Breaking Bad Sleep Habits

As I rock both my babies until they’re drooling on my shoulder and completely dead weight, I reflect back to 20 minutes earlier when one was screaming uncontrollably after I’d already put him down for the night. I was starving and had just finished preparing my dinner plate so I rushed in and literally leaned over the bassinet and put my breast in his mouth until his eyes dropped shut. 

Hmmm, how do you break bad sleep habits?

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This topic was requested by a friend, and former colleague of mine, and I got to thinking how it’s definitely an area many moms struggle with (including myself!). It’s easy to create bad habits, but damn near impossible to break them. Yikes, I hear my baby fussing so…I’m looking at the clock…7:47, which means if he’s still fussing by 7:52 I can go in there). So, I guess my first piece of advice is DONT create bad habits. Easier said than done, huh? We’re all incredibly guilty!

Here’s a few really common bad habits I see that I encourage people to break and I have REFUSED to start from the very beginning.

  1. Projectors
  2. Mobiles
  3. CDs/Radio
  4. Fans
  5. Cosleeping
  6. Pacifiers

Oh sure, you saw the adorable stuffed hippo with the belly that projects rainbows on the ceiling at the baby store and the box said the word “sleep” on it so you thought, “Oh, I need that for my nursery to help my baby sleep”. The problem is that things like this suck and should be banned from the globe. An infant has enough trouble sleeping when there’s a brand new world to explore. They don’t need stimulating projectors with lights and shapes. Same goes for a mobile. Why would anyone want something spinning (unsafely I might add) over their face as they’re trying to sleep?

I’ll admit I’ve cranked up a lullaby on a music box at 2am to lull my boys into a trance a few times, but do not use CDs or radio to get your babies to sleep. It’s too stimulating and they will get used to the songs and the rhytm while sleeping and be unable to find their own rhythm and REM sleep.

Fans are just another above head stimulator, but also they dry out nasal passageways, which is primarily how infants breathe so…

Cosleeping by definition includes sleeping in the same room. I’m not talking about that. I’m referring to pulling baby into that fluffy, warm bed with you at 4am and nursing as you both conk into a coma. This is NOT safe and puts baby at risk for SIDS and you at risk for serious trauma and grief. If you’re going to lay in bed nursing your baby, be sure YOU don’t fall asleep and be sure all loose blankets and pillows are out of the way. I sleep with my babies in bed with me, but they’re in Snugglenests. They’ll be 2 months old on Monday and we’ll be transitioning into cribs asap.

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Pacifiers are great for soothing babies, but try not to let them fall asleep with it. If they’re in your arms and the pacifier gets loose in their lips because they’re nodding off, let it drop away and “disappear”. Keep rocking or jiggling baby to keep them drowsy, but don’t reengage them with the pacifier. It did it’s job and now it’s done. If they go to bed with it they may end up sucking in a light sleep instead of relaxing into a deep sleep.

Breaking the above habits should be easy. Turn off the fan, throw away the projector, and put the music player back in the closet. Now, there’s some other habits that are harder to break because there’s an emotional element.

  1. Rocking baby to sleep

I’ll admit this one is tough! First, ask yourself why you want to break this one. Are you doing it every night? Are you doing it before naps? Is it taking 30 minutes-an hour? Are you holding baby for half their nap? If you answered “yes” to any of those then you need to quit. Baby MUST learn to fall asleep on their own without assistance. When it’s naptime at my house I turn on their white noise machine, turn the lights out, put them in their Woombie and walk out. They go to sleep. I rock if one of them is drowsy and almost asleep, but the other is bright-eyed. This way I can keep them on the same schedule, but if they’re both drowsy…sianara. The best way to break this is tapering off. Try rocking for half the time…only until baby is drowsy, not fully asleep. If they wake up when you go to lay them down, that’s okay. Give them a kiss or a pacifier and walk out. It’s okay to let them fuss a little before you intervene and try again. Then, try dropping the rock altogether during naps and save rocking for bedtime, or better yet, morning love!

2. Picking up baby as soon as they cry

Believe it or not, your baby might not be awake when they cry. They might be transitioning sleep cycles, struggling with gas, or maybe they farted in their sleep and scared themselves, lol. Don’t enter the room just because you heard a whimper or a yelp. Wait a few minutes. If the “baby goat” cry escalates, then you can intervene, but try soothing your baby IN their crib before picking them up.

3. Feeding all night long

Just stop. Seriously just stop. If your baby is a decent weight (and age), they should be able to go longer stretches at night without food. My boys started sleeping 5-6 hour stretches around 6 weeks, but some nights they only go 4 hours in between feeds. That’s ok, but not really what I want. If they wake up before it’s time to eat I try to soothe them with a pacifier or shhhing until it’s been long enough. I’m stretching them out to 4.5hrs between eating on those nights they wake up at the 4 hour mark and after a few weeks of that I’ll try to stretch out to 5 hrs. Eventually the nighttime wakings drop away. If your pediatrician is happy with their weight gain and your milk supply is strong (or you’re formula feeding), this shouldn’t be a problem.

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Be aware of things like teething and sickness. It can be really easy to slip into a bad routine during times like this when baby needs you all night long. do your best to provide the late night comforting, nursing, and snuggles while they’re struggling, but be careful not to allow these things to become the norm. Also, when traveling it’s important to stick to a routine.

Create “sleepy” triggers you can stick with. For us, it’s white noise, lights off, swaddled tight in a Woombie.

Get your baby to sleep instantly…shhhh, it’s a secret.

Night night,

That Girl

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