Drowsy but Awake- How does it work?
When my twins were 4-months old, I came to a revelation old that was part luck and part desperation. I shared on my Instagram stories recently that our newborn period with twins was ROUGH. I was a first time Mom struggling to adapt. I was operating on zero sleep and struggling to bond with my babies.
I didn’t know any better so I thought my sole purpose was to get them very drowsy and as close to sleep as possible..all.the.time. If they were actually asleep, even better!
Swaddling was my forte. The nurses at the hospital showed my husband and Me the ultimate burrito swaddle technique and on top of that, we own most of the swaddle products on the market. My favorite was SwaddleMe. We used the newborn sack and then moved to the Velcro sleep sack. To this day, I recommend swaddling babies 100%. It mimics the confinement of the womb and stifles the prominent reflexes babies are born with. Always, practice safe sleep and always place your baby on their back with no loose bedding fo all sleep periods.
We would bring our twins into our dark bedroom. Change their diapers, put pajamas on, swaddle and feed them. They would get drowsy and be half asleep. We would burp them, then gingerly lay them down in their bassinets and pray to everything that is holy that they would stay asleep for HOURS. But, hahahaha, do you think that happened? No. Definitely not.
Morning view wrapped up in the SwaddleMe
My girls were not good sleepers. They just weren’t. I talk to Mama’s all the time who say their 2-month old sleeps 5-6 hours at a time overnight, and I confidently know that never happened with us. Maybe it was because we had double babies, but I can’t be certain. I just know that was not in the cards for us. But, no one told me any different, so I kept rocking/patting/feeding them to sleep and continued to be so sleep deprived that I cried multiple times every day and was unable to drive my car. After 10 weeks of no one in our house sleeping, we were burnt out on running a 24-hour diner and we were confident (enough) to split shifts. My husband would take the first shift up on the second floor and I would pump then retreat to my dark room where I would fall asleep in less than 30 seconds. Then, after the first feeding, around 12-1am, we would switch and I would take the next shift upstairs solo. Mind you, I was still pumping so that meant I had to change and feed 2 babies plus pump for 15 minutes all before they woke up again 2-3 hours later.
It wasn’t until the night before my first day back to work that I realized we were so far from anything routine. My personality and inner child thrives on predictability, and I was desperate for it. I took the first shift and put them down at 8PM (asleep), I crashed in the guest bed and was woken 30-minutes later from fussing and crying.. WHAT? I wasn’t going to disturb my husband, but I shushed and rocked them back to sleep and maybe got 3 hours broken sleep before it was time to feed again. The next day, I asked my husband if they woke like that every night so soon after bedtime, and he said ‘always’. I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was under the impression we had this thing down, but it turns out it wasn’t working.
I stumbled upon a handout from one of my virtual friends one Sunday afternoon. I had cried to my Mom on the phone (again) telling her how depressed and tired I was. She reassured me that I was doing great and that it would get easier. The handout was very cut and dry. It told me my goal was to put my babies down awake and sit in the room with them if they cried. My husband and I quickly figured out that our oldest daughter did not like us in the room and overall she had the hardest time settling. I checked on her several times to reassure her, and myself, that she was okay and not ill or in distress. Sleep got immensely better after the 2nd night. We decided to cold turkey cut out the 4/5am feeding and like a light switch, we were all SLEEPING. Over the next few months, I still worked on the ‘drowsy but awake’ method. Before bedtime is a particularly tricky time to keep a baby awake! Afterall, it’s the end of the day and their brains have cued in to the bedtime routine….They know sleep is coming. We continued to feed them their last bottle in their bedroom in a dimly lit space to encourage drowsy. Was sleep perfect? No, it wasn’t. But I wasn’t a walking zombie/torture victim like I had been before.
Both my girls took pacifiers and were always ready for the day and awake around 5:45-6am. I was working outside the home at this time, so having them awake and hungry didn’t allow me to get ready for my workday.
Insert AWAKE > DROWSY!
This is when they really started to sleep great!
But, when can a baby sleep through the night?
Ideally 4months+ and with the approval of your pediatrician. If you get the green light, then going down awake is how you can allow sleeping through the night to happen. For some, both parents and baby, this can be a tremendous change. Here's what you need to do.
Formulate a plan
Lean on someone close to you
Remind yourself that you are a good Mother/Father
Being inconsistent to our babies and children is sometimes the unfair way to parent. This has nothing to do with ignoring your child's needs and emotional bond. There are plenty of opportunities every second of the day to reaffirm that closeness. This is about showing, guiding, and comforting your little one through the skill of learning to sleep.
I truly believe sleep is a skill. The majority of us are really crappy at it. Even as adults, we have to prioritize it or else we are constantly tired which causes other areas of our life to fail.
Questions about how to HELP your little one sleep better?