Sleep Rules That Saved Us

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Categories Napping, Overnight, Sleep

Sleep is a big topic at new mothers group meetings. Because there’s nothing worse than sleep deprivation. It wears you down physically, mentally, and emotionally. I remember in the early days with newborn twins thinking what I would give for a good 5-6 hour block of sleep. But I was breastfeeding and needed to be present at each feeding every 2-3 hours.

two weeks old
Tiny and Buba- two weeks old

Months later, I was finally getting larger blocks of sleep, but because my babies still needed a night feeding (due to slow weight gain) it wasn’t until they were almost 9 months old that they were able to sleep through the night. As we embarked on our week of sleep training, my husband and I decided to implement three rules that we’d read from the “experts” or heard about from other parents.

Rule #1: Our Day Starts at 6:30am

This is the time that my husband has to get up to get ready for work, so it made sense to make this our start time. If/when the kids wake up before 6:30am, the are left to amuse themselves until our alarm clock goes off. Most days, they wake up between 6 and 6:30 anyway, so it’s not as though they spend hours in their crib waiting for me to come in and free them. Because this is how it is every single day (yes, even on weekends) they are used to it and quite good at entertaining themselves until morning officially begins. But, of course, it wasn’t always magically like this. In the beginning, there was some crying when I didn’t enter the room the second I heard them stirring. However, with time, they got over it.

Rule #2: Naptime and Bedtime are to be Strictly Observed

We’re pretty rigid with our schedules and routines, so this one was easy for us. We make a point of being at home for naptime everyday and bedtime is always between 7:00 and 7:30pm. Okay, I say always, but there have been a few exceptions. The point is, that unless there is a special occasion, our kids sleep at the same times every day.

Rule #3: The No Intervention Policy

Once we walk out the door, there is no going back in. If I hear crying, I wait it out. At this point, it doesn’t last more than a minute or two, and I’ve found that going back into the room is not as productive as I’d thought it would be. I have also learned that it’s not unusual for either of my kids to cry a little bit in between their sleep cycles, and my going in is actually more disruptive than the crying. Because my kids have shared a room since day one, they are quite used to each other’s noises and most of the time sleep right through them (even if I can’t).

This is what works for us (so far), but I am fully aware that what works for some families doesn’t work for others and for a variety of reasons. So, what works for you? Do your kids sleep like champs or have you had to tweak your sleep rules as your babies have grown to keep everyone well rested?

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reanbean is a stay at home mom to 21 month old boy/girl twins. You can now read more about reanbean, Tiny, and Buba at reanbean.com.

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22 thoughts on “Sleep Rules That Saved Us”

  1. I agree with the strict sleeping rules policy. I didn’t start sleep training until 6 months with my girls for various reasons, but once I did it changed my life! I have also learned a few points over the years–1) expect 3 days for the kids to adjust to any change. When we combined the twins room and their big brothers–it took 3 days for everyone to adjust, seems to be the same when we go on vacation as well. 2) When we can’t be at home I try to make things as familar as possible, i.e. bring their sleep sacks, same classical music we play at home . . . seems to help. Afterall one tired baby is hard, two tired babies is a nightmare!
    .-= Jessica´s last blog ..To Clear My Good Name =-.

  2. Sing it, sister! We are clearly kindred sleep spirits.

    I’ve loosened up ever so slightly on my strict non-intervention policy, but only because I have found we can tolerate it without major disruptions. So I’ve found myself a little more likely to go in if someone cries (it has also become less often – used to be every night just because Rebecca is a really restless sleeper, and then I would almost never go in). But when I do go in, it’s usually just a quick pat on the back, and no one fights to get out of bed.

    Ah, sleep! :-)
    .-= Goddess in Progress´s last blog ..To Montessori, or not to Montessori =-.

  3. Sleep has continued to be an issue in our house and now the boys are just over 9 months old. We have similiar strict (my extended family would say neurotic) rules with the exception of no intervention. They still cry for long periods when they go down at night and get up 2-3 times every night to nurse. Maybe by a year we’ll sleep??

  4. I have great sleepers. I remember in the early days people giving me a hard time because they went to bed so early!! Once the fog lifted, and we started with a schedule it happened right away. Same routine every night, swaddled, no rocking to sleep. They learned to sooth themselves to sleep, and haven’t looked back.
    Now at 21 months, they go to bed at 630, sleep til 630am and nap for 2 hours. I doubt the sleep that whole time…but they know the drill. 😉
    .-= Christina´s last blog ..Way back When-esday! =-.

  5. Amen to all of that! We didn’t sleep through the night until close to 9 months or so…it seems that one or the other were always going through growth spurts (they are off the charts in height/weight, go figure.)

    I agree with Goddess, we are a little more lax with our no-intervention rule now, but if I start to see a trend I cut them off. Just as it takes three days to break a habit, it takes three days to MAKE a habit, so if I feel like they’re starting to use me as a sleep-crutch, we go back to the basics. Everybody sleeps better and is happier as a result (that is what I have to assure myself of as I listen to them sometimes cry.)

    The only exception I would say to all of this is when we go through some kind of a transition.
    Right now, at 15-months, we are working on dropping a nap. I tinkered around with a later bedtime and it actually backfired. So, we’ll stick to the 6:30-7pm bedtime. Our day also starts at 6:30, but I can’t quite figure out when the ideal naptime is…

  6. This could be our story! My daughters just turned nine months and just started sleeping through the night. We have all of the same rules except, up until a week ago, I was waking them up at 10 p.m. to nurse so I could get a solid block of sleep. Turns out they didn’t need it– now they go from about 6:30 pm until 5:30 a.m. I nurse at 5:30 and then they’ll go back to sleep for at least another hour. I used to nurse at the slightest whimper out of fear they would wake the other up or their big sister. Once I let those little night stirrings go uninterrupted, however, they did great! And it is amazing how one can sleep through the wailing of another.
    .-= Samantha´s last blog ..Babies =-.

  7. I have 7m ID girls and I would like to announce that we SLEPT ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE NIGHT LAST NIGHT! (for the first time) I’m high fiveing myself right now.

    We have a strict wake up time (7am) and bedtime (6:30), morning nap begins at 9, with the afternoon nap slightly more flexible. We did sleep training at around 4 months, and the hard work has paid off.

    It’s good to know that the misery of sleep deprivation isn’t just this household.

    To all moms not sleeping through the night : put down the laundry and go take a nap!

  8. Sleep is… challenging in my home. My daughter has reflux and if she cries for too long she starts throwing up. My son has night terrors and will go into hysterics if it wakes him up.
    I’ve worked hard at giving them the tools they need to learn to help themselves out of cycles of hysterical crying. Nevertheless, they are only 13 months old, and once they have found themselves hysterical they can’t make it out on their own. I was prone to hysterics as a child, myself, so I’m chagrined, but not surprised to see them both there.
    Mostly they sleep 7:30-7:30, with a nap at 1 that usually lasts about 2 and a half hours. Night disturbances are usually very mild, unless there is some major growth happening or teething.

    My daughter is prone to teething multiple teeth (she’s working on all four molars right now, it’s truly hell), so teething can be especially hard for her. Usually she deals with her own soothing, though, she just finds a binky in her crib, sticks it in and goes back to sleep.
    My son usually sleeps through fine. He even sleeps heavier than his sister. Night terrors will mess him up though. He’ll start walking around his crib while he’s still asleep and bang himself on something until he wakes up. At this point he completely freaks out. Night terrors are fairly horrible things, and the chemical adrenaline dump can be very dramatic. It completely plugs into the fight or flight centers and make a person feel as though their life is in certain danger. In the past throughout history people have attributed night terrors to witches and demons (and, IMHO, modern day UFO abduction theories). It’s good to know the science behind it, but impossible to expect an infant to understand it when I myself have a hard time convincing myself that it’s okay and nothing is wrong/ nobody is there to kill me when they wake me up.
    More than 1 in 10 children will experience night terrors. Usually between the ages of 2-6. There is good evidence to suggest that it is a genetic disorder, and I know that both myself and my mother have the disorder. I was not the least surprised to find my son had it, and relieved that my daughter seems to not, so far.

    I am most likely going to continue having them sleep in the same bedroom until they request otherwise because of this. It means that they will (and do) disturb one another’s sleep, but it also means that if they wake themselves in such a state they are not alone in a room by themself in the midst of a dream state that is a nightmare.

    For me, the practicals are that anywhere from 1-4 nights a week I spend a few minutes soothing and calming one or both of them down.

    A little sleep dep? Actually a lot. It’s okay, though. As my own mother was wont to say on a nearly daily basis for all manner of ills and problems, “this too shall pass.”
    .-= Janel´s last blog ..1-2-3-4, You Don’t Want To Eat More =-.

  9. I have 18 m/o gg twins and they follow this pattern as well. Everyone is amazed at how smoothly it goes for them at bedtime but it was through hard work and consistency from my husband and I. We made so many mistakes with my first that it took until she was 4 before she would sleep – that is go to sleep and stay asleep. We were getting up at the slightest whimper, holding her to bed, etc. You know, basically EVERYTHING you should not do if you ever want to sleep again!!! With these two, there is no room for deviating from the routine because there are two of them and I love my sleep.

  10. All I can say is Preach it Sister! We were the same way and now at almost five years old, my girls still sleep 12 hours a night without interruption and take an hour nap three to four days per week. I know we will lose the nap soon but sleep and bedtime has always been a positive thing for my girls. They rarely fight us about bedtime and usually only when sick.

  11. I’m still pretty strict about sleep rules… although I’ve tried to lighten up now that my daughters are a little older. I just like the idea of having a set bed time. I’ll be flexible… if there’s no school the next day. But if tomorrow is a preschool day then I don’t budge. It makes some of my in-laws mad that I don’t cater to their schedule, but I figure if they’re not going to come over the next day to help with four cranky preschoolers then I get to make the rules.
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Popular Daddy =-.

  12. we have pretty similar rules. i’m not as strict as you are (i SHOULD be, but i’m not), especially with naptime, but overall the boys are good sleepers.

    in a few weeks, we’re taking away pacifiers from the two that still sleep with them. i’m SCARED.
    .-= pam´s last blog ..Monkeys! =-.

  13. I am lucky gal with a twin brother. My Mom said that I was a wonderful sleeper and napper but my brother wasn’t. I can only imagine what it would be like to have twins and struggling with sleep issues. I thought I was going crazy with just one when my son came along 3 years ago. Finally, in desperation after seeking advice from books, the internet, family, friends, doctors (basically anyone that would listen to me), I hired a sleep consultant. It made such a profound impact on me that after the birth of my second child, I left a successful career to help others get the gift of a good night’s sleep. I have been personally trained by the best and can help with singlets and multiples.
    Routines,schedules and comforting your children as they learn this important new skill is all part of the Sleepsense TM program. For a FREE no obligation 15 minute telephone consultation, just give me a call at 250-575-6988.
    Warmest regards and sleep well,
    Pam

  14. Perfect timing! My 21 month old g (of b/g) just started waking earlier than normal. Normally wakes around 7am – started last last week at 6:30am, today was 5:45am. I went to her today and I could tell she wasn’t ready to get up. But did not want back in the crib. I must break this habit now. Do I allow her to cry and cry out for mama?

  15. We had the same rules until my daughters were two. Even though we lightened up on the strictness, the girls were so accustomed to bedtime being a no-nonsense affair, they’ve continued to be really easy to get to sleep. Their great uncle was astonished last week when they voluntarily went to bed in the middle of a birthday party for our 16-year-old cousin, but by making bedtime low-stress and consistent, we’ve been fortunate to make it something the girls look forward to and recognize the importance of.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Overheard 26 =-.

  16. Liz – I used to put a cloth book in the girls’ cribs so they had something to do it they woke early. They understood that they were not to wake sister until a parent came from them. This was also consistent with nap time at daycare; any children who can’t sleep are asked to “read” books quietly while the others nap.
    .-= Sadia´s last blog ..Overheard 26 =-.

  17. @Liz- When daylight saving time ended this fall, my son was waking up close to an hour early every day for almost a week. He would call for me and kick the bars of his crib, but he didn’t cry. I stuck to our rule and didn’t go in until 6:30am. (His sister slept through it all just 2 feet away!)

    I like Sadia’s idea of having a cloth book in the crib. I know of others who have small blankets or stuffed animals in their kids’ cribs for the same reason.
    .-= reanbean´s last blog ..Snowed In =-.

  18. I agree that having a routine that is consistent is about the best advice one could give to a new parent. Humans are creatures of habit and as much as some of us don’t want to admit it we need a routine. It suits the body and mind because it creates less daily stress.

  19. When my twins were babies we also had a set schedule. Drove all our extended family crazy, to have to work around our schedule :) Our day worked like clockwork. They started sleeping great at night about 6-7 mos of age, after a small period of crying in the middle of the night…mostly by just one of them. The funny thing is that when our youngest was born I thought I would put him on a similar schedule and do things the same way. He does have a set naptime and bedtime, but he WILL NOT go to sleep by himself so he is our spoiled little baby that gets rocked to sleep every night :) I then realized that we didn’t do that with the twins because it would have been a physical impossibility! We really didn’t have a choice. It did work though!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..Finding Contentment in a Facebook World =-.

  20. Hi, I have four month-old fraternal twins, and I’ve got a question about your no-intervention sleep policy. How old were your kids when you started it, and sleep training in general?

    We have a consistent bedtime for our babies (7pm), and they get up anytime between 6 and 730am, depending on when they’ve had their last feeding. They still get up usually twice in the night to eat – sometime around midnight, and then again at 4 or 5. It’s brutal.

    We’re working on feeding them more at night, to push their sleep times longer. Two nights ago we gave them each six ounces at 630pm, and they made it to 130 am, at which point we gave them another six ounces, and they made it to about 6am. But we weren’t so lucky last night – they woke up around midnight, and then again at 4.

    We also rock them to sleep. Twice this past week we laid them down sleepy but awake, and they cried/screamed for 25 minutes before I hit my wall and went in to comfort them. Should I have just let them keep crying? Are they really ready for that?

    I’m basically just not sure at what age and size babies are ready for what. I’ve got Weissbluth’s book, which suggests they should be able to learn to self-soothe by now, but I’m having trouble believing it in my gut when I hear their pitiful little cries.

    Thanks!

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