Is your baby only sleeping 2 hours at a time? Does your toddler sneak in your bed every night? Either way, you probably read all the books and tried all the techniques to help your little one (and yourself) catch some ZZZs. And just when you think you are mastering the ins and outs of a good night’s sleep, BAM! – your wee one is back at his old tricks, and you to square one.
There’s no one-size-fit-all approach to getting your baby to sleep well. How do I know that? I have three children: four-months-old twin girls and a three-year-old boy. When it comes to their slumbers, my littlest ones are like night and day, but somehow they are both sleeping beauties (for now).
My oldest one is a different story. We are still trying to figure out how to get him to sleep, and if there’s one thing his sleep problems have taught me, it’s this: raising a good sleeper is more of a marathon than it is a sprint. So without further ado – and in case you need a reminder that you’re not the only one pulling all-nighters with your babes – here’s my exhausting tale.
After Kenzo was born, it took him a week or two to get his days and nights figured out. He usually breastfed for about 45 minutes and took about an hour of rocking and bouncing to fall asleep. This left me with only an hour to rest before he woke up again to nurse. Kenzo slept in his own crib, but in our room – where else would he sleep in our 650 square feet one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment?
When he turned 8 weeks old, I tried what the book On Becoming Babywise calls the 3-hour “eat-play-sleep” schedule . Kenzo took to it right away and began to nap better and sleep longer stretches at night. By three months, he would go down drowsy but awake and sleep 10 long consecutive hours a night. It was amazing. I attribute our success to three things: the eat-play-sleep schedule, the swaddle, and thumb-sucking to soothe himself.
But the glorious period of good sleep stopped suddenly when Kenzo was 5 months old. We hit a “wonder week,” a leap, a developmental milestone – whatever you want to call it; personally, I call it HELL! At that point, he learned to roll on to his belly (bye-bye swaddle), but would get stuck and angry and would scream until someone came and flipped him. His bottom teeth erupted (bye-bye thumb-sucking), and I think he also developed object permanence right around that time. We were basically back to the newborn stage of waking every two hours. After experiencing the awesomeness of uninterrupted sleep for a few months (and knowing that he was physically capable of sleeping through the night), that regression was much harder to take.
Out of desperation, we tried the cry-it-out sleep training method many a time over the next year and a half. Hearing him cry for more than 5 minutes broke my heart, but within a few days he was going down quietly and happily. Fast forward a few weeks or months, and we’d be back to square one after an illness or a new developmental milestone. Cry-it-out again. And repeat.
Eventually, we moved to a bigger place and were able to give Kenzo his own room. We tried the cry-it-out method one last time. But when our neighbor stomped on our ceiling out of protest, we chickened out and ended up with the “side-car” sleeping arrangement, which we still have now.
Yes, our three-year-old son still sleeps in our room – more or less in our bed. But since weaning him last year, he’s been sleeping through the night. Sure, he can’t go to bed without me, and we will have to make some bedtime adjustments when he starts Pre-K in September, but we are all getting great sleep. So we are all good, for now!
Getting our little ones to sleep can be tough, and not (just) because some babies are light sleepers. The very fact that there are so many different opinions out there will make you second guess yourself. Take the cry-it-out technique, for example: some swear by it, saying it’s necessary in order to have not only a good sleeper, but also a happier and healthier child. Others view the method as synonymous to child abuse.
What do I say? If you are a good person, chances are your kid is going to grow up to be pretty fantastic. So ask your friends, family and pediatrician for advice. Do your research, read some books, google (with moderation), and go with what feels best for you and your family – this goes for sleep and all other aspects of parenting. Oh and don’t forget one very important word: consistency! Stick to your guns. You got this, and you are rocking this parenting thing.
Written by Heather Tomoyasu. Heather is a vlogger and blogger on her site US-Japan Fam, owner of Miny Moe, author of “Legit Ways to Make Money From Home” (available on Kindle and iTunes), founder of Tunes 4 Bay Ridge Tots, and mommy to a yummy toddler plus newborn twins! You can follow and connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.