Baby sleep routine: is it really necessary?

I’m gonna say a big fat yes to this one. But before I do, please remember this is a personal blog where I share my opinions and experiences. If you’re seeking professional advice you’re in the wrong place mumma. If you’re just after an opinion and to hear about a fellow mummy’s experiences with and without a routine for baby, then please do continue reading.

When we first brought Taylor home (the day after she was born) we clearly had no idea what to expect (or do) and were basically winging it. Pretty standard for new first time parents. She was a good sleeper at the start. I was having to set an alarm to wake her every 3 hours or she’d have kept sleeping without feeds. She was too small for this to happen, so we had to gently wake her. I, being a little bit naive and I suppose delirious from the lack of sleep, thought to myself, wow – we have a little wonder-baby here who is amazing at sleep! What were we worried about!? I was wrong. Yes many newborns sleep well when they’re brand spanking new, but that’s because being born is hard work. Once they’ve settled into the idea of being out of the womb, they’re more alert and don’t just snooze on cue. That is unless you start working on a sleep routine.

Justin and I were given the book ‘Save Our Sleep’ from his sister who swore by it when she had her little boy, and we had done some research and reading on it when I was pregnant but not a whole lot. To be completely honest, we were a little hesitant about trying some of the methods. The book tells you to let them self settle, which often involves letting them ‘cry it out’. Before you freak out at the thought of that, the book also says to only let them do this if it’s a protest cry and there are no real tears. Regardless, this was hard for me. A new mum listening to her tiny baby cry – it’s only natural that we want to go in and cuddle them until they stop. But a protest cry, as I’ve learnt, really is just a little nothing-cry which stops after a very short while and it will almost always lead to sleep. Once we worked this out, and with a lot of practice and giving in etc, Taylor got pretty good at self settling and didn’t even bother with the protest cry. She knew she was safe. She knew this meant it was time to rest. She knew we were just outside and that we were coming back. She knew nap/bed time meant just that – and that a protest cry wouldn’t have us coming back in and out all day/night. I should mention also that we didn’t start this process of implementing a sleep routine until Taylor was three and a half months old. Any younger than that in my opinion, and in the opinion of several sleep ‘experts’ is too young.

It was at eight months old that she really perfected the routine. And by perfected, I mean slept through the night from 7pm-7am (currently 17 months old and still sleeping through – touch wood… we are expecting this will change when her little brother arrives). She has had plenty of leaps, developments, regressions and colds etc in between so by no means do I mean we’ve had literally every single night over the past nine months wake-up free. But for the most part, she’s been pretty freaking good. I’m sharing this because if you’re in the position I found myself in several times from 0-8 months old (that is, pulling my hair out and looking to pay hundreds of dollars for professional sleep consulting), you might want to first have a looksie at this book. It’s $22 at Big W (check it out here), and it was a lifesaver for us. Not because it’s the only sleep guide we followed, but because it helped us understand the importance of routine for a baby.

If you’re on Insta (I know, who isn’t?), there are a few good accounts you can follow which give amazing sleep advice for babies including The Kind Parenting Company and Baby Sleep School (this is not sponsored by the way, just helping a fellow mummy out with some accounts that helped and will help us again). They post super informative stories and answer as many baby and toddler sleep-related questions from the public as they can. I screenshot everything I think I may need to refer back to cos goodness knows I’ll likely forget and be in a blur when baby # 2 arrives!

I think the most important thing to remember when trying a sleep routine is that people can only offer guides. You know you’re baby better than anyone else, so alter the routine if you want to. Make it your own. You can follow them loosely and still see results. The point is to create routine and consistency. If your baby takes a while to get used to it, that’s normal. If you feel like giving up every few days, that’s normal too. The whole thing is a process (a bit of a long tiring one to be honest). Another thing I want to point out also is that while Taylor sleeps well through the night, we do have trouble getting her to sleep when we’re out and about. The Save Our Sleep book says with practice this can be achieved – and Taylor did sleep in her pram and in the car seat when she was younger, but she definitely doesn’t do that anymore. We don’t expect perfection. She’s only human. She’s not a robot – her not sleeping out and about is just the way it is. We’ve accepted this and we’re okay with it. She sleeps well at home in her own room and this, we are proud and appreciative of, and grateful for.

7 key steps to nailing our routine

Here are some of the things we’ve done and continue to do at Taylor’s nap/bed time which we swear by and will most definitely do again with baby # 2:

1- Using a salt lamp during her last milk feed (it’s a warm, dull red glow and relaxes the atmosphere). Much better than using a bright lamp or the ceiling light – trust me!

2- Using the ‘Calm’ app on the I-Pad for the duration of her nap/overnight sleep. We use ‘Celestial White Noise’. Don’t have a spare I-Pad? No worries. Big W have a ‘Homedics Portable Sound Spa’ which we also bought to use on the go and if/when we forgot to bring the I-Pad out and about. It’s $22 – check it out here.

3- Swaddled her with and eventually without arms in. I like ErgoPouch sleeping bags best for this. They have a TOG rating which tells you which sleeping bag to use depending on the temp of the room and it helps ensure your babe doesn’t wake up cold in the night. SIDS safe too – which I am all for. I grab mine from wherever they have a sale normally… But this is the official website here. The arm holes have stud clips which you can clip up when they’re not yet rolling over (helps reduce chances of the babies startling themselves awake) and un-clip when they do start rolling. So, they’re a little more expensive but the quality is great and they last a long time. I am re-using Taylor’s for baby # 2 and they’re still in perfect condition.

4- Put her to bed awake so she could/can self settle

5- Purchased a camera monitor. This isn’t something everyone needs to do – this was just personal choice because we wanted to know whether or not she was settling without having to open the door and disturb her (this is the best way to disturb a settling baby – opening the door to check on him/her)

6- Moved her to the cot at four months. Geesh I hope I don’t get blasted for this. I was always sure I’d have her sleeping next to me until at least six months old but we were not only waking her up when we came to bed at night, but I was also constantly laying in bed awake hearing her small noises, telling myself there’s no point in sleeping now because she’ll be up for a feed any second… Most of the time she’d just make her little noises for a few minutes then self settle again! The camera monitor is on my bedside table and it lights up and alerts me if there’s a noise in the room. I am a very light sleeper now that we have Taylor, so I hear everything. Another reason I love our video camera monitor

7- Bought her a comforter with a dummy on each arm and leg (a total of four dummy’s attached) at approx 12 months old. I was deadest against this before 12 months old because of SIDS. They say from six months old is okay, but hey, pedantic mummy over here! I didn’t want to take any chances. Personal choice again – but while I am on the topic, if you aren’t familiar with SIDS safe sleeping recommendations I strongly recommend you have a read here. This website has way more info than just this – have a look, you’ll be glad you did.

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