Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Five Ways We Set our Children up for Sleep Success

Sleep training is kind of a hot topic in most mothering circles.

Cry-it-out methods and no-cry methods. To co-sleep or not to co-sleep.

I actually did not read a lot about this, choosing, instead to go with Tharin and I's instincts, and we have had good sleepers so far. Here are our top five steps for setting kids up for sleep success.

1. Feed Them
Though this is pretty obvious, it is worth mentioning: once a baby is completely full, he is much more likely to fall asleep and stay sleeping for a longer stretch.
I try to never put my babies down for a sleep without first making sure they are sated, as I am convinced that 75% of a child's problems can be solved with food.

And, I would say the same can be said about their parents, too.

You know, the whole hangry thing.

2. Sleep Props (gasp)
I like to give my children plenty of routine and comfort when they transition to a crib in their own room, and thus, rely on a few key sleep props. For us these were: a sound machine, a soother/fingers, a special blanket, and eventually a milk bottle.
Jerome and Benedict have both had a Scout with them in their crib, and I swear by using a sound machine of some sort. We did not believe in the full-on cry-it-out method, and would never leave Jerome for long if we felt his cries were frantic, but Scout was the magic touch, eight times out of ten.

We put our children to bed with their soother, or in Benedict's case, his two middle fingers, play the bedtime music on Scout, and walk softly out of the room.

If there are persistent cries, we will go in and reset the music, return the soother, and talk gently to the baby without picking them up.

When this is not enough we do eventually soothe the baby in our arms, nurse if necessary, and occasionally allow them to stay up longer if they do not seem tired.

One of the arguments I have heard against sleep props is the child's reliance on them. We have avoided this by weaning our children off their sleep props before they are old enough to become too attached to them, and this has gone smoothly so far with Jerome.

I will mention that Benedict became a finger sucker, pictured above, at a very young age, and while it has been very cute, and he has always been able to soothe himself, I predict it will be more difficult to wean him of this habit.

3. A Comfort Item

Okay, I decided to make a whole other section for blankies, as I think they are that important.

I'll admit it, I was a blanket kid, and I was extremly attached to mine.

And from experience, I can say that it was very beneficial for me to have that comfort item. Especially in situations where I was required to be apart from my parents later on.
A blanket or other special comfort item gives your child a familiarity they can keep and bring with them. No matter where we may be putting our children down for a sleep, they have the familiarity of their blanket, and I believe this has made them have better quality of sleep overall.
As well as the security the comfort item allows, I think it also makes it so much easier for a child to learn to soothe themselves. Even if I am not with my babies, I know they have something comforting with them all the time.

4. No Night Changes

When Jerome was a newborn, I did get up and change his diaper every time he got up to eat, until my mom mentioned not thinking it was necessary. Now I just make sure to put them down with a fresh diaper, and deal with it first thing in the morning and they both did just fine with that.

I know some babies might have more sensitive skin, or be more particular about being wet, so this may not work for everyone.
However, I have found that nursing in bed, keeping the environment quiet and dark, and moving the baby as little as possible, which includes not changing diapers, has helped to teach my babies to sleep pretty well through the night, waking only enough to eat if they need to.

5. Cosleeping

Which is why I am a huge advocate for co-sleeping, in low-risk environments. Nighttime is my favourite time with my babies, especially when they are newborn as it gives me a chance to just cuddle them to my hearts content.
I think it is important for infants to have this closeness with their mother as they become accustomed to life on the outside and stay warm enough, as well as helping to create a peaceful, natural rhythm of staying asleep through the night.
Cosleeping has made night nurses really peaceful, as the baby is less likely to be startled awake by a lot of movement, noise, or light.

As I mentioned above, I transitioned Jerome out of co-sleeping when he was about five months, and just started with Benedict at month seven.

I know this means I am not a true co-sleeping fanatic, but I have heard enough stories about kids unable to sleep on their own until they are much too old and decided to make the transition in what I feel is the sweet-spot in between starting solids and becoming too attached to familiar habits.

So there we have it, a few simple ways we set our children up for sleep success. I know there is nothing remarkable about our methods, but they have been really effective for us in helping our children to develop healthy sleep habits.

Thank you for reading,
Olivia Fischer

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