After two days with marathon naps I was inspired to write about Sweetie’s sleep habits. Momma Z and I were recently comparing notes about how the girls’ sleep and at one point she asked straight-out, “So how did you get her to do that?”. “That” meaning nap twice a day and sleep from 7:30PM to 6:30AM (roughly since the 6 month mark). The short answer is a sleep schedule – a firm sleep schedule. The long answer starts at the hospital the day after Sweetie was born.
Nurse Rita worked on the recovery ward at our birth hospital and taught the new parent class. She was a gentle but firm “whisperer” able to calm a crying child with a few words spoken directly. She had a couple of simple steps to teach your child how to sleep well. Nurse Rita said our first job was to wear our children out so they are ready to sleep at bedtime. We quickly experienced the truth in this step, seeing that if we did not sufficiently entertain Sweetie while she was awake, then she would wear us out when we tried to put her to sleep. Next Nurse Rita encouraged setting up and following a schedule to get your child in a routine. We went with a 6 PM dinner, 7PM bath, “spa” time afterwards, fresh pajamas and a final nursing with Wife. And finally, Nurse Rita stressed that bedtime is sleep time – “no goo-goo, gaa-gaa stuff” at bedtime. No matter how badly you want to stand at the crib and coo –let ‘em go to sleep.
Compadre has also weighed in on the subject. His background is in early childhood development and he spends his days making Chicago’s pre-school situation better. He stressed that young children respond to structure. I’m fairly certain he said they need it. So we try to stick to the routine, the schedule. And so far Sweetie has followed the example, despite the occasional fight.
Of course we have consulted the interwebs and read multiple books as well. Most also suggested some type of sleep schedule and sleep routine. So we have kept it up and modified Sweetie has grown. The naps have shifted every couple of months. And we stopped the nursing/final bottle at 1 year so now Sweetie just has a final cuddle with Wife before going down. The schedule continues to develop with Sweetie’s needs.
So a sleep schedule has worked for us. Nurse Rita’s advice stuck with us from the beginning and our resolve is strengthened by what we have read and by other peoples’ input. And that’s been important for helping us stick with it. Over the past 13 months we have left family events early, we have shut down the house with guests still visiting; we have bowed out of some social events. So in some ways we have compromised our schedules to keep Sweetie on hers. And I guess that sums up parenting as a whole; the sleep schedule is just one specific example. I know some people think that any sort of “schedule” is rigid, especially one without “goo-goo, gaa-gaa” time. But when I wake up on Saturday morning after a solid eight hours of sleep, I’m okay with that.