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The One Thing I Wish I Knew About Baby Sleep

Photograph by Twenty20

Everyone knows it's important to establish a sleep routine with your baby—but, as a mom ,you also know there is nothing more precious than watching your newborn fall asleep in your arms. Those few minutes of peace you get when your little one dozes off while nursing are special.

In my case, I decided to put off a sleep routine because nursing to sleep worked for us. My baby girl was a great sleeper, and putting her down every night meant I got to take a break from toddlers and chores. Plus, she rarely woke up at night, and when she did, I could put her down with the comfort of my breast.

I knew the day would come when I would have to get her on a bedtime routine, but I happily put it off in exchange for cuddles and convenience. I assumed establishing a sleep routine would get easier with age.

That was a terrible mistake.

If you have a new baby, I really hope you won’t follow in my footsteps

One day, when my baby was 7 months old, I was in total exasperation after being woken up for the fifth time that night. I found an article on Precious Little Sleep that said babies develop a new skill around 6 months called object permanence, meaning that they actually remember that you exist when you leave the room. So, if they wake up at night and you're gone, they are terrified. Introducing a sleep routine after 6 months, according to the author, Alexis Dubief, becomes increasingly difficult.

It makes sense. Prior to this milestone, out of sight means out of mind, but once they remember you, they also remember that they fell asleep nestled in mom’s embrace, listening to your heartbeat and basking in your love. And when they wake up, you’re gone, and that is the worst thing that could ever happen. It’s dark and kind of cold and there's not even a blanket!

Dubief says your newly aware baby waking up without you is the equivalent to you waking up to find out someone has dragged you outside and left you in the lawn. This milestone is also closely related to stranger and separation anxiety, so once you notice your baby getting squirmy around new people, it may already be too late, like it was for me.

After several failed attempts at establishing a sleep routine, I caved and gave up, opting instead to transition my baby to a bottle so others can help put her down. But if you have a new baby, I really hope you won’t follow in my footsteps. I wish I knew how important it was to get babies into a bedtime routine as early as possible, lest you be stuck, as I was, in a constant cycle of nursing your baby back to sleep.

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