Bedtime routine with a toddler and a newborn

 Emerald was 19 months old when Alina was born. I knew going into it that having 2 kids under 2 would be no easy feat. I would have to say that the transition was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be but I think that had alot to do with my husband having a 2 month paternity leave (can I get a high-five?!).

 Back to my point. I think that one of the most challenging issues was creating a bedtime routine with a toddler and a newborn. Once Jonathan went back to working nights that made it even more difficult since I was doing it alone most nights. I can remember in those early days how stressful it was trying to time it juuuust right where I would have time to do bedtime with Emma without a hungry or tired Alina interrupting us. I thought we would never figure it out and that our bedtime was doomed to chaos.

I am here to tell you that if you just hang in there it does get easier. As do most things when it comes to having 2 under 2. In the meantime I thought I would share some tips that may or may not help. Some of these may seem pretty obvious or irrelevant to you so if you read this and think, “That didn’t help at all” then just keep doing whatever you’re doing and eventually it will get better.

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1. Have a routine already in place. I can’t stress this enough. I tell people all the time that I am so glad we worked hard on Emerald’s bedtime routine and sleep issues BEFORE Alina was born. Newborns have crazy enough sleep schedules that you don’t need a toddler who doesn’t know how to sleep either. If at all possible, get your toddler in a good routine before the new addition arrives. Having this in place did wonders for our family. It was our safety net. If you’re curious to read  how we got Emma sleeping so well read here.

2. Work your new baby into the existing routine. Along the same lines as #1, don’t try to create a brand new routine once baby gets here. You are going to have a confused and stressed out toddler. It is much easier to work around the schedule in place since newborns are generally flexible in the sense that they won’t notice if their bedtime gets pushed back 30 minutes every now and then but a toddler most definitely will.

3. Pacify the baby before you start bedtime routine. Bedtime is always 8pm at our house. So If I knew that the baby was supposed to eat at 8:15pm I would always feed her a little early so she wasn’t squawking just as I was trying to rock my toddler. Same goes for diaper changes and burping….just get them situated so you know you have a clear 15-20 mins.

4. Include the baby. There were times when I just couldn’t time it right and I ended up rocking both at one time. That’s ok. If you have to bring the baby into the routine by having them lay on the ground on a blanket or in their Rock and Play while you read, sing or rock your toddler then do it. For us this wasn’t ideal in the beginning since babies can be noisy and exciting to a toddler who you are trying to get to bed . But you just have to do what you have to do.

5. Ask for help. If you are blessed to have your spouse home every night for bedtime then that is awesome! Get them involved. I know on the nights Jon was home we would take turns. One would do bedtime routine with Emma while the other hung out with Alina. If you are going it alone then don’t be afraid to ask for help from your mom, sister, friend, neighbor….anyone you trust. Even just 30 minutes to help you get through bedtime in those early weeks will help tremendously.

I hope these helped or sparked some ideas. Of course, they are geared more towards the early newborn weeks. Bedtime now looks much different with a 2.5 year old and a 9 month old. It’s a sister affair with baths together and snuggles together while we pray and do our routine as a family. Those days are coming soon. You just hang in there and don’t stress about it mama!

How I got my baby to sleep through the night

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I get asked often how I got my baby to sleep thought the night. I’m so convinced that the most difficult issue when it comes to parenting babies and toddlers is sleep. It all comes down to sleep. Your sleep, their sleep…everybody’s sleep. You can see it in the dark circles under the new mom’s eyes or even in the frazzled mom of non-sleeping toddlers. Occasionally you will come across someone who says their baby was an excellent sleeper since birth. Well good for them. I’m pretty sure these babies are the exception to rule. I can’t tell you how many times I googled “How I got my baby to sleep through the night” in desperation only to get so frustrated at reading accounts of people whose babies just magically sleep so well. I hesitated to even write this post for that reason. I can assure you this is not one of those accounts.

I had to work for it and work at it. I don’t have a quick formula or a 10 step plan. If you have a 12 week old that you are wanting to sleep through the night like… tonight then you probably won’t find this much help. I’m just going to tell you what I did with both of my girls that worked both times. The proof is in the pudding and both of my girls sleep 12-13 hours at night without waking even once (95% of the time).

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Emma’s sleep story:

When I was pregnant with my first I read Babywise and thought “Why yes, I would like to give my infant the gift of nighttime sleep.” I tried to implement this plan from the start and spent the better part of her first 5 months stressed and frustrated because she wasn’t sleeping…wasn’t following my plan….wasn’t napping long enough…etc. I wish I could go back to those early days and shake myself and tell myself to reellaaaxxx, take a chill pill,let your baby nap in the swing and go take a nap yourself.

Then we tried co-sleeping out of desperation and that semi worked but not really because I was sleeping so poorly and she was still waking so often at night to nurse. Which made for a cranky and sore mama.

**(Let me just stop and say that I am not someone who expects a baby to sleep through the night before a certain age. I think babies NEED to eat at night for some time and I actually enjoy night feeds…to a certain extent {i.e not every hour})

I was against cry it out from the beginning, my heart could not take it. I knew from reading Babywise that this was what I was “supposed” to do. Instead I continued trying to co-sleep and after several more months of struggling with naps and getting to her to go and stay asleep at night my husband said “enough”. By this time she was 9 months old and I knew we couldn’t continue this way. I was at a breaking point so I agreed to try  a modified version of cry it out.

On the night we chose to start we did our usual bed time routine with prayers, rocking and good night kisses. We put her in her crib and left the room. She cried. Yes she did. She was able to stand up so she spent the better part of 30 minutes standing up crying. We checked in on her every 5-10 minutes depending on the level of her crying. If she had thrown her paci we would pick it up and give it back. After a total of 47 minutes of on and off crying with very frequent checks, hugs, kisses and reassurances from us..all was quiet. She was asleep and guess what??! She slept the entire night. She had NEVER done that. The next day we did the same for naps and night again. She put up a mild 15 minute fuss at naps and a 30 minute fuss at bedtime. Again we checked on her, kissed her, hugged her and reassured her that it was ok to lay down and go to sleep. Again she slept through the night. On the 3rd night would you know that she didn’t cry at all…she laid down and went to sleep for 13 hours. I literally was beside myself with excitement. Of course, I still went in to check on her to make sure she was breathing. She was fine…turns out she just needed her own space.

Since that time she has slept like this and now at 2 years old she still sleeps from 8pm-8:30am and I don’t hear a peep. Now of course we have gone through phases where she will fight it a little more (18 month sleep regression anyone?) or when we took her paci away or if she’s feeling sick.

I think a few things contributed to our success. -Her age: she was 9 months old so it was a little easier to let her cry and I knew she wasn’t hungry. -Our resoluteness: I think she could sense that our minds were made up and this was the way it was going to be.- Her disposition: I do think her disposition had something to do with it. She is a very mild-mannered child and not very stubborn so she didn’t put up too much of a fight unlike her sister (more on that below).

Alina’s sleep story:

This story won’t be nearly as long.

I didn’t read a single sleep help book during my pregnancy with Alina. I had learned my lesson. I let her nap in the swing nearly all the time and at night she slept in the rock and play beside me. I fed her whenever she wanted to eat and didn’t stress about it. We slept snuggled up together often. It was amazing and I will always cherish those days.

When she was 6 months old I knew she was ready . You can read about our struggle with transitioning out of the swaddle here. That was a whole other issue in itself. Once we got that figured out I knew she was ready to sleep on her own. We followed the same plan that we did with her older sister. I knew since she was younger and more strong-willed that I would be going in her room more often and that it might take a little longer. I was right. She cried longer and it took about 6 days. I had a lot of empathy for her and often would go and pick her up until she settled down. Sometimes holding her for 10 or 20 minutes. I would even nurse her sometimes to calm her. I knew this probably went against traditional cry it out methods but I didn’t care. I knew what she needed and I wanted her to know I was there for her. After that first week she figured it out. She began going to sleep on her own and only waking at night if she was hungry which at first was 2 times, then just once and now…she doesn’t wake at all. There was no crying involved in dropping those feedings. I was prepared to let her eat at night for a few more months but she decided she was done. Now she too sleeps from 7pm-8am and is a great napper as well.

I have so much more I could say about the subject of baby sleep. Another day. Today I just wanted to share these stories in hopes that it might encourage someone. If you have any questions or just need encouragement please don’t hesitate to contact me. Sleep deprivation is no joke. Hang in there mama’s! It does get better.

Click here to read what about items I suggest to help your baby sleep better.

Weaning from the swaddle: My secret weapon

**Update: Since writing this post my daughter went on to sleep happily in the Zippy until she was 18 months. Eventually moving up to a size large. My newest daughter is using them now and we are having the same success. We love this item!

My daughter who is now almost 8 months old was a swaddle baby. I don’t mean she was a baby who enjoyed being swaddled, I mean she was a baby who HAD to be swaddled. You mamas of swaddle babies know what I’m talking about.

It started out innocently enough, swaddling her in the early weeks as moms often do with newborns. It comforts them, keeps them warm and helps contain the startle reflex from jolting them awake and the subsequent wails that follow. I don’t remember at what point exactly I realized that she was addicted to the swaddle. Maybe it was when I noticed that I was the only one who could successfully put her down for a nap. It was because of the way I was swaddling her. I guess you can call me the enabler.

By the time she was 3 months old I knew we were in trouble. I tried the gradual weaning method but that was laughable, girlfriend just could not fall asleep without her arms secured. She was like a crazy ninja with those hands. We tried a few sad naps of going cold turkey without it, too much crying for this mama. It probably would have worked eventually but I personally don’t let my little babies cry that long if I can help it.

By 5 months old she was busting out of every swaddle we owned. Did I mention that she was in the 99th% for weight? You try swaddling that. The only one that could contain her was an Aden and Anais swaddle blanket. And even that was failing us. To make matters worse I couldn’t even move her to her crib yet since she was rolling,so she was still sleeping in the Rock and Play sleeper. She was miserable, we were miserable and I didn’t know what to do.

Enter the Zipadee-zip.

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I first read about the Zipadee-zip on one of my Babycenter birthboards that I frequent. I researched it and my honest thought was “The last thing I need is another thing for my baby to get addicted to”. I put it in the back of my mind and about a week later as I was up yet again with a baby who couldn’t sleep because she was miserable. I ordered it. Right then and there, from my phone in the middle of the night. It was shipped SO fast. I was shocked and elated. I put her in it right away and she napped well. Much better than usual.

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I was expecting a miracle and while it wasn’t an overnight success it was a vast improvement from what we were used to. I originally ordered her a medium, then went back and ordered a small. After we received the small we were home free. The small was snug enough that she still felt secure. We moved her to her crib and there she has been soundly sleeping for 2 months. She knows when the zippy is put on it’s sleeping time. She has moved to a medium and is sleeping 12+ hours at night with 1 wakeup to eat. She naps 3 times a day for at least an hour. I call that a success!

I thought I would feel frustrated that she is “dependent” on the zippy to sleep. But you know what? I don’t. because it’s not hindering her in any way.  She can roll and move around. She can pick up her paci and put it in her mouth and it keeps her warm. My mind is at ease. Plus have you seen how cute the prints are on the Zipadee-zip website? I know I will have no trouble picking her out cute patterns to wear. Speaking of, I really need to order another one!

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***This was not a sponsored post. Just me sharing what really works in hopes that it will help someone.***

Items to help your baby sleep

I am convinced you could sell anything to a sleep deprived parent. The desperation you feel is at a level that cannot be described and you would do the rain dance if it promised your baby would sleep better. I have been there, I know. I know about those nights when you wonder “will they ever sleep?”, “will I ever sleep again?”. While this is NOT a post about sleep training ,it is a post with a list of items that I have found helpful in the sleep department. I don’t promise they will cure your sleep woes but give them a try if you haven’t. Also, I am here to tell you that YES, you will sleep again.

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1. A Crib. As with most things baby related there are differing opinions as to whether you need certain items and what not. We bought a crib as one of our first purchases and I am very glad we did. It was something we wanted to invest in for all of our babies to come. We bought from Target online and got a great deal (and free shipping!) on a beautiful crib. You could also find it on Amazon and get free shipping! While My babies do not sleep in the crib until they are around 5 months old, it is invaluable to have when you are ready for them to be out of your room. And trust me, the moment can come upon you  suddenly.

2. Crib Mattress. We bought a mattress similar to this one. There are about 5,876,966 mattresses out there so you have to do your research and make the best decision you can. We have bought the same mattress for both of our girls and they seem to find it really comfortable. A good mattress in very important.

3. Swaddle Wraps. For the first few weeks of Emma’s life and for the first 5 months of Alina’s ,swaddling was essential to our sleep and theirs. I loved Aden and Anais swaddle wraps because they are lightweight and have the cutest patterns. When you are through the swaddling phase they can be used as a lightweight blanket or nursing cover. There are other types of swaddle wraps out there and by all means try them! If you haven’t given swaddling an honest try, you may be missing an important key to help your baby sleep.

4. Loveys. At first I didn’t know what a lovey even was or what it’s purpose was. Both of my girls have one now and I used them in the early days as a sleep cue. When the lovey came out they knew it was time for sleeping. Or that was the idea. Now they still sleep with them and really find comfort in having their “lovey”. I have to say, please use caution. Don’t leave a sleeping baby alone with a lovey. 

5. Rock and Play Sleeper. Do yourself a favor. If your baby has reflux or even just doesn’t seem to like sleeping flat in a bassinet. Stop what you are doing and go get a RNP. You can thank me later. Both of my girls slept in this in lieu of a bassinet.

6. White Noise. I cannot say enough good about using white noise. We have used it since day one in some form or another. Either a fan, portable heater or most commonly the white noise app on my iPad. There are many different free white noise apps out there. Just choose one you like. Or if you prefer to get a portable white noise machine, that works just as well.

7. Zipadeezip– This is a new addition to my ” must haves” list. There was no need for this item with my oldest, however when when my baby was 5 months old and still addicted to the swaddle but sleeping terribly, I desperately searched for a solution. This is an ingenious product that helps your baby ease the transition between swaddle and no swaddle. She now sleeps 12+ hours at night in her zippy. See what I mean? Go get one. Read more about how I used the Zipadee-zip to transition out of the swaddle here. 

8. A swing. Like I said, sleep deprived parents will try anything. When a pregnant mom asks me what is the #1 item she needs. I say, get a swing and get a good one. Get one that looks comfortable enough to sleep in because that’s what they’ll be doing. And get one that plugs in to an electrical outlet so you don’t break the bank on batteries. My babies spent a lot of precious hours resting comfortable and happily in their swing. It saves your sanity.

These are the most important sleep items that have helped my babies sleep. I would love to hear what has helped you.