Bedtime can be both an exciting and dreaded time for parents with babies and young children. While the prospect of bedtime means that parents will finally have at least a few hours of quiet time to themselves, bedtime with newborns and babies is all too often wrought with screaming, crying and multiple trips back and forth to your baby’s room to calm them back to sleep.
After coaching three of her own children through bedtime, Founder of baby deedee, Dominique de Bourgknecht, shares her insights on how to get your baby to sleep so that mommy, daddy and baby can all get the rest they need.
Q: What have you found to be the most effective nap schedule throughout the day to ensure a smooth bedtime routine?
A: It really varied from child to child. I did learn that it was better not to wait until my baby was over-tired as that makes things a lot more difficult. At around three months of age, my children started to have a more predictable nap schedule. They would have a fist nap around 9 AM for about two hours, an early afternoon nap and a cat nap around dinner time. Then, bedtime around 9PM. After a while they dropped the cat nap and settled into 2 naps a day until about 12 months old. Once they regularly had issues falling asleep during the morning nap, we moved to a single nap at around 12:30.
Q: What did you find to be the best bedtime routine for your babies?
A: We always took the following steps: 1) put on their sleep sack, 2) had milk, 3) sang a few songs, and 4) turned their mobile on and then night-night! Once, my children outgrew their mobile around 5 months old, I left the music box part of the mobile in their crib so they could turn it on when they woke up. To this day, my three-year-old daughter has it on her twin bed and turns it on in the middle of the night if she wakes up. That thing was a life-saver.
Q: What was the biggest struggle you had in establishing your babies’ bedtime routines?
A: Realizing that there was no set answer. My first was afraid of his crib for a long time so we mostly napped on the go. It was hard for me to accept as I saw other moms place their baby in the crib and that was it. But that’s just the way it was, he would scream the minute he saw a crib or pack and play.
Once I accepted that he was trying to tell me something and that the only way he could fall asleep was in my arms and then be transferred to the crib, it was fine. We later found out that he had sleep apnea so that explained his fear of going to sleep and being in a crib. I am so glad I listened to my instincts instead of all the books that pushed for never letting your baby fall asleep in your arms. In his case, there was a real medical explanation for his fear.
Q: What’s the strangest thing you’ve done to get your baby to sleep?
A: Purchase a vacuum cleaner noise CD and play it full blast for my colicky baby. Or spend hours getting my first to sleep and crawling out on my hands and knees so he wouldn’t see me leave.
Q: How did you get your baby’s crib and bedroom ready for bedtime?
A: At night, my three kids all enjoyed taking baths so that was really helpful in starting the evening process. I founded a company that makes sleep sacks, so we obviously used them a lot, but I truly believe that sleep sacks are a great visual cue to let babies know it is time to sleep. Before age 1, my children weren’t that interested in books. All three of my children had a great sleep association with their sleep sack, and being warm and cozy.
I also found that light in their room was a big deal, so we purchased blackout shades.
Q: At what age did you start giving your child a blanket and pillow at bedtime?
A: I was very worried about having any objects in the crib. My children did not have pillows or blankets until they graduated to a twin bed.
Q: What was the best sleeping position for your children when they were babies?
A: Always on their backs until they could turn by themselves. Even when they learned to turn, I would put them on their back again, as in the beginning they were not strong enough to turn back. My kids did not like tummy time much, but it really helps strengthen their necks and makes it safer once they start rolling on their stomachs.
Q: What are your tips for calming a restless baby at bedtime?
A: Being calm yourself. Easier said than done, however babies sense if you are tense when you hold them, so being calm yourself will help them be calm and drift to sleep.
Q: What were your techniques for helping your baby when they are bloated and gassy?
A: When they were little, I would put them on their backs and gently push their knees up into their tummy. That usually did the trick along with rubbing their tummy clockwise in circles.
Q: How do you get your baby back to sleep after they wake up for a feeding or diaper change?
A: My first had to fall asleep in my arms while eating and be transferred to his crib. The other two just needed their music.
Q: How did you know your children were ready to upgrade to a big kid bed?
A: Because we used baby sleeping bags until they were two or two and a half, my kids never tried to climb out of their cribs. It just did not occur to them. We transitioned around two and a half.
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