I found with my twin boys that what we did during the day was just as important to night-time happenings (or lack of happenings) as what we did for a bedtime routine or during the night.
0 - 3 Months:
- During this time eating, sleeping, diapering, etc. just seemed to happen 'round the clock with not much awake time. As preemies, ours were very sleepy. They didn't sleep much at one time, but in general weren't awake for long stretches of time either. So during this time you just have to roll with it and get through it, and do what must be done. I don't really believe a lot of sleep training, per se, can happen during this time (for preemies. Not sure on full-term singletons.)
- Even so, I did a few things to try and differentiate day and night for them. I tried to change the babies in the morning out of pajamas and into clothes so they would feel different.
|D, getting dressed for the day on the changing table!|
- For naps, I tried as much as possible to have them sleep in their cribs so that there would be a stronger association with that place and sleep.
- I had the TV on in the background, or music playing, or I would try to sing and talk to the babies a lot, so that they would know that the bright daytime was the time for noisemaking.
- We took a walk outside every day for fresh air. Maybe it's my love of the 1950s, but I do feel even babies need "airing out." In a humorous article on 1950s parenting, Louise Baty says about an old fashioned stroller:
"There’s plenty of room for her to stretch out – ideal in the 1950s when parents were urged to give their offspring daily doses of fresh air."
- We started doing tummy time as soon as possible, even just a few minutes at a time and building up to 20 minutes at a time by the time they were 3 months old. This "exercise" helped tire them out for naps and later, for bedtime.
3 - 6 Months:
- During this time we continued all of the daytime steps listed above. The boys were slowly stretching out their nighttime feedings but we hadn't started any formal sleep training.
- We also tried to settle into a more predictable napping schedule in these months. For awhile they took a 2 hour nap in the morning and a 2 hour nap in the afternoon. But they couldn't quite make it from the last nap all the way until bedtime, and so they took a 30 minute to an hour nap in the early evening as well. This was an awkward time; they would get so cranky and I never knew how long to let them sleep in the 3rd nap without having it interfere with bedtime.
- As they got older we were able to use more the baby contraptions that had been gifted to us, and which helped entertain and keep the boys awake in the evening, and thoroughly tire them out for bedtime, such as: the exersaucer, activity mat, doorway bouncers ("johnny-jump-up" style swings), and a jumperoo.
|J enjoying his activity mat. My husband liked to call it the "archipelago" because they'd kick it apart the pieces looked like little jungle islands surrounding the babies.|
- By the time the twins were 6 months old we had eliminated the 3rd nap. I would have them do half an hour of tummy time, sometimes more, right before their morning nap, and the same right before their afternoon nap, and sometimes again in the late afternoon. They would cry and be tired, but then fall asleep quickly after the exercise.
|Baby Boot Camp!|
- At the end of the two hour nap I would wake the boys up if they hadn't already. People always say "never wake a sleeping baby," but I was so determined to have the boys sleep more at night that I wanted to keep to the schedule that we had worked. It seems cruel now, thinking how I would open the door quickly, open the shades noisily and say "Good morning!! Wake up babies!" and two little pairs of eyes would fly open as they startled in their swaddles. But it really did pay off not to let them nap too much and to be awake, eating, and playing during the day. (I know it's also true that overtired children won't sleep well at night, but by 6 months old, 16 hours a day of sleep is plenty.) As they got older, I would sometimes let them sleep longer depending on what was going on. But when I was in the phase of trying to form their sleep habits, I stuck more rigidly to the schedule. Either way, it's okay to wake up your baby if you think they are sleeping too long and it will disrupt a later nap or bedtime, but I suggest being more gentle than I was ;)
6 - 12 Months:
- 6 months old is when we started sleep training. It probably could have been done a little earlier. In any case, we continued our daytime activities as before.
- With the introduction of solid foods and working up towards finger foods, we established daily feeding times for breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, and dinner. This really helped fill them up and they slept the most soundly during this period of time.
|J unimpressed by his first taste of real food: pureed peas.|
- Right before bath every night the boys spent almost half an hour jumping and laughing in their doorway swings. This expended any last bits of energy they had, and then we calmed them down with the bath for the night.
|J, proving that the jumpy swings before bed sometimes worked too well.|
1 Year to 18 Months:
- Sometime after they turned one we stopped giving the boys their bedtime bottle. They switched to just cows milk at that time, and along with all the solid food, there was no need for it to keep them full at night.
- At some point I started shortening the morning nap from 2 hours to 1 hour (sometimes a little more if the boys were sick or we had been very busy). The afternoon nap lengthened a bit then, and this was in preparation for dropping the morning nap later.
18 Months to 2 Years Old:
- This was the transition from two naps a day to one. Basically, once I thought they were ready, I just cut the morning nap one day. We did our usual morning things, and then went to the zoo. The excitement kept them awake through their usual nap time. Of course they fell asleep in the car on the way home for lunch, but I woke them up, fed them, and then tried to keep them awake for a little longer. The one big afternoon nap was then started at 1 p.m.
- It took a few months, with the boys often falling asleep in the car before lunch on the way home from some activity, and then screaming unhappily when I woke them for lunch. But eventually we settled into a one 3-hour afternoon nap.
- As they got older, the more physical energy the boys had and the more they needed to expend it. But I found if I put in the time and exertion it took to wear them out in the morning, the longer and better they would sleep in the afternoon.
- However, I didn't let them sleep past 4 p.m. (bedtime was at 7) otherwise they wouldn't fall asleep easily at night. During this time period fresh air also seemed to help the boys sleep better, along with eating well during the day.