It was another exhausting day. My 4 months old daughter was fast asleep at 8 pm , while her twin brother was still at the prime of his alertness and demanding attention and play from his ever- so-tired mom.
After toiling for a good 3-4 hours with my son, I finally put him to sleep at 11:30pm . I retreated back to my room , straightened my spine and just as I shut my eyes, a shrieking cry jolted me out of bed .
My daughter had woken up .
My sleep deprived self , soothed her and fed her . I tried putting her to sleep in her cot , but as soon as I put her to bed , she started crying. She was fully awake and in the mood for some play . And why not ? She had been sleeping blissfully for hours . But sadly for her mother , not at the same time as her brother. So while she was refreshed , I was tired , extremely tired.
It was going to be a long night .
My daughter eventually went to sleep at 6 am . In between all this , my son , though asleep , had woken up twice to be fed and dozed off again.
My patience had now run out.
This is when I finally decided to Sleep Schedule my twins.
I read a lot of literature on it and this is how I sleep scheduled them in 3 days flat !
- If you are against putting baby on a schedule , this article is not for you .
- This is for sleep deprived parents who are looking for healthy solutions.
Does this method involve letting baby Cry?
No ! This is a gentle way of helping your baby sleep better , besides helping you.
Does baby sleeping through the night means night weaning ?
Sleeping through the night has varying definitions as the baby grows .
A baby less than 4 months will invariably wake every 4 hours for feed .
A baby 4-7 months of age , has one long stretch of sleep once a day which can range from 4-6 hours . We plan to shift this longest stretch during the night time through this method.
A baby of 7-9 months of age can sleep for 6-8 hours at a stretch without a feed .
A baby 9 months and above should sleep through the night for 8- 10 hours without requiring night feed / dream feed (feeding while sleeping ) . Some may require one feed at night.
When to start sleep scheduling?
The best time to start is 4-6 months of age , as this is when they are figuring out the circadian rhythm .
Before 4 months of age , their biological clock is not matured.
Helping a baby distinguish between day and night, while his circadian rhythm and nervous system mature, can fasten development of healthy sleep patterns.
The right amount of consolidated sleep at the right time comprises a healthy sleep.
You can try to put baby on schedule any time after 4 months.
Start when the baby is healthy. If baby is going through a sickness, teething or growth spurt, it might disrupt the schedule.
Day time schedule:
- Wake the baby by 8 – 8:30 am in the morning. Be gentle.
- Make sure you switch on the lights and allow sunlight to light the room.
- You can also take the baby to the balcony later, and let him soak some sunlight.
- Throughout the day , follow EAT-ACTIVITY-SLEEP cycle till 5 – 5 : 30 pm.
- It implies : After waking up let them EAT (breastfeed / formula feed/solids) , followed by a period of ACTIVITY ( put them in the baby gym or activity center , or spread their toys on their play mat and let them enjoy for atleast 60 to 90 minutes) , followed by SLEEP ( let them tire themselves out and when they give sleep cues , put them to SLEEP) . The day time sleep should not be more than 2 to 2 1/2 hours at one stretch.
- Ideally, help them to nap when you receive sleep cues like , rubbing eyes , yawning, arching back , frowning, gentle cry, grunting. Do not let them get VERY TIRED – which is signaled by crying, or else putting them to sleep will become further difficult.
- A usual sleep cycle lasts from 90 to 120 minutes. Initially babies take 2-3 naps a day, but later as they grow (by 9-12 months) they shift to 1-2 long naps a day.
- After 5:30 pm , DO NOT let them sleep. In case of babies younger than 7 months , a small cat-nap of less than 30 minutes is allowed after 5:30 pm and before bedtime. If they take cat-nap, do not let it extend beyond 30 minutes.
- From 5:30 pm to Bedtime : establish a play routine and a bedtime routine.
A late bedtime will not help your baby sleep longer. It will make your baby over tired and over tired babies are more cranky and further difficult to put to bed.
In case of babies, sleep begets sleep. The earlier they go to bed, the longer they will sleep.
A baby needs 10-12 hours of sleep at night. Hence, if the wake up time in 8:30 am , then the baby should be put to bed by 8:30 pm. You can shift it earlier if you want, but do not make it later than this.
Bedtime Routine :
From 5:30 pm to one hour before bedtime, play with your baby , take him for an evening stroll , feed him and sing to him. Keep him active.
One hour before Bedtime (~7:15 pm) : Start with your bedtime routine.
Various options for bedtime routine include :
- Read books.
- Give a warm bath
- Give a baby massage
- Sing lullabies
- Play soothing music
- Nursing/ bottle feeding.
Establish a bedtime environment :
- Dim down the lights. Invest in a good night light.
- Close blinds and curtains
- Make the baby wear comfortable sleep sack or pajamas
- Turn on white noise.(optional)
The bedtime routine I follow is :
- Give them a nice massage.
- Prepare a warm bath , and let them play with splash books and toys in the bath tub.
- Put on comfortable night wear.
- Take them to their room .
- Dim the lights, switch on the night light and AC (temperature set at 24 degree C)
- Read them a book or play lullabies on my mobile ( I use Saavn app) .
- Nurse them / Bottle feed them .
- Initially when my daughter was <6 months old , I used to rock her to sleep. Some babies require rocking while some don’t . Do as your baby demands, no habits stay forever , so do not worry.
- Put them in the crib when they become drowsy and not asleep. Do not feed/rock them until completely sleepy. This way they will learn to put themselves to sleep from drowsy state. It will help them to learn to self soothe themselves during midnight awakenings.
During the night:
- Baby will awaken again and again to feed depending on his age. Let them feed and retreat back to sleep.
- Do not actively play with them or put on the lights during midnight awakenings.
- If they require to be soothed at night, rhythmically pat on their back, sing them a lullaby or rock them to sleep .
- If baby cries, pick them up, put their head on your shoulder , walk and soothe them back.
- You can also use bouncer/rocker /cradle/wear your baby.
With twins , there is an added problem. If one of them cries at night, the other can wake up as well. Hence initially, many times we put them to sleep one by one, or let them sleep in two different rooms.
Practice daily and Stay CONSISTENT !
Do not give up in a day or two, practice daily and within a few days your baby’s longest stretch of sleep will synchronize with night time. Later as they grow and their night feeds reduce, they will be able to sleep through the night. By putting them on a sleep schedule , you will also be able to night-wean them when time comes.
Please remain CONSISTENT. Do not disrupt your child’s sleep schedule for anything less than a natural calamity. If you want to go out for a late night party, kindly ask someone to babysit your child, but do not trouble them by taking them along and asking them to stay awake longer than usual. Respect their schedule and they will prove to you how adorable they can be.
Respect an EARLY BEDTIME. Do not try to schedule them to a late bedtime. It is not healthy for them. If you sleep late, kindly put them to sleep in another room with adequate night environment.
They will get so used to their bedtime , that they will ask or rather beg you to put them to bed by 8:30 pm , even if you feel like playing with them more.
What you choose to do with the ‘ME’ time after 8:30 pm , is entirely on you ! And after you do this, the first person to thank you will be your dear Husband, because Voila! you will also be able to manage some ‘WE’ time.
P.S: It took me exactly 3 days to put my twins to a sleep schedule. I received a lot of doubt and questions from my family and nanny , as they had never heard of this before, but now they are amazed how well adjusted my kids are. My nanny also gets a full night’s sleep because of this one decision.
Sleep scheduling also helped us while travelling with our twins. It was easier to plan with their established routine.
If you have any doubts , you can reach me personally on my Facebook page . I will send you the sleep schedule cheat sheet that I followed !
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