Sleep or lack thereof is probably one of the most important issues for new parents. From almost the moment I announced my pregnancy the most common piece of advice I received was “Sleep now cause soon you won’t be getting any” I have to admit it terrified me. I am an eight hour a night sleeper. I need my sleep or else I fall apart. I could not imagine having to wake up every two hours with a baby and still be able to function the next day.
Guess what? It happened and I woke up the next day and functioned!
I’m a true believer in the importance of sleep. I think a proper night’s sleep is missing from many lives, both kids and adults alike. The negative effects of too little sleep are too often ignored. I often hear pride in people’s voices when they proclaim just how little sleep they had the night before. Sleep is just as important as diet and exercise in terms of your health.
I knew from early on that good sleep behaviours were something I wanted to try my best to instill in my children. We started with a good sleep routine that always included a nice warm bath, a bottle/nursing and stories with cuddles.
What we found even more important, was to put our kids on a sleep schedule. This, sometimes caused judgments from others. Those who don’t believe in sleep schedules usually vehemently don’t believe in them, preferring their children sleep when they sleep. We received a lot of unsolicited advice, comments and eye rolls when we adhered to strict naptimes and bedtimes.
Perhaps it’s because I am such a structured person, maybe it’s because I function well on a routine but a daily timetable just came naturally to me.
From quite early on our kids were on, what I call, a 2-3-4 schedule. Two hours after they woke up they had their first nap. Three hours after their first nap they had their second nap. Four hours after that was bedtime. From quite early on they slept through the night. Their bodies fell into a rhythm and sleep came easily to them.
A typical day looked like this:
8am- wake up
2:00-4:00 – second nap
8:00 – bedtime
This schedule worked wonders for us.
Firstly because it helped us plan our days. We knew when the baby would be sleeping so we could arrange our days around naptimes to some extent. We wouldn’t plan to go grocery shopping at 10am because we knew we might be faced with very cranky babies.
Mostly this worked because our babies knew what to expect next. They knew when naptime was. They knew when bedtime was and they slept. I was fortunate enough that both my babies went down for naps quite easily and slept through the night from quite early on.
Did it work every time? No. Of course we had nights when there were struggles. Ms. J might have slept well but she never wanted to sleep alone. To this day, as long as someone is with her she will sleep soundly all night long.
I often wonder if our scheduling helped shape their sleeping habits or if it’s just a part of who they are. I wonder if Mr. T. is the great sleeper he is because he spent so long in a NICU, with the beeps of machines and nurses checks disrupting his sleep and feeding tubes ensuring he never woke up hungry.
I don’t really have the answer. I’m not entirely sure if our sleep schedules helped our children drift off into slumberland with ease. I just know that having a schedule kept us sane and I would do it again in a flash! It gave us structure to our day. We still maintain a night time routine that always ends with stories, cuddles and sharing stories about our day. Although our kids do try and fight sleep a little more now that they are older and prefer to play and giggle with each other than go to bed, they are peaceful sleepers who once asleep don’t wake up until a reasonably early morning wake up.
If your babies are struggling with bedtime you are most likely exhausted, walking around in a sleepless stupor and are probably willing to try anything. I will always recommend sticking to a schedule. It may not work for everyone but it worked so well for us that I will always stand by the scheduled way of life. Try it out and hopefully you’ll all be snoozing peacefully before you know it.