Third post this month on sleeping! Seriously who am I? If you would have told me a year and a half ago that these would be my blog posts I wouldn’t have believed you. And yet here we are.
So, after a fairly difficult month last month with Gadi’s sleep (and my own little slumber realization, to boot), a war raging in the South, and moving apartments this past weekend, it looks like we’ve finally turned a corner for the better – in the sleep department, that is. Of course it could be a total coincidence – that whatever developmental leap he was going through, tooth movement he was suffering from or whatever else ended exactly at the same time as we decided to take action. Anything’s possible. But let’s just pretend for a moment that I have some kind of control here, shall we?
About three weeks ago, we decided enough was enough – that an hour of screaming before bed, shrugging our shoulders and trying to laugh about the fact that we no longer had any idea how to help our baby go to sleep was not gonna fly anymore. We formed a plan to give Gadi some firmer boundaries around bedtime, while still keeping the flexibility that seems to work for us. We chose an earlier bedtime (7:30pm) and a little routine (bath, massage, book, feed, bed), and decided to give it a week and see what happened before considering talking to a sleep consultant.
And miraculously, within a matter of days it became downright easy for me to get Gadi to sleep. (If anyone has a direct line with fate please don’t pass on this blog post – tfu tfu tfu, throw salt over my shoulder, kiss the evil eye etc.)
There’s the main points that really helped us.
- Recognizing overtiredness. We ended up moving bedtime to 6:30pm and even though he usually wakes for another feed around 7:30pm, both times going back to sleep is a breeze. I was making the (rookie) mistake of thinking that crying meant he didn’t want to go to sleep – while in fact the opposite was true. All that crying around bedtime actually meant that I had missed the window.
- Connecting day and night. By the same token, the only way not to end up with an exhausted baby at the end of the day is to become a Sleep Sergeant 24/7. For Gadi, that means as soon as he’s been awake for two hours – it’s nap time. And all things being equal (ie if my own comings and goings don’t get in the way), he generally starts showing signs of tiredness like clockwork – 120 minutes after waking up.
- Looking for what’s missing. One day I was watching him struggle to fall asleep, and it dawned on me that his flailing around might be related to a need to be more snuggled up. In 30 degree heat and at 5-months old I thought he was too old and too warm for swaddling or much clothing (if any). Turns out blasting the air-conditioning for a couple of hours before bed and using a thin sleeping bag was just what the sleep doctor ordered.
- Confidence. It’s really easy to question yourself with a crying baby twisting and turning in your arms. Trust your instincts and your baby will, too. Question everything you do – and I’m guessing your baby will do that, too. Less than ideal. I found consciously reminding myself “he is tired, he needs to sleep” really useful, as well as helping Gadi understand those feelings too – “you’re having a hard time winding down bubba, I know. But you’ll get there soon and you’re gonna feel SO much better when you wake up.” I know he probably doesn’t understand my words but I like to think there’s something about the tone that does come across.
To finish the story, we have now moved apartments, and Gadi moved straight into his own room. As I suspected might happen, he seems to have quite taken to it – and last night he slept through the night. His last feed was at 8pm, at 10pm I carried him out of the apartment sound asleep to take cover during a rocket attack (surreal, yes), and at 5am I woke up to hear him singing, happy shrieking and clicking his tongue down the hallway. Amazing. I was so excited I woke my husband up to tell him – kind of defeats the point, I know. But seriously, I couldn’t be prouder if he’d gone and got a Harvard Law Degree while I was sleeping.
Of course, I know this too will pass; there will be more sleepless nights and the next challenge is just around the corner. But I feel that I learned a lesson in conscious parenting here – and I have my husband to thank for bringing up the issue and pushing me to do something. There’s a lot we can’t control when it comes to babies (and life in general) – but being mindful of our actions and setting some firm but flexible boundaries can go a long way.