Sleep, oh how I long for thee. It's a cruel joke mother nature plays on us mamás (well most of us anyway) during pregnancy. Our skin glows, we grow out thick hair, we feel radiant, ok so we gain a few extra pounds in areas that we never thought possible, but considering the circumstances pregnancy can make you look and feel increible...until you hit the dreaded last month! Ay! Ay! Aaaaaayyyy!!! Me Before with that "Glow"...
Oh glorious, precious child, milagro de Dios, sent from heaven that simply won't sleep. Maybe it's gas? For sure "Tiene hambre," (hungry), " Ya está resabiado" (already spolied), she's cold, he's hot, it's loud, it's too quiet, and on and on. No sleep.
Everyone says it gets better... Mentirosos! (liars) And that glow? Gone. All that's left are two sunken eyes, a half functioning caffeine fueled cerebro (brain), and a baseball cap to cover your lackluster locks. It's been over 2 and a half years and it's gone from teeth, crawling, standing, walking, night terrors, potty training, and crib to bed transitioning to basically deprive me of a full night's worth of sleep. Me now!
It's been a big roller coaster ride that has even driven me to hire pediatric sleep consultants. So how do you ride this seemingly never ending roller coaster without going insane? Some Tips From Pros (that have worked for me):
- Routine is key. Try to stick to same nap and sleep schedule every day including weekends, holidays, and vacations. Kids are creatures of habits so anything that disrupts their routine will affect their sleep cycle. Miss a nap, make up for it by putting them to bed earlier. We went without sleep for about a month after we went on vacation and my husband went on tour (he's a musician). Those two major changes in routine were enough to severely impact my daughter's sleep. I was going LOCA. It took another 2-3 weeks to fully get back into routine and get a regular night's rest. I created this bedtime routine chart as a visual sticker reward chart since my daughter loves stickers so much. We don't use it now, but it helped tremendously during those 3 weeks of getting back on track. You can directly download here: https://www.milegasi.com/products/free-bedtime-routine-chart
- Avoid multiple changes. If you're weaning from breastfeeding maybe hold off potty training. If you're potty training maybe hold off on transitioning from crib to bed. If you're expecting another baby try work on the change before the new baby arrives. Avoiding multiple changes goes hand in hand with routine. Any major disruption can affect their sleep cycle so help your child deal with any new situation by limiting the changes and allowing enough time for them to adapt.
Teach them independence or self soothing and avoid sleep associations. Sleep associations are basically anything that your baby or child associates with falling asleep. According to Ashley Neal of www.carolinasleepconsulting.com (and my personal sleep consultant), "be careful that you are not doing any (or all!) of these things (breastfeeding or bottle feeding, pacifier, motion/rocking, presence of mom/dad) as a means to get your baby/child to sleep. Feed until they are drowsy, rock until they are calm, be a presence in the room for reassurance, but not until they are totally deep asleep. Also, be careful not to replace one sleep association for another. Don't phase out nursing to sleep to then be rocking to sleep."
- Dealing with Potty Training. Potty training can interrupt sleep. As they get more and more used to going to the bathroom, they may wake up in the middle of the night to either go to the bathroom or may want a diaper change. To decrease the times your child wakes up in the middle of the night limit their liquids before bedtime. We use to give our daughter milk before bed until she started waking up to go potty every night. Now we give her milk soon after dinner. The quantity may be less than before but it significantly decreased the waking up. We also take her to the bathroom right before bed and first thing in the morning around 7am.
Transitioning from Crib to Bed. According to sleep consultant, Ashley Neal,
"Don't make the transition until the child is old enough to understand the "rules" that come along with a big kid bed. If making a transition to a big kid bed due to a new baby, do so 6 months prior to new baby arriving to ease the transition for older child. Up until this point, the crib is all your toddler has ever known and is his "safe space". A new baby is already a hard enough transition for a toddler, don't make it that much harder by abruptly changing his sleep environment. Once you've made the transition, turn the child's room into a big "crib". By this I mean, take out toys and other objects that will be a distraction from sleep, cover all electrical outlets, secure furniture (dressers, etc) to the wall, etc. If you find the transition is not working, don't be afraid to go back to the crib!" That's what we had to do! Our daughter Victoria was climbing out of the crib, so we got nervous that she would get hurt so we changed her crib to a toddler bed. BIG MISTAKE! She was not ready and neither were we. She's still in her crib and that's fine with me!
- No tv or electronics at least 1 hr before bedtime. Research has shown that the back lighting from TV and gaming system screens can affect children’s circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms are responsible for telling us when it’s time to fall asleep and time to wake up, so anything that throws off our circadian rhythms throws off sleep, too. It will take your child longer to fall asleep if their brains are stimulated before bedtime. I personally experienced this after one of my daughter's sitters let her watch t.v. until she fell asleep on a couple of occasions. Both times my daughter woke up multiple times throughout the night, talking in her sleep, and seemed over stimulated. Now I forbid any electronics after dinner to avoid any potential sleep issues.
Don't be afraid to get AYUDA (help) for you or your child! As mamás we have constant guilt and we're our worst critics. We worry about doing everything right and getting it wrong. But there is NO SHAME in getting help for you or your child. If you're wondering whether your child may have a medical issue, don't hesitate. It's better to be safe than sorry and I'm a firm believer on a mamás 6th sense! Whether it's reaching out to professionals or asking your familia to watch your child while YOU get some sleep, get help. As my doctor once told me, "You need your oxygen mask FIRST before you can put it on your child." I never knew sleep consultants existed until I was at the edge of a nervous sleepless breakdown. I reached out to my What to Expect Group and Ashley from www.carolinasleepconsulting.com was sent like an angel. She helped me when Victoria was a baby and again a few months ago. I cannot thank her enough.