I know I do sometimes tend to go on about the fact that Alice is a good sleeper on this blog! I don't mean to boast about it, it's just something that I am genuinely very proud of. It did, however, take a lot of work to get to where we are as well as a few sleepless, tearful nights (me, not her!).
So I thought I would just share a few things I did to help!
1. Lowered my expectations
I learned to be realistic. Expecting Alice to sleep 12 hours a night with not one wake up is totally unrealistic. She's still very young and I expect the odd night wake ups and early mornings. I expect Alice to sleep from about 7pm to about 6.30am, and when she wakes up I aim for it to last only a couple of minutes, if that. I do expect her to wake up at 4am screaming on occasions and I do sometimes expect her to wake up hungry for milk at about 5am, usually if she hasn't fancied a big diner the night before. Lowering my expectations has helped me massively, it enables me to be prepared so that when I am woken up at 4am I'm not in a complete and utter state!
2. She sleeps in her own room
I put Alice in her own room at 4 months. Yes. 4 months. However, we were lucky and our bedrooms are very close. I kept the doors open so that I could get to her very quickly. The point is, Alice couldn't see me, feel me or hear me in the night. I strongly believe in making the transition to their own bedroom asap, whenever you think they are ready. As soon as Alice was sleeping from 10.30pm till about 6am I moved her out! Not only is this great for her sleeping, but it's great for your relationship!
3. I dropped the night feed at 7 weeks
Feeding is one of the biggest things which can effect a baby sleeping at night. A baby who still expects food at night will not sleep through until it is taken away. Simple. Not only that, but babies will not necessarily wake at the same time every night for food. And what if they're extra hungry?! I did not want to be up 3 times a night with a one year old who wanted feeding! So I stopped demand feeding (great for the first few weeks!) and started scheduling feeds according to Alice's natural pattern. I ensured that I fitted in enough feeds in the day time (between 7am and 10pm) so that Alice would be getting the nutrients she needed. Then I began cutting down on the 3am feed. Slowly at first, just offering n ounce of two less every couple of nights. Then when she was only taking an ounce, I switched to water. There were a couple of cries, but by the end of the week Alice was taking a big feed at 10pm and sleeping through till 6am. And that's the thing. As long as you are offering your baby more milk at other times, she will learn when she can feed and when she can't. You wont starve your baby. babies want to survive, and they are a lot smarter than we think! They will figure it out!
When Alice was on solids, I did exactly the same to her 10pm feed until she was only having one big feed at 7pm. However, she did still need a small feed at 10pm until she was on 3 proper meals a day.
4. I scheduled naps.
People go mad about naps! My baby wont nap!!! Well, they will. trust me. Nap time is much like bedtime. It needs to occur at roughly the same time every day, and it helps to have a solid routine before it. For example, I have scheduled Alice's milk feeds to come before each nap so that our routine is: Change nappy, Put in sleeping bag, Close curtains in bedroom, Feed as much milk as she wants, 5 minute cuddles until she looks sleepy, Put in cot and leave the room as quietly as possible! I do make her room dark for naps as she sleeps better and for longer. I also make sure she doesn't sleep too long (about 1.5 hours am and 1 hour pm), and that she doesn't sleep past 4pm. And I definitely do not leave her until she is overtired. If Alice is yawning at 1pm, even though he nap time isn't until 2pm, I take her to her room for quiet time and keep her calm for as long as I can so that we keep on track with naps, but she doesn't get overtired. If you let your baby get overtired in the day, they wont sleep well at night. Simple.
5. I don't leave her to cry to sleep.
This may work for some people, but not us. I don't put Alice down asleep, but I don't put her down wide awake kicking her legs in the air! I rock Alice and talk to her until her eyes are slowly shutting and she looks like she is ABOUT to go to sleep. Then, and only then, do I put her in her cot. I strongly believe that if your baby is a bad sleeper and you put them in their cot wide awake, without so much as a cuddle, they will not go to sleep. No matter how long you let them cry. They don't understand what's going on?! Why did mummy just leave me? If you rock them until they are physically feeling tired and falling asleep they understand that it is time to sleep. I do this with Alice every night, and she goes straight to sleep with no need for crying it out. If she cries after 10 minutes, I go in and pat her bum, or move her till she's comfortable and then leave her again quickly. I do the same at naps.
6. Bedtime routine
I'm sure everyone has one! But here's the thing. Did you know that it's not necessarily the time you put your baby to sleep that matters, but the routine you do before it! I never let Alice get overtired, no matter what time it is. If Alice looks really tired at 6, I start the bedtime routine and she goes to sleep. If she doesn't look tired till nearly half 6, I start the routine later. The point is, I stick to exactly the same routine, and I do it at a time when I know Alice is ready for bed. Sometimes this does mean a slightly earlier wake up, but I would prefer to wake at 6am the once as opposed to all night long because Alice is overtired! Expectations...
These are just what I do with Alice, and what worked for us. I also use a dummy with Alice, which sometimes requires putting back in at night. Some people disagree with dummies. That's fine! And I know that cry it out works with lots and lots of mummy's. In fact, my friend's baby cries routinely for 5 minutes before falling asleep every singly night! So I know it can work, it just didn't work with Alice. And that's the thing, you have to figure out what works with your own baby, because they are all different!
A few more tips: Sleeping bags are amazing, just make sure you get the right thickness or use more blankets if needed. Dark rooms, the darker the better (blackout blinds are amazing!). No sudden noises, such as dropping 3 saucepans on the floor like I did last night! And make sure nothing outside can wake your baby.