One of the scariest things I heard repeatedly when my wife was expecting was “the hardest part is not getting any sleep”. I heard it over and over again from friends our age, one of whom got a far-away look in his eye when saying it, as if he longed for a solid 8-hours of sleep, which he hadn’t had in years. Another friend put it to me like this: “it’s like torture, man. You know what they do to you when they torture you? They screw up your sleep schedule, don’t let you get deep sleep. That is exactly what the baby does to you.” With this kind of insight, it is no surprise that I was less and less excited about having a child after every friend I talked to.
When the little guy woke up a lot in the first few weeks, it was because he needed food. And as you know, we are breastfeeding, and since I do not have a breast and I was working, it became clear after a few weeks that there would be no need to get up with my wife, as long as I set her up for success with everything she would need before going to bed.
Over time, it leveled out and the little guy got on a cycle of sleeping from about 8 at night to 6 in the morning, waking up 2-3 times to feed (often we would dream feed). This meant that I had learned to sleep through the night when I heard noises from the little guy. It does not mean that I slept well, it just means I did not wake up fully with every little squeak. When we moved to Hong Kong, I said, “ok, now I am here to take care of the little guy, so wake me up when he makes noises, so I can train myself to hear them, and I will get up so you do not have to.” That did not really work, because my wife still needs to release the pressure in her breasts from the breastmilk, so the cycle continued with her waking up to feed him even though she had to go to work. It is brutal to have this happen from my perspective, because I want to wake up to feed him, but I do not have breasts, and my wife is dedicated to breastfeeding (and needs to breastfeed him at night to keep her milk production up).
Now with the little guy at 5,5 months, we are in a place where he should be getting closer and closer to sleeping thru the whole night without needing feeding, as long as we make sure we get him enough food thru the day, and towards the end of the day especially (a modified version of the EASY Method).
The thing is, now, when he wakes up, he does not need food – my wife told me today that now he is not eating when he wakes up in the night. So basically, he is not really waking up fully, but he needs the comfort of just to have the pacifier put back in his mouth – most of the time if he wakes up it is after squirming around for a while, usually a result of some kind of stomach discomfort that I think can be avoided by making sure we burp him enough and making sure he has the right foods going into his body.
My wife is continually surprised that I do not wake up from his noises in the night. She is sure it will happen when she is not here to wake up from them, which I am not 100% convinced will be the case. My opinion is that we do not need to work on how we wake up to hear the little guy, but instead figure out how to make sure he is sleeping thru the night, and by doing what we can to set him up for success. In other words, let’s not only take the rock out of the shoe, let’s find out where it is coming into the shoe, too. If he is physically comfortable, especially with the awareness of his sensitive stomach, and if he is emotionally comfortable too, and has what he needs with him in bed to feel secure (things that smell like me and my wife, especially while we are traveling), I hope we can then all experience a solid, full night’s sleep.
I think it is easy to focus as parents on solving the problem first, and not focusing on the cause of that problem. With this issue of sleep, if we are not careful it could turn into a viscous cycle where he cannot sleep without being held by his mom every night multiple times. But if we deal with it now, and do things right by following the tips I found, I am optimistic we will be just fine 🙂
Top Tips that I have found consistently:
- Stick with the regular naps (they help babies sleep thru the night)
- Daytime feeds should be more active than nighttime feeds
- Give the baby a “security object” to have in bed with them (blanket, t-shirt that smells like you, etc.)
- Put the baby into bed drowsy, but awake (basically put them in bed when they are falling asleep, but not asleep)
- Wait a few minutes to check on the baby if they are making noise – and when you do go in, do not pick them up right away (if crying, it is a different story)
- Do not stay longer than 2-3 minutes when you do check on them
- Eventually “lengthen” the time it takes to go in to check on them (eventually you will wait 10 minutes, then 15, and so on)
- Burp the baby – especially after feedings that are at bedtime – make sure that “big one” (or 2 or 3) comes out. Do this even if they are sleeping.
- Create a routine. Ex: read a book, say goodnight to the animals and toys, sing a song, and then it’s bedtime.
- Pay attention to light levels – if your baby has never had a pitch dark room, if they wake up in one, they might freak out a little bit
- Be in-sync with your partner about what you are planning to do for your baby’s sleep patterns. Like any plan, getting a solid sleep rhythm will take consistency to be successful.