I always have a quiet sarcastic smirk to myself when I hear that saying. If only it was true! While it is most certainly applicable for the first few weeks in terms of the amount of time that newborns tend to sleep in a day (probably in the range 16-17 hours) what you cannot prepare for is the irregular routine that these sleeps tend to follow, and their relatively short span, generally 2 – 4 hours in a stretch. Hell for Mom and Dad, but necessary for your little one in terms of early cognitive development, so toughen up take it on the chin with as much a smile as you can manage.
We found that establishing a firm bedtime routine worked really well for us and got Mae’s sleeping patterns nailed and sleeping through from pretty early on. If you are having hassles get your little one to sleep give it a try for a few weeks and it may just work for you!
Step 1: The Wind Down
It all starts late afternoon where we do our best to focus on quiet time or at least project a feeling of quiet time after a normally manic work day. We spend this time playing in the lounge, normally with puzzles, reading or generally something that doesn’t involve running around and high levels of excitement. Of course this is theoretical, as when Mae puts her mind to playing in the garden or puts on a spectacular tantrum screaming for her dinner things don’t always go according to plan.
One of the most important things that we have learnt as parents? Thing’s don’t always go according to plan. Don’t stress, roll with it, and just do your best. That’s all that anyone can expect.
Step 2: Dinner
We aim for inner at 5pm. Generally, we stick to steamed veg, protein (normally chicken or fish) and some carbs. We are lucky in that Sprout is an amazing eater, so dinner times are generally not too stressful. This is obviously different for everyone, but we try not force the issue if she isn’t hungry and try not to get her too worked up if she is teething or in a bad mood.
Step 3: Bath Time, Brush Teeth and Peejays
Depending on how dinner time goes we aim to have Sprout in the bath by between 5:30 and 5:45, sometimes with a quiet play in between dinner and bath. We generally follow a routine comprising wash and clean first, followed by play in the bath, which Sprout really loves! This takes us to around 6:00, where we take her out, brush her teeth and get her changed and ready for bed.
Step 4: Bottle and Story Time
Without fail, we do bottle and story time to have Sprout in bed by the latest at 6:30. We use the same story every night, from when she was tiny. This is the only book that stays hidden away and only comes out at bedtime. It’s the sweetest little story by Emma Dodd simply titled “You”. It has amazing brightly coloured illustrations and is always still a favourite of Sprouts. It’s definitely one of my favourite parts of the bedtime routine. Watching her understanding of the story grow and joy that brings grow from week to week is so amazing to see. Together with her bath time, bottle, and bedtime book, these cues help get her ready for bed.
Step 5: The Good Night and Tuck In
The final cues are a good night cuddle and kiss from Mom and Dad, tucking her into her sleepy sack, and placing her in her cot with a light muslin blanket and her little stuffed giraffe Lulu. After that its lights off and sleep time. Just like that. Done. See you in the morning. Ha ha. Right.
Step 6: She’s not Asleep! Now What?
Sprout has a habit of taking 30 min to an hour to actually go to sleep, even if she is completely exhausted. In fact what we have noticed that the more tired she is the harder it is for her to go down. This has definitely been one of the toughest things as parents to get through. We essentially try and keep our trips in at this point to minimum. We won’t go in on the slightest peep or cry, but will try and last through a count to a hundred and assess her cry. When we get to a hundred, we pop in give a squishy cuddle if she is sitting up and put her back down and leave the room. If she is lying down we will leave her as is, tuck her in pat her on the back to console her until she has calmed down and then leave the room.
Its tough. At the time the guilt can be overwhelming, and often is overwhelming, with all three of us in tears. BUT the end result is that Sprout has learnt how to be comfortable in her room and cot by herself. She has learnt how to self sooth and she has the cutest hour long conversations with Lulu often resulting in extended tummy giggles and screams of delight. Most importantly, most nights she sleeps through.
The Compulsory Disclaimer:
I am not a sleep expert. Over the last 18 months or so we have learnt a thing or two and found a routine that works for us. With a second little munchkin on the way we will try the same routine. It may work, it may not. You don’t have anything to lose (except sleep). so perhaps you should give it a try?