Sleep... As kids we hated it. In our teens we loved sleeping in, as older and freer adults we think we don't need it. As parents we crave for it and as we grow older the more worries we have, the lesser hours of sleep we get. If it's one thing I lost that I still dream of getting back its my sleep. 8-10 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Because I am still breast feeding, I only get a maximum of 8hours until I am awakened by the pain that a full tank causes. So no matter how much I want to stay in bed and go back to sleep I am forced to get up and unleash the milk. As new parents all we want is for our babies to sleep through the night, sleeping through the night means 5-6hours of sleep. To be able to make that happen as early in their life as possible I have a few tips you can try. These aren't secrets I have unearthed from the secret sleep cave, these are just common sense things that we forget due to our own lack of sleep.
Of course make sure that baby is well fed, clean and comfy...
#1 Don't let them nap too long and too deep in the afternoons. When napping open the blinds or curtains, let the light in. If they nap too long or too close to bedtime, its only natural that they will stay up later and wont sleep as long during the night. During the night, turn off all the lights.
#2 Start a routine and keep to it. Some moms like to massage baby before sleeping, others read them books or you can even play them soft music. Both M1 and M2 have the same routine, they get bathed again in the afternoon or just wiped clean, drink milk and then lights are off and they are put to bed. Any calm soothing activity is okay, but don't do 4-5 activities you don't want to over stimulate during the night.
#3 Start as you mean to go on. This not only applies to sleep routines but to everything else as well. With M1 she got used to being carried, rocked and sung to when being put to sleep. Until now at 2yrs old she still likes that. With M2 she got used to being rocked in her rocker and fell asleep on her own, now she's used to being put in the crib and literally falls asleep on her own just sucking on her fingers. I've seen a dad bop up and down to calm his little baby during his sister's wedding. We do whatever it takes to make them stop crying but remember, start as you mean to go on. If your knees can't take the bopping, don't start it. :)
#4 Consult their schedule so you know what's going to happen next, take cues from them too. They thrive when they follow routines so stick to that and you'll know generally what time they'll be tired but not exhausted when putting them to bed. http://mommabearstales.blogspot.com/2011/02/record-everything.html
#5 Don't look at your baby in the eye when putting her to sleep. It just encourages her to play with you. Look at her belly or away from her so you don't strike a conversation anymore. With toddlers, if they talk to you just answer with 2 words or less and tell them to close their eyes and you do the same too. Some moms falls asleep before the kids do and theres nothing wrong with that. :)
#6 Don't wait for them to tell you they're tired, they won't. Set a time and stick to that. As toddlers they will fight you on sleep. They will want to play til they can't anymore, they can't tell time yet so instead of saying "its 8pm its time for bed", give them a warning 30mins ahead of time. Say "its time to go to sleep soon" and by the time its really time to sleep they'll have had enough time to deal with it and let you put them to sleep. Get the time they usually wake up and count how many hours they need to sleep at their age and then you'll know what time they have to be put to bed. Maxine wakes up at 6am, she needs 10-11 hours of sleep so she goes to bed at 7 and falls asleep an hour or less after that.
#7 Give them sleep inducing snacks like a glass of warm milk or whole wheat bread with peanut butter.
#8 Lastly, there is no right or wrong thing to do... Do what works for you and if they don't stop crying, don't worry, they will! They will cry until they are so tired they will fall asleep on their own. I witnessed this happen when M2 was in the hospital and the doctor kept trying to put her IV in. Doctor tried for an hour so M2 cried for an hour. She eventually fell asleep even as they were still poking and prodding her. So the last thing you can do is do nothing. But I don't think any new mom can do that and before you even think about doing it, read up on the dos and don'ts of the cry it out method. :)