Bed time. It can be a great and terrible time. Great because with a sleeping baby or toddler, you can finally get done the things you wanted to accomplish, or spend some quality time with your wife. Terrible because it can be just terrible getting your child to sleep on their own. Below is how we dealt with bed time (or how we are dealing with it currently), so read on if you are fresh out of ideas and at your wits end as a new dad.
Which Sleep Method?
Bed time is highly disputed throughout parenting blogs and books. There are different methods for putting your baby or toddler to sleep. For example, a lot of ‘experts’ preach by the ‘cry it out’ method. This involves leaving your baby to cry themselves to sleep. This can be a painful way to break the habit of their sleeping in your room, whether it’s in your bed or in a cradle or bassinet. Others swear by the ‘monitor’ method, which involves checking on your baby every so often to make sure they are alright and to comfort them a little. Another method is to slowly and gradually remove them from your room (by a couple feet per night, for example.)
What method is the right method? Hands down, the ‘cry it out’ method. Why? Because that is what is working for our one year old right now. And by working, I mean sort of working, or working better than the other methods, because bed time is terrible for us right now. Let me explain.
Our daughter slept in our bed for the first 7+ months of her life. I know. Shame on me for not putting a stop to that earlier, but it happened. She had acid reflux as a new born and the doctor told us that she needed to sleep sitting up so she wouldn’t choke on her vomit. The problem with that is that she wouldn’t sleep in a car seat for more than 20 minutes before not wanting to be in a car seat any more. Ditto for other rocking and vibrating chairs. She was too little to lay down on her belly by herself, so she started sleeping on my wife’s chest. This made it easy to nurse her at night and to make sure she was still breathing and generally alive during the night, which put my wife at ease.
But the day would eventually come that she would have to sleep on her own in the crib in her bedroom. I knew that the longer she slept with us, the harder it would be to break the habit and the comfort level to start over in another foreign room. I fought a losing battle for several months, until our doctor backed me up and scared my wife into giving it a try (he basically said we had until she was around one year old to help her establish healthy sleep habits or she would be ruined forever).
The first night we put her in the crib, she just stood there and screamed for over 2 hours. Blood curdling screaming at the top of her lungs. It was as if we had abandoned her. My wife finally gave in and brought her to bed with us. Failure. The next night was more of the same. This went on for the better part of a week until my wife decided that she couldn’t bear the ‘cry it out’ method. So we adopted the ‘monitor’ method. This meant that we stayed with her until she fell asleep on her own in her crib, and each time she woke up we checked in on her until she fell asleep again. This sort of worked for a couple months, but eventually our daughter could sense when we left and would immediately wake up and scream again.
After another visit to the doctor, which helped reaffirm that we just needed to let her figure this sleep thing out on her own, we revisited the ‘cry it out method.’ We now just let her cry when we lay her down, when she wakes up in the night, whenever. It’s hard to listen to it, but let me tell you, it is so much better than springing up at every whimper or cry. Your wife will have a harder time with this, for sure. The key to this working is for her to stay busy and occupied. So keep her busy. *Wink wink*.
Does this method produce a baby that will always 100% sleep on its own? Possibly. Our daughter still has nights when she wakes up and cries for what seems like hours before going back to sleep. But for the most part, she is pretty good at going to sleep.
Now that the method talk is over, what sleep aids are there that help? We use an iPod with 10 hours of rain. Someone actually recorded rain for 10 hours so it isn’t like a loop or white noise machine. It’s pretty effective – it’ll knock me out pretty quick. But any white noise that works is a godsend. I left the iPod in my brother’s car for a week, so we didn’t have anything that would play the rain and that week was hell at night. Another sleep aid is this little turtle night light that shines blue, green and red light through star shapes on its shell. It is awesome until the light goes out. If our daughter is still awake, she freaks out and cries until we turn it back on, defeating the purpose of the ‘cry it out’ method. We are currently looking for a plug in night light that does the same thing and doesn’t have a shutoff timer.
There are a lot of other tips that will help your baby establish good sleeping habits, which include establishing a bed time routine with some order of the following:
- Warm bath
- Clean, dry diaper
- Clothes that aren’t too warm
- Dinner, then nurse (bottle), then bed
I can’t stress enough the importance of a regular schedule. My baby is aware when she is up past her bedtime, and little kids are different when they are sleep deprived. As adults, we can usually catch up. Kids just get cranky and grumpy. Keep as regular a bed time schedule as possible, as this is one of the most important items on this list. Our daughter’s bed time is sacred, and only rare occasions (family vacation, holidays, etc) disrupt it. The bed time routine of feeding, new diaper, then bed is another great way to wind down. We don’t often read stories, but will probably add that to the arsenal as she gets older. A warm bath helped earlier on, but doesn’t help as much anymore for some reason.
Bed time = Sacred time
If you do this right, you will have several hours before you and your wife go to sleep to get a mountain of things done, or to spend time with each other. Movies, shows, romance, hobbies, and chores can all be accomplished after your little one is asleep (especially if you establish bed time is as early as 7 or 7:30). Treat this time as sacred time. Don’t put it off to play some more with your baby. Don’t disrupt the routine. And take advantage of the evenings together. Good luck-
What bedtime routine works for you? Let us know in the comment section below. Thanks for reading!