Sleep Advice from Fellow Sleep-Deprived Parents

Sleep Advice from Fellow Sleep-Deprived Parents

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Carrie McBride
Sep 20, 2011

My neighbors across the hall have a newborn and, man, do they look tired. It's easy to understand sleep deprivation on an intellectual level. Less sleep = more tired. But until you've been through what can be months or years of diminished sleep (quantity and quality) you can't truly understand what it's like. My 3-year-old finally grew into being a great sleeper, but hearing my neighbor's baby's late night cries (which I don't mind, if you're reading Melissa & Bob!) brings me back to those fuzzy-brained early months. Like most parenting issues, everyone and no one is an expert on sleep, but I looked through our many, many past posts about sleep (and, often, where it intersects with design decisions) and culled the best advice and wisdom from readers.

Sleep - our children's and our own - is essential to the health and happiness of our families. Over the years not only have readers weighed in on strategies and tips that have worked with their children, but they've also offered advice on what has worked in their physical homes - sharing rooms, co-sleeping, erecting barriers, muffling sound, etc. A reader summed up the intersection of sleep and design succinctly: "The design choices we make in building our everyday environment are inseparable from the choices we make living in it."

Last winter we rounded up 30 posts related to sleep and the home and I've read through them all and plucked out some of the best reader advice. I was surprised, upon reading them collectively, at how...passionate, shall we say...some parents feel about the right or wrong ways to approach the topic of children and sleep. Advice from other parents (and books) can be great, but you're the only expert on your family and your child. My advice is to seek advice from books and other parents and then be prepared to completely ignore it. Try something and if it doesn't work, don't consider it a failure, just try something else. There was a dark period for our family when my son was waking up every day at 4:30 a.m. no matter what we tried. I finally accepted it and while doing so didn't bring me more sleep, it brought me a little more peace. And, like everything else, it was just a phase. A really yucky, stressful, tiring phase...but a phase.

Advice from Sleep Issues and Shared Bedrooms:

We have girls two years apart and we have them nap in separate rooms but they sleep well together at night. In our case, the older one sleeps in our bed for her nap, she thinks it's special and is more inclined to sleep so it works out pretty well for us.

Our 3 boys, ages 8, 5 & 3 share a room. When 2 of them had to nap at once, I'd put the older one on our bed for a nap, just for quiet and separation, and they would both sleep.

If you're wondering when to start the process of a shared room, the summer is best. Then, you don't have to worry about missed sleep because of school and other things, and the more laid-back schedule allows for wiggle room as everyone gets adjusted to the new routine.

We have a night light on a timer and it works like a charm. they know they aren't allowed to be loud and wake the other until the light comes on. it took a few days of reinforcing the idea and it's been smooth since...we made a big (fun!) deal out of picking out the night light and then letting them see it light up.

Beyond that, keeping your bedroom electronic-free helps, because the blue light that emits from TVs, LCD screens, etc contributes to wakefulness. Avoiding caffeine before bed helps both you and the breastfeeding infant. So too, you and the infant should avoid lots of stimulation before bed, like loud music and television, or exercise.

Above all, don't let yourself be upset. Stay calm within yourself. Your stress transmits itself to your child, and if you want your child to go to sleep, stay sleepy & calm yourself.

Jack slept in a bassinet next to our bed for the first four months of his life, but the four month sleep regression hit, and I was a zombie with six wake-ups instead of three. I ended up bringing him to bed with me after first waking and it worked out wonderful -- he is still with us at 22 months. He almost never really awakens at night, just nurses and goes back to sleep. We are very well-rested :)

I have many nights where baby wakes toddler still, so I purchased a great oversized chair for our living room that pulls open to a twin sleeper in 2 seconds! I just tuck my 2 yr old in there on those nights and let baby and toddler drift back to sleep.

I think what makes it work for us is that I stay with them until they're asleep. I get that that would be a deal-breaker for many parents, but I like it.

Here is my advice: invest in a Pack-n-Play (or similar) and set it up in your living room. Put baby to sleep in the crib in your room and when you are ready to go to sleep, transfer him to the Pack-n-Play. That is what we did and it was much better.

Advice from //www.ohdeedoh.com/ohdeedoh/good-questions/sleep-training-without-disrupting-the-neighbors-good-questions-107669">Sleep Training without Disrupting the Neighbors:

Get some earplugs and gift-wrap them for your neighbors along with a card, but do not make apologies for having a baby. Spring for a white noise machine for them if you feel that strongly about someone else's sleep.

Please forget about your neighbors. If you don't help your baby learn to fall asleep now things will get worse and you'll be keeping them up even longer along with yourself and your baby.

Are you sure your neighbors even hear your baby crying? Depending on your apartment's construction, they might not hear such a high-pitched sound, whereas more bass-heavy sound (like a stereo) may come through loud and clear.

Sometimes just acknowledgment goes a long way towards soothing any resentment over noise issues. You might want to talk with them, or leave a note, to set your mind at ease as much as let them know you are doing what you can.

There's lots you can do to muffle the sounds for your neighbors. Felt is a great sound absorber. You can use felt rugs, wall hangings, etc. Now, the rugs can work to absorb the sound of sleep training, later they can muffle foot steps. The more upholstery/fabrics you have, the better.

We have baby twins living next door. On the rare occasions that their crying wakes me I am just grateful that I can go back to sleep - your baby's crying sounds far worse to you than it does to others.

Since your daughter is going through this normal developmental growth spurt, try to increase her feedings during the day to decrease her need to feed at night...The sort of brain development that goes on at this stage (imagine all the wiring going on!) can result in disrupted sleep patterns even with increased feedings, but she slept well before, and she will again, naturally. This too shall pass.

I would recommend getting a white noise machine for the nursery. This will keep out the noise from others, and it will help mask babies' cries for your neighbors.

We finally circled back to the pediatrician, he gave me a pep talk about the fact that crying is not the end of the world, and again, encouraged us to try not feeding her (or going in to her) to see how it went. He said "It might be hell for two weeks, but it might not take that long, and you'll all be in a better situation once you're on the other side".

I disagree with the posts that say to not worry about the neighbors! Giving a heads up and stopping by with a note and cookies or earplugs will pay dividends. You might also learn that the neighbors don't hear your baby's cries and you can rid yourself of some worry. :)

Advice from Sleep Training Hotline: What's Your Story?

We let Isabella cry out for 2 days (only for 15 minutes each day at full blown power!). That was a while ago. After that, she goes to sleep without crying. Even to nap time. The best thing ever. She started sleeping well after 4.5 months old. from 7 PM to 8AM.

My husband and I made a deal- one of us was "on duty" every other night. On your night "off" we could get most of a nights sleep.

You have to occasionally "re-train" them after a trip away and when you break the rules, but it's usually only for one night and I now love listening to my 8-month old daughter chatting away to herself before she falls asleep.

Where design and this thread intersect for me was remembering determining what to do in our tiny apartment where my son's crib was next to our bed. He would wake at night and want us to get up with him. It wasn't until we put up a curtain between us that he fully understood that nighttime was for sleeping and not for interaction.

Advice from Sleep Help for Daylight Savings

I started a week ago getting my 2 year old ready - I just started bumping his bedtime back by 10-15 minutes each night, until it was an hour later and he was sleeping in an hour later - so today wasn't a rude awakening!

We went out to friends on Sat. afternoon, and our 2 year old son was so pre-occupied with their toys that he took his regular 12:30 nap at 4:20 instead. We were able to put him to bed at 9:30 instead of 7:30, and he woke up at his normal (unfortunately) time of 6:20... but in new time.

Advice from Blogging Slate: Go Ahead -- Sleep with Your Kids

Most importantly, do not over read. Pick a few books, gleam from them what works for you family, and disregard the rest.

You can't predict how things are going to go for you, and I think, at the end of the day, flexibility is the key... as it is in pretty much every aspect of parenting.

The lesson for me in all of this has been to be flexible and to re-evaluate if one or all of us get too little sleep.

Advice from Does Napping Have to Be in the Bedroom?

I finally gave in and let her sleep on the couch. She slept more soundly and longer while on the couch and I was still able to get things done.

The only way I can get my one-year old and four year old to nap at the same time is to lie down with them in my bed. They seem to comfort one another while they sleep and sleep more soundly than they would independently.

When i quit rocking my now 2 year old to sleep, I started letting her nap in my bed. It was something "special" so she was willing and it's just stuck.

It's so much easier to get my three year old to take a nap if I let her nap on the couch. I think she feels like she's missing out or being punished if I send her to her room to nap.

Optimism from New Parents Miss 6 Months' Sleep in Two Years:

Every child is different. We were pleasantly surprised at the amount of sleep we DID get after our son was born. It was far more than we imagined we would be getting!

(Images 1: Family Pastimes Games 2. Reader Natalie. 3: Flickr user Valorian 4. Flickr user gagilas 5. Flickr user Surly Girl 6. Flickr user Barron. Flickr images licensed for use under Creative Commons)

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