I want to start off with saying I know that every baby is different and what works for one may not work for another. I also know that I am by no means a baby professional or baby whisperer. But I am a mom who loves to see what works for other moms and babies. My purpose in writing this post is to share what has worked for us and I hope that maybe someone else will find it helpful.
Amelia has always, and I mean always, fought her sleep. Even in the NICU she would refuse to nap. She would go from 10 am to 8 pm and maybe sleep 60 minutes. Each evening she would have witching hours, yes hours, from 5-8. Let me tell you it was so much fun (major sarcasm there if you didn’t catch it). By the time we left the NICU Josh and I were eating in shifts so that someone was always holding Amelia in the evening. She did sleep pretty well at night, although she had previously been the NICU night owl wanting to hang out with the nurses at 2 am.
Amelia was discharged from the NICU on December 14th. Fast forward to the beginning of March and naps and evenings had not improved. We had tried different routines, we had tried her crib vs. the bassinet, we tried rocking, we tried bouncing. We could not find a routine or schedule that seemed to improve naps. Now by this point I was spending an hour or two every evening rocking with Amelia in her room while she slept in my arms. This was the only way she wouldn’t scream all evening but she was till fussy during the day and going to bed at random times, and I was so drained. She was not a happy baby and we were losing our minds. Josh and I looked at each other and said there has to be something we can do, this can’t be normal.
So I set out to find out what other moms were doing. I don’t know about you but with a new baby at home that’s not sleeping during the day and crying all evening, I didn’t have time to read a long book on how to get my baby to sleep. I found myself looking through Instagram and Pinterest where I found Noob Mommy’s E.A.S.Y Schedule Cheat Sheet. You guys this schedule has been life changing for us. The next day I immediately started following this schedule, even writing out our entire day as it happened- when she ate, how long I held her, when she was in her swing, when we played on the floor and what we did, when we did nap time, what it took to get her to sleep, when she woke up, if nap wasn’t over what did I have to do to put her back to sleep. I documented EVERYTHING for a few days. This really helped me see the big picture and it also helped my husband when he was implementing the schedule on the weekends. I had also found a few other helpful tips like bouncing the mattress softly when trying to soothe baby to sleep or back to sleep and if you can’t get baby back to sleep after about 5 minutes to consider nap time over (for Amelia this meant independent play on her playmat, she would only scream if I left her in her crib).
We follow the 3 hr schedule. We feed Amelia every 3 hours during the day and every 4 hours at night to support her weight gain. When we first started this new schedule and routine it would take me 15-20 minutes to get Amelia to sleep. She would only scream if I put her directly in the crib so I would hold her and bounce her while she cried and fought off sleeping. Within a week it was taking 5-10 minutes. And our evenings were a million times better. She was napping 3-4 times a day and going to bed between 8 and 9. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves those first few nights. I also felt like we were accomplishing so much more during the day. I would say our tummy time probably doubled following this schedule. I also knew when I was going to have a little down time and could actually eat lunch.
A couple weeks in and she was still doing great. I was beginning to feel like she was sometimes fighting against me when I was trying to put her to sleep so we started giving her 5 minutes to try to put herself to sleep. Now Amelia has two very different cries (and I would bet most parents know these different cries for their babies). One cry is more fussy and she can recover and be okay. The other is more screaming and snorting and she will not be able to calm herself down. We used these cries and time to monitor when we should go in to soothe her. Within a week she was putting herself to sleep almost every time. Now there are times where she still needs to be rocked if she gets overly tired but for the most part she can put herself to sleep for naps and bedtime.
Then Amelia started rolling so we needed to transition to having her arms free. I started with nap times and only one arm out. She really didn’t seem to notice the change so we added in bedtime. After about a week of sleeping one arm out we tried both arms out and she has done amazingly well. She is still putting herself to sleep and staying asleep. If she wakes early she can most often put herself back to sleep.
I feel like I should say that even after a month and a half of following this schedule and routine and growth, Amelia has to pretty strictly follow the schedule. I can adjust our start time for the day and she will still do well but if we don’t follow the general timeline we will have a very angry baby in the evening who will not go to sleep. Example: We were away from the house and staying in a hotel for two nights for my brother’s wedding. The first day she didn’t nap after 3 pm and we spent hours driving around that night because she was too tired. The next day was the wedding and reception, we made sure she got naps during the day but didn’t get her to bed soon enough and again spent hours driving around so she would sleep. Having to stay on a set schedule can be challenging at times but Amelia is a much happier baby and so are this mom and dad.
Here are a few of our sleep must haves:
We love this swaddle! This helped Amelia feel contained and secure but still allowed her to suck on her hands. This was also so easy to use when we started transitioning her to having her arms free.
Using a sound machine I don’t feel like I have to be so quiet when Amelia is sleeping. We have two small dogs, her room is right off of our living room, and we have construction going on in our neighborhood. This really helps to make the room more relaxing and easier to sleep. This sound machine can not only be plugged in but can also run off of batteries. This was awesome for our little road trip and just taking her to grandparents’ houses.
I had seen other moms talk about using them and liking them, but I wasn’t sure they’d be necessary. We have pretty wide blinds that block out a lot of light. I was noticing though that Amelia’s room was still pretty bright in the afternoons so we decided to give them a try. I bought these ones from Amazon and love them. I feel like Amelia has been staying asleep better during her naps since we installed them.
If you made it to the end of this post, wow way to go. Sorry, I didn’t mean for it to be so long but I also didn’t want to leave anything out. I hope this has been helpful for someone. Being a new mom is hard, but being a new mom with a baby who never sleeps is really hard.