* Everything in this blog are ways I have tried and tested myself personally with all 3 of my children. All 3 girls love their beds and have happily gone to bed most of their lives themselves. I don't believe we have just 'been lucky' to have good sleepers. Whilst their personalities MIGHT contribute to it- we have purposefully parented in a way to create a healthy sleep pattern and worked really hard to get that. All my girls have each gone through their days and weeks of 'struggles' like all babies and ive just worked through it each day at a time. They definitely aren't always 'perfect' sleepers, but they really have been VERY good most of the time*
Since becoming a mother for the 3rd time, the one thing I am asked daily is what sort of routine do I use for Elsie.
I think as parents, its so easy to see each other and wonder if we are doing things right. EVERYONE will have advice on how you should parent, even people who DONT have children! I guess throughout my own parenting journey, I have learnt to watch and listen, then take what I believe will apply well to MY life and then give it a shot.
Lewis and I are fairly similar when it comes to parenting and how we raise our children- which makes it quite easy to agree on things. We decided long ago that when we have children - we will try our best to make sure that no matter what - WE as a COUPLE still always come first. I know it sounds quite harsh- and it obviously has to be understood properly or it could be harsh... What we mean is- when we value and put importance on OUR relationship- our children will THRIVE and our family will be HEALTHY.
One of the main 'rules' we set from the beginning of our journey was that we wanted our children to sleep in their own beds. Our bed was for us, as husband and wife. Whilst I know this doesn't work for everyone- this is what we both really strived for and what we hoped to achieve- but its not always easy, especially when we (well...me...) are sleep deprived and baby doesn't want to go back to sleep yet! But, we put routines into place from day 1 of bringing home Myla, and it seems to have worked x3 so far.
Our parenting style is not 'crazy strict' but we hold importance for routine and try to stick to our few rules as best we can.
-Note: all that is listed here today are taken from either books, online, advice and most importantly- our own experience and adaption from what we have heard works.
Here are the main types of rules/routine/styles we follow:
3 HOURS + FULL FEED
We followed the simple-3 hour feed routine which is recommended for all newborns. This means, you feed your baby every 3 hours (time starts at the start of each feed) and the rest fits in between.
Ive never called myself a 'demand' feeder. But I don't 'refuse' my babies to feed. There IS absolutely such thing as 'cluster' feeds and 'growth spurts'- where baby just wants to feed more than that- but this isn't usually everyday or all the time. My focus is on 1 SOLID FULL feed every 3 hours. If I could keep baby awake while feeding, to the point I knew she was full (drank until let down, drank the fatty milk afterwards, and no longer is interested- plus its kinda mother instinct knowing they are full), then it usually meant she wont need to feed again until the next 3 hour window. IF I was to only give her a short feed, let her fall asleep and put her down without finishing the feed- she is going to wake up before she needs too, want more milk and then be over tired because she woke mid sleep cycle... snack feeding can make things difficult if done all the time.
3 things a newborn pretty much only does for the first few months of their lives. But the ORDER is whats a huge important key.
The main importance on this order is not to feed your baby to sleep. From what we understood, feeding our baby to sleep meant a few things :
1. baby hadn't finished a full feed (which then can lead to snack feeding, which leads to never having a full feed and always snacking...which basically means no sleep. They also don't get those juicy 'fatty' milk at the end of the feeds too)
2. Baby can get more wind which sits in their belly from not properly burping (that play time gives them more time to do a poo too!) which then means baby can wake with tummy pains during their sleep cycle and not get the full sleep cycle.
So in those first few weeks especially- it was pretty hard not to feed to sleep... as a general rule, I basically just made sure they had a full feed. Sometimes I would have to tickle their toes, or even *dont judge* put a little cold washer on their backs to wake up a little and keep drinking! Most of the time newborns will have their feed, have a burp, change nappy, (thats 'play' for a newborn') and go back to sleep anyway-but the main focus was to make sure they got that FULL feed.
SLEEP TIME ROUTINE:
I always follow my own little 'time for sleep' routine with my girls. When it is time for bed I will take Elsie to her change table, have a little chat, change her nappy, give her some kisses, pop her in her LTD swaddle, put her into her bed, dummy in, give a little nose stroke (sooo cute) and music on. Walk out. (I have always tried my hardest to not rock to sleep- I always have put baby down awake to fall asleep themselves). I do this everytime, and it stays this way for pretty much the first year (just a different type of swaddle as she gets older-eventually into a sleeping bag and I will also add a story once she is a bit older)
IF they dont stay asleep or keep waking
So this is probably the biggest thing I am asked... "my baby wakes up after X minutes, but I know they need more sleep...how do you get them to stay in bed"?
Babies tend to have a 40 minute sleep cycle. Meaning they will naturally wake slightly at this time and go back to sleep. ALOT of babies though wake up too much and struggle going back to sleep. All my babies have gone through phases where it takes a while for me to get them past that 40 minutes. Tips I usually do:
WAIT- you might hear them awake, they might grizzle slightly, but sometimes they will just fall back asleep...sometimes- especially these days when we have video monitors and see them awake- we go in too soon and dont let them naturally go back to sleep.
Go in, replace dummy, stroke head/nose for a minute with a 'shhh' and re start music. ... and REPEAT.
Im not even kidding when I say, sometimes I am doing that for 20 minutes every 2 minutes! But then... bam... sleeps for another hour or TWO! Sometimes I have to do this to get her to sleep from the start (this is always the case for all my babies around 6-8weeks old!)... its soooo time consuming (sometimes Im doing it for their WHOLE nap time...every 2 minutes, 20 minutes, 5 mins....) and can be frustrating and exhausting...but its worth it in the end. If I pick her up and bring her out...then that the be end of that sleep..or its the start of sleeping on me...and they can get used to that pretty quick!!!
IF baby is crying, and 'shhhuussshhing' them isnt working, patting isnt working, pick them up...give a little cuddle to calm and drift a little and pop back down before they are all the way asleep....and.... REPEAT (no joke haha)
IF all else fails... try again next sleep and enjoy the cuddles!!!
* I dont let my babies cry to sleep or cry it out. Its just not something I can personally have the heart to do. I don't disagree or agree with it, as I think every baby is different, as is every parent *
Azalea sleeping in her pram
Babies have been curled up nice and tight in their mothers womb for 9 months (ok, probably not curled up tight the whole time but you know what I mean). So when they come out, they enjoy a nice cuddle! I have always swaddled my babies, and have never had an issue (I cant give any advice for anyone whos babies may not like it). at the start we just use a normal swaddle technique with a muslin wrap, but after 2 weeks they are usually into a LOVE TO DREAM swaddle. I love the LTD because it gives them the 'tight' feeling, but they also can wriggle around enough to cuddle into their arms and suck on their hands etc, but still tight enough to stop any startle reflex. Plus they don't escape!
SLEEP AIDS (Dummy, noise, bedding, comforters)
As a rule for myself, I try not to have any sleeping aids at the very beginning and I gradually add them If I need too. All my girls have had dummies. Myla from 2 weeks, Azalea from 1 week and Elsie from 4 days. I have also always bought my girls a cute 'comforter' but they honestly have never become so reliant on them that its a MUST- which is what I prefer (in case I forget it sometimes).
Myla used white noise from about 6 weeks when she 'woke up' as they say (where newborns all of a sudden realised whats around them and stop sleeping 24/7). But I hated the white noise and changed it to lullaby music which she still liked. Azalea had nothing for noise, and Elsie I have introduced lullaby music as I find she prefers noise around the house (probably used to it with her sisters running around).
Comforters can be really great for sleep 'triggers' so babies can know its bed time now. But I always get scared of them relying on them so much they cant sleep without them.... but...survival each day right??!
I mentioned how strong I am about having our babies have a good relationship with their own beds earlier and why. In saying all of that- we LOVE having her girls jump into our beds in the morning when they wake up, and there has definitely been those 'nightmare' nights that they come into mummy and daddys bed. They know our door is always open to them! Plus as newborn, anywhere from 5am, they pretty much slept in our bed after a feed- just for some special cuddles! I also am LOVING baby wearing on the occasion and think its a GREAT way for bub to get a nap when they arent quite happy at that time!
Heres a few things I do in regards to their beds.
They sleep in our room in a bassinet from day 1 until roughly 3-4months. (Myla 4 months, Azalea 3 months and Elsie has just started 1/2 1/2 (in her room until her night feed...which is slowly becoming early morning now!)
We love cuddles, especially as newborns, so I definitely let them have some naps on me in those first few few weeks. My general rule is- so long as they have 1 big sleep in their bed during the day- I'm happy.
If baby has a bit of reflux or wind-I use to tilt the bassinet mattress on a slight lean (feet down) to help! (we haven't needed to do this with Elsie).
Sleeping while out and about-
I use a pram bassinet from newborns- I love that they can lay down flat , the same as their bed at home to sleep while im running around. She sleeps in her capsule in the car alot too, but I try to use the bassinet most of the time so she doesnt get used to being 'cuddled' up to sleep too often (like in a capsule). This makes it easier when we are home so they can still happily sleep in their bed flat.
How our day would usually look:
First few weeks:
The first few weeks are pretty much a ‘go with the flow’.
3 hourly feeds.
Feed baby, burp baby, change baby nappy, and by then baby has probably been awake long enough and is already to be put baby back to sleep and start the routine again.
I tend to follow 1 hour rule- awake for 1 hour total- including their feed time. Its always good to try some mat time and tummy time for baby play time after their feed from the start too- especially when baby is starting to see the world around them more.
Night times: Play time is not for during the night. Night time is feed only, small burp- straight back to bed. (7pm-6am roughly). I actually don’t even change their nappy unless it’s a poo during the night!
From around 10 weeks:
I find from around this age, baby is starting to fall into a little bit more of a structure and not always having a huge sleep, and wanting to be awake a little longer. I follow a 1.5-2hr rule from about now, but I always watch for baby sleep queues in case they are ready for bed early.
Elsies routine roughly: (from 10 weeks)
7-7:30am – WAKE UP, FEED, PLAY
We always start once we get out of bed with a nappy change and get dressed for the day. Then Elsie will watch us start our morning getting ready from her rocker or floor cushion (this is PLAY time- we always talk to her, the girls cuddle her and play with her a lot) By 8:20am…she is pretty tired already, but we have school run to do (yay) or we are usually heading out and about. So we tends to nap in the car.
8:30/9am - NAP (roughly 1.5-2hour sleep- but this is sometimes very broken as we are usually in the car in and out the first part of the morning)
PLAY – if we are out, she is usually in my arms for play time, on a playmat or in the pram watching the world. At home its usually some mat time and tummy time, we also try to do some flash cards or a story just for fun! Play time at this age is pretty simple (its really just ‘awake’ time).
12/12:30pm NAP (this is usually her big sleep, can be 1.5-3hrs)
2:45pm- (SCHOOL DAY) WAKE, FEED (DAYS I DONT HAVE TO DO SCHOOL PICK UP I WONT WAKE HER, SHE CAN SOMETIME SLEEP UNTIL 3:30pm)
PLAY – Pick up Myla from school, drive around, run errands. This is all usually her ‘play time’ for the afternoon.
4:30 – NAP (this is usually a short 1hr nap)
Shower time, watch us get ready for dinner etc…
6/6:30 – FEED, STORY, SLEEP BED by 7pm LATEST.
Elsie used to ‘dream feed’ at 10:30pm- but I found it made no difference to her to sleep through, She always wakes around 3:30am for a feed. SO this week (13-14weeks) I have been leaving her and she usually sleeps from 6:30/7pm-3:30/4:30am).
New day starts again with a feed around 7:30am everyday (even if she had a feed at 5/6am, I always do that ‘morning’ breakfast for her to start our day.
Myla slept through the night from 8 weeks with a dream feed. 7pm-7am dream feed at 10:30pm.
Azalea had one night feed until 7 months (I was lazy and never tried to push her to sleep through until exactly 7 months- took 2 nights of repeat dummy instead of feed and she was good!) 7pm-3am-7am
Elsie is sleeping roughly at 14 weeks 7pm-4am-7:30am