The Sleep Zone

It’s all about that sleep when it comes to babies. Those little critters are notorious for not snoozing when you want them to. But you know what? I don’t want to sleep when someone has told me to. I sleep when I need to. What I have found is, it’s easier to not expect so much – a baby will sleep eventually, because they are human. (I know. It doesn’t always seem that way.) They need sleep, they get sleepy, (they get exhausted, sometimes) and their little eyes always eventually tire. But, I think a million things happen along the way to bedtime – and naptime – that circumvent a baby falling asleep easily or peacefully.

The only times I have been frustrated at Rad’s bedtime are when I have an agenda, a goal in mind (yousleepnow) and the minutes pass away with no progress. So, I don’t do that anymore. You can read a billion different theories on babies and sleep and multiple different strategies for getting your baby to sleep but here is what I have figured out – get them into the sleep zone.

When you read sleep theories and sleep suggestions, there are so many options and so many successful solutions but I think the main points I have gleaned after pouring over books and websites and listening to friends’ stories is that when babies are exhausted, you have missed a window of opportunity. Also, a routine is elemental. So, let’s say you choose something like a bath and a book and a song – if baby is super tired, something is going to go wrong. He or she may either have trouble getting to sleep, may have a fitful sleep or may wake early. (Or all three. Been there.)

I like to think of it this way – when I am really tired, I don’t want someone in my face – touching me, reading to me, talking to me, singing at me, moving me around, staring at me. I don’t want to be listening to really loud noises (i.e. sleep sheeps turned up way past full volume.) And to be honest, I don’t want to jump into the shower or tub, get wet, get cold when I get out of the water, and then have my pajamas stick to me because I am lathered up in oil or lotion.

The best sleeps that I have are when I relax for a little while in bed and then nod off to sleep.

I’m coming at Rad’s bedtime like he is the same as his mommy.

So, before baby gets really tired, start slowing things down. Take your time. Don’t decide on a bedtime routine and insist that there is a strict timeframe for it all to happen in – three books = 10 minutes, three songs = 5 minutes, rock, rock, rock = 15 minutes. I have found that the timeframe works itself out. It all essentially happens in the same amount of time, but sometimes it might take longer. Not to worry.

We head to Rad’s bedroom. Get on a fresh diaper. PJs. Take the vocals down a notch. I always toss in a, “It’s night, night. Time for sleep, Rad.” We still laugh if something is funny. I pull out a book or two and read if it fits the moment. Rad nurses. Maybe we turn to another book. These days he is into crawling around on top of me like Mt. Everest. Cool. Get the wiggles out. Eventually, he nods off. But, it takes time. And, so I tell myself it’ll take time.

And no matter the evening, no matter if we get to books or not, the one thing we have always done is sing a bedtime song. A song that we have always sung before sleep. (We have three go-tos.) Rad’s brain can’t help but make the association. (Even I get drowsy now too.)

I started singing this one within the first few days home from the hospital. It’s fun to come up with a personalized lullaby for your little one, but assuming your ridiculously exhausted brain isn’t up for it, sub in your baby’s name to the below lyrics. And, sleep tight. (Well, your baby. We all know we won’t ever sleep tight again.)

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Baby Rad

Who’s that rocking with Mom?

It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley

Who’s that rocking with Mom?
It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley

And I love you, I love you
From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels
I love you, I love you

From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels

And, who’s that chilling with Dad?

It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley
Who’s that chilling with Dad?
It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley

And he loves you, he loves you

From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels
He loves you, he loves you
From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels

Who’s that snuggling with Grandma?
It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley
Who’s that snuggling with Grandma?

It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley

And she loves you, she loves you
From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels
She loves you, she loves you

From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels

And who’s that giggling with Grandpa?

It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley
Who’s that giggling with Grandpa?

It’s Baby Rad, Baby Radley

And we love you, we all love you
From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels
We love you, we all love you
From the top of your hair, down to your sweet heels

Other tips I have picked up along the way, from other parents and, well, from first-hand experience…

Routine: Routines are tops. I mean, we all love a schedule – not just babies – because most of us humans like to know what’s coming. Surprises can be fun, but never when we are tired. I don’t do a bath with Rad every night before bed but I have often read it can be a good one to throw into the nightly mix. Here’s an interesting fact about it – the onset of sleep at night comes from a drop in body temperature, so let’s say you have baby’s room set to a cool temp (say, 65 F), after he or she gets all warm and toasty from his or her bath, baby’s body temperature will drop, inducing sleep. If it’s a routine you are up for, go for it. I like our short and simple routine, as I mentioned above. Bedtime for Rad may involve books but sometimes I realize he is past the point for books. So, I skip them. (As he gets older, it will definitely become a more standard routine. What kid doesn’t love three books before bed? Well, I hope my kids do.) But, that song, after PJ’s – that is always our routine. I think it’s all about keeping baby in the same room and heading into bedtime around the same time each night. (Unless you’re traveling, but then that’s why the other parts of the routine are key, like a particular lullaby.) Remember – don’t lose your awesomeness over it if you are early or late into bedtime – just generally the same time seems to work. And, if your baby isn’t sick, teething or going through some wild growth spurt, things should probably work out alright. Most importantly – find your own routine. Some parents co-sleep, some parents opt for the cry-it-out method, some moms are nursing, some are not feeding during the night at all – there are so many variations. You need to listen to your instincts and find what works for your little family. And, once you stick to this routine – and balance it out with your baby’s daytime naps (because those are elemental too) – parents swear they get a baby who sleeps through the night.

DefinitesDark rooms. No distinct noises. And try to make it so baby isn’t dependent on you to fall asleep. (Rad is dependent on us to fall asleep. We did that to ourselves. We are aware. We will break this.) The top suggestion? Get baby drowsy (Sleep Zone!), put baby in crib, and either sit there until he or she falls asleep or stand at the door or walk out of the room. You decide on that one but likely it will be a progression. Then baby falls asleep on his or her own. We had Rad doing this and then too many changes happened in our daily lives and we lost track of that routine and now he nurses to sleep or falls asleep on his Dad’s chest. We’ll figure it out though.

Sleep Sheep: I just wanted to include a note that my above knock against the full volume Sleep Sheep wasn’t to suggest that there is anything wrong with the Sleep Sheep. In fact, we love this guy. I use it more than Rad does. I just realize that sometimes this isn’t what Rad wants in the background. More than routine, I just try to assess the moment – does it seem like a faux beachfront vacation home vibe is what Baby Rad is up for? Oui? Non? (The ocean wave sound is our go-to.)

Newborn Tip: Creating sound makes me think – newborns crave a full-blown surround sound. Turn the vacuum on. Get the Sleep Sheep cranked. (This is the time for full-volume sound machine.) Or, I read this in the first week after having Rad and it definitely created some much-needed comfort for him at times – shush really loudly and evenly into your baby’s ear. Swear, it works. Teeny tiny babes just need to be reminded that the world is a safe place. If it sounds like the safe momma home they grew up in for 40-or-so-weeks, that’ll supply some essential security and shelter.

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Radley and Sleep Sheep

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