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Get Your Life Back and Get Them to Sleep Through the Night

Updated: Jan 15

We've all had those days where you wake up feeling groggy and need a double shot of espresso after tending to the little one all night. Whether it's going in for nighttime feeds, changing dirty diapers, or helping soothe them back to sleep, sometimes your child just needs their parent's help in the night.

This is normal when you bring your little one home, and most parents feed their child once or twice a night until 6 months of age. Around this age, children tend to be introduced to purées & solids and begin weaning them off their nighttime feeds. It can take a huge toll on your family getting up and interrupting your sleep that often, and it's crucial to take turns with your partner – or lean on close friends to help during this stage. I had a hard time accepting that I couldn't do it all and thought if I asked for any help at all I would be looked down upon as a parent. I wanted to be "Superdad", I was insecure that if I asked someone I trusted for assistance – that they would inevitably judge me. In reality, they just wanted to help me succeed in any way possible and were overzealous to come and see the baby. Most of the time when I had family come over to help they validated the feelings that I was having, and made me feel vindicated in needing a break. Fun fact: sleep deprivation has been used for centuries as a form of torture and interrogation – try telling that to your 12-month-old.

Sleep is crucial to you and your little one, and when both of you aren't getting it – no one is going to be happy. Not only can sleep deprivation turn you into a grumpy bear, but it can also cause a slew of health problems, including catching more colds or putting on some unwanted pounds. Mood swings, higher blood pressure, and memory issues may start onsetting when you haven't gotten enough REM sleep and can even lower your sex drive.

This concoction of side effects, a crying baby, and cleaning up obscene amounts of poop is enough to stress anyone – which can cause tensions to be elevated in your home. If you haven't already learned, children are just smaller versions of the Predator and will smell the fear off of you. Take it from one anxious father, if you're stressed out - then your child will be too.

Improving your child's sleep is by no means an easy task, but if you search online on how to do it, you'll be barraged with a slew of influencers and medical professionals peddling their version of a perfect sleep for your child. Sleep training is an oversaturated industry where marketers prey on parents' insecurities about getting their children to sleep through the night. If you end up comparing your baby's sleep to their milestones or timelines, you can start to feel inferior for not meeting them. Even if you know where to look – it can feel like a treasure hunt. From books, podcasts, and dedicated sleep influencers – it seems like there's a different flavor of sleep training for every parent out there.

One particularly helpful person we gravitated towards while trying to learn about this

mysterious sleep training was Taking Cara Babies. She has quite a lot of content on her Instagram and sells her sleep training course, a PDF package with videos, for around USD 500. My wife and I are both very frugal, and as much as we wanted our little one to sleep through the night, there's no way we could justify paying for that. Luckily, she does post quite a lot of content on her Instagram and with some research, my wife and I were able to gather enough information so that we could attempt to get our little one to sleep through the night.

When she was around 4 months old we were finally able to get some REM sleep and turn back into real humans. Four main things helped us get our daughter to sleep through the night, one was setting strict times for ourselves to follow using the cry-it-out method. We would bring her to her room 30 minutes before her bedtime to allow her to fully wind down. This 30-minute routine (which we kept the same every night) consisted of a diaper change, feed, a quiet story, and dim lighting. Once her nighttime routine was finished we always made sure to lay her in her crib awake. We decided on a schedule and how long we were willing to wait before going in, and we promised to follow through and not break our plan. The first time was excruciating – we huddled around the monitor while listening to her scream at the top of her lungs and squirm around. This had to be one of the longest 15 minutes of my life, but we pushed through and truly believed it was going to work. As the week had gone on we noticed it started taking her less time to soothe herself and by about a week and a half, she was able to put herself to sleep on her own. She was finally able to self-soothe and ended up waking up less than she usually would. Her sleep didn't completely change overnight, but we were able to see improvements quicker than we had expected. Esmée would still wake up and need our help now and then, and we found it difficult to leave her once we had gone into soothe.

So we decided that because our daughter enjoyed holding our hands when being soothed, we would get her a 'Pookie' Around 3 months old we got this little bashful pig, and it helped her self-soothe as well as significantly reduce the number of times we would have to go in altogether, she'd start crying and find the little guy, and have something that smelled familiar to her. Not only does Pookie help her sleep better, it makes sleepovers and naps at the in-laws go much more smoothly because she's able to have something familiar with her no matter where we go. When she recently started daycare, we purchased a second pig so that she could have the old one, and the transition was painless. Please make sure you discuss this with your pediatrician before giving your child anything to sleep with, according to AAP guidelines – sleeping with a stuffed animal can lead to an increased risk of SIDS.

I am a very analytical person, and I wanted a tangible way to know that Esmée was sleeping better throughout the night. I found an app called Huckleberry that helped me track and organize my child's sleeping patterns. Not only did this give us peace of mind but it was helpful when we asked our pediatrician about her sleeping habits and could show her a graph of the last month. I will preface that the app is only as good as you put in, you must be diligent with tracking your child's sleep and noting when they wake. I only used the free version of the app to utilize the tracking feature. We used the app to track wake windows and naps while ensuring she was sleeping better.

We compared her results to Taking Cara Babies milestones – and tried our best to make sure Esmée was meeting them. As strict as we were with the 6-month sleep schedule shown to the right, I ensured that we stayed flexible enough to edit it for special occasions. Whether it was skipping a nap during the day while out on an adventure or staying out late for a family dinner – we didn't want to say no to something because we were chained to a schedule.

We are quite a loud family and our bedrooms are below our living room, this meant we had to be extra quiet to not wake the baby. One item that we received as a gift from Esmée's Godmother that helped combat this was the Hatch Rest, it's a sound machine that you can control from your phone. It's also a nightlight and is easy to preset so that you only need to tap the top. Make sure you don't put it too close to the crib or loud because your little one's ears are sensitive, it also works better closer to the door where sounds can sneak in.

Once we got Pookie and our sound machine, we had Esmée sleeping through the night most of the time – but she would still wake up during her naps. We tried adjusting her schedule but nothing would work. We finally realized that there was light coming through her window, and waking her up. When we first realized the issue, we duct-taped garbage bags to our windows, and lough and behold our problem was solved. We ended up upgrading to blackout curtains and another tip we picked up from Cara was purchasing portable blackout curtains because we spent so much with family.

The final thing to help munchkin sleep through the night was a sleep-sack and a winning attitude. Imagine a giant snuggie that zips up – but for children! It allows her arms to be out and free but makes sure she always stays warm throughout the night. Teaching her how to be a good sleeper along with giving her all the tools she needed wouldn't have worked if we didn't believe in her. It's important to be optimistic and to not take your stress on the baby, remember they're not trying to give you a hard time – they're just having one. Be as empathetic as possible and set yourself up for success in any way can and before you know it, you might get a good night's sleep.

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