Some of the best advice my mother ever gave me was to establish a bedtime for my kids within just a few weeks of them being born! I know that probably sounds crazy to some people, but it IS possible, it’s so healthy for your child (emotionally and physically) and……. it’s very beneficial to the happiness and emotional stability of you, as parents!
It’s simple….within just a few weeks of your child’s birth, whether you’re nursing or bottle-feeding, try to time the last feeding of the evening shortly before 7:00/8:00. Then, put them in their crib (at an early enough age, they will have fallen asleep while feeding anyway). The trick is to put them in their crib, not just on a blanket on the floor or in their carrier next to you on the couch, etc. Now, if they’re still very young, they will, of course, wake up for a feeding at least one more time before YOU even go to bed, so then just make sure you put them right back in their crib after they’ve been changed and fed (no different than what you would do during a middle of the night feeding). As they get a little older, it also helps to keep the last feeding as a separate ritual from “going to bed”. It is well known now, that it’s just not good to allow a baby to fall asleep flat on their back drinking a bottle, because it encourages ear infections because the milk tends to pool into the ear canals instead of right down their throats. And the baby develops a comfort connection to the bottle which one day will turn into not being able to fall asleep unless they have a bottle in thier mouth. Anyway, continue this process every night. My mother did this with me and my sisters (twins… born 3 1/2 years later), and it worked like a charm. I, in turn, did the same thing with my 2 children and we couldn’t have been more pleased with the results.
Now I’m going to let you in on a little something we learned when our first child turned about 6 or 7 months old. She had been sleeping through the night from about 7 weeks on (about the time I needed to switch from nursing to formula in a bottle). And ALL OF A SUDDEN, at about 6 months old, she started waking up in the middle of the night crying, for no reason at all. We had a Well-Baby exam scheduled within a few days of this happening, so we asked the pediatrician about it. Here’s what she explained…..
Up until about the age of 6 months, your baby does NOT know you exist if you are out of sight, so during those months, he or she is most likely waking up slightly during the night but unless uncomfortable in anyway, has no reason to cry out for you. Then all of a sudden at about the age of 6 months, they figure out that although they can’t see you….they KNOW you are there somewhere, so they decide to cry out and “find you”. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s perfectly normal, but if you respond the wrong way, you will be causing yourself and your child many hours of sleepless nights. The thing to do (according to the pediatrician) is to go in, briefly comfort your child and tell them it’s still “night, night time” and that they should go back to sleep. And lay them back down in their crib and leave. They will most likely keep crying, and you should just go back in about every 5 min to assure them you are still there, and lay them back down. You might need to do this many times in a row on those first few nights and this whole process can take a week, easily, but you’ll notice that every night, they will persist for a lesser amount of time. Well, we did this exactly as instructed, and let me tell you….it wasn’t easy! It broke my heart to have her cry like that, but it worked! In less than a week, she simply stopped waking us up in the middle of the night! And proceeded to sleep through the night from that day forth!
Now let me tell you how a neighbor of mine handled the exact same situation (our kids were about 2 weeks apart in age). Although I passed on to them this wonderful pediatric advise, they just couldn’t imagine doing that. Instead they ended up awake in the middle of the night, every night, taking turns trying to feed their son, allowing him to walk around in his walker, play etc. for a couple hours till he got sleepy again, and then everyone went back to bed. They ALL lost an enormous amount of sleep, which is SO UNHEALTHY for both parents and child, and this went on for months!!! It was just crazy and so UNNECESSARY!! Keep in mind….before this, he too, had been sleeping through the night for months already!
The best part about establishing a bedtime for your child at a VERY YOUNG age is that they will be much happier during the day (that’s what a good night’s sleep does for a person….young or old), and….there will be no fights over getting them to bed early enough when they start attending school, because they will already be in the habit. 🙂 And I believe, deep down, that most children really like and respond well to rituals and structure….it helps them feel secure when they know what to expect. 🙂
This process has proven itself for 3 generations in our family…..for my mother, for me and even for my daughter, who has used it since her own son was an infant!! She is SO GRATEFUL that I shared it with her!!
I hear of many couples who comment how much their life CHANGED after they had kids, biggest complaint…they “never have time for themselves”. There are enough adjustments that have to be made after having children, but “time alone with each other” does NOT need to be affected. If you put this process in place right away, you’ll at least have every evening to yourselves….which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is…… PRICELESS!!