This post contains affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.
I didn’t get into motherhood to be an expert on anything.
I am certainly not an expert on anything that pertains to it now.
I have, however, somehow managed to be one of the moms in most of my circles to stay weirdly consistent with both my 3-year-old and 1-year-old boys in terms of their routines and their sleep.
I think that point alone has aided them in being the smart little boys I hope they will continue to be.
When I was in college, I was the first one out of the party or to leave the club – I wanted to get home to my bed. Some might call that lame or square (my friends definitely did) but I loved coming home and snuggling in my cozy bed and letting Dreamland take me.
When I got pregnant with my first – the sleepless nights, constant morning sickness, and anxiety took hold of me, and my mood was horrendous. I would snap on my dog, my husband, parents – everyone – and we were in the middle of March 2020, so things were not going well for my mental health.
Learning About Children and Sleep Habits
I dove down the rabbit hole of motherhood – I figured I had 30ish weeks to learn everything I could about infant sleep so that my life wasn’t ruined by a lack of energy and resentment towards the small thing that would cry into my ear inevitably for the first couple of months. I read everything. Everything.
Taking Cara Babies, Mom’s on Call, Wake Windows, Baby Sleep 101, Sleep Training, Gentle methods, attachment parenting, co-sleeping you name it – I have it. I like to consider myself a realist and being one of the last girls in my husband’s group of friends to have a baby – I knew that one size does not fit all from all of their complaining and unsolicited advice – so I needed to really put that into my mind as I had my first. Every one of those girlfriends used a different method – some were still waking into the night as their kids turned 4 and I knew that wasn’t for me. I wouldn’t survive if that was my kid – and truthfully neither would my marriage.
I researched the apps on tracking babies’ sleep, looking to what was appropriate for certain ages and then the biggest item was taking a journal of what I did in certain situations in regard to my Son’s sleep so in the future for my second – if anything coincided – I could at least look back at what I did. Some may say this is a bit insane – and it totally is – but I am sleeping well at night. What gets measured gets Managed. And that’s how it would begin.
The first 8 weeks of your newborn’s life are a crapshoot – and I wish I had really heard my own brain saying this as my Son was born in the early morning of November 2020. The hormones, anxiety, and just overwhelming feeling of becoming a first-time mom gave me a one-way ticket into Post Partum Depression and Post Partum Anxiety. I was so worried about sleep that I couldn’t take my eye off of that prize – and it was a spiral I just didn’t need trying to navigate everything else.
Beginning Stages of Sleep – How does having a new baby impact sleep?
Have a life in those first 8 weeks – get out of the house – go for walks – go to the store – bring the baby. I promise you nothing will help them sleep longer during this point anyway other than them seeing the sun and setting their own circadian rhythm and having a slightly more than zombie mother. So that’s my advice in those first two months – live. Don’t try to get sleep – it’s not happening.
Wake Windows and How to Navigate Them
Myself? I didn’t do that. I stayed indoors – dove deeper into depression and couldn’t see straight. So being that my first was a complete blur – having the journal and the app Huckleberry kept me on track. It was the right app for me and my neurosis and although a paid app ($12.99 a month) it is something I still use with my second. Huckleberry helped determine and track wake windows for my children, which eventually resulted in restful, independent sleep for my entire family, without any other sleep training methods in conjunction.
What are Wake Windows?
Wake Windows are defined as the amount of time your child can ‘comfortably’ stay awake in between naps and bedtime.
During the newborn weeks with my first child, I tracked everything (which again I do not recommend in the first 8 weeks – the app will even tell you this). From the moment he woke up – to the moment he would fall asleep in my arms or at the bottle – the time was in my phone. Slowly but surely -I started to notice trends – and so did my phone. It would beep and tell me when my Son was getting sleepy – and sure enough -seconds after the alert – my son would yawn and I would be able to rock him much more easily to sleep. What gets measured gets managed.
It started to click. Wake Windows were the way to go. He was responding to them the right way – and I started to notice that the first nap of the day was the easiest and most days he would put himself to sleep without my help. I could see the light. When he would yawn – I would jump into action.
What do you do at the end of a Wake Window?
Diaper change, low light, sound machine, sleep sack/swaddle, and I would rock him lightly – not all the way to sleep – and place him in his crib – eyes half open. Sometimes they would shoot wide as soon as his head touched the sheet. I would pick him back up and rock a bit to that “drowsy” state – and place him back down. It was 15-20 minutes of work. Pick up – put down – pick up – put down. And finally – the put down that did it – his eyes half open – I laid my hand firmly on him, rocked him slowly back and forth with my palm, and as his eyes closed for sleep – I would take my hand from him. And enjoy the next 90 minutes of solitude. Not a cry took place.
Now this wasn’t perfect every time. Sometimes the dog would bark, sometimes I would drop something on the way out of his room – sometimes I would stub my toe and swear to the heavens and wake him up. But the consistency helped us both get some normalcy together.
My blurry eyes started to become clear.
And it worked.
I got my first 8-hour stretch in February of 2021. At the 10-week mark. I remember it perfectly.
I woke up, chest hard as rocks, and dazed and confused as all hell. But he slept. Perfectly. From that moment forward – that was the method. Wake Windows allowed me to teach him how to put himself to sleep when he was the right amount of tired -and minimal to no crying. And I mean this. I have heard my baby cry himself to sleep once in my life and it was because I was so frustrated with life that day that I gave him 10 minutes while I composed myself – and he fell asleep – I still think about that night often and wish I had the patience in me to go in there to help. But sometimes you need a moment.
Wake Windows might work for your family, too
Wake Windows vary – and as with all things – not one size fits all – but it does fit a majority. A lot of mothers would message me and ask me how to do the “wake window thing” – and I would say you have to really tune into your kid – you need to watch them closely – and if you don’t think you can do that – this may not be the method for you. Consistency here is key. Watch for the cues – red eyebrows, rubbing at the eyes – laying their head on you. I say if you get one yawn – you’re there! If you get 3 yawns- you waited too long and this might be a bit more difficult.
I am a more patient mother, parent, and caregiver when I have had rest. And the only way I get my sleep – is if my kids do. Regressions we blew through with little to no interruptions (except for the 15-month one – that was a doozy for both my kids). Both my kids can easily put themselves to sleep – they do not scream for me or my husband – we do a very well planned out – albeit short routine – for them each night – nothing too complicated, and a constant is a book – always. This helps my own brain get ready to wind down too.
What are the Benefits of using Wake Windows?
Independent sleep for you and your family
I think once I really started to realize the effect that sleep had on my kids and myself, I dove deeper. I do not believe “crutches” are bad habits at all for babies – pacifiers, falling asleep at the breast, rocking, bum patting – all of it is fine if it works for you. For me I wanted my children to be very independent in their sleep – so that I could be too.
Some see this as selfish – that maybe they needed me more than I gave of myself. But I promise you this – when my kids cry the rare moments in the middle of the night – I leap out of bed. I run so fast to their rooms and give them whatever comfort they need. Do I turn on the light? No. Do I take them out of their rooms unless it’s for potty? No. Do I play or stimulate or look at my phone while I am in there? Also no. I sit – I brush their hair – I hold them, I sing softly and I lay them back down. They can feel you – they feel your stress – your exhaustion – and your frustration – if you go in with love – most of the time that is all they look for in you.
My baby isn’t a newborn anymore, can I still use Wake Windows?
Some people with older kids now ask if wake windows can still help, I think they could! I started from the beginning of both my kids and with the second it was significantly faster and easier as I knew what I was doing. However, if you are just starting – read about it first – and commit to it -it’s not going to be a day or two – it will be weeks. But if sleep is the end goal here – then it’s worth it.