I wouldn't say that I've adhered too strictly to what books or parenting manuals have proffered as Parenting 101. Mostly because Ember has had plans of her of own. When those books suggested that my baby should be finding a rhythm in her nap schedule at 3 months and Ember was still all over the place, I waited with baited breath for something that has just now begun to happen. It was books that lead me to believe that babies begin sleeping through the night at 6 months of age. Hmm well, I'm still waiting. The key to maintaining sanity on this journey has been to throw out the books that preach the generalized rules and go it our way, with a rhythm that Ember dictated.
That being said, I did subscribe to two things early on - keeping the room dark and not talking during nighttime feedings AND a bedtime routine. I've not tried to dissuade Ember's midnight snacks (or the ones at 3 am, 4:30 am, 5 am etc) but I was adamant that she learn the difference between night and day. And for us, it worked! She stirs and grumps to indicate that she's hungry but she's always half asleep - eyes closed, no babbling - she goes about her business and quickly falls back asleep.
The bedtime routine always seemed harmless to me. Ember quickly learned that the nursing pillow meant snack time so I figured that if we implemented a bedtime routine, she would learn the cues to settle down for the night. Andrew and I discussed what would be feasible for us to achieve every night and agreed that it needed to be portable for us to maintain the routine while travelling. Without too much discussion we settled on reading 'Goodnight Moon' by Margaret Wise Brown after she'd been diapered and dressed in fresh pyjamas for bed. The book, a gift from Ember's Grandma Michelle, makes a great nighttime read since the words have calming sounds and the pages get darker as the story goes on. And I think it's just lovely to say goodnight to everything in your bedroom, it's almost like a blessing. This book has magical powers. If we've pushed the limits of bedtime a little (not getting home quickly enough from a dinner out with friends or family), Goodnight Moon brings Ember down and calms her. She most definitely associates this with bedtime now.
At six weeks of age, we started reading to her and playing by the same rules when Ember signalled bedtime. Nothing has changed since the, we've just added two things.
While visiting her great-grandparents on Galiano Island, Ember was given a Warm Buddy Cozy Kitten. Cozy Kitten has an inner removable heat pack that you can microwave for 30 seconds to make super cozy. We warm up Kitty Cat and hand it to Ember just before reading, and she gets to hang on to it while nursing to sleep. More recently I learned about Badger's Night Night Balm and thought it was worth a shot. If it didn't work for Ember, I decided that I could reap the benefits of it. Each night before she gets to snuggle Kitten, I dot a little on the end of her nose. (I've also been known to smear a little on my chest for extra strength sleeping aid ... for both of us). Since we've been using it, Ember dozes off quicker and sleeps a little more soundly.
Since its inception at 6 weeks of age, Ember hasn't missed a night of Goodnight Moon. She happily hugs her Cozy Kitten while listening to her story. The routine calms her down nicely at the end of her busy days. Plus, Andrew and I love it. It affords us quiet time alone with our girl and allows us to bond before she happily dozes off for the night.
* If the success of these items is all coincidence, I don't care to acknowledge it.
* None of these items is enjoyed outside of bedtime as we don't want to confuse her.
* Cozy Kitten doesn't sleep with Ember; it is only enjoyed by Ember under our supervision.