Mythical Sleeping Babies - its all about personality.
My darling husband and I both giggled the first time we heard the term "mythical sleeping babies" as we have been blessed to have two of them. I wish I could share our secrets to this success, but I can honestly say it isn't all about us. Sure there are things we do that have encouraged sleep, and I will share those below. But more importantly it is about their sleep personalities.
Both our boys appear to have their father's sleep personality. They wake up when day breaks. They nap when they get tired. They go to sleep when it gets dark. Rob is 46 and largely still follows this pattern. When he is at home all day (weekends, vacations etc) he will often have a nap in the middle of the day. Most often all Rob has to do is lift his feet off the floor, stretch out on the sofa, close his eyes and yes, he is sound asleep. I rather envy this ability to sleep any time and any place. I on the other hand take a long time to fall asleep, so naps don't happen unless I'm very ill. I will naturally stay up late and then sleep late. I take forever to actually wake up mentally too. My family never speak to me in the morning until I've been awake for at least an hour.
One thing Rob and I share though is that we like our own space when we sleep. We are not one of those couples who can fall asleep snuggled up to each other. When its time to go to sleep we both turn away from the other person and curl up on our own sides of the bed. It turns out that unsurprisingly both our boys are the same way. There was a large part of me that wanted to have snuggly babies. I like the idea of my baby sleeping next to me during the night so I don't have to get out of bed for middle of the night feeds. I also like the idea of night feeding as a benefit to both the baby and me. When Seth was born I tried having him in bed with me. Even as a newly born baby he didn't like the idea as much as I did. Sure he would fall asleep as I nursed him, but to stay asleep for more than 10 minutes he had to be put down, in his own space. I can tell you that having a newborn wake up after only 10 minutes of sleep makes for one very overtired baby (not to mention exhausted parents.) As much as I like the idea, so far with the children we have, co-sleeping has not worked for us.
What I have learned so far that the issue of sleep is different for each of us, both as babies and adults. Like so many of the "rules" of parenting it is never going to be a one size fits all. We are too unique for that. Instead the best success for us has come from parenting each child as best fits their personalities as well as ours. Sleep really is no different.
So what has worked for us:
1. The most important one by far for us has been to not allow them to get overtired. When it does happen it is always a recipe for disaster. My sons don't sleep well when they get this way. They will often wake up after only 20-30 minutes of sleep if they have gotten overtired before going to sleep. The saying "sleep begets sleep" is definitely true in our home.
2. Giving them their own space to sleep in. Just like us, our boys want and need their own space to have a good sleep. While other babies may prefer to sleep snuggled up to mama, in our experience it has been the opposite. I still dream of having a baby who wants me so much that they love to sleep on me, but so far the ones I have prefer some space, and like having their own crib.
3. Being home for most of their time. Just like their mama, these boys are home bodies. They like to be in familiar surroundings to sleep well. They just don't sleep as soundly or for as long when we are anywhere else. They like their own bed for sleep. This is also very true for naps, especially given that they won't nap on me past 8 weeks of age.
4. Routine. They both respond best to a steady routine. While we don't have set times for anything for the most part, we do have a reasonably predictable routine. It starts when the first one wakes up and goes from there. The only day our routine changes is Sunday, when we have church, and they have to change out some of the routine around the time of the church service.
I know many mamas of young children around the same ages as mine. I know from talking with these women that there are as many variations as there are children. Some have children that all have different sleep personalities, and that is probably the most challenging aspect of both parenting and sleep. Some have babies that will catnap all day long, just as long as they are touching their mama. Some have babies that don't nap at all even at 6 months old. Some have babies that awake every hour or two throughout the night. Some babies love to snuggle and nurse to sleep. Some like being rocked or swayed. Some like to just be put down and left alone. The other thing I have learned is that some need more sleep and some need less.
The most important lesson I have learned about sleep from my boys is to do what works for them rather than what I thought I would do before they were born.
I have a feeling this is going to be a lesson I learn over and over again throughout this parenting adventure.
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The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.