! Take a walk or do some gentle activity that takes you out of the house (like yoga, with or without your baby).
  7. If you feel you are at the end of your rope, put the baby in his crib. Tell him you’ll be right back and close the door. Call reinforcements so you can sleep for 1/2 hour. If no one can relieve you, just take a 5-minute break in another room. Don’t worry! Your baby will be fine. Take care of yourself first, and you’ll be a better mommy.

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Baby’s first year: Strategies that work! (via On Becoming Mommy)

To all Mommies, new and not-so-new-ones,
Check out this great list of strategies for baby’s first year:

Baby's first year: Strategies that work! I think it occurred to me sometime within the first hour of arriving home from the hospital after the birth of my son. I don’t know if it was the shock of being sore, mostly unable to move, and all alone with his fragility after having nurses on call for days. Or, maybe it was being squirted with projectile, fluorescent yellow baby poo, or having changed his clothes four times in less than 45 minutes after the spewing of two pee-pee fountains, lo … Read More

via On Becoming Mommy

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Night Wakings

My little sweetie has just woken up three times tonight, and it’s barely past midnight. Strange, because he was sleeping for longer stretches these past few nights. What am I doing wrong?

I’m sure I’m not alone with this problem. There are so many reasons to explain why a baby is having a bad night.

 

 

 

  1. He’s HUNGRY. Depending on the baby’s age, this can range from ravenously hungry to just peckish/thirsty.
  2. He’s teething. This can go on forever.
  3. He’s nursing a cold and can’t breathe or has a fever.
  4. He is reacting to the vaccines he had a week earlier.
  5. He’s overtired, because a) you put him to sleep too late in the evening, or b) his nap schedule was out of whack for whatever reason.
  6. He’s overstimulated, because your husband played chase with him all over the house just before bedtime.
  7. His cuddle quota was not met in the daytime. For whatever reason, you did not have time to pay attention to him, give him kisses and hugs, or just hold him. (Dr. Sears would say the solution is to use a carrier.)
  8. He’s uncomfortable because the room is too hot, or too cold, or who knows, maybe because his pajamas have an irritating tag.
  9. He’s going through a developmental milestone and his brain is going on overdrive because he learned how to hold and use a fork at dinner.
  10. He’s having nightmares. Poor little guy!

I’m sure I’m missing a ton of other possible reasons for night wakings, but are these reasons or just excuses?

There are nights when I’m unsure about the path I’m taking. Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know…

And then I think about my other mommy friends and their Sleep Stories, and doubt really starts to crumble my defenses. One offered their baby a drink of water. Lo and behold, the baby was disgusted and never woke up again in the middle of the night. Another couple decided to let their baby “cry it out”. He now sleeps 10 hours a night, uninterrupted, and is a very happy child.

Then I take a hold of myself. I would never compare my son with other babies. So I shouldn’t compare my decisions as a mother with others either. Their situations are unique and would not work for my baby. The baby who refused a drink of water and simply rolled over has a very easy-going personality. My son has a strong will. He would laugh in the face of sippy cup. My friends who resorted to let their baby “cry-it-out” were facing so many challenges (cracked nipples, low milk supply, parents returning to work and unable to handle the sleep deprivation). I can’t judge their decision, and I know they don’t judge me either.

So the reasons above are not excuses. They are valid. One has to respect the fact that our babies face a lot of challenges. They are capable of great things, but we shouldn’t pressure our babies because we’re feeling insecure as parents. It all works out in the end, right?

Hey, my little guy is still sleeping… I think it might be a good night after all.

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Napping Schedule

Figuring out when your baby should nap is practically an artform. Their nap schedule is in eternal flux, they’re sprinkled throughout the day messing up your daily goals (modest may they be, like have a shower), but without them your baby will fall apart.

Here’s what I figured out…

First, babies need a lot of sleep and you have to work around their schedule. That means you may not have time to go out shopping, visit friends, or whatnot. Just thank God you got the time to do one thing, like go for a walk in the park.

Second, if you skip a nap, you will pay for it later. More precisely, your baby will be paying for it. He will not be a cooperative baby if he’s overtired. And don’t believe that they’ll sleep better because they’re exhausted. Think about it. When you go to bed super late, don’t your muscles get twitchy, doesn’t your brain hurt, aren’t you a tad sensitive? Imagine your baby going through that. It’s going to be a nightmare to put him down and keep him asleep. Don’t skip naps!

Third, figure out your little one’s sleep cues. This is the best way to figuring out his personal schedule. Yawning means, hmmm I could sleep a few winks. Staring into space, please put me to sleep. Rubbing eyes, I’m so tired I’m about to have a fit and I’m getting crabby. Crying means you missed the boat. Don’t delay a nap. If you see them yawning a couple of times, swoop them up, it’s time to sleep. If you catch it on time, it should be very easy to put your baby to sleep.

Lastly, a typical schedule for naps varies widely and greatly depends on the baby’s age. On average, a baby under 4 months old should not be awake for more than 2 hours at a time. It could be two naps in the morning and two naps in the afternoon. As they grow older, the morning nap may consolidate into one, with still two naps in the afternoon. Then, playtime starts lasting longer with a nap in the morning and one later in the day, until one day your baby only needs one nap a day.

Most sleep books only discuss bedtime issues, and explain very little about naps, except for The 90-minute Baby Sleep Program. So useful and easy! Don’t worry. This book will not force your baby into an arbitrary schedule. It helped me understand when my baby is tired and discover his ever-changing sleep pattern. Check out my short book review here.

Good naps mean good nights!

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Co-Sleeping

The first month of being a mommy was so hard. Let me rephrase that: it was the most exhilarating and disastrous time of my life.

Breastfeeding was a challenge, my baby got jaundice, the back-splash poop was staining everything, but mostly I was exhausted. My little baby just wouldn’t sleep in the crib, wouldn’t sleep in the side-car, wouldn’t sleep in bed next to me, wouldn’t sleep anywhere except in my arms.

So on the second night at home, my husband and I took turns every 3 hours holding him. Now that I think about it, 3 hours is a lovely chunk of sleep after a year of waking every hour or two on most nights.  But back then, 3 hours would go by in a wink.

On the third night, I devised a way to hold my baby and learn to co-sleep.

After breastfeeding him, he would just pass out. He wouldn’t stir unless I moved him out of my arms. So my husband would prop my legs up on the couch and I slept sitting up with my baby on my chest.

The next night, I arranged my bed with several pillows and leaned back with my baby cradled in my arms.

And after a couple of nights of baby steps, every time testing a minuscule change, I managed to lie all the way down and get my baby to sleep next to me.  With him in my arms and high up on my lap, I would scoot in bed and slowly lean back, while at the same time shifting my baby to my side and laying him down next to my body. Then, only after I was assured he wouldn’t wake up, I would scoot slightly over to give him enough space, but still kept my arm under his head.

For a long time, I could not reclaim my arm from under him. With time, and more baby steps, I was able to move him down my arm further and further, from my armpit to my forearm.

One night, after breastfeeding him in bed, my arm went numb because of the weight of his head. He was growing up fast and his head was getting heavier. I said, enough! And slowly slipped my arm, while holding his head with my other hand so he wouldn’t plop suddenly on the mattress. And presto! He stayed asleep.

From that point on, I would use a folded receiving blanket under his head while breastfeeding so I could easily transfer him off my arm and on my bed. Then I could lie next to him and sleep at last! (For more details on this trick, read my past post here.)

Now, my little guy sleeps in his crib. It took several months of baby steps to progress to a little sleep independence. Of course, if he’s sick we snuggle together again and I must confess, I do miss it terribly. Here’s the cutest little video that epitomizes the mommy-baby snuggle at its best:

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Night and Day.

So you have a baby who sleeps from midnight to noon.

Chances are your baby is a newborn, used to sleeping around the clock in your womb. But now this is a brand new world, with sunrises and sunsets.

It may take a while to help your baby adjust his circadian rhythm… in other words, learn to sleep at night and stay awake during the day.

But a little bit of time to get used to a new way of sleeping, and establishing good habits, I think are the only factors. First, when baby wakes up in the morning, open the blinds, say “Good morning!” as cheerfully as possible (even though you hardly slept all night) and keep active until nap time.

Then, in the evening, make everything mellow. Dim the lights, talk softly, and turn off the television. (See more ideas here and here for a wind-down routine.)

In a few days, your newborn will get in the swing of things!

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Early to Bed, Early to Rise…

I don’t think it makes a baby wealthy, but definitely healthy and wise.

I bring this up because my friend was wondering why her baby was able to sleep soundly for 4 hours at the beginning of the night, but would wake up every 2 hours after that.

Quite simply, the beginning of the night is when you get the most restful and deepest sleep (there is a greater amount of deep sleep, called N3, earlier in the sleep cycle). We all wake up several times a night, but during this stage it’s much easier for a baby to “konk” out and keep sleeping.

However, for the rest of the night, a baby sleeps very lightly. Falling back asleep on their own becomes increasingly difficult when their sleep shifts into light, REM sleep.

And that’s why they wake up so easily at the crack of dawn. Or sometimes, pre-dawn. I found my baby would wake up at 5am if he was over-tired and went to bed too late. You’d think he would want to sleep in! In these cases, I think his body and brain were “irritated” that they didn’t get enough of that deep sleep early in the night.

That’s why it’s important to tuck them in early. They get the best quality, most restorative sleep early in the night.

Personally, I found the bedtime sweet spot to be between 7:30pm and 8pm. Anytime later makes getting to sleep and staying asleep much more challenging.

(Sure I know a baby who sleeps from midnight to noon, but there are exceptions for everything. In such cases, usually very young babies, they need to adjust their circadian rhythm… in other words, learn to sleep at night and stay awake during the day. See here for more info.)

Take heart! In my experience, as the baby gets older, you get longer stretches at the beginning of the night.

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Get out there!

There’s nothing more draining to the soul than realizing you’ve done nothing all day because you’re too tired.

Nuts to that. No matter how tired I am, I make sure I’ve at least gone for a walk.

After splashing your face with cool water, “getting out there” is the best antidote to becoming a zombie.

Do a couple of sun salutes, then strap your baby in your carrier and try any of these easy suggestions:

  • Go to a baby-mama coffee shop. Ask for DECAF.
  • Go to the local library. Seeing your baby’s reaction to that many books in one place is priceless.
  • Organize a playdate at your house. Misery loves company, as long as the company couldn’t care less that your place is a mess.
  • Go to your backyard, or the park. Lie on a blanket and blow some bubbles. Seeing your baby fall over in a fit of giggles will re-energize you.
  • Try out a playgroup, like the Mother Goose Rhyme Time.
  • Or just walk around the block. Breathe in some fresh air.

A new mother’s biggest enemy is the isolation.

Go out and have fun!!

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