With both of our boys (Ethan now 4 and Logan now 2), we were lucky in that going to bed and sleep was never a constant battle but, I can remember during the tougher phases feeling a bit like I was going to break at times due to the lack of sleep. There was a time when we found ourselves in a phase of sharing our bed every night. And there was a time when we had to pick our youngest son up from his grandparents because he'd woke up at 2 o'clock in the morning and just outright refused to accept that he needed to go back to sleep. There were also times when I would feel consumed with Mum-guilt because my baby would wake up at night crying and we'd struggle to settle him back off to sleep.
But then I expect that at some point that's pretty much the same sort of story for all parents of babies. I just feel very thankful that it didn't take us too long to be able to establish good routines and find an approach that meant the sleepless nights weren't too much of a long term thing.
The first thing we made sure was that we were consistent and that we set a bedtime routine. The importance of routine was proven to us when our first son was quite young and we didn't quite realise how much a change to his normal routine would affect him whilst we were on holiday. Whilst away we let him stay up a bit later and also come into our bed with us. Naively we thought he'd be fine going back into his own bed when we were home again. But of course, he wasn't and what followed was quite a hard bedtime battle phase. So ever since then we've tried to keep to a good routine when it comes to going to bed;
When it came to getting our boys to settle in their beds after they'd moved into the own rooms we found a starlight mobile to be a bit of a lifesaver. It plays calming music and also has lights that shine a relaxing light show. It automatically shuts off after 20 minutes or so which we found brilliant because it meant that we didn't have to keep going into their rooms like we would have had to with a wind-up cot mobile.
My boys also have a teddy each that they've had from birth which they find so much comfort in and sleep with every night. They both slept with dummies and Ethan gave his up at 3 (Logan still has his). And we used sleeping/grow bags with them both too for bedtime. I really like the sleeping bags because they are so much safer than loose covers are and also pretty good for when they are a bit older and can stand up it's far harder for them to attempt to climb out of their cot with them on.
I believe that trying controlled crying is only recommended for babies who are a bit older. I personally wouldn't have used it when my little ones were really little, but when it came to settling Ethan into his own room and teaching him that bedtime meant bedtime, controlled crying really worked for us.
I know that people have different opinions on controlled crying, but for it was about teaching our boys that we have to go to bed at night. The way that I look at it is that it's a bit like taking them to school I guess - we wouldn't take either of our boys out of school just because they cried. We'd comfort them, reassure them and then come back at the end of the day. I think when it comes to bedtime routines and babies, there's probably no wrong way or right way to approach it other than finding something that works for everyone. Babies need to sleep but equally, parents also need their rest and their sleep to be able to give their children their best the next day.
I'm definitely not a baby sleep expert, but this is just what worked for us. We still have the odd night of the boys waking up or not wanting to go to bed. But on the whole it's not too bad, the only thing that we're really dealing with at the moment is the 6 am wake up calls! I hope this has been helpful, I'd love to hear your top tips for settling your baby/getting them to sleep through if you have any.
Alex is the founder of the popular family lifestyle blog, Bump to Baby.The blog covers motherhood, family travels and adventures and Alex’s passion for home interiors.