There was one book that made a huge difference in my early days of parenting. It is the one baby book that I was sure to re-read when I got pregnant with baby #2. Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg with Melinda Blau (affiliate link) changed the way I viewed my infant and most importantly impacted the way I viewed sleep.
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In Becoming a Mom of Two, I wrote that sleep is the most important thing in a newborn and the parent of a newborn’s life. In the beginning, it seems like babies eat and sleep around the clock. However, there is a subtle pattern that Tracy Hogg and Melinda Blau describe in their book.
The secret is the pattern – Eat, Activity, Sleep. This is not very apparent in newborns, but as a baby gets older you can plainly see this pattern in action.
The baby eats, they play with their toys and friends or have lessons, and then they get tired and nap or sleep at night.
That time between playing and sleeping is the short window of time you need to look for their sleep cues.
- Rubbing eyes
- Deep breathing
- Arching their back
- Laying down
- Trouble walking or falling down
We struggle at bedtime a lot in our house. My older daughter has a very short span of time when she will go to sleep quickly and easily. I have noticed that if I miss her sleep cues by even a few minutes, we end up going through another cycle of eat and activity.
You might notice that if your child sleeps even just a few minutes in the car, then they are up and “missed” a nap. In reality, they didn’t miss the nap, it was just way too short.
Sometimes being deeply relaxed will count as a “nap” – such as watching a movie quietly or sitting with the tablet and playing a game or watching YouTube. As kids get older and stop taking naps, we replace it with “quiet time.”
This is also the reason why your baby may have a hard time falling back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night. We are wired to follow the Eat, Activity, Sleep pattern, but we have to learn to sleep all the way through the night.
That is why it is so important to look for and recognize the sleep cues of your child. Not every child has the same sleep cues. Also, as children get older, their sleep cues may change. My daughter used to rub her eyes a lot, now she starts talking a lot. (Yes, talking can be a sleep cue, believe it or not!)
…it takes twenty minutes for your baby to actually fall asleep, so don’t ever try to rush things. If you do, she will get fussy and you will disrupt her natural three-stage process. …it will move her toward waking, not sleep, and you have to start all over.
These 15-20 minutes can change everything for your child’s sleep pattern. Start looking for the ways they are telling you they are tired, so you don’t miss out on this short, short opportunity for a happy bedtime.
Let me know what works for you in the comments below.