But with Lukas tipping the chronological scale at nearly one year, I am starting to believe I could actually have something meaningful to say. Something of value I could pass on to another new father who, by some freak force of nature, might happen upon my little "proud new father" daddy blog looking for just such advice. (Hey, as they say, if you give a hundred monkeys typewriters they will eventually create the complete works of Shakespeare, right?)
Well, here it goes. My first piece of advice as an experienced father of a happy one year old: Let your baby learn how to put himself or herself to sleep! It made all the difference in the world for Lukas, and for our sanity as well.
Mrs. LIAYF and I spent the first 6 months of Luke's life severely sleep deprived. He wouldn't sleep more than a couple of hours at a time. We were trying every 'trick' in the book to get him to sleep including swaddling, pacifier, nursing him to sleep, rocking, you name it we tried it. We cringed at the thought of letting him cry himself to sleep, and we went immediately to help him when he woke in the middle of the night. We didn't have to heart to let our son cry when we knew we could do something to make him feel better. It didn't occur to us until later that he was training us to come when he cried, because he relied on us to put him to sleep. That was our failing at the time.
We finally hit the wall at 6 months. We had to do something. We decided that Lukas needed to learn how to put himself to sleep, both at bedtime and in the middle of the night, just like everyone else on this planet. We bought several books and finally purchased an on-line program that outlined everything all the books had said:
(1) Babies and toddlers need 13-14 hours of sleep a day!!!!! This includes 2-3 naps per day until age one, and 1-2 naps after that.
(2) Babies respond to a consistent nap-time and bedtime routine, which will cue them that it's time to go to sleep.
(3) Babies need to go to bed between 7-8pm. And,
(4) YES, babies will cry when as they learn to put themselves to sleep, but with consistency the baby's response improves quickly.
With these guidelines in mind, there are several ways to put a baby to bed - sitting next to the crib, sitting in the room, leaving the room and checking on the baby. All involve a bedtime routine, putting the baby in the crib awake and NOT picking up the baby after you put him in the crib (unless they are sick or otherwise need special attention). This can be painful for parents who rush to pick up their baby every time they cry - as we did.
Yes, Lukas did cry for over 2 hours that first night before putting himself to sleep. We were there in the room with him and soothed him every 10 minutes or so. When he later woke in the night, we waited 10 minutes before going in to soothe him. I would go in, rather than Mrs. LIAYF, because we decided to skip the night nursing. Yes, it was excruciating the first night, but it got much better the next night, better yet the night after that. Within days Lukas was SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT and napping like a champ! We also noticed he became much happier with the extra sleep.
Since then, barring the minor blips during developmental phases and the nasty cold and flu season, Luke has been a terrific sleeper. We put him to bed at 7:30 and use the same routine every night. Now he sleeps pretty soundly (knock on wood). This routine gives Luke the rest he needs to regenerate for the next day, and also gives us a bit of down time together in the evening to unwind. Everyone wins! We wish we would have considered sleep training much earlier with Lukas. The crying didn't hurt him any - it was just his only way to communicate that he didn't know how to put himself to sleep. Now, he goes to sleep without any crying at all and enjoys his bedtime routine - he will actually let us know when it's time for him to go "night-night."
Hopefully, some new dad will stumble upon this post someday and reap the benefits for his own little one. There it is, my first piece of official daddy advice. Yes, I finally feel like a real dad now!