Lessons from Parents of a Sleepless Baby – Part 2

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Continued from Part 1

As we relearned loving sleep routines with our son, we did strike upon a few techniques that worked well for us as a family.

We are Roman Catholic, and praying a quiet rosary with our son before bedtime has two benefits: It relaxes him, and it relaxes us. He delights in our voices, in the soothing and soft repetition of sounds he remembers from the night before. The meditative sound and pacing of the prayer likewise soothes us, which reassures our son further.

Those who are not Roman Catholic or who do not want to pray a rosary might try memorizing a longer poem they love and repeating it several times in a row, in a slow, gentle voice. Knowing how long the prayers or the poems are, too, helps provide a realistic sense of time for parents. I recommend avoiding clock-watching while soothing a baby to sleep.

Reviewing the great parts of the day, quietly, is also a wonderful way to relax both parents and children. You can snuggle up, one-on-one or as a group, and review fun activities that everyone enjoyed, especially good behavior from a little one, and how proud you are of them and how much you love them. For example, Thomas is now 19 months old and has been working to leave breakables alone. One day, he made wonderful progress: When he had opened the bookcase and had pulled out an especially fragile little thing, he immediately put it back on the shelf and closed the door, when asked. That night, I paid special attention to how well he had done, which reminded him not only of what behavior we desire of him but also the praise he had received earlier in the day when the event happened. He loves it when I snuggle up with him, and whisper, “I love being your mommy, sweet baby.”

Everyone else says this, too, but it cannot be said enough; otherwise, you will forget when you are exhausted and desperate. Keep to the same routines and the same order. Do not try one set of ideas for a few days and then switch to another set because the first attempt is not “working.” If what you are doing is otherwise sound, keep to it for a few weeks.

Watch your caffeine intake if you are nursing, especially during teething. My son had not been sensitive to my morning cup of coffee until his teething became more pronounced. If you must eliminate caffeine,do so gradually. I cut down from two cups to one, then down from six ounces to four, before eliminating it altogether for a time. Rest assured, you will probably enjoy your coffee again in the near future.

Pay attention to sleep milestones. As children grow older, they shorten some nap periods a little before dropping them altogether. During that period, their night sleep can become more problematic. Be patient and work to help him or her through this time. Do not force nap periods on a child who no longer needs them. You will both cry.

Say to yourself, “Sleep? Stay awake? It doesn’t matter either way. Nothing is at stake here.” Truly, the world will not come to an end if your child wakes up more often than you would prefer, or has trouble falling asleep to begin with. This is, of course, nearly impossible to imagine when you are sleep-deprived and desperate for some alone time or couple time.

And, finally, please do not stress if your child does not sleep as long or as well as your neighbor’s or cousin’s or colleague’s child. If you have eliminated all obstacles to a good night’s sleep—constant access to television and computer screens, too much family stress, too much activity before bedtime, too much brightness or darkness, too much or too little noise, medical issues, feeding issues —then you are doing your job. Your child will develop better sleep routines in time. He or she is less likely to do so if you become stressed about sleep. He or she is more likely to do so if you regularly delight in the little details of being a parent.

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