Over the past few weeks my baby of 17 months gradually started to have some (only some!) nights during which he slept from 20h00 till 06h00 in the morning! It is an amazing feeling to wake up in the morning, refreshed and wide awake! And this made me chuckle at the proverbial ‘Sleeping like a baby!’ Who was it that thought it appropriate to link a baby to peaceful sleep?
Then on the other hand, I cannot think of anything more beautiful, precious and at peace, than a sleeping baby!
Not one of my eight babies ever slept through at 6 weeks or even 3 months. Maybe it has something to do with the genes, therefore mine didn’t sleep through before the age of at least 18 months!
So I thought I would share a little from my almost 17 years of having babies and trying to figure out a cure for sleepless nights or at least a workable sleeping pattern.
Let met start with I’m not a Cry-It-Out-Mother.
I remember years ago, when CJ was about 8 months old, complaining in a group of medical professionals that CJ was still not sleeping through the night. They almost ridiculed me, for still nursing my baby and for not having sleep trained my baby! Being an inexperienced, fragile, tired, new Mother, I rush home with a sleep-training-plan. They couldn’t persuade me to stop nursing (LOL)!
That night CJ woke up around midnight and I made sure he nursed well. An hour later he called again, and I figured it is a good a time to implemented the sleep-training-plan. In retrospect, only a sophisticated word for leaving your baby to cry until he understands it is no time for cuddling and nurturing! My baby cried for an hour, but it felt like 10 hours! Christo literally had to hold me in bed. After the hour’s cry, my baby was so exhausted, he slept through the rest of the night! The following night he woke up a few times after his nursing, but only cried for about 10 minutes, at a time. The third night, he only cried for 3 minutes at a time and by the fourth night he only woke up for his 02h00 feeding. Well done! Mission accomplished! But until today I can still remember the feelings that rushed through me, while my baby was crying helplessly in his crib! Then only weeks later he started to wake up several times a night again. I remember thinking to myself. “Do I now have to start all over again? Never!” I made a promise, I will never let my baby Cry-It-Out ever again!
And over the years, 8 babies later, and after experiencing countless nights of sleep depriving, I still keep to my promise.
No Baby Crib
When Heidi-Mari (my second baby) was only a few weeks old, I made a major change in the Baby Room. I’m not one who will suffer discomfort for the sake of doing things like all other do it, quiet the contrary! I threw out the baby crib, since it just doesn’t work for me! Heidi-Mari was a colic baby, I struggled for hours to get her to sleep and she would only sleep for very short periods of time. I figured out that it was much easier to lay down with my baby on a mattress on the ground while nursing, and when she do fall asleep I could simply roll off the mattress, without disturbing her and quietly leave the room.
Another benefit of laying down while nursing, is a slower let down of milk, which causes less cramps and winds.
The main benefit of not using a crib, is nursing at night. I only need to get out of my bed, getting into her bed, and sleep further. That way I experienced the least sleep depravation.
The Epsom Salt Bath
We add 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt when running a bath on a regular basis.
The Epsom Salt relax the body and muscles. I do believe my babies sleep better when they have an Epsom Salt Bath than when they don’t. (just check that they don’t drink the water - it will end in runny tummies!)
An Evening Routine
I’m very much into routine. Not as much routine by the hour, but on the sequence of events. My babies know they get bathed (more or less around 17h00), then Daddy comes home. They will wrestle with Daddy on the bed, then supper will follow, cleaning the kitchen while Mom and Dad have their coffee. Then follows bathroom routines and then off to bed. I even have a sequence of events before getting into bed.
So much so, that little Michael will run to fetch my laptop when he is tired and want to get to bed! I will open his bed, plug in the heater, open his receiving blanket to wrap him into, put out the light, get on the bed, wrap him in his blanket, open my laptop, put on some soothing music and start nursing him.
By the time I start nursing him, he is convinced it is night time and he will fall asleep within minutes. I use the nursing time to read my favourite blogs and am really relaxed, not rushed to get him asleep, or frustrated when he do struggle to fall asleep. When he do struggle, I will stop nursing and cuddle and small talk with my baby. To see his sweet smile and the adoration in his eyes in the glare of my laptop light, is priceless!
I believe babies need to sleep in baby grows in winter and vests in summer. Since it is now winter, I’m constantly on the look out for baby grows for babies 12 - 24 months. It isn’t easy to find baby grows for that age group. It seems like fashion designers seldom consult experienced mothers and they don’t design baby grows for ages older than 12 months.
I definitely experience that Michael is more restless when I dress him in a track suit, with the bottom of the legs open. Even with socks, the cold creep in at the bottom of the pants and cause him to wake up due to the cold.
That brings me to the next point:
The Temperature of the Room
My Babies don’t want to be covered with blankets, not even in the winter. Therefore I need to regulate the room temperature and do have a 12 fin oil heater in the room.
Diet and stimulants
Since we are health freaks, we only occasionally allow the children to have sweets and colourants. We also use, where possible organic products, thus no hormone filled meats, eggs or diary. Also no MSG. We have Bio-Pro chips on all our cell phones, laptops and desk tops to minimize radiation. Even with the Bio-Pro chips I never put the laptop on my lap. Always next to me and as far as possible from me and baby. Also we don’t have electric blankets, underfloor heating or a microwave oven.
I do believe babies sleep better (and are healthier) without these extras!
I always try to give them a protein rich dinner. But I've also observed it doesn’t play such a major roll. The reason: when they don’t eat well, it is often because of teething and that in itself will cause a bad night! When they eat well, it is because they feel well and then sleep well.
When CJ was still a baby and I still working in our family business, he attend a playgroup every day from 9h00 till 14h00. They scheduled lunch for 11h30 and nap time at 12h00. When I fetched him just after 14h00, he would sometimes still be laying on his mattress. Since the nap time was so early in the day, I never struggled to get him asleep at night.
When Heidi-Mari was born I became a full time Mother and made sure I scheduled lunch and nap time early. When my older babies and toddlers get their hour and a half nap in before 15h00, I don’t struggle to get them in bed. So over the years I fall in the habit to have lunch at 12h30 and nap time at 13h00.
My babies younger than 6 months will throughout the day, sleep for an hour and then be awake for about 2 hours before I can try to let them sleep again. Bed time is 19h30 for my small babies and I will make every effort to keep him/her awake from around 16h30.
After 6 months up to 1 year old my babies only need 2 naps a day. An hour at 9h30 and another hour at 14h30.
After a year, my baby only need one nap. This is always a challenging time for three to four months. Baby cannot stretch to 13h00, when the toddlers go for their nap and will fall asleep around 11h00, for one and a half to two hours. During this time I need to keep the toddlers quiet. Then baby will wake up exactly by the time the toddlers goes to sleep, and I will have to keep the baby quiet while they sleep.
But at more or less 15months baby can keep up with the morning stretch and at this stage with Michael 17 months old, he also go for his nap at 13h00.
By 20h00 they are all ready for bed again.
Some of my children need less sleep than others. I remember CJ needed his afternoon nap until he was about 8 years old. Heidi-Mari just couldn’t fall asleep at night, after an afternoon nap by the time she was 5 years old.
At this stage Danika (8years) do need an afternoon nap every second to third afternoon. Andrew (6years) doesn’t have an afternoon nap since he was 3 years old! But we do expect him to have a nap over weekends.So I’m evaluating the children's’ naps according to their personalities. I do expect those who don’t need to take a nap, to rest on their bed or on the couch and older children will be reading, blogging or doing homework.
While having babies, keep your life simple and stay away from chaotic days, filled with too much on the to-do list.
Don’t drive around the whole day, and do keep your baby’s nap times in mind when planning an outing. Having said that, remember that there will be odd days when everything happen at once, and days when the unforeseen happens, only be careful to get back to the simple life, as soon as possible! Don’t stress and despair when you have a bad night after an out-of-routine day!
Teething and Unexpected Fever
I often receive e-mails from mothers who are overcome with quilt because they were impatient with there ‘difficult’ baby during the night, and the next morning Baby has a fever or rash. If your baby is in a good sleeping pattern and all of a sudden has one or two bad nights, it is often due to teething or baby not feeling well, ending in a high fever the next day and most probably baby measles or some kind of virus. Check out my posting "Help, my Baby has a Fever.” Whenever you observe that your baby is not himself, has a slight fever, more sleepy, irritated or crying more, Vibercol S (suppositories) and Engystol (tablets) from Heel is a good call for the night.
Calm, Compassionate Attitude
I have noticed when I’m nursing with a calm and friendly attitude during the night, speaking softly and respond compassionately to my baby, he falls asleep almost immediately. When I’ve finished nursing him, and he don't want to sleep or complain, I do train him to sleep. I do this by laying next to him, putting my hand on his back and I firmly but compassionately repeatedly tell him to sleep. Note I’m with my baby, I don't even leave his bed. If I did this for a coupe of nights, then the following nights I will take my hand off his back and still tell him to sleep. After a few nights it worked. Whenever he now don’t want to nurse anymore, but also don’t want to sleep, and whine, I will tell him to sleep. I only need to say it two to three times, and he will become peaceful and soon I will hear his deep breathing indicating he is fast asleep.
The Digital Clock
The digital clock next to my bed, was without knowing it, one of my worse enemies while in the battle of sleep depravation and self-pity! Then a few years ago, CJ needed an alarm clock, and since all cellphones has a build-in clock I gave him my digital clock. He didn’t has a cellphone at that stage. Without my digital clock I couldn’t keep track of the last time baby called for me and how often I needed to get up during the night. What a breakthrough!
It was almost like I was too befuddled too remember and without digital numbers printed into my mind, I could cope with getting up several times during the night. So throw out your digital clock!
When All Things Fail....
Then when I've done everything right, and baby calls me 10 times during the night, I only go with the flow. God is at work with my spiritual maturity just as much as he is at work in my baby's physical maturity. Many a night, when I cry out to the Lord for help in getting up for yet another call from my baby, I sense he is intensely at work with me -
“But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint.” 1 Tim 2.
God is working holiness in me, through the unselfish act of service to my helpless baby. Training my selfish, complaining attitude, in a situation I have no control in, to be more like Jesus, giving up Self. Any mother will tell you it is the most helpless situation when your baby calls you many times during the night and you are craving sleep. It can be a humbling, learning process towards bearing the fruit of the spirit or an angry provoking, frustrating experience. You alone choose which one it will be for you.
I constantly remind myself, he is a small helpless human being, and while nursing my baby, I’m the only one that can help him. What a privilege and high calling on my life! Even if I know he cannot be hungry, cold or uncomfortable, I respond in a positive way. He most probably just needs my presence to make him feel safe and secure.
I once received an amazing piece - A Newborn’s Conversation with God and whenever I’m too tired to get up for yet another call and want to get irritated and frustrated, full of self-pity, I remember God’s purpose for me and then I’m able to turn to my baby with compassion and love, laying down my life for this precious, human being:
A Newborn's Conversation with God
A baby asked God, "They tell me you are sending me to earth tomorrow, but how am I going to live there being so small and helpless?"
God said, "Your angel will be waiting for you and will take care of you."
The child further inquired, "But tell me, here in heaven I don't have to do anything but sing and smile to be happy."
God said, "Your angel will sing for you and will also smile for you. And you will feel your angel's love and be very happy."
Again the small child asked, "And how am I going to be able to understand when people talk to me if I don't know the language?"
God said, "Your angel will tell you the most beautiful and sweet words you will ever hear, and with much patience and care, your angel will teach you how to speak."
"And what am I going to do when I want to talk to you?"
God said, "Your angel will place your hands together and will teach you how to pray."
"Who will protect me?"
God said, "Your angel will defend you even if it means risking its life."
"But I will always be sad because I will not see you anymore."
God said, "Your angel will always talk to you about Me and will teach you the way to come back to Me, even though I will always be next to you."
At that moment there was much peace in Heaven, but voices from Earth could be heard and the child hurriedly asked, "God, if I am to leave
now, please tell me my angel's name."
God said, You will simply call her, "Mom."
For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
1 Thessalonians 2:9