Ohhhhh sleep. Such an elusive thing. Like a crazy mistress I just can’t get enough of – and one who sometimes shuns my aggressive advances.

We’re quite lucky, really. We’ve known it all along, and yet things have just kept getting better and better. It’s unbelievable when compared to other babies the same age as ours. I keep my mouth shut during breastfeeding group when other moms lament their lack of sleep. I don’t want to rub our good fortune in their faces, or to make any enemies just yet! : )

But things have been good. Very good. Here’s what we’ve done:

First, we had to get our days and nights straightened out.  Let me talk a bit about the early days – some things that I haven’t shared on the blog before….

The NICU helped our girls get on a schedule, but it was the same schedule no matter what time of day or night and when we brought the babies home they were completely backward on days and nights: they napped for good chunks of the day and stayed up all.night.long. Chris and I devised a plan wherein I fed/changed/and cared for the girls for the majority of the night since I was staying home during the days and could nap while he had to go to work. I took the first shift – from about 10pm (when Chris went to bed) until about 4am. If the girls woke up and cried/needed to eat/etc from 4am-7am Chris was on duty (he leaves for work at 7am). That way we both got a good chunk of sleep. This worked most of the time. Though there were nights when the girls were completely inconsolable from 10pm all the way until 3am. Nights when I would sit on the floor of the kitchen holding two screaming babies and sob because I was so tired and couldn’t seem to get them to quiet down and fall asleep. On those nights I would wake Chris to help me and I’m so lucky that he never complained once. And somehow he had the magic touch because on those nights he would let me crawl back into bed exhausted and take over…..and then the girls would instantly stop fussing and fall asleep. I don’t know how he did it!?

throwback NICU photo

For a long time I resisted sleep training because I was just trying to survive. I knew I needed to keep the babies awake during the day in order for them to sleep at night, but when you’re running on 4 hours of broken sleep and your babies have finally decided to nap during the day….you let them nap and you go back to sleep too! Thats what I did, at least!

But somewhere along the way I knew things had to change. Slowly, but surely we got there – it was a progression.

I kept things very cave-like at night. No more lights, no TV or radio, no play-time. If the girls were going to be awake and fussing, they would do it in the dark. They got fed and diapers were changed as needed, but no more fun stuff. I only held them to soothe and rock them back to sleep – not to dance and sing and play. I think this helped a great deal.

First the girls started really going to bed around midnight, then bedtime crept to about 10:30pm, then to 9:30pm, and now they’re regularly going to sleep at about 8 or 8:30pm (though things definitely fluctuate still!) I think the change was largely due to a concerted effort to keep them awake during the day, which allowed them to be more tired at night, coupled with my efforts to keep nights play-free. Nights were meant for sleeping – not fun and games!

Once the girls had their days and nights worked out and they were going to bed at a “normal” bedtime, the next step was to have them sleep longer. Enter: swaddle blankets!!!

We had been swaddling the girls with regular blankets previously. But “normal” blankets were no match for our little munchkins! Within a couple hours they would kick out of their blankets and their flailing arms and legs would wake them up. But I swear – the very first night we used the swaddle blankets our girls slept for 6 hours straight! This was a huuuuuuge turning point in our lives! You can’t imagine how amazing it feels to sleep 6 straight hours until you go for months on end with no more than 4 hours of sleep in a row (side note: we were definitely getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night in total, but it was interrupted with feeds so we never got more than 4 hours in a row). Those swaddle blankets were like little miracles. I hate to rely so heavily on them, but they’ve made such a huge difference for us that we are still using them now. I won’t wean them off the swaddle until they have better control of their limbs.

After 2 weeks of the girls sleeping for 6 hours, they slowly started to stretch their sleep out even longer. First they would sleep from 10-4. Now they’re sleeping from 8 or 8:30-4 or 4:30. That’s a full 8 hours of sleep!!! I never thought this would happen with 3 month olds!!!

Now that nights are a dream (pun intended!), I needed to straighten out our days.

Stay Tuned for a Sleep Training Part II post:  Daytime Naps!

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