While pregnant I learned of a book called “Bringing Up Bebe,” by Pamela Druckerman. My boss (at that time), had mentioned that his baby had been sleeping through the night basically since he was a few months old. That idea sounded very appealing since all I had heard previous to that was horror story after horror story of sleepless nights-those nights, lasting for years at a time. Not appealing. I asked my boss the secret to their magical baby and he said his wife read a book called “Bringing Up Bebe,” or what I now like to call the Baby Bible. The book isn’t your typical parenting book of instructions, this book is actually a novel. It’s a story about a woman that moves to France with her boyfriend, who then becomes her husband and eventually has a baby in the city of love. Because the parenting culture is wildly different than America, she decided to figure out the parental “philosophy,” you could say, that the French mothers follow. The thing that led her to start this journey was her fascination with the way that children, babies included, behaved in public. She never saw freak-outs at the restaurant, she never saw children talking back to their parents, and most of all, she always saw them eating everything that was placed in front of them-and not only that, but enjoying it. We are talking adult food here, which from what I’ve seen is very uncommon. I’ve mostly just seen super picky children eaters here. Anyway, the point is-Pameal Druckerman wanted to figure out the “french secrets” of raising a disciplined baby & child. There were so many amazing things I learned from this book, but today I am solely focusing on sleep tips and principles.
A lot of the principles in this book are similar to the principles found in Baby Wise, which I think more people are familiar with. Baby Wise basically sets up a foundation for learning how to keep your baby on a feeding schedule, which in turn, helps the baby sleep through the night. Both books teach an underlying principle that strict adherence to a schedule is what makes the biggest difference in helping babies sleep. One of my biggest goals as a new mommy was to help my baby to sleep. I really don’t do well without sleep (who does?) and I knew that in order for me to be a sane and happy mother I needed to help Clair establish a schedule. The following are a few principles that I took to heart from Bringing Up Bebe, aka my Baby Bible.
Nudge Babies into a Feeding Schedule
The French have a cultural phenomenon where they all eat around the same time every single day. Usually those times are 8:00 -breakfast, 12:00-lunch, 4:00 snack (or as they say, “le gouter”), 8:00-dinner. When I first read this I could not wrap my brain around the idea of a world where there wasn’t a free-for-all snacking environment. I’ve always been a snacker. I come from a family of snackers. The idea of only have one snack a day? Impossible. Again, this is where we have to remember the principle here. So the important thing is that YOU as a mom have some sort of consistence schedule for eating. If your schedule is in place, your children will then have a schedule in place and will be synced with your eating times. More convenient for everyone.
Anyway, more of that for another day, the reason I am talking about eating is because when babies have a consistent feeding schedule, their sleeping schedule is more consistent too. The Baby Wise book talks about following the schedule of eat, wake, sleep. I personally have followed this pattern it has been amazing to see Clair follow that schedule all on her own. She is now at the point where she is eating, waking and sleeping all around the same times every single day. I love this because it helps my life to become a lot more predictable and manageable. Here is an example of my schedule for Clair (she’s almost 6 months old, so this schedule might have to be adjusted, depending on how old your baby is)
6:30-7:00 am wake & feed
7:00-8:00 awake time
8:00-9:30 down for nap
9:30-10:00 wake & feed
10:00-11:00 awake time
11:00-12:30 down for nap
12:30 wake & feed
12:30-2:00 awake time
2:00-3:30 down for nap
3:30 awake & feed
3:30-4:30 awake time
4:30-5:15 cat nap
5:15 awake & feed
5:15-7:30 awake time/bedtime routine
7:30 final feed and down for the night
It can be a bit hard to nudge your baby into this schedule, but my advise is to be patient and persistence! There are some days where the times might be off a bit, so I just roll with the punches. I try not to let the schedule control me or get stressed if she isn’t following exactly. As long as I am roughly following this, she really does do the rest of the work. It’s amazing! I really think babies thrive on schedules. Also-putting her down early has helped her to sleep all the way through the night. I’ve noticed that if I put her down later, she wakes up a lot more frequently.
Now, in an ideal world, Clair would stay asleep after we put her down at 7:30 and we wouldn’t have any interruptions with our couples time. Honestly, that rarely happens. She usually will cry a couple of times after we put her down. A principle that has helped me to get her to get back to sleep & self soothe is called “the pause.” In reading about this principle in Bringing Up Bebe, I learned that babies often cry when they are learning to connect their sleep cycles. The French do “the pause” every single time they hear their baby cry. They understand that babies are loud sleepers and sometimes will cry even though they aren’t awake. Basically “the pause” means that you pause (big surprise there) before rushing in to your baby. I usually pause for a minute or two, depending on the cry. Sometimes I know her cry is urgent and I rush in there to help her to burp or something. But most of the times she is fussing to get back to sleep. I have been trying to help Clair learn to self soothe so when she cries after we put her down to bed I will wait for at least a minute, go in and put her binky in, pat her back and slip out the door. If she continues to cry I wait another couple of minutes, go back in and put her binky in one last time, pat her on the back until she calms down and leave. She normally goes back to bed after this and will sleep through the night. A few things to remember with this is to try not to pick up your baby unless you need to. When I go in to give her the binky I do it quietly, I keep the lights down low, I pat her and whisper I love her, but I do not pick her up. I think doing this helped her to learn that she needs to learn to soothe herself. Be patient with this principle!! Sometimes I just give in and pick her up. She’s just so darn adorable. Know that it will take a couple of days, maybe even a week for your baby to learn to self soothe, but it will happen eventually!! Be persistent and patient. We are now to the point where she will cry once or twice after putting her down, but she only cries for a few minutes and will go back to sleep.
Get Baby in the Mood to Sleep
Something that I felt was really important was setting a bedtime routine for Clair. The book teaches that a bedtime routine is important for babies because they will feel more secure in their separation from mommy and daddy. Bedtime routines help them to be calm and relaxed and ready for bed, instead of being randomly put to bed at different times of the night. The unexpected is probably unsettling for babies. My routine almost always looks like the following: bath with mom & dad-sorry not WITH us, just both of us present while she bathes. That would be a big tub (haha), lotion time & jammies, singing lullabies, reading a story, saying our prayers, cuddle with mom & dad, final feeding, put her down when she’s sleepy but not all the way asleep, tell her goodnight. For me, I felt it was important that we were both present during this routine because she doesn’t get to see her daddy as much during the day. By the time he gets home she only has 2 hours with him before bed. I let Levi do as much of the routine as he wants to, but I’m always there just so she feels completely loved and secure.
Sleeping Well is Better for the Baby & the Family
I believe that statement with all of my heart! Sleeping is so essential in babies learning and development (just like adults), and when they aren’t getting enough sleep it isn’t healthy for us or them. I know how easy it is to believe that mothers should sacrifice anything for their children and I do believe that to an extent, but I don’t believe that mothers have to sacrifice their mental and physical health when it isn’t benefiting the baby. Babies need their sleep too. I’ve noticed that Clair has been much happier and alert as she gets her sleep in at night. She eats better, she plays harder, and she takes her naps during the day. Everything is happier and brighter when she gets her sleep at night.
A favorite quote from the book says, “Sleep contains an important symbolic lesson for babies: learning to sleep is part of learning to be part of the family. Babies eventually need to adapt to what others need, too.” I love that! There is so much more that babies learn when learning to sleep-they are learning that it isn’t all about them. Parents need time together to work on their relationship, and for Levi and I, that time is at night-after she’s asleep.
I know how hard it can be, and I’m not saying you have to do things the way that I’ve talked about, and maybe these principles won’t do the same for your baby. I just wanted to share them because of how much they have helped my baby girl. If you have any other questions about what worked for me, feel free to comment below.