I feel like this post may get some hate mail but here it goes…
I’m going to tell you all a little story about what we did with our three children in terms of the most frustrating subject of new parenting topics…SLEEP. Yes, our kids all sleep through the night and have since about 4 months. Our first-born was a bit sooner than that and sure, it could be complete luck that we got all three babies to be good sleepers but I also know that several people have asked what we did and so I figured I would write about it. Hot tip: Think of this as a story that tells the tale of what we did with our children. I am in no way saying that we are sleep experts and that we did everything right. We definitely did a ton of things wrong but maybe this will help someone one day… or maybe you’ll think I’m an asshole… or maybe it won’t help anyone whatsoever. Again, this is just a story on what we did with our oldest and the twins because we all know how terrible it is when trying to get a baby to just go the fuck to sleep.
To add to the above, I will say that we do still have random nights where one of the kids will wake at 2am or 4am randomly and the only explanation we can think of in all situations is “teeth” (even for the 2.5-year-old) because isn’t that always the reason? Helloooo Tylenol and Advil. Kidding… sort of.
I may as well get this off the table, we never co-slept with any of the babies. The reason? I am an extremely light sleeper and anything touching me while sleeping does not go well. I like to toss, turn and roll while I sleep with my earplugs in… every single night. So, this was a non-negotiable for me. Secondly, the one time we did have our firstborn in the bed, neither of us slept because we thought we would crush her and that was enough for us to never do it again.
We are very much pro bassinet people. We borrowed ours from a friend both times. It was the Halo Bassinet which worked super well for us. Fun fact, you can get them used on those Facebook mom swaps or online at your regular baby stores. They really are awesome in terms of the overall size and height, and they have a built-in nightlight! I found our other one (Moses basket) to be quite low and hard to pull the baby in and out of while in bed. Keep in mind, I did have C-section’s.
As for “sleep training”, I really don’t feel like we did this but more so, we just had a plan to put them in their cribs in their own rooms at 3 months and go from there. Maybe that’s still classified as sleep training? I have no idea. We had the plan ahead of time and then we executed the plan at the 3-month mark like we wanted. Again, we both agreed that we wanted minimal time where the babies were in our room so moving them to their own room was a priority in our eyes and we figured that the younger we did it, the easier the move would be because they were still little enough to not really have crazy habits yet and probably didn’t know any different. At least that was our belief.
With our firstborn, she was a pretty good sleeper at the 3-month mark so the transition was fairly smooth on all parts as there were minimal middle-of-the-night feeds. There were obviously still some wake-ups but not anything like the first couple months. Maybe we got lucky, who knows!
With the twins, they weren’t fully sleeping through the night by the time we moved them to their own room/cribs but I honestly think they preferred it in there. We would still get up once or twice a night for a feed or soother replacement (so damn annoying) but it didn’t feel that much different than doing this when they were beside us in the bassinet. If anything, we slept better because there were no grunting babies next to our ears.
In terms of a nightly routine, I’m not sure if what we do counts as your typical “routine”. From about 5-weeks onward, we just started putting the babies down in their bassinet or crib (while still awake) and walking away. We never rocked any of them to sleep. Some of you may think we’re assholes for not comforting the baby or whatever else you’re “supposed” to do before putting them to sleep but to be honest, the last thing we needed after making it through the day (with twins or a single child) was to add more time to an already painful time of the evening and then to have to do the same thing every night for however much time it would take. We wanted to do the option that would require the least amount of parent participation so that it would become the new normal for them right out of the gate and when either me or my husband were out for the evening (we are social people), the other person could do bedtime unassisted and with ease, no matter how many children we had. Yes, there were times where we had to do a little extra cuddling or an extra little feed upstairs with them but for the most part, we fed the baby, walked upstairs, put the baby in their bassinet or crib, turned monitors on and walked away. They would fuss a bit or make those grunting baby noises for a while but would eventually fall asleep.
I guess it’s more the fact that we never had a very “traditional” set routine before bed with any of our 3 kids. We bathe them (every other day… sometimes less because we forget) but usually not right before bed. On the days where we did the bath right before bed, we didn’t notice any difference on how they slept so again, it wasn’t something we included in a “routine” at all. To this day, we feed them all downstairs on the couch where the TV and lights are on. It’s far from being dark in the room and once they finish their bottles or our oldest finishes her water, then we walk upstairs and put them in their cribs and then turn around and leave. This same “routine” if you can call it that has been in place since they were all around 5-weeks of age so I suppose you can actually call it a routine as we have been doing it for a long time. If that’s the case, our fancy routine is as follows:
- Put toddler/baby in jammies and sleep sack
- Feed baby a bottle of formula (was breast milk for the first 5 months)
- Lift baby and carry him/her upstairs
- Place baby in crib (awake) on back and then walk away and close door
- Go back downstairs and pour glass of wine
Crying it out
As they got older, this is when we would start letting them cry it out when needed. By “older” I mean past the 4-month mark. I will say that we are both pretty strict when it comes to sleep (and feeding our kids but I can talk about that later). There’s no messing around with us. We have no shame in yelling when need be, throwing in a few threats if it helps or just letting their screaming take place for as long as it needs. As I wrote that, I pictured a few people’s faces cringing at our animalistic ways that we get our kids to sleep…
Anyway, we did and we still do let them cry it out. We have tried other methods of going in to soothe the baby or pat them on the back but have found this to always backfire and take way more time to get the same result in the long run. This means that on those bad evenings (that still do exist occasionally), if they don’t go down right away or wake up an hour later or whatever it is, we will let them cry and fuss for a bit. Yes, this completely sucks. Yes, this takes some serious willpower and so much teeth clenching along the way. We also live in a townhouse with neighbors close by but still let them cry. Maybe our neighbors secretly hate us but the way I see it is that the noise bylaws are until 10pm so if my child is crying it out before then, I am definitely not an asshole… I’m a parent who wishes there was a kid version tranquilizer dart for bedtime purposes. If my kid is screaming past 10pm, we do still let this happen but just not for as long as we would if it was earlier.
Ok, now comes the fun part that I like to think is a big factor in the reason why our kids all became good sleepers early on (insert eyeroll from all of you here).
Are you ready? Ready for the secret sauce?
We feed the crap out of them. And when I say this, I mean we literally feed them constantly leading up to bedtime. Anti-climactic, I know.
Feeding & Bottles
From the day all three kids were born, we would always feed them a bottle as the last feed before bed. We did this in the hospital with formula (while I waited for my milk to come in)…which every new mom should be offered because cluster feeding with no milk should be a felony). Then, once we were home, we continued this with breastmilk for 5 months or so before switching back to nightly formula bottles. My husband would do this feed every night with our firstborn and it’s the one big thing I tell all new moms who ask me for any tips or advice. We are 300% pro bottle feeding. Once a day or every other day at a minimum and if you decide to do it, definitely aim for the night-time feed for multiple reasons, which I have listed below. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor and again, this is what has worked for us and our 3 kids and is most likely not a sure thing.
- You (the mom) get a break to shower or watch TV or sit in peace
- Your husband or partner gets to bond with the baby and feed him/her
- You know exactly how much milk your baby is getting before bed and can adjust the amounts. It’s shocking how much they can hoover
- The baby will be full and happy which will usually help them sleep better
- Your baby will know how to take a bottle so that you can have freedom whenever you need. Let me repeat: FREEDOM
- You will gain a new form of sanity and feel happier knowing that you get this break (if solely breastfeeding) once a day
Hot tip #2: If you do decide to give this a try, I highly recommend committing to it and not stopping. So many people start the bottle and then think “oh this is awesome, my kid takes a bottle so now I can go out next month” and then they don’t continue to use the bottle. This usually turns into the baby not taking the bottle next month or 3 months later because at that time, he’s like what the actual fuck are you putting in my mouth!? Get this garbage out of here! Where is my mom and her boobies?
Babies like consistency… which is also another take on the word “routine”. So, if you do want your kid on a bottle for whatever your reason is, definitely make it a regular occurence in some form or another. There’s people who frown upon this depending on different opinions and say that the baby will get “nipple confusion” at that young age but I am calling BULLSHIT on that. Yep, I said it….
Back to feeding the crap out of our babies… here’s how feeding time goes at our house:
4:00pm: Feed babies smaller bottle (4-5oz) – or I breastfed when I still did that
5/5:15pm: Feed them dinner (currently solids)
6:15pm: Feed bigger bottle (6-7oz)
6:30pm: Night Night
So, from 4pm onwards, they are pretty much constantly eating. When the babies were younger (~5 months), we did a very similar routine but with pablum or purees/squeeze packs or sometimes would skip this depending on that whole crazy unpredictable 3 nap-a-day thing and just give an extra bottle/feed instead.
Have I lost you yet due to exsessive eye rolls?
The point of this post is not to say you should all do what we did because it worked for us. What we did may not work for anyone else and some people may not even want to do any of the things we did because they don’t agree with how we do things. That is ok!! You do you and do what works for your sanity and mental state. But, if one of these things that we did ends up helping even one new mom in the future, that’s great news. Non-sleeping children are these tiny blobs that test you to the most extreme emotional breaking point. It’s by far the worst part of having a baby.
In the end, everyone has a different way that they parent. Or a different vision of what they want it to look like.
Our parenting strategy usually revolves around doing what will make our lives easier in the long run and being as consistent as possible. I’m lucky that my husband is so involved and is always on the same page with these things because I hear it makes it really challenging when one parent wants to do things one way and the other disagrees. As I mentioned earlier, I would say that we are both very strict when it comes to getting our kids to sleep. We like to have time to watch our shows or have adult conversations or just sit in silence once everyone goes to bed so it’s a non-negotiable for us. To this day, our toddler still has random wake ups and will try and stall before bed or tell us she needs water or some other bold-faced lie while she sits in her crib. We usually talk to her through the monitor from downstairs when this happens and tell her “no” and to go to bed because when we do go get her water or whatever else she demands; she continues to do this the next night and the next. We figured out that she was working us and nipped that one real fast. These little people are smarter than they look. Obviously, there are nights where we have to go in because she’s just being a complete jerk or if she’s sick, we will be much nicer and less dictator-like but for the most part, our philosophy is that these tiny humans need to learn to fit into our schedules and plans from day one and not vise-versa.