I have always believed that being able to get a good night sleep is a habit, even when you're a child. I think I did the best job teaching my oldest daughter how to fall asleep in her crib on her own, and how to put herself back to sleep if she woke up in the middle of the night. As a new parent at the time I really took it to heart and I really leaned on her from the very beginning to be an independent sleeper. I was also a full-time working mother and it was in our best interest to get enough sleep per night. I was pumping milk at work and dropping her off at childcare during the day. I got kind of lucky with that as I believe the daycare she was at helped reinforce a structured sleeping regimen. By the time I had my second daughter my oldest one was over 3 years old. My parents came to stay with our kids when my husband and I went back to work. The baby was 3 months old. At that age my oldest daughter was already sleeping in her own bedroom and in the crib. Nella was still in the bassinet and in our bedroom. Our sleeping situation changed - we moved to a different place - and her future bedroom was for a time being a guest room for my parents. This I think effected her sleeping habits. She became our roommate almost till she was 8 months old and she was use to having someone near her. Even if she woke up at night she could just peek through her crib and we were right there. When my parents left we moved her to her own bedroom and that's when she started to waking up. By the end of each night she would end up in bed with us. I didn't care. I knew that I had to be at work early in the morning and I simply didn't want to struggle with putting her back to sleep in her crib. Neither my husband. By the time when Nella was two she started sleeping in the same bedroom with her sister. They both wanted to share the same bedroom even though there was no need for it. This was a break through. Nella stopped traveling to our bed. Within few months from the transition Santa dropped off a bunk bed for the girls. Just like they requested. Fast forward to the September of 2015 . Nella will be 3 years old and Pola is 6. Our family is growing once again. My son Milo is born and I quit my job. I no longer have to worry about pumping milk, carrying my pump and washing all the parts. I have the comfort of nursing on demand and we didn't really introduce the bottle to my son. I was becoming a full time stay at home mom! Milo shared the bedroom with us at the beginning- just like my daughters. He slept in the bassinet but also shared the bed with us depending on the night. I am the one responsible for the school drop offs and pick ups. Breakfast, lunch and dinner preparations. Laundry, cleaning, homework, entertainment, baths an so on... In order to function and be happy I need my sleep. And if that meant my son sleeping right by my side then I would do it. What I really wanted was peaceful nights and to have enough energy for my daughters the next day. As it turn out that we didn't create a monster. No, Milo is possibly the sweetest boy ever but he really never liked his crib. He usually napped in our bed and at night he would frequently sleep with us. He has just turn 18 months and my husband suggested that we put his crib down and move him into a 'big' bed. I wasn't sure about this move. In my head I created a vision of him walking at night... To our surprise, Milo transitioned very well. He is actually excited about the new bed, sheets and the night light. I set up a little library right next to his bed knowing that he will love looking through the books before or after bed. The very first night he went to sleep without nursing and called us maybe once. It has been over a week and he takes naps in his bed and happily walks into his bedroom when you ask him to go to lay down. I believe that he really needed that little space for himself ! He is growing and changing into a little boy. It makes me sad but I am also super happy for him. It's milestone for him and a success for us as parents.
To be honest, I don't have that much advice when it goes about teaching your kids how to sleep, stay asleep, and wake up happy. But if you were to ask me what my suggestions for achieving a content and rested family are, I would give you these few tips.
- I think it is very important to have a routine. Kids love to know what comes next. Whether it is a naptime or bedtime. It should always fall around the same time and it should break into the same steps. Bath, reading books, listening to the stories, nursing etc.
- I think it is the easiest to teach your kids how to sleep on their own and in their own crib when they are around 3 or 4 months. Once you skip that window it gets harder just because they are more aware of what is going on around them.
- All three of my children have loveys/ blankets. They are very important for those children who are gaining independence but still need that extra helping of security. Loveys help with separation, with fighting the scaries, and with breaking lingering emotional attachments to bottles or pacifiers.
- Install darker shades and drapes if your child wakes up very early or has trouble napping.
- Leave a dim night-light on.
- Consider using a white noise machine or fan if you live in a particularly noisy home. Children learn to sleep through routine household sounds but some places are just really loud, and some kids are really sensitive. Go ahead and block the noise from heavy traffic, rumbling trucks, nearby construction, barking dogs, noisy neighbors , or SIBLINGS .
- Do not change your child's diaper at night ( unless he/she is poopy ). If your child gets soaking wet at night, or goes through occasional phase when he gets soaked, use extra-absorbent overnight diapers.
- You always want to put the baby down ,,drowsy but awake''. If you have trouble visualizing what ''drowsy but awake'' means, imagine a scale of one to ten, one being wide awake and ten being deep sleep. You want to put the baby down at about seven or eight. He should be quite sleepy but awake enough to know that he is going into the crib.
- I think that unusually alert, bright and aware children tend to have a little more trouble learning to sleep. These children often reach their physical milestones, like walking, on the early side, and they tend to have slightly disturbed sleep. In general I believe that achieving any milestones ( sitting up, clapping, waving etc.) disturb their sleep.
- Children need morning rituals just as much as they need bedtime rituals. Even the infants. Do a ''dramatic wake-up". Throw open the blinds, switch of the lights, sing some cheery good-morning songs, and start the day.
- If you anticipate needing the crib for a new baby, make the older child's transition to a bed at least two months before or four months after the birth to avoid the feelings of displacement. And if your toddler or preschooler is not ready to give up the crib, don't push it. Borrow a crib for the new baby, or buy a secondhand one until he is ready.
- And the most important thing! Always do what works the best for your family! Don't question yourself, don't let other people judge you and believe in yourself! You're doing the best you can!
The book that helped me multiple times when sleep training my kids : "Good Night, Sleep Tight." by Kim West.