I really thought all of those books and talk shows about getting your baby to sleep were a gimmick once my two-month-old angel began sleeping through the night in his own crib, with very little effort on my part to get him to sleep.
But I was lulled into a false sense of sleepy-time security. You see, once teething set in, I began making all of the mistakes that the experts tell you not to make — I ran into his room with every whimper. I picked him up and rocked him. And then, the biggest bedtime blunder of all: I put him in my bed. It worked for us for a while, except for those nights when it seemed like he had restless leg syndrome.
That's when I began resorting to car rides or zooming him around my living room in his stroller to get him to fall asleep. If he slept for an hour or two somewhere other than his crib — or my bed — that was fine by me.
Between my two boys, I probably tried every sleep method known to moms, from cry-it-out to co-sleeping to the "Happiest Baby 5 S"
strategy. I tried white noise machines and soothing sounds crib toys. My girlfriend swore that the hum of her vacuum cleaner or her running washing machine was key for her baby’s shuteye.
Thinking back now, there were rough nights here and there, but the good ones definitely outnumbered the bad. So, here’s what worked for me and some of my fellow moms:
Accept that all babies are different.
One loved being swaddled, the other hated it. One liked morning naps, the other preferred late afternoon naps. Once I figured out these preferences, sleep came much easier.
What happens during awake hours affects sleep.
If you overstimulate your baby, you might think it’ll tire him out, but just the opposite will happen. Once I noticed that a good nap day resulted in a better night sleep, I tried to adhere to a schedule when possible.
Routines are key.
Just as we like to wind down after a long day, so does baby. An evening bath, and then cuddling up with some soothing music or a bedtime story in a dimly lit room worked way better than passing baby around to loud, cooing relatives for an hour, and then expecting him to fall right asleep.
In short, if you're looking for sleep advice, you’re not going to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Find the method that you can live with that works best for your child and you, and be ready and willing to adapt as necessary. Most of all, take heart in knowing that eventually, you'll be the one nudging them to get out of bed so they can get ready for school.
Dawn Papandrea is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, women's lifestyle, and personal finance. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, Parents, WomansDay.com, and more. She lives in Staten Island, NY with her husband, two fast-growing boys, and a living room full of toys.