“Sleep when they sleep” — the phrase everyone tells a new parent (insert eye roll emoji). Easier said than done. There is always laundry and work and life happening. But…sleeping when the baby sleeps is SO much easier when there is only the one baby.
With my first baby, I did a lot of sleeping when the baby slept. I did not mind that this tiny, perfect human dictated most of my schedule and days. Sleep all day on my chest? No problem. Want me to hold you for an hour at 2am? Absolutely my pleasure.
Would I go back and change the way I did things? Likely not. We are all always learning and growing as parents, and there is no right or wrong way to do things. There is such a learning curve when it comes to figuring out babies and what works for them AND what works for you.
Schedules in the NICU
Between baby number one and baby number two, I became a certified sleep consultant. It was impossible for this not to affect how I parented baby number two. She came racing in 5 weeks early, and the NICU actually gave me a headstart on schedule/sleep training because they fed her on a 3-hour schedule. This was something I wanted to do after learning so much about the importance of a feeding schedule in my sleep consultant training program. With my first, I did not attempt a schedule until she was around 4-5 months old, and I went through the 4-month regression and officially sleep trained her.
Second baby came home from the NICU already used to eating on a schedule, and this made a world of difference for us. A feeding schedule coupled with my sleep knowledge just made for a different first few months for us. And this was HUGE because I did not have the luxury to “sleep when the baby sleeps” this time around. For some reason, my toddler won’t allow that!
We still snuggle!
I have taken so many things from my sleep consultant life and put them into practice in my mom life this time around. Do I snuggle this baby? All the time. Do I let her sleep on my chest? Of course I do (on occasion)! But, I have been SO much more conscious about not creating poor sleep habits. I do my best to keep her on a schedule and have created routines around going to bed that we will continue as she gets older.
I have just been able to use little things in my arsenal to help create a “good sleeper.” I have focused on giving her the ability to practice her self-soothing skills as opposed to rushing to solve it for her. I do my best to put her down at the same time, in the same manner, every day. Does it always work out perfectly? No way! But I certainly try, and I know it has made a huge difference.
Keeping cool amidst colic
My first was the easiest baby…and then the 4-month sleep regression hit. I knew I had to schedule and sleep train for us to both survive.
My second has been the most colicky baby I have ever met. If her eyes are open, she is crying. So, thank goodness I knew about the importance of schedules and healthy sleep habits because the only time she is happy is when she is eating or sleeping. We are growing out of the colicky phase, but it has been so much easier to navigate with at least the predictably of knowing when she needs to eat and when she needs to sleep. This helps me to know that most of her crying is just colic as opposed to hunger or being tired.
A strong foundation changes everything
That being said, I have to brag…my “easy” baby started sleeping through the night at 21 weeks when I sleep trained her. My “difficult” and fussy girl started sleeping through the night at 11 weeks. I absolutely believe it is because I was armed with way more knowledge and put that into practice for a solid foundation of schedules and healthy sleep habits from the get go. I did not have to wait for it to go awry before changing the way we did things, and that has made the transition from one baby to two slightly easier!
Now, if only someone could help me figure out how to manage all of the other aspects of raising a toddler and a newborn…I would be set!
Did you have completely different experiences with your children when it comes to newborn sleep and their overall mood? How has a schedule benefitted your family?
Certified Baby & Toddler Sleep Consultant