There have been days when I've felt more confident about my chances of making an NHL team than getting our babies to sleep. Given how vital sleep is to humans, the way babies resist going to sleep baffles me. Like seriously, why won't they sleep? Still, the best way to encourage good sleep habits is establishing patterns and developing nightly routines early on.
It should go without saying, but I'll say it. The best sleep patterns and routines are the ones that work for your family. There is no one size fits all. Every family is different, and every baby is different.
However, it seems that all babies thrive on some sort of pattern and routines. It helps communicate the flow of the day before they can talk. This can look like having a nap schedule and consistent bedtime, and using the fifteen minutes before bed to read a book, have a bath, or snuggle on a chair — all cues to your baby that it's time to relax and prepare for sleep.
Of course, this doesn't mean they are going to sleep right away.
In a perfect world, you would read "Goodnight Moon" on the rocking chair then lay your child down in the crib and walk away. All the books tell you it's that easy! And there's always that one parent at the playgroup that claims their child really does sleep that easily and regularly, to whom you smile politely and say, "that's awesome." Meanwhile, you're screaming on the inside, wondering why life is so unfair.
With our first child, Benjamin, laying him down when he was still fully awake definitely did not work. Even though he woke up at the same time every day, napped around the same time every day, and had a consistent bedtime, if we laid him down in his crib right away, he would scream. So, for several months, part of his bedtime routine included bouncing him on a yoga ball. That was our reality.
His nap routine involved reading to him in a rocking chair. At night, we bathed him, put his pyjamas on, and read to him again. In both instances, we gave him a VTech Safe & Sound Portable Soother for comfort and used the soft ambient noises option to drown out other sounds in the house.
I remember reading about how patterns and routines were beneficial for your baby learning to go to sleep on their own. But if you'd asked me about them when Benjamin was six months old, I would have told you to forget it.
But something shifted when Benjamin was around seven months old. He started to anticipate his naps and bedtime, and would often become very calm around that time of day (though not always). It definitely took a long time and a lot of bouncing. But finally, we could lay him down in his crib, awake. We left his room and listened to him coo and blow raspberries on our VTech Enhanced Range Digital Audio Monitor until he fell asleep.
Then our second child, Eva, arrived. Remember when I said that every baby is different? Well, Eva is different.
It wasn't until Eva came into our lives that we realized that Benjamin was a fussy baby. We honestly didn't know at the time. He was our first child, and we assumed that was just how babies are.
My wife and I often joke that all the sleep help books are for babies like Eva. She is just an easy-going baby. We still have sleep patterns and routines for her, but she responds much better to them, and at a younger age than Benjamin did.
As soon as you bring her into her room, she calms down. A few bum-pats on the rocking chair and you can put her into her crib, fully awake, although we still use the white noise machine since we have a toddler who makes a lot of noise. After we leave her room, we watch her on our VTech Full Colour Video Monitor, as she scratches the crib mattress and looks around until she falls asleep.
Despite Eva being an easier-going baby than Benjamin was, both thrive with sleep patterns and night routines. Benjamin had an internal clock. If we missed nap time by fifteen minutes, he fell apart and resisted sleeping even more. Eva is more easy-going, but she still lets us know when we've pushed her a little too far outside of her napping pattern. If we've had a busy day and she doesn't get her usual sleep times and routines, she will complain more in her crib, and maybe require an extra set of bum-pats.
Hopefully these stories can help you navigate establishing your own baby’s sleep patterns and bedtime routines!