Operation sleep: the verdict

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They say that us humans sleep for around one third of our lives. I don’t know about you, but these last few months I’ve been struggling to get my quota! Turns out that babies have quite different plans.

Don’t get me wrong – they like their sleep; they’re just not so bothered about you getting yours. But, it’s not all bad. There is a way to readdress the balance. Some lucky mums and dads crack it after just a few weeks with their newborn. Others have a longer battle on their hands. It took us ten months and we’re just about there when it comes to getting a full night’s sleep. Although I’m not convinced that 6am is a reasonable wake up time, especially on a weekend.

I spoke all about how we finally got Ralphie to sleep through in my first ‘Operation sleep‘ post. As we were going through it, it got me thinking…every parent must have their own sleep hacks. Why don’t we share them? And you did, and it has been fantastic!

So, here’s what you lovely mamas (and dadas) have been doing to get your little ones off to the land of nod with as little fuss as possible. Thanks once again for all of your input.

Routine, routine, routine!

Turns out, routine is key to a good night’s sleep. And most of you go for the classic bath, book and bed approach to get your babies settled ready for bed. It works for us too!

@siass_zak: I have always (from birth) had a strict routine with all of my children at bedtime. It’s always been bath no later than 7pm then bed and if they wake never take them out of their own room. With my other three, controlled crying worked. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it’s what my mum did with us and was the only thing that worked. All babies are unique so I think it’s all just trial and error, and what you are comfortable with, and whatever fits into your routine.

@kezla_88: My two monkeys enjoy bathtime every night at 6:45 together, then Bradley has his bedtime bottle while we read him a story. A big squeeze and a few pats on the back, then we lay him in his cot and don’t hear from him till 7am.

@deehollhan: Our constants in an ever-evolving sleep routine are baby massage – particularly legs and often tummy – and a very short story, currently “The dog I love best” – Ned loves it. ‘They’ say repetition is comforting.

@katerodway: Every night so far we have bathtime around 7, smother ourselves in Kokoso coconut oil (it’s amazing!), give Piper a big feed around 8 and she sleeps like an angel most of the night and normally only wakes up once between 3-4am.

@mumandted: I only have three books in his room that I save for ‘bedtime stories’ (he has lots of other books we read downstairs), which I think helps him realise it’s bedtime when he hears the words. They’re all nice sleepy ones – Goodnight Moon, Peepo and Each Peach Pear Plum. I usually just read one or two depending on how tired he is!

@schweenifer: Consistent sleep cues – bedtime at 6.30ish depending on day, change, sleepsuit, red nightlight on (red is the only light that doesn’t stimulate melatonin), black-out blind, white noise (heavy rain), same lullabies. Whenever they stir after 6am we get up and have family cuddles, playtime and sing-songs on our bed until dad has to leave for work and their first nap is due. It’s my favourite part of the day.

Keep them comforted

Dummies, blankets, teddies, Ewan the Sheep, Sleepyhead, muslin label tags (Ralphie’s a special boy!), YOU…whatever it is – babies usually need some kind of comfort for when the lights go out.

@r_deegsxx: Milo is 14 weeks old and he’s recently picked up a habit of only falling asleep in our arms and refusing to be put down, which makes for a very tired mummy and daddy! When he eventually does go down he manages 11pm until 5.30am with the inevitable replace-the-dummy game a few times! We’ll gradually get him to break the habit, but for now we’re enjoying the cuddles.

@ra.and.byron: Fisher Price glow owl all day everyday. Or if that fails, sit on the floor next to their cot and have a stare off for around 45 minutes!

@jo_and_livvy: Bedtime = bath, story, milk and then Sleepyhead. I resisted for ages because of the price, but the Sleepyhead has been amazing for us.

@mummy_and_jack: A Sleepyhead and Ewan the dream sheep have worked well for us, and surrounding him with dummies. And to remember that doing what works for you is all you can do, no matter what the books or your Great Aunt Sheila says. Oh and breastfed babies do sleep through the night so don’t give up if that’s your reason.

@ayesharose: My sleep hack is 100% a Poddle Pod! Eddie point blank refused to sleep unless he was snuggled up on me, which I didn’t mind until he got massive and was basically beating me up in my sleep. The pod makes them feel like they are still being cuddled! 

@liss_andtheboys: Dummies are godsends, so is music, baths before bed relax and I don’t use a baby monitor.

@mywinterandjonah: Jonah usually goes to bed about 8ish himself and sleeps through the night with us (co-sleepers) and I love it. Winter has a @snuzuk pod that attaches to the bed so he’s right in the mix too. It works for us and I love having my cubs nearby. I mourn the day it ends!

Don’t stop the music

Personally I like it to be quiet when I’m lying in bed falling asleep. Some babies, however, have other ideas and like some background noise to accompany their peaceful snores. I’m liking the creativity with this one!

@its_a_jayke_thing: From 13 months, we knew it was time the guy slept and me too. So we found an app on the tablet that makes pretty noises, meaning every single night his bedroom sounds like a tropical rainforest. Works a treat and he has since slept through most nights – thank god for the app, oh and a buzzy bee that plays lullabies and shines stars on the ceiling… and the good old-fashioned dummy.

@mumma_of_ava: We’re slowly developing a routine, but find white noise played on the iPad works a treat in getting her off to sleep!

Feed ’em!

Full tummies keep hunger at bay, and that leads to more sleep. From porridge to milk – get it in them!

@cart_rina: Fill their belly!!! Full belly = full night’s sleep

Channel the night vibes

It can take a while for newborns to figure out the difference between night and day. Most work it out for themselves within a few weeks, but there are a few things you can do to help them out in the meantime.

@coteriekids: Since day one we have separated daytime naps and a good night’s sleep from each other. 1) He sleeps in our bedroom in his crib only during the night. In the day he sleeps in strollers, a baby carrier, a babynest on the sofa or in his second crib. 2) During the night, it’s dark and quiet in the bedroom vs during the day when the sun is shining into our living room and we are chatting and often have (classical) music on.

Be prepared for setbacks

Things change. Teething, colds, jabs, growth spurts or just a bad day – they can all affect your little one’s sleep pattern. It’s up to us to roll with the punches and see it through. You will get there!

@joel_and_mummy: He snores like a walrus! This is a good phase where he’s sleeping. Even at two years old you think you’ve cracked it and they then throw a curve ball and come up with a new problem. Three months ago he got scared seeing his own shadow on the wall one night. It took over a month for him to get over it and not be scared at bedtime. I ended up buying a torch and cutting out dinosaurs to make shadows so he understood and wasn’t scared.

@ragtaggmama: With a teething nine month old, the only sleep hack that will cut it right now is letting him fall asleep on our tummies! Thank goodness for a squidgy mum tum!

@tashaparkerrr: I think it’s easy to panic if they have a few shit days, but I’ve always thought “don’t stress about it and it will always sort itself out” and it has! 

@clempicks: Little piglet has started climbing out of her cot whenever she fancies, so to avoid the second broken ankle in the last year we have opened up the side of her cot and put a double mattress for her to roll onto…

@emjayne0: Once the boys started weaning it all went to pot. They didn’t sleep any more and we went back to co-sleeping and even that didn’t work some nights. It killed us – we would say every night ‘we are NEVER having any more kids’. I called them many names I could not repeat on here and I have apologised to them for calling them these names more times than I can remember. However, about two months ago, I cut out anything sweet from their diet – yoghurts and baby desserts etc…. After two nights of cold turkey twitches they actually slept through the night without a peep! For us, diet has been the #1 sleep hack. Now it’s bath after tea, play time for an hour then in bed with a bottle and I’ll see you at 6.30 am guys! However, I’m just enjoying it whilst it lasts as children are sent to this earth to test us and break us.

Persevere!

I don’t know many teenagers that don’t sleep through, unless they’re partying, of course. Even if it feels like a full night’s kip is as elusive as my chances are of winning an Olympic gold medal, it will happen – eventually! Keep at it. And reassure yourself that loads of us are in the same boat as you.

@shade_of_auburn: The one thing I would say is that most of the time, having spoken to so many friends and read so many forums, babies and sleep (up until a certain point) is a lot down to good luck. Because of this, I haven’t beat myself up about it and tried not to worry too much. But then he sleeps enough for me to function, it might be different if he didn’t! At one point I thought I would never sleep again, but we do. We still have the occasional night feed/play but it’s not that often. It won’t last forever and I have a great husband who helps me out.

@hollypop8686: When they are tiny and sleep all day and not at night – it’s all new and so tiring! And then they’re almost 50 weeks and they crawl and climb all day, and you have work and they still don’t sleep…. I now know what ‘I’m tired’ really means.

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Seven months of snoozing

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I had hoped I would start this post by proudly announcing that Ryan and I have finally assembled Ralphie’s cot. But it hasn’t happened yet. The weekend got quite away from us. The sun was shining and Harry Potter was on the tele – a dangerous combination for avoiding chores.

So it’s at least a few more days in the Snuzpod for Ralphie. I’m sure he doesn’t mind; he’s quite cosy in there. And it means he still gets to sleep next to me!

Now six and a half months old, our boy is getting maximum use out of his little bed. The good folks at The Little Green Sheep recommend you use it until your baby reaches the six month mark, when they can roll over, sit, or pull themselves up. Ralphie can do the first two, but we’ll definitely have him in his cot before he shows any signs of being able to escape. We hope!

It’s quite an investment. Including the mattress, the Snuzpod will set you back about £200. And then you have the mattress protector and sheets on top of that – pretty hefty compared to most moses baskets.

Luckily for us, ours was a generous gift. And it has been by far our most useful, particularly considering that I ended up having an emergency Caesarean section.

For the first few nights, Ralphie slept on his dad’s side of the bed, because I couldn’t twist to pick him up, but after that it was ideal for me. When he woke up for a feed, I could easily whip him out, latch him on and then, when he was done, put him back. Even if I was half asleep – and I usually was – it didn’t take much effort to return him to his own safe sleeping place. I don’t know why, but I was absolutely paranoid about falling asleep with him in the bed with us. I used to wake regularly with a start and frantically ask Ryan where the baby was. Of course, he was in his crib. Crazy lady!

But let me start at the beginning. How did we fair building it? Not too bad, which is pretty good for us! We’ve been known to have raging arguments when assembling furniture together. A rocking chair once nearly ended us.

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I was heavily pregnant at the time, so relegated to the role of assistant – passing Ryan the parts and reading the instructions. It was our most successful team build yet. A few minor mistakes and a couple of hours later and we were done – and we were still talking to each other.

The quality of the crib is second to none. You could tell that before we’d even unpacked it; the box was so heavy. Solid beach wood, thick cotton sides – it’s a robust bit of kit.

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It looks great too. I didn’t know it at the time, but you can buy it in different colours. We have the classic beechwood, but it also comes in grey, white and black – very cool for you monochrome lovers out there.

For the first three months, we had the Snuzpod attached to our bed with the included straps. I had the side down and it was lovely being able to lie next to Ralphie and hold his hand or stroke his head if he was a bit unsettled.

Since then, we’ve used it as a standalone bed. It’s still right next to me, but after sleeping better in his very cosy carrycot when we were away, I thought I’d see if he slept more soundly being a little more enclosed. I think it was the right move.

Although Ralphie has now exceeded the recommended age for the Snuzpod, I’m in no rush to turf him out. There’s something very reassuring about having your sleeping baby next to you. Plus, he does still wake in the night for a feed – or two – so it’s easier for me. Of course, we could have his cot in the room with us instead, but it’s big and I’m not quite sure where it would comfortably fit.

It’ll be a sad day when we pack the Snuzpod away and move Ralphie into his nursery, but the time is coming. And this, I would say, is its biggest flaw. You mean we have to unbuild it in order to store it? We’re not exactly blessed with much storage in our house, so putting it away whole is not an option. Actually, I don’t even know where we’re going to put it once it has been unassembled!

So would I recommend the Snuzpod. In short, yes. But if money is a bit tight then I wouldn’t say it’s an essential. When we go to my mum and dad’s, Ralphie sleeps perfectly well in his carry cot, which we prop up on a stool. At home, we would have to lug this up and downstairs, which admittedly would be a pain, but not the end of the world.

What I will say is that I feel very glad to own one, and we will be keeping hold of it for Ralphie’s future siblings (I hope!). In the meantime, if anyone has somewhere we can store it, feel free to get in touch!

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