As I prepare for the arrival of my fourth child, one thought looms large: SLEEP. How will I get as much as I need and when? With a first child, endless nights may be tolerable during the first few months because you really can take the age-old advice to "sleep when the baby sleeps." But, what about when you need to watch after children who are awake or don't have the luxury of an extended maternity leave from work? I will admit that a lack of sleep turns me into a mean Mommy very quickly. Although I had once sworn that I would never "sleep train" my children, desperation kicked in when my 11-month-old third child was still waking up multiple times at night. An amazing sleep coach, Jessica Dodson from Starlight Sleep Coaching, was able to coach me through getting my daughter to sleep in her own room, all night, with minimal tears on both our parts in under a week. After I emerged from my nearly year-long drowsy haze, I let go of any judgment of parental choices when it comes to getting a child to sleep and a clear understanding that there is no one right way to do anything when it comes to getting babies to sleep.
As I prepare for the fact that in a few short months I will need to stay up all night with a newborn while still waking up no later than 7:00 with my other three little ones, I am doing all that I can to prepare. Before four months there is little that can be done to train babies to sleep, but some steps can be taken to shape good sleeping habits, such as creating a bedtime routine. This is something I plan on doing starting on our first nights together.
I know that the right choice for my family is to keep my baby in my room for at least the first several months of his life. Of course I want to do everything I can to make sleep not just possible for both of us, but also safe as well. One of the few items I decided on for this baby that has a limited life is the Halo Swivel Sleep Bassinet. I used a traditional bedside sleeper with my older children, but this Bassinet caught my attention immediately as a great alternative because it easily moves away from the bed when I need to get up or close to the bed (even going on top of the mattress) for when I need to check on baby or nurse him at night. The bassinet also has a nightlight which will help keep a dark environment during nighttime diaper changes and comes with other helpful features, such as the ability to gently vibrate.
What about naptime when we're not necessarily the bedroom? My choice is the Joovy Room, which is a combination bassinet/playyard/changing table/storage unit with a sophisticated design that won't make my living room look like a nursery. As a huge bonus, it has an MP3 hook-up so that I can play my baby my music rather than relying on the drivel that comes standard on a lot of baby gear. The Room easily converts into a playpen and folds up for easy travel when a safe place to sleep is needed at Grandma's or a hotel.
For peace of mind a baby monitor is an absolute must when baby is napping or when he is in his own room. It will be reassuring to know that you won't miss your baby's cry when he wakes up but it will also be reassuring to know that your baby is alright the first time he sleeps through his regular 3:00 am feed and the first time he sleeps through the night. The Angelcare AC1200 makes monitoring your baby so easy because it provides video and sound right to your phone or tablet. You always have your phone with you so might as well make it the device you need to keep tabs on your littlest love. Up to four devices can be synced to the monitor making it easy for you to peek on your baby when you go out for date night and even the grandparents can watch their sleeping angel, which means sending fewer photos on your part. The monitor can also last beyond the baby years as it can be used as a camera to watch playing toddlers in a different room or even as a webcam.
Once my baby is in his own room I am thinking about how to make his crib as safe as possible. When my first child was born over eight years ago we picked out a crib mattress that seemed safe and comfortable without further thought. But, since then parents have started to pay a lot more attention to the chemicals their children come in contact with daily. Dangers posed by BPA may be the best known, but others have been in the news, including chemicals used in crib mattresses. Given that (fingers crossed) babies sleep most of the day and possibly the night an organic crib mattresses (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/06/03/organic-crib-mattresses-f_n_104957.html_) free from flame retardants, other chemicals, surrounded by a non-breathable cover that may cause overheating an organic crib mattress is worth the splurge. My little one will be sleeping on an all-organic Coco Naturalmat filled with organic coir from organic coconuts and wrapped in a very soft and breathable organic lambswool. Importantly to me, there is nothing toxic or synthetic anywhere in this mattress yet it meets all federal fire retardant regulations. Although being free from chemicals was enough justification for me that it is worth the price, mattress is suitable from newborns on up and I plan on using it as my son's toddler mattress for at least a couple of years after we throw away his crib. Reports from other parents are that their babies sleep better on organic mattresses since they more breathable than standard crib mattresses. I'll take any help I can get in this department. I'll be pairing my son's organic mattress with bedding from Olli & Lime, which is not just gorgeous but made from super-soft cotton percale, duck and twill with inks that are water-based free from formaldehyde, heavy metals and toxic substances so that we can both rest easy.
Another big change from when my first child was born is that crib bumpers are widely thought to be dangerous and are in fact banned in some states. Yet, I know from experience that little ones will inevitably bang into the crib rails. A great new solution I have found is Wonder Bumpers, which zip around each individual crib rail providing protection with none of the dangers posed by bumpers.
To help keep my son happy in his crib even when he's awake I'll be using the Wimmer-Ferguson Stim Mobile. My younger daughter used this simply designed mobile and I haven't found anything that looks even remotely better this time around. The mobile has an ingenious design of allowing the parent to change the pictures displayed in the mobile starting with high-contrast black-and-white designs great for newborn newborn development working your way up to full-color pictures. I'm also using the B. Kids Watch Over Me Dream Station to project stars onto the baby's ceiling at night and become part of his routine to signal it's sleeping time.
For anyone struggling with sleep issues, you are not alone! Every little bit of help can go a long way!