Several months ago, my husband and I found out that our precious, sweet baby was actually a little gremlin (circa 1984 Gremlins, not the mischievous type that sabotage aircraft). She’d be cute and cuddly during the day, but every evening as bedtime approached that would all fade away. If you have been a parent for longer than a minute then you probably know this as the witching hour, but if you are like me, a FTM, it is that time in the evening (7 PM for us) when your newborn suddenly begins wailing like a banshee for no apparent reason and WILL NOT STOP!
I eliminated the witching hour by moving her bedtime up. She now goes to sleep at 7 PM. I originally thought putting her to bed closer to my bedtime would mean I’d get more sleep, but that was absolutely not true. Now that she has an earlier bedtime, DH and I have time to enjoy dinner together without taking turns pacing around the table while bouncing our baby and we even have time to enjoy an hour or two of Netflix. Life is good…or so we thought. DD turned 4-months old and the sleep regression began. She was waking three to five times every night and refusing to nap during the day. (I was EXHAUSTED) Our little gremlin was growing and becoming more aware of her surroundings. Bath time was a huge trigger. DD loves bath time, but as we all know, gremlins should not be exposed to water. She’d puke all over herself or make a mess in some other way so that we’d have to give her a bath. She’d splash and laugh and have a good ol’ time in the tub, but the second we’d take her out, she’d rain havoc down on the whole house. That whole “becoming more aware of her surroundings” thing was kicking in. She knew the end of bath meant bedtime was just around the corner and she was not going down without a fight.
This was when I found “The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night’s Sleep – Newborn to School Age” by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright. After reading this book I immediately realized my LO had a lot of potential to be a better sleeper and, consequently, a happier baby during the day. What I like best about this book is that it is NOT a manual on how to train your baby to sleep. The authors remind you that your baby already knows how to sleep, but as new parents we sometimes over help our babies at night which can inhibit their ability to sleep well. It would make me so angry the few times my husband would put our LO to bed and she’d go right to sleep. I could never just lay her down in her crib. She wouldn’t go to sleep for me! I’d have to rock her to sleep, then carefully lay her in her crib and disappear like a ninja, just so she could wake up ten minutes later dazed and confused. I’d start the whole process over and sometimes it’d take me several hours to get her to fall asleep for good. Turgeon and Wright say “when you do something for your child that she is able to do herself, you take away her chance to struggle and ultimately learn.” I hate to admit it, but I was the problem.
The book suggests an early and consistent bedtime – between 7 PM – 7:30 PM and a winding down routine. Luckily we are already doing these things (bath, massage, book/quiet play, nurse, song, bed) so we did not have to make a lot of adjustments. However, the authors also point out that “the optimal time to put your baby down is not when she’s yawning and fussing, but before this, when she’s quietly cooing or playing.” This is where I struggle. I can’t stand to hear my baby cry, especially at night when I know she just wants to be comforted and put to sleep. This is why DH can get her right to sleep. He has no soul. Or at least not one that is affected by baby cries. I’d love to just have him put her to bed every night, but that is just not possible with his work schedule. I had to put my big girl panties on and allow my DD to fall asleep on her own.
How do you teach your baby to fall asleep on their own? They have to practice self-soothing. I did what the book suggests and put DD in her crib drowsy, but not asleep. I kissed her goodnight, turned the sound machine on and backed out of the room. Once she realized I was gone she immediately began to wail, but I held fast and did not run in to her rescue. I may have chugged a glass of wine to help. I checked on her over the monitor and made sure she was OK. The book suggests going in and reassuring the child every 5 minutes that you are right there and they can do this on their own. I waited 10 minutes the first night because it sounded like she was calming down. To my pleasant surprise, after 10 minutes of crying she rolled over and found her lovey and started soothing herself. THIS WAS AMAZING!!
The second night, however, she cried for 45 minutes. That was not as easy to deal with as the first night, but I stuck to the plan and let her cry, while checking on her every 10 minutes. She finally gave up and went to sleep. Later that week one of my nosy neighbors asked what was wrong with my child, apparently she could hear the screeching in the cul-de-sac. It was hot that night so we had all the windows open and to be honest I had a hard time falling asleep too. That was the only night she’s cried for that long so I blame the heat.
After having this method in place for two weeks, she now lies down in her crib at night without a fight and quietly plays until falling asleep. She has even figured out how to squeeze her lovey to play more music if it stops before she is ready. This method has helped tremendously in so many ways:
- Our LO is sleeping longer through the night.
- She takes better naps during the day.
- Only wakes for one night feeding, which means Mommy gets more sleep.
- Evenings are more pleasant and stress free.
- Mommy and Daddy get to enjoy some alone time.
- She is so happy when she wakes up.
Now I am not saying we have mastered this by any means. In fact, one night this week she woke three times and was inconsolable for hours. It could have been teething, constipation, or any number of gremlin things, but the next night she slept like an angel so I chalk it up to her being a baby and always evolving. I know we are not going to solve all her sleep issues overnight, but this is at least a start to keeping our gremlin cute and cuddly.
I am not affiliated with The Happy Sleeper in any way, but I highly recommend you give it a read if you are having any trouble at all getting your LO to sleep…or even if you aren’t!
2 replies on “Taming a Gremlin with Better Sleep”
Mallory, I think one thing that is contributing to your success is beginning at an early age. I had 3 kids and none of them were easy bedtimers and I could not let them cry for more than 30 minutes. So, kudos to you.
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We had a lot of luck with Babywise. It has a lot of similar theories it sounds like!! Glad you’re making good progress. XOXO
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