doubling up : sleep and other adjustments

So. When I realized I'd have another newborn, I sort of freaked out. You see, I am pretty sure we messed up our firstborn's sleep habits and made all our lives far more chaotic than they needed to be. That said, I don't regret it, because I think that's what it's like to have a firstborn. Yah gotta go through it yourself, you know? They all turn into CEOs anyway, so what's the harm?

But with the second, I knew I didn't want to make the same mistakes. I had an idea of what to do differently (or rather, what to just let happen naturally), but I was FREAKED about the idea of being sleep-deprived and responsible for a very awake toddler. FREAKED, people.

Here's what the ladies had to say to me:

How did you handle their sleep and yours? What would you change in hindsight?

Carter was a terrible sleeper.  After weeks of grumpiness and arguments and tears (not just the babies' tears), we created a system.  We set up a sleep area in the basement and took shifts.  10-2 and 2-6.  One of us would sleep upstairs and one would sleep downstairs so you always got 4 hrs of uninterrupted sleep.  Four hrs was as long as I could go without pumping so it worked for us.  Plus, we moved the baby into a bassinet in our room so you never really had to get out of bed.  If he woke up, we would feed him a bottle and then roll over to put  him back in the bassinet.  When Gunnar got here, we were prepared for those sleepness nights again.  However, we were so lucky that this baby was a wonderful sleeper and literally slept 5 hrs straight from the day he was born.  He was one of the kids the nurses in the hospital had to wake up (due to some crazy rule about not being allowed to sleep more than 5 hrs straight).  I sincerely hope you get a sleeper like our second child!!  In hindsight, I would have stuck with my instincts about bottles and co-sleeping rather than get sucked into all the debates about what is better and if one of them is evil.  If it works for your family, it is the best thing for your child.  Period.  Don't let anyone convince you otherwise.

Sleep! Well the first few months are so tough because there is no such thing as a schedule for the newborn! I generally follow the "no more than 2 hours wake time" rule and would just let Amelia sleep enough of course, but from early on never let her just sleep the whole day away. Around 3-4 months I began to make sure she was up from her morning nap by 11, so she would be ready to go back down by 12:30-1. Abigail slept 1-3:30 and I was determined to get them on the same schedule.Took a couple weeks, but it worked great. I quickly learned babies/toddlers crave & thrive on routine and predictability. I was also diligent about being home at naptime so they got good sound sleep in their cribs. For nightime I believe earlier is better as overtired babies fight sleep! Starting around 4-5 months we began putting Amelia down about 7, I'd scoop her up to nurse before we went to bed about 10-10:30. Then of course there was the 2-2:30 am feeding, and then she was up again about 6 am. Once we got the ok from our pediatrician, we sleep trained, as we did with Abigial and it works like a charm. It is sooooo very difficult those first few nights but also so worth it. I now have two very happy, well rested and healthy kids that sleep 7:30-7:30 and nap from 1-3:30. Hallelujah!!

I probably didn't do very well for myself, here. I was so protective of my adult time with my husband that I stayed up late after the children were asleep. I have never liked schedules, so the idea of giving myself an early bedtime was repugnant to me. And so I was exhausted. I should have given in! I'm better now.

Ironically, a VERY important practice we established for the children was having an unwavering bedtime (8:00 pm). Before 8 we would get the children ready for bed, read them a book, and then say bedtime prayers and sing a hymn. Then the lights went off and we kissed them good night--even the newborn baby! This bedtime ritual helped each new child learn to fall asleep on his own at an early age.

Hannah's health was at her worst when Clare was born, so she and Clare were waking every 2-3 hours, so my husband got one and I got the other.  I also drink caffiene (there I said it :)), not too much, but enough to take the edge off.  My children are super crazy, mabye this is why.  I did give in to co-sleeping because I just needed to sleep and that worked just fine.  Also, we cry it out at 6months--did wonders (I don't do well with it, but my husband is great, so after 3 nights, she slept and I was thanking my husband).  I did find with my third a little secret-  Fisher Price Rock and Play.  It was snug, but safe, and Emily slept great in it next to me (so no co-sleeping with her).

I don't know if I would change much.  Sleep deprivation is really difficult, but I have found with all three of my girls, the pain of getting them to sleep well, is worth it.  They are all great sleepers and I have been able to benefit from it since our third was 6 months.  This has really helped me be a better mom and them get to sleep on their own.

To be honest, I get more sleep now than I did the first 15 months with Tom, and David is just so EASY.  Tom woke up every 1.5 hours until he was weaned at 15 months.  David has already had some stretches of 6, 8, and even 10 hours at night.  That said, I knew NOTHING about infant sleep with Tom.  I prepared so much for childbirth and not at all for helping him sleep.  With David I knew to not keep him up more than 1.5 to 2 hours, to get him on a schedule of nursing right when he woke up, to swaddle him, etc.  But basically Arch and I don't see one another at night...he handles Tom's bedtime routine and all his wakeups, and I do David's bedtime nursing/put to bed and his wakeups...so we still have a lot to figure out.

How did you adjust your relationship with your firstborn, and what were the advantages and disadvantages of these adjustments? 

 The firstborn learns to be more independent and learns skills like taking turns, having patience, being a part of something bigger (the family unit).  The advantages FAR outweight the disadvantages.  Of course, the main disadvantage is that the firstborn is no longer the focus of your life and that takes some adjustment for them, too.  It doesn't take a lot of time - kids really do value quality time over a longer quantity of time where you are distracted.  Even 15 minutes of undistracted reading or playing can change a toddler's mood.  If the morning starts out rough, I would aim to get this 15 min in before morning nap time and re-start the day after we all had our morning nap! 

 Didn't really adjust my relationship with Abigial, just spent special time with her whenever I could. Invited her to cuddle next me and we would read as I nursed Amelia. Encouraged her to be my "special helper" and bring me a diaper for Amelia or as she got older make her food, etc. Even now, we have special "Mommy/Abby or Daddy/Abby time when we just read/play or go to the park or even grocery store, she loves it and we'll start doing the same for Amelia, especially in a few weeks when baby #3 arrives.

Everything I said about nurturing a culture of community [from Wednesday's post].

 We really make it a point for them to have their own time with us....mommy or daddy dates (really just running errands or getting a McDonalds ice cream), but it's one on one time with us.  Or they each get a book read to them.  Because of Hannah's health issues, she still receives the majority of the attention, and sometimes Clare does act out on that, but they are both unique and recieve an equal amount of love and affection from both of us.  Sometimes Hannah gets more, and sometimes Clare gets more and sometimes Emily gets more.  It's actually really good for them to learn, and to be okay with the fact that things are not always equal in amount, but equal in love.

 As I said above, it was difficult, and it was so hard seeing how shocking it was for Tom to suddenly have this new little person around who, in the beginning, just cried and slept.  We talked to him a LOT.  We told him David just cried because he couldn't talk to us yet, taught him to help us shush David to sleep, praised him for being the helpful big brother opening diapers (sometimes emptying a whole box) or bringing wipes, or anything else we could praise him for.  Both Arch and I tried to give him as much one on one time as we could and a lot of affection.  He had more meltdowns so we had to balance what things deserved a time out and what things were just the fact that he couldn't handle his emotions with this big change.  We tried to never say "you're a big boy now so you can't do ...(fill in whatever behavior it was) or now you have to (fill in task)" because we read somewhere that no toddler is going to think it's better being the big boy when the baby gets cuddled and held all day long. 
When I just had Tom, I couldn't fathom giving enough attention to both, but it's not like a piece of pie that's going to get eaten up.  Now I try to give my attention to both and do as much together as we can (reading books on my lap, etc).  To be honest, sometimes I wonder if David isn't the one who sometimes sits in his bouncy chair or swing more than Tom would have because I have to help Tom with something, but having a baby carrier helps a lot with that.


I can't tell you how grateful we were for this read! It seems as though parents just get the swing of things on the second try. I'd say we certainly did. Though I'm now going through a bit of night-waking teaching with my 4.5 month old, it's been a dream compared to the first. We learned quickly to get our daughter used to sleeping in her crib, and falling asleep there, however aided. But most of all, we've noticed how much better parents we are when we sleep and how happy they are when they sleep well. 

I hope you've enjoyed this week! Be sure to check in tomorrow for the Famous Last Words and the best part of parenting 2 kids!


And check back tomorrow for another installment: SLEEP.


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