Being led by the baby from day one. Arlo’s sleep routine.

Arlo’s sleep routine is a common topic of discussion. Even amongst my family. Since eight weeks old Arlo has slept between 10-12 hours a night, on the odd occasion he’s slept ‘just’ eight hours, I say ‘just’ because let’s face it that is still remarkably good.

First of all let me just say that we know we are very lucky. However being told this continuously by every Tom, Dick and Harry does get rather annoying. A few odd people have also been quite rude and dismissive. Surely I can’t be as tired as them if he sleeps so well. Yes Arlo sleeps a good 10-12 hours. This however does not mean that I do.

I wake at every slight noise, every murmur, every odd sounding breath and just in general to check he’s still breathing. I’m still riddled with paranoia that the worst might happen, because let’s face it the statistics speak for themselves and it might. In addition to the heartbreaking statistics since the death of my mother I’m petrified that like hers his life will be cut short. He also doesn’t always sleep soundly, he stirs, his eyes bolt open randomly, he cries in his sleep (which breaks my heart every time), he laughs in his sleep (which makes me laugh), he often farts himself awake and I’m forever putting his bloody dummy back in.

© Sarah Woodside

I know we are incredibly lucky. But Arlo’s sleep routine is also down to the hard work I’ve put in since birth in addition to the ‘luck’, I have tried to implement good habits whilst being entirely led by him. Before I continue let me also say, this post holds no secret answers it is just what we’ve found works for us. Every baby is different, some sleep through early like Arlo, some don’t.  My nephew is two years old and still now he doesn’t sleep through, he goes the odd night but generally he still has my sister up at least once or twice, regardless of all the hard work she has put in! When I was pregnant with Arlo she kept wishing i’d have a non sleeper too, sorry sister it seems all your wishing backfired I got the sleepy zombie baby, you got the lets watch Peppa and have midnight snacks baby (yes that actually happened recently at around 2am and I am still amused.)

It hasn’t always been plain sailing, in the early days and weeks my little man wouldn’t sleep anywhere but on my chest. You’d lie him down and he’d instantly be awake crying. He hated his Moses basket and at night would wake up on the hour every hour. It meant that we’d usually get to 4am before he would find himself in our bed or on my chest. Of course this meant I didn’t sleep a wink, too terrified of him overheating or the duvet suffocating him.

© Sarah Woodside

I was mocked by many people for always holding him, but I was adamant that if he wanted to be cuddled then he would be. I strongly believe this plays a huge part in how content and settled he is now (most of the time.)

So how did I get him to sleep in places other than on my chest? I started gradually and I perceviered. I would hold him until his eyes were dropping but he wasn’t asleep and then move him, he would wake more often that not so I’d pick him up and start the process again. Wait until he was just on the edge of sleep and move him again. If I put him down asleep he would startle himself awake almost instantly and cry but by manoeuvring him before he’d fallen asleep he began to self soothe and drift off wherever I placed him. I would keep my hand on his belly so he still felt the warmth (as if he were lying on my chest) for at least five minutes after moving him. Generally speaking he can settle himself to sleep wherever now, this did not happen overnight, this process took a good few weeks and sometimes even now if he happens to fall asleep in my arms and I move him he wakes up.

© Sarah Woodside

From the very beginning I knew I didn’t want to tip toe around my sleeping baby. I know a few women who have gone to insane lengths to keep noise to a minimum when their little ones are sleeping. I’m talking taking the phones off the hook, leaving notes on the front door and sitting in silence playing games on their phone to ensure their baby stays asleep. Now each to their own, if that works for them then great. But no way am I sitting in silence and waiting for my baby to wake up. So I don’t. I make noise. I shine lights. I talk at normal volume. I hoover.  During the day I make as much noise as appropriate, I don’t go around banging things just for the sake of it, but I want him to be able to sleep in spite of noise. We’ve done this since he was born and boy can our little man sleep through anything now. He slept through a thirty minute plus dentist appointment, with music, talking, drilling and suctioning, he literally didn’t make a single peep.

© Sarah Woodside

As far as naps go it is simple, I haven’t forced a routine on him.  I let him sleep whenever he wants to, even danger naps an hour before bedtime! Sometimes he has 20 minute power naps, other times he naps for a solid three hours. I know many people prefer their little ones to sleep at specific times, after all it does make day to day life easier however I am not fussed I work around him and his snoozes. The only time I rock him to sleep or try to force a nap is if he is clearly tired and fighting sleep. I’m taking rubbing eyes, crying, yawning and just being a grizzle pants. I will rock him before placing him down in his bouncer/ in his cot / somewhere else sleep worthy, with his snuggly muslin and his dummy and he usually drifts off. I again got mocked (people mocking me seems to be a regular occurance) by so many people in the early days as Arlo was ALWAYS asleep. He would spend more time asleep than he would awake and people were getting fed up. They wanted cuddles and to play with him but I was adamant that if he was asleep he was left to sleep. If people want to play with him they can but on his terms, luckily he’s fairly easy to read and you can tell when he’s starting to get pissed off or just over the peekaboos. At that point I kindly ask people to just calm it down and chill.

© Sarah Woodside

In the evening we are led by him. We started by following the same mini routine of bath, bottle, book and goodnight kisses. The time at which this happened was dependant on when his next feed was due. We spoke in softer voices so he would start to distinguish the difference between nighttime and daytime. I also banned visitors from 5pm and kept playtime to a minimum from 4pm. It may sound mean but it meant he wasn’t overstimulated on the lead up to bedtime so he was nice and calm (usually), just how you want to be before sleep. I’m a little less strict with this now he’s in a good routine, if he wants to play we play but generally calm right down around an hour before bed time. If he woke during the night for a feed I kept lighting to a minimum and didn’t talk to him. It took everything for me not to smile or say hello but I didn’t. I simply picked him up, changed him, fed him, burped him and lay him down without saying a single word.

Now he’s a bit bigger he really doesn’t like an evening bath, he prefers a shower or bath either in the morning or afternoon. So rather than getting him worked up and upset we have continued to follow his lead and let his routine evolve. He has naturally settled into his own pattern. He has his last bottle between 6pm-7pm and is asleep almost instantly afterwards he then sleeps until around 5am- 6:30am. As he is formula fed and sleeps for such a long time we give him an extra oz in his bedtime bottle and in his morning feed. He usually guzzles and downs both.

On the very odd occasion he doesn’t drink his bedtime bottle and seems unsettled in his bed, kicking his legs, stirring a lot prior to 9pm I will gently get him out of his cot and dreamfeed him a little top up. During the night if he wakes prior to 5am I check his nappy hasn’t leaked then simply pop on some white noise (I accidently just typed whore noise, thank god for proof reading!) and let him drift back to sleep. If he continues to stir/cry which is very unlike him then I simply offer him a bottle and then pop him back to bed afterwards.

I don’t use a sleeping aid. When I was pregnant I was pining over the sleepyheads. I wanted one! But they are very expensive and I just couldn’t justify it. Now I’m so thankful I didn’t purchase one for the simple reason that Arlo will sleep anywhere! I worry that had I used one he would only sleep with it which would just create a whole other sleep issue! I do have a poddle pod but this is used minimally these days and just for comfy day time snoozes.

The transition from Moses basket to big boy cot. Unfortunately you will find no tips here. It wasn’t really a transition. We just decided one day that Arlo hated his basket and was quickly outgrowing it so we’d pop him in his cot. So that night we did. He went from a very restless 8-10 hours in his Moses basket to a smooth (ish) 10-12 hours in his cot. I think the move was easy for us as he had a particular dislike for his basket so the cot seemed like the next sensible step. Rather than stagger the move we just went for it and thankfully it worked perfectly.

© Sarah Woodside

It is hard to explain a routine when it is entirely led by your baby but I hope this gives some indication as to what has worked for us.

If I were to give any advice it would be the following;

  1. Work with your baby not against him. Trying to force her/him to sleep at a specific time will only stress all of you out.
  2. Take your time. It is ok if your baby doesn’t have an exact routine just yet. Chances are they will find their own routine. You can worry about tweaking it to suit you better a little later.
  3. Don’t overstimulate your baby on the lead up to bed time. Ok so this may work in tiring your baby out but from experience play time too close to sleep time leads to an excitable over tired baby who fights sleep.
  4. Stop comparing. So someone you know has had a baby and they have slept through from six weeks, as I said before every baby is different, comparing will only lead to bitterness!
  5. White noise is your best friend.
  6. Try and get some fresh air every day, even if it’s a walk around the block. I honestly think the fresh air is a huge contributor to Arlo’s fantastic sleep routine. 
  7. Enjoy this journey, the late nights and wake up calls are brutal but whenever it gets too much for me I try and remember two things. Firstly they are only little for a short period of time, soon I’ll be wishing I had spent more time relishing in the 3am cuddles. Lastly millions of people all over the world are wishing, hoping and praying that they were up with a baby but for whatever reason they aren’t. Maybe they can’t have children maybe they lost a child. It may seem brutal in these tired moments, but we are the lucky one.

© Sarah Woodside

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