The most challenging part of parenting thus far for us has definitely been the night time hours. It has taken us until kid #3 to have some ideas of what to do to meet night-time needs. We believe that children, even from birth, are communicating their needs. We just need to understand what they are saying. Therefore, we don't believe in letting infants cry without attention. There is plenty of information regarding this elsewhere. What we have found is that you can take steps to understand young infants differing cries, noises, and needs in the night and STILL get some sleep! Here's a few things we learned and also several steps toward making night-time easier at our house.
1. There are different noises for different things. Please don't laugh. It took us a LONG time to understand the different noises infants make. One is tired, one is hungry, another is I need to use the restroom or I'm wet. Still others are for sickness, pain, and teething is in a league all its own. We have and continue to study our children diligently - the communication is always changing!
2. Keep the baby close to Mom AND Dad as much as possible. The bonding even at night cannot be understated. As close as possible is the best as is natural feeding as much as possible. Small tummies need frequent feedings even in the night. This has helped our little guy tons to be closely bonded to both of us.
3. Prepare! We start in the morning setting up for night-time routine. We have figured out how everyone is most comfortable, blankets, pillows for the older two. Special snugglie toys are kept only for night-time. We keep trip and fall hazards out of the way. We double check for safety each night. Both Kurt and I do these things. Working together has been key and has definitely taken some working out so that we are both on the same page as to what the night time procedure will be. I only call him in severe need. He wakes up very differently than I do -he's ready to fight intruders or fires or something drastic. I can wake and go back to sleep very easily (especially after 5 years of sleep deprivation).
4. Pray. Never over look the spiritual component to night time sleep. We pray the full armor of God over the children and teach them to do that themselves. Kurt, as the head protector of the family, prays over all of us before bed every night. It is important, vitally important to stand on God's promises for blessing in sleep.
5. Last but definitely not least - take the children to the restroom. My friends, feel free to laugh, but at two weeks old, Ethan started using the restroom when I held him over the potty and cued him. Andrea is now self sufficient in this area. Nathan still needs reminded at 3 1/2 and occasionally I will wake him to go in the night. Ethan at 8 months will need to use the restroom about 3-4 times in 12 hours. He is often dry through the night since I take him when he needs to go. If I'm tired and don't hear him right away, I still have to change a wet diaper. This is key - even if the child is wet, he/she may still need to use the restroom. Babies do not want to soil or wet their own nest. They will start and then stop and hold it, leading to rustling baby syndrome. Please read www.diaperfreebaby.org for more information about Elimination Communication. This has saved us hours and days of sleep! So simple yet so difficult. I will write more on night time EC in my next post. It is unusual in the States but has been practiced throughout time all over the world. We are the ones who have ironically lost this knowledge.
We are also strong advocates for Elizabeth Pantley's No-Cry Sleep Solution books http://www.pantley.com/. Great ideas for a wide variety of babies and families.
Blessings for sleep!