Babies need sleep. They need to sleep for their own health and for the sanity of their parents. Sometimes sleep doesn’t come easily, and it can quickly become a nightmare for mom and dad. I love my son more than almost anything on this earth (one notch below my marvelous wife), but I also love it when he finally goes to sleep. I admit that compared to some parents’ struggles, we haven’t suffered too much when trying to get our son to sleep. We still have learned some lessons and gained some insight on the best ways to send Everett off to Sleepville.
The first few weeks were a breeze, because all he really did was sleep. At that point, I always wanted to have him in my arms and so, he often ended up falling asleep in them. I didn’t see it as much of a problem, because he didn’t awake when I laid him down. I scoffed at those who warned that you shouldn’t allow your baby to fall asleep in your arms, because it didn’t seem to lead to any trouble for us at the time.
Then Everett started to realize he liked this whole being awake deal. He started to spend much more time alert and looking around, and wasn’t so willing to drift right off to Sleepville at a moment’s notice. This wasn’t a huge deal in the afternoon because he could entertain himself for several minutes looking at his mobile or exploring his play mat. It was less of a thrill when I was ready to head off to bed, and all he wanted to do was be held.
My first “send Everett off to Sleepville” strategy was to gently rock/bounce him while I walked and sang goofy made-up songs. I’m sure actual children’s songs work just as well, but I preferred creating my own verses to nod my son off to sleep; it worked every time. Now, you could argue I made up all my songs because I can’t remember actual songs, but I’m sticking with my stance that made up verses are more conducive to making babies sleepy.
This strategy worked really well, but Emily constantly warned that allowing him to fall asleep in my arms would cause him to get used to that. She felt it was better to lay him down when he was still awake (but almost falling asleep), so he could learn to get himself into Sleepville. I nodded and agreed while sticking to the belief that my way worked and it didn’t make sense to alter it. Now, I’m left with the task many husbands get stuck with on many occasions, because I now have to admit my wife was right.
Everett started to hate almost any time we laid him down, unless it was below his mobile or other fascinating dangling things. It became pretty clear my strategy would have to be changed, unless I wanted to risk rocking my 18 year old son to sleep. This is where a noisy giraffe came to our rescue.
Before Everett was born, we already had a product called the Gentle Giraffe. It was a stuffed toy that happened to play several sounds designed to lull a baby into sleep. We used it a few times right when he was born, but not on a regular basis. Emily decided to make it a nightly ritual where we would turn on the toy, and hope it would cause Everett to drift to sleep. I was a bit skeptical at first, because when we first used it, it would knock him out for a few minutes but then he typically awoke in a crying fury. Emily hoped if it became a consistent event that Everett would associate it with sleep, and I wasn’t really going to doubt my wife a second time.
We decided to start making Everett’s night time a ritual where he’d go to bed at the same time every night (or as consistent as life would allow us). The plan was to lay down Everett even if he didn’t appear sleepy, and turn on the giraffe in an attempt to soothe him to sleep. We knew this strategy was a winner when Emily turned on the giraffe while holding a wide awake Everett and he immediately let out a huge yawn when he heard the familiar sounds.
Everett understood those soothing tunes meant it was time to call it a night and quickly went off to blessed Sleepville.
I’m not saying this has worked every night. I am also not assuming it was the strategy alone that caused Everett to fall asleep on his own. I do think a big part of it is that he has gotten older and doesn’t feel like he has to be with his parents every moment. In the afternoon, he’ll often happily lie in his crib and stare at his mobile for an extended period of time. Everett has discovered new ways to entertain himself when we aren’t immediately beside him, such as staring at his fist or discovering what things taste best in his mouth (bib or hand). I know a lot of the credit goes to my spectacular son rather than my “super amazing parenting skills.”
It has been interesting seeing that even though it has only been three months, Everett’s sleeping habits have changed several times. The things that worked for a few weeks suddenly needed to be altered. It has been a good test to see how well we can adapt to our changing son. We’ve learned several new strategies. I’m mostly just happy that Everett seems to appreciate sleep as much as his parents.