5 Tips to help your sensitive-sleeper sleep better
I have a holiday hangover. No, not from overindulging in adult beverages, but rather from sheer and utter exhaustion. With all of the holiday's festivities, daily life tasks, plus a teething toddler going through his 18-month sleep regression, I’m pooped!
Going back to my sleep-sensitive toddler, Lennox, Christmas pulled a number on him, or so I assume. I have never really understood his irregular sleep patterns. Ever since birth, he has been a CRAPPY sleeper. No joke! He hardly slept longer than two hours at a time until he was seven months old when we gently sleep-trained him. After sleep training, I followed age-appropriate wake time schedules and a strict routine. Shortly after, Lennox was pulling 10-12 hour stretches of sleep.
Nonetheless, every couple of months or so we go through a period in which I have no clue what is going on. All of the sudden Lennox starts waking a lot, gets extraordinarily fussy and unbearable from being overtired and his whole sleep schedule goes out of whack.
It’s times like tonight where I put Lennox to bed at 8, and he is up crying at 10, that I have to remember that Lennox is a sensitive-sleeper. Regardless of what might be the reason waking him up; teeth, overstimulation, fever, etc., I have to stick to my basics.
Below are 5 important tips to follow to help your sensitive sleeper sleep better.
Eat, Play, Sleep
Eat, play, sleep is an extremely important, straight forward routine that can implement from birth. Why? It creates a structured routine for your baby and also discourages the means of eating as a way of getting your baby to sleep.
How? I did not begin an eat, play, sleep with Lennox until he was about eight weeks old. My honest reason is that I had no idea what I was doing in my early weeks of motherhood and I was searching for anything and everything to help Lennox sleep longer stretches. However, now as a more seasoned and enlightened mother, I think I started at the perfect time, especially for breastfeeding moms. The first eight weeks are crucial for feeding on demand to be able to establish a solid milk-supply.
The book On Becoming Baby Wise by Robert Bucknam and Gary Ezzo is an excellent read to understanding the eat, play, sleep routine and the corresponding age-appropriate wake times for your baby. After establishing a routine with Lennox, he started giving me some substantial stretches of sleep for the first time when he was eight weeks old. It was glorious until we hit the four-month sleep regression that took us for a ride until seven months.
Now that Lennox has flourished into a tantrum-throwing-toddler going through the significant 18-month sleep regression, sometimes I am tempted or give him milk right before bed to see if he will sleep longer. It usually backfires on me with a stomach ache, or an over-filled diaper causing him to wake early.
2. Sleep/ Crib Training
Sleep training was a hard decision for me that I struggled with for many weeks. I hated the thought of letting my child cry alone in his crib. However, at seven months I was so sleep-deprived because Lennox was waking up every 1 to 2 hours, worse than when he was a newborn. I needed to make a change because my health and patience were dwindling. I decided to join a Facebook group called Respectful Sleep Training/Learning and started planning how I was going to help Lennox sleep better. In a future post, I will go into how we successfully achieved sleep training, stay tuned.
The process took approximately a week, but by the first night, we already had significant results. Below is a screenshot of a post of mine I posted in Respectful Sleep Training/Learning:
Related: 11 SOLUTIONS AND REMEDIES FOR REFLUX IN INFANTS. HELP YOUR BABY SPIT UP LESS AND SLEEP LONGER
Below is a list of reasons of how Lennox and I benefited from sleep training.
He is capable of falling asleep on his own.
He immediately became a better sleeper.
I no longer had to rock or soothe him to sleep for 45 minutes.
He loves his crib, and now as a toddler will go to his crib by himself when he’s tired.
He is well-rested and less cranky during his wake times.
My sleep and mental health have improved.
Intimacy with hubby has improved.
I can honestly say that sleep training was one of my best decisions as a mother. The only con about sleep training is that Lennox cannot fall asleep anywhere. Sometimes he will fall asleep in his car seat in the car, but besides that, he only sleeps in his crib. Not being able to put him to sleep anywhere makes it difficult to leave him overnight and to go on vacations. It also has made me a prisoner to his nap schedule, but hey, I will take a well-rested baby and mama over anything else.
3. Wake Times
Also in On Becoming Baby Wise and the Respectful Sleep Training/Learning Facebook group, I learned about wake times. Wake time is the amount of time a baby is awake in between naps and bedtime. Practicing age appropriate wake times for Lennox has been crucial to his sleep because 15 minutes too short or too long can affect how he sleeps. For example, right now at 18 months, Lennox gets a 5 hour wake time from the time he wakes up from his nap until the time he goes to bed. So if Lennox wakes up at 3:00 pm, his bedtime will be 8:00 pm. To make sure he doesn’t overstimulate his wake time, I put him in his crib at 7:45 to give him time to fall asleep. This schedule is difficult for caretakers and even my partner to understand because they see a happy, energetic baby and think that he is not ready to go to sleep; therefore, they lengthen his wake time. Extending his wake time IS A BIG NO NO! Especially for sensitive sleepers. Establish your wake times, and make sure you hit them right on time. It may seem hard at first, but it becomes routine for not only your baby but you and your caretakers.
4. Routine, routine, routine
Babies and children THRIVE off of routine. Eat, play, sleep, sleep training and wake times contribute to a solid routine. However, you must optimize your wake times with an even more structured routine, especially at bedtime. Establishing a bedtime routine has been a hard one for us since I work nighttimes and cannot control what hubby does when I’m not at home. However, here is a sample routine of our last wake time before bed:
3:00-3:30 light snack
3:00-5:30 Free play, educational activities
5:30-6:00 Family dinner at the table. Very important since we did Baby Led Weaning.
6:00-7:00. Light screen time and clean-up.
7:00: Sippy cup of milk. All screens off, lights dim.
7:00-7:45 Bath time, lotion/massage/ jammies/ two books, tidy room.
7:45 Close curtains, turn white noise on, put Lennox in his crib, kiss him and hand him his Wubbanub pacifiers. Lights out, except for the humidifier starry-night night light.
5. Things that helped Lennox sleep better
It is recommended during sleep training not to use any crutches to help your baby sleep, but since I’m not the best at following rules, I allowed Lennox to have his pacifiers. Also, the Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Crib Soother Toy featured below, helped lull Lennox to sleep and eliminated a lot of crying in the process. It also has a feature which allows you to turn off the lights and use white noise. I did eventually have to take this out of his crib when Lennox was around 12 months because he enjoyed playing with it too much.
Since birth Lennox has always taken to the Phillips Avent Soothie Pacifier, I made the life-changing decision to buy him a Wubbanub for Christmas when he was six months old. He now has three. These are great to have from birth because they are designed to help keep the pacifier in the baby’s mouth. I wish I would have gotten one sooner because Lennox used to wake up ALL the time when he was six months and younger because he was not capable of putting them back in his mouth himself and/or he couldn’t find them in his crib. The Wubbanubs help the pacifier stay in the mouth and also they are easier to find.
Before becoming a toddler mom, I said I would never let Lennox have his pacifiers past one year old. However, his Wubbanubs have helped not only with his teething pain, but they have contributed to his love of going to bed. How? I give him his Wubbanub pacifiers in his crib. His first Wubbanub was a duck; therefore, when it’s bedtime I tell him it’s Quack-Quack time, and he gets excited to go to bed. To fall asleep Lennox plays and self-soothes with his three pacifiers to fall asleep, as you can see in the picture above.
Also, once Lennox is done growing in his molars — which I pray to the teething Gods is sooner than later— I plan on taking the pacifier off of the animal and sewing it back together. That way he can continue to self-soothe with the animals.
Last but not least is white noise. Oh, what would we have done without white noise? How did mothers do it before? White noise is a godsend for sensitive sleepers. It blocks out noise, aids sleep and reminds your infants of their time in the womb. I use the Homedics Sound Spa Relaxation Machine. I like it because there are different types of white noises that you can use; thunder, rain, ocean, etc. There is a volume notch, you can use it plugged in OR, and it also has a timer; however, we keep it on all night. It’s great.
I hope these tips can help your sensitive sleeper become a better sleeper. I know they did for me. I have a lot more advice coming in this department so if you are struggling with a sensitive sleeper, subscribe to Motherhood Unfiltered to get the latest updates. For any questions, please comment below.