Sweet Dreams, Baby | How My Boy Sleeps Through the Night
Sleep is (quite literally) gold when you’re home with a new baby. I remember the early days with our Evan Grey, when I’d doze off while trying to merely brush my teeth. No amount of coffee can help a new mama stay awake. Thankfully, our little guy wound up being a stellar sleeper by about 8 weeks, and started to sleep through the night (from about 8:00 pm-6:30 am). It changed my day-to-day life and gave me some serious sanity!
Every baby is so different, and I don’t think there’s a single ‘trick’ that works for everyone. But because every new mom I know is chatting all things SLEEP, I wanted to share a few tricks that worked for me, while also doing a Q&A with a sleep expert.
Personally, two changes made a MEGA difference for my boy…
Nightly Bottle | I switched the last feeding of the night to a bottle. This way, I know exactly how much he’s eating, and can encourage him to have more if I know he hasn’t had enough to get him through the night. Typically, he eats one ounce more than his average daytime feedings. I’ve pumped and stored milk from the early days of bringing Evan home, so I quickly warm that milk after his bath and feed that way rather than nursing him. This has also allowed me the freedom to have a sitter put him to sleep if I am away from home some nights.
Daytime Routine | A good daytime routine turns into a solid nighttime routine. A baby’s schedule will change many times over as they change and grow, but I’ve noticed that when I prioritize Evan’s schedule and watch for sleepy cues, he’s so much happier. He generally eats every three hours, and is only up for 90-minutes-two hours and a time. Once I see him begin to feel sleepy, I wrap him up in his blanket and get him down.
Because I am not an expert, I wanted to ask someone who is! Brynn Sturdyvin is a pediatric sleep consultant with a company called WeeSleep. She and her colleagues coach families in getting new babes to sleep, in a positive, loving + gentle way. Here’s some of Brynn’s pro tips…
AT HOW MANY MONTHS SHOULD YOU GET YOUR BABY ON A SCHEDULE?
This is a great question, and one we hear from mamas all of the time! Here’s the thing: babies are human, not clocks. No baby ever follows a set “schedule” that we give them day in and day out! The key to allowing your babe the best sleep they can get is allowing them to dictate their own “schedule” for you. As babies age, the amount of time they should be awake between naps increases. For example, an average four month old should be awake about an hour and a half at a time. Mamas can honor this “schedule” which is natural for the baby and provide a cozy sleep environment for their four month old after every hour and a half of awake time throughout the day. Over time, and as babies age, their awake times lengthen and their days become more predictable. By letting go of the idea of a rigid “schedule” and instead embracing what is developmentally appropriate for your little one’s age (starting as newborns!), mamas can ease so much of their own stress!
WHAT DOES THAT EATING/SLEEPING SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE?
Wake, eat, play, sleep! Babies and toddlers alike THRIVE on routine. Try not to let the books out there scare you with how many hours your baby “should” be sleeping and when they “should” be eating. You can begin this routine when your baby is just a wee one, but know that your babe isn’t expected to sleep through the night, or in a true organized fashion, for those first few weeks! Honor their sleep and nutritional needs. Once your little one is about four weeks old, listen to your pediatrician’s advice (especially if they encourage frequent feeding), and try your best to follow a wake, eat, play, sleep routine.
HOW IMPORTANT IS A DAYTIME SCHEDULE FOR GETTING YOUR BABY TO SLEEP THROUGH THE NIGHT?
Daytime and nighttime sleep go hand-in-hand! It sounds counterintuitive to us as adults, but the truth is that sleep begets sleep. It is SO much easier to put down a tired baby than an overtired baby. Watch your little one’s sleepy cues during the day, and when they are showing you they are tired (staring off into the distance, yawning, rubbing their eyes, getting cranky), offer them a nap in a safe place (ideally their own crib or bassinet). By honoring your babe’s daytime sleep needs, you’re helping them to stay out of sleep debt and not be overtired for bedtime. Always aim for an early bedtime (between 6 and 8 p.m.) to help your little one get all the healthy, restorative sleep they need!
SHOULD YOU EVER LET YOUR BABY CRY IT OUT?
At WeeSleep, we believe in teaching a baby their own healthy, independent sleep skills in the most gentle, positive, and loving way possible. While we do NOT believe in the “Cry It Out” method (also known as “Extinction”), it is important to know that when we are giving a babe the safe space and time to learn these skills, sometimes some protest will occur in the form of tears. This is okay! Research has shown time and time again that supporting a baby throughout this process is absolutely safe and healthy for your little one. Every family is different and has to decide what they feel the most comfortable with. When in doubt, reach out to an expert who can help take away the guesswork from all of the conflicting information out there!
WHAT ARE YOUR BEST SLEEP TRAINING TRICKS?
A predictable bedtime routine! Consistency is so important for little ones, and the repetition and predictability of a good bedtime routine allow your babe to feel comfortable knowing what is expected of them at that time (the long, nighttime sleep!). Aim to keep the routine under 45 minutes, and make it the same every night (this can be such an amazing bonding time!). When it comes time to put your baby down, put them down awake. It can sound tough, but in letting your babe fall asleep without your help at bedtime, they are learning the skills necessary to stay asleep throughout the night.
A dark room is best. We love blackout curtains and/or blinds, and make sure to remove any night lights or distractions from the room. These things, though adorable, can actually make it tougher for your little one to drift off to dreamland.
Wait a few. Lastly, when your baby wakes in the night, give them a few minutes to resettle and put themselves back to sleep. Babies and adults alike wake in the night many times, but because we’ve had so much practice as adults, we often times don’t remember these wakes. Many babies will start fussing or crying immediately upon waking, but are quick to put themselves back to sleep if given a chance!
WHAT SHOUD YOU DO WHEN NOTHING SEEMS TO WORK?
When you’re doing your best and nothing seems to work, take a deep breath and relax! You’re doing an AMAZING job, mama. Every child is a little bit different and there is no “magic potion” that works for every baby, every time. Reevaluate the situation and try to get to the root of the problem. Ask yourself, does my baby need something to get to sleep? Rocking, a boob, a pacifier…? If there is a prop involved, well the answer is, it’s got to go! In the meantime, do what you need to do to survive. When in doubt, reach out to an expert who can help. Sleep is so important for the entire family, and shouldn’t be looked at as a luxury, especially for new mamas! A rested family is a present family. Help is right around the corner. You’ve got this, mama!!
Photos by Annie Shak