The road to a routine (both day and night) has been a long and rocky one! If I look back over the last several months I would say we got a bedtime routine in place early from just a few weeks old. By this I mean she had a set bedtime, and became noticeably ready to sleep at a similar time each evening. But with the daytime I didn’t notice any kind of routine emerging until she was around four months old. By this time I had found that I could put her down in her bouncer with a comforter and she would doze off, but there were no set times that this would happen. I was working off things I had read about babies’ sleep/wake cycles and was aware that she was likely to be ready to sleep after 90 – 120 minutes of being awake. So I would aim to get her to sleep at these intervals. But as she reached four months old I started to be aware of her sleep signals – eyes rubbing, flopping head to one side, a whinge that sounded like her batteries running low, and redness around her eyebrows. I think it started to fall into place one day when I needed to shower so I put her back in her crib with a toy to play with (or more accurately, chew) and she fell asleep. I then found that if I put her in the crib around the same time each morning she would settle herself off to sleep. As the month progressed I started to do the same when she was tired in the afternoon, and then if she was a little tired after lunch. I saw a trend emerging with times and that’s how we reached our current routine. She wakes around 7am, naps from around 9am for about and hour or so, half and hour to an hour at lunch and then another hour or so from around 3.30 – 4.30pm. Originally she would have a full two hours in the morning and hour and a half in the afternoon. Her naps have shortened as the months have passed.
During this period her bedtime pattern was still very up and down. I noticed that putting her bed at 7pm was the only real constant. She would sleep for a variable length of time and then whenever she woke after this sleep she would wake every four hours without fail. So say she woke at 11pm she would then wake at 3am and then 7am. If she woke at 1am then would wake at 5am, and so on. We tried dream feeds at 11pm but this had no effect on helping her skip the early hours feed. Around four months of age she started waking every couple of hours again. This arose shortly after she began refusing bottle feeds. It was a tough time. I revisited our Sleepsense guide that we had used previously. This advised to give it at least ten minutes before intervening when she woke at night, as often babies will settle themselves back to sleep. This was a tough few nights. I had been quick to respond to her waking prior to this in order to minimise disruption to Daddy’s sleep. We were both being woken by her whimpering at times, and ten minutes at 3am is a very long time! However, she would mostly fall back to sleep with no further assistance or input from us. After our trip away in September we made the decision to move her into her own room. She was almost six months old. She slept for 12 hours. She murmured a couple of times but didn’t need a feed or any help from us. This has been the trend since, with the exception of illness and bouts of constipation. She sometimes wakes a little earlier at 6am but feeds and then snoozes a little longer.
But last night the clocks went back. We were staying with friends and were in the same room with her. She went to bed a little later than usual. She woke at 4.30am and needed a feed. She then woke at 6.30ish new time. Tonight we have put her to bed at 7.30pm and are hopeful that she will sleep through until 7am tomorrow. I did read about clocks changing and suggestions to gradually alter their routines but 15 minutes every couple of days, for example. But she happily stayed up later this evening so we will see how things go!
I think one thing we have always tried to do with Amelia is to remain flexible. Sticking to rigid routines does not really fit with our lifestyle and outlook on parenting. The only time we get into a situation is where she misses out on proper daytime naps. So where possible I prefer to be at home for at least one of them. She is so interested in the world now that getting her to nap out and about is quite difficult. She will fall asleep in her buggy, or in the car. But we are regularly stop/starting or moving her in and out of the car she just wakes each time and gets gradually more tired and annoyed. Its pretty understandable, I would be pretty frustrated if my sleep was continually disturbed! I we decide to go out for dinner then we will do her bedtime routine (dinner, bath, pyjamas and milk) then put her into the car seat and off we go. This usually works fine. We then put her straight into her cot on our return.
Having a routine has made such a difference for all of us. I know roughly when we can safely be out and about without her getting too tired. I know when I will have a bit of time to do the chores and make any calls I need to. Our baby groups fit in around her nap times. Plus I cannot express just how much better I feel getting a full nights sleep most of the time. It took me some time to adjust to not waking every couple of hours wondering if she was ok. It took time to stop creeping in to check on her! I now find that I don’t really wake to her murmurs in the night. Life just seems calmer!
The next step is to work on her getting to sleep a bit more easily if we are out and about. Any tips or suggestions welcome? I also wanted to reassure anyone struggling with their own or baby’s sleep – it will get better!