Before I even considered having children, I had heard lots of stories about a lack of sleep and general exhaustion that new parents experience. I had few friends who had their children before I did, and they seemed sleep deprived all the time. When I asked what was wrong, they would look at me and say, “You would not understand.” Yes, at that time, I had no idea how hard it is to live, work, have a social life & personal time, and raise children all at the same time.
When we were getting ready for our first child, I figured that I could learn all there is to know about babies from books. After all, when we don’t know something, we pick up a book, browse the web, or consult an expert. How hard can this be, right? All the research and studies had been done before, and I can benefit immensely by reading them.
So here I was, about 6–7 months into my first pregnancy with a goal to read enough books to learn what to do with a little one. I signed up for an audible account to maximize information intake. Listening to books proved to be beneficial as I had lots of time during my commute or while taking long walks. I ended up listening to six books before my baby was born. Thanks to traffic in the Bay Area.
There was one book that proved to be the most useful — Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old: A Step-by-Step Plan for Baby Sleep Success (https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Hours-Sleep-Weeks-Step/dp/0525949593). It was concise and to the point. The author stressed the idea of the schedule and clear expectations which resonated with me and my notions of child-rearing. I decided to commit to the book’s plan and adhere to every little suggestion.
“Sleeping soundly is a basic, teachable skill.” Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old.
One of the essential ideas is to avoid creating bad habits or spoil your child. Candy and lots of toys are fine but limit human touch! Continually holding your little one and rocking him to sleep, while enjoyable at first, will turn into a nightmare. You should not let your baby fall asleep while he is nursing. A lot of mothers, understandably, allow their little ones to fall asleep while eating. This is a huge mistake. You do not want your baby to need you each night for him to fall asleep. I kept my boy awake through the feedings. After he was full, I would put him down for a nap and let him roll around the crib to fall asleep on his own.
Also, holding your baby in one’s hands all day long is not great either. Yes, babies are priceless. Family and friends who stop by to see the baby cannot help but to hold the baby. But when they leave, you are left with the baby who wants to be held all the time. And now you are the one who cannot get anything done. Thanks, Y’all.
Now let’s get to what you should do. It is never too early to start a bedtime routine. We started as soon as the doctor allowed us to have baths. I would go upstairs half an hour before his feeding to make a warm bath and spend some time playing in it. My boy enjoyed bathing and these times were always fun. To this day, he enjoys spending 10–20 mins in a bath before heading straight to bed. After the bath, we would play a little and later on read. I think my boy loved predictability and same pattern each night. He would not fuss, or cry, or get suddenly upset when I place him in the crib. After just a week, he knew that after a bath and evening milk, he was going to sleep in his crib for the night.
Another critical part of establishing a good night sleep is daytime naps. These cannot be long. The book suggests waking up your baby during a day every 2–3 hours, but allow a baby to sleep long stretches at night. I heard that some doctors recommend waking up children for feedings at night. Unless you have a medical reason, I would leave the child alone. Pay attention to your child’s natural rhythm. Some babies like to go to sleep early; others prefer to stay up late. Although, do not think the baby knows best and allow him whatever he wants. Do listen and notice his natural patterns but be confident that as a parent you are in charge.
“Although some change is necessary on the part of the family, a new baby should not dictate the when, where, and how of normal family life.” Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old.
Feeding schedule is critical when it comes to nighttime sleep. Full and happy children sleep better. Easier said than done, right? No. Establishing a feeding schedule is easy. But it requires some discipline on your part. You need to be ready to be an entertainer, project manager, and parent at the same time. You have to keep an eye on the clock at all times and never feed the baby before the scheduled times. If baby fusses, you need to be ready to put on your party hat and make that baby smile. As feeding times stretch and baby learns to wait for food, you will be that much closer to full night sleep.
After the feeding schedule is set to meals being “served” every 4 hours, you need to reduce the amount of milk or formula at night. This is the most natural part of the training. Baby will stop waking up at night after the food is reduced to a few ounces.
Yes, you will say it all sounds great in theory, but have you tried it? Yes, I did! I have a boy and a girl who were trained this way. My friend used this plan as well, and it turned out great. I still wonder how is it that my friends and, for that matter, a lot of other people, have not read this excellent book.
I believe that investing a little bit of time upfront pays off big down the line. Yes, it is inconvenient to keep track of times and actions, to stay on the schedule, to entertain the baby to keep his mind off the food, but the results are amazing. I cherish the time after my kids have gone to bed. The evenings and nights are quiet, and I can spend this time working, writing, or doing nothing.