I wrote a few weeks back about my sleeplessness at the hands of my three-month-old. I would listen, eyes and heart drooping, an envious smile on my face, as other friends announced joyously: “Yep, at nine weeks, little Joe was sleeping through the night!” Things got better for a spell, largely owing to the wisdom and tactics so many of you shared in the comments on that post, and then careened out of control during my week from hell, when the baby fell ill and my world went upside down. There was a string of nights where we were up every hour, rattled by inconsolable crying.
It was misery.
Once we emerged from that rocky time, I committed to three things that I believed would help us inch closer to a more accommodating nighttime routine, and — lo and behold — they seem to have worked. (I offer this observation tremulously, humbly, as we all know that everything is a phase and, in most things related to child-rearing, we’ll likely follow the old “two steps forward, one step back” routine.) The three things that have gotten us to a place where micro seems to be only waking once for a middle-of-the-night feed:
1 // Spacing feedings during the day. I was awful about this for far too long. My pediatrician had recommended I “stretch” him between feedings at the age of two months, and I didn’t truly get around to following through on this until the last week or two, when I hitched up my big girl panties and laid down the law: absolutely no feedings fewer than four hours apart. This has been challenging, as I tend towards the “feed on-demand” model, which feels more intuitive to me, and his nanny is just as much of a softie as I am — we’d both rather respond to his hungry cry with a feed. The last thirty minutes of a cycle is unpleasant, as he is hangry and fussy, and we must walk him up and down the hallway or weasel a pacifier into his mouth or otherwise distract him. But we have elbowed our way there and it has been getting progressively easier. Virtually the day we committed to the four-hours-apart feeding regimen, he started sleeping for longer stretches at night.
2 // Not rushing to feed at night. There have been a few nights where he has woken up crying and the old me would have assumed he was hungry and fed him. The new me — unless it’s been over four or five hours since his last feed — will now give him the pacifier and soothe him back to sleep. The first two times I succeeded in this, I was astounded. Could I have been feeding him unnecessarily all this time?! Enabling him? Of course, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows — it’s not exactly my idea of a pleasant middle-of-the-night wake-up when I wrangle a crying baby back to sleep for ten minutes or so. It’d be a lot simpler to just feed him back to sleep — quick solution! — but future me will appreciate this investment in time and patience. (And, all-in, it takes a lot less time to calm him down and put him back to bed than it would to feed him, as I am still breastfeeding and then supplementing with formula at every single feed.)
3 // Locking into a bed time. I’m generally somewhat fluid about “schedules” with my kids. We are rather philosophical about this — life happens. Sometimes they sleep longer at a given naptime or skip a nap and we factor that in to when we put them down at night. Or sometimes we have guests over and bedtime gets pushed back a little. Or sometimes I need to pick up mini while micro should be asleep but he’s awake, stimulated by what he’s seeing on the subway. Or sometimes I need to get errands done and he needs to sleep in his stroller. Or sometimes he sleeps for only twenty minutes and won’t go back down despite the fact that he usually sleeps for a solid hour or two at this time of day. Or sometimes dinner arrives late, or there’s an accident just before bed, or the dog is going ballistic and the kids can’t sleep or or or. We roll with it, accommodating these unexpected interruptions. I know most of my friends (and probably most of my readers) would not like our approach, but it works for us in the sense that it takes a lot of pressure out of parenting routines for me. I am hyper organized and if I were to commit to a time-bound schedule, I would lose my mind. I’ve tried, and they’ve left me feeling harried, perpetually behind the eight ball, and generally distracted.
That said. All things in moderation. And so we are pretty consistent with mini’s bedtime (nearly always 6:30-ish — it used to be 7:30 but then she stopped napping and bedtime had to move up), and I’m now pretty consistent with micro’s, too. He usually goes down right after his sister, around 7-ish. And when I put him down for bed, everything I do signals that it’s nighttime. Lights are out, blinds are drawn, sound machine is roaring, jammies and sleep sack zipped and tucked. We put his bassinet at my bedside at night, too, whereas during the day, it’s off in the corner of our room. This, I think, is yet another “IT’S NIGHTTIME” signal.
Related: all of the sudden, micro outgrew his swaddles, both in size (it was hard to really tuck him in — he’s too tall and big!) and in preference (all of the sudden, he’d turn irate when I’d wrap him). I started putting him into one of these, whose sleeves zip off (brilliant), and am now also in the market for a proper heavy-weight sleep sack as winter descends upon us. I have my eye on this striped sleep sack, this gingham, and also maybe one of these bamboo ones, which a few readers have raved about. (I also have a few of their solid-colored jammies in my cart to test.)
Not really related but I’ll drop it here nonetheless: one thing I think I’ve done a slightly better job of with micro is not always nursing him to sleep. It used to be so easy to put mini to sleep with her nighttime nursing session / bottle. With micro, his last meal is usually around six, and then I put him down about an hour later — around seven — which means one less habit to have to break in the future.
Oh! And a fourth thing that helped that had nothing to do with the baby: I temporarily put myself to bed at 8 p.m. every night for maybe a week. It was horrible, as I felt I had absolutely no time to be an adult. I normally cherish the two or three hours Mr. Magpie and I have to ourselves between the hours of 7 and 10 to watch something, talk, enjoy a few glasses of wine, and eat in delicious, uninterrupted silence. Instead, I’d drag myself to bed. But it did make a difference in helping me muscle through a tough, exhausted time.
At any rate, I’m rambling here. The through-line of this entire essayette should be:
I don’t know what I’m doing, really, but we somehow seemed to have turned a corner and I might as well share the factors that seemed to have contributed to our (likely temporary) success.
Having a second child has paradoxically made me more humble and less convinced that anything I have done as a parent “works.”
So here we are. Slightly more bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but still feeling our way through things.
How’s it hanging for you?
Post Scripts: New Fall Finds for Little Ones.
*I found the photo above on Pinterest, but I’m pretty sure he’s outfitted in Pepa & Co, AKA #babydressinggoalz.
THIS FLANNEL SCHOOLDRESS FOR MINI
ALSO LOVE THIS SIMILAR STYLE
HITHA SWEARS BY THIS PLATE TO HELP WITH HER PICKY SON WHEN IT COMES TO DINNERTIME — I’M WILLING TO TRY EVERYTHING WITH MY NEWLY PICKY TODDLER!
THESE RED VELVET MARY JANES FOR MINI’S HOLIDAY LOOKS
P.P.P.S. Chic Amazon finds for children.