Good habits started from
young the womb.
Once was lucky, twice probably meant there was some logic involved. I slept regular hours during both pregnancies and both Z & X seemed to attune to that by sleeping through from 6 weeks’ onwards.
We had heard advices on diluting the milk and reading up on books to make babies sleep. I had flipped through Gina Ford at Borders and promptly switched off. However, I thought the most logical advice as given by my antenatal class instructor was communication.
1. Help babies to differentiate night & day via a sundown routine of wiping down, doing baby massage, informing them that it was night time & changing into long sleeved pyjamas.
My take: We took this a step further. We planned a routine as guidance but things would always change on the ground. Be flexible and move along. As long as both babies and parents were happy, why stick strictly to 8pm or 9pm for that matter? If they slept so early, they would also wake up early! By being flexible, both kids also adapted to our flexible schedules if we had dinners with guests or friends.
2. A overly tired baby is unlikely to sleep well.
My take: This is true. Even as adults, if we had stayed up past our bedtimes, it would be harder to fall asleep. We could count sheep and force ourselves to sleep, but babies? How? It was my job during maternity leave to ensure that the baby napped sufficiently by hook or by crook – be it rocking for hours in the rocker while I watched TV or strapping in a baby carrier while shopping for groceries or heading out. I would also provide them a workout on the play gym I.e. 5 minutes kicking at the play gym, 5 minutes ‘leg cycling’, 5 minutes on the tummy, 5 minutes reading, 5 minutes playing with toys and learning to grasp. At 2-4 months’ old, their energies could be expend quite easily. One of my favorites was to let them swim with a neckfloat. They would kick so much that they would sleep for eons thereafter.
3. Do not pick them up at the slightest whims at night
My take: It could be false alarm at times. To be more accurate, only when they broke into huge tears would we wake up and attend to them. Z was a tad too long ago to recall but Baby X was so used to not being picked up that he would be happy to roll about in his own bed quietly till I went to his room.
4. Diluting the milk
My take: I believed babies would only wake up for milk because they were hungry. If your child required the additional resources, why deprive him/her of it? Until you encountered the other extreme of milkstrike, you would be very thankful for every single milk-drinking opportunity.
5. Crying it out
My take: This used to be my default school of thought. The elders used to say things like the babies could be manipulative so we should carry them less and should force them to accept the reality that they were just supposed to sleep through the night. Until I read ‘Science of Parenting’ which explained that babies were incapable of manipulative thoughts because their brains were not so developed yet. They would cry out of instinct i.e. fear, hunger, discomfort. If you understood the science behind it, would you bear to let your baby howl for hours? We had tried that with Z for 2 nights of 45min after confinement had ended. It was so heartbreaking and Mr H put a foot down on it. You know what? Eventually, due to good habit nurtured from the start, Z eventually slept through the night from 6 weeks onwards. The ‘Science of Parenting’ also explained that excessive crying was bad for the baby’s development because they would always lack a sense of security and hindered their independence. On hind sight, I thought that was largely true. Z was always assured that we would be there for him, even to date. Besides, wasn’t it an ironic trend to be stingy with hugs and cuddles whilst they were babies and spoiled them by giving in to their unreasonable demands as a toddler?
6. Mind over matter
My take: Babies could feel our frustration. We should always be calm when handling the babies, more so when putting them to bed. We should also be confident that we could make them sleep because I believed they could feel our resolve and determination, regardless of how this sounded. If the babies could feel that ‘we mean business’, it was half the battle won.
7. Sleeping apart
My take: If this arrangement was possible and comfortable within the household, it was actually good to sleep apart. I did not start off planning to sleep in separate rooms from Z. However, when we planned our matrimonial home, we custom-built a number of fixtures, rendering impossible to squeeze a cot in the room. We did not think it was safe to co-sleep with a baby on a Queen-size bed either. Hence, that was how we ended up sleeping in separate rooms from Day 1. I was a light sleeper and I was breastfeeding exclusively. I would wake up at night to change diapers and nurse him before he had the chance to cry and wake up. Even when Z dropped the dream feeds, I still woke up to express milk for stockpile and would check on him. Hence, Baby X also slept by himself in his own room since Day 1. This time round, Mr H was the light sleeper and would rouse to Baby X’s cries.
What was the ultimate goal of doing all of the above? We wanted our children to have a well-rested sleep so that they would not be cranky the next day, and most importantly – so that we could have a good sleep too.
As a very light sleeper, the slightest movements and breathing sounds would disturb my sleep. I was very thankful that both children did not co-sleep with us on the same bed or in the same room.
When Z could walk, he would walk to our bedroom and tell us that he did not want to sleep in his own room. Despite a history of owning the room and sleeping by himself, he still wanted company. That was when pointer #8 came in to seal the deal.
8. Marketing their own room to them
We converted his cot bed to a toddler bed. I positioned all his toys within reach. Then I re-launched his room to him. At appx 12~14 months’ old, Z was delighted. He claimed full ownership to the room and was not interested in our company. He would play till he slept, or played the moment he woke up.
Later on, whenever he changed his mind about not sleeping by himself, we only had to remind him about how sad his toys would get, he would be caught in two minds and always opted to return to his room. Of course, Pixar helped – with the Toy Story cartoon.
The cot was also the best $369 investment ever made because Z used it for 3 years before handing over to X and X was 9 months into using this same cot.