Getting Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night
Lacey loves when I sing to her, like in the photo above. It's my favorite soothing technique even though my voice is the opposite of Adele ;)
Outfit deets: Top, Generation Love (Last year, one similar here)
I know many of you have been waiting for this blog for months, and I’m excited to finally share it with you!
First and foremost, I have to say that “sleeping through the night” is completely subjective. It means different things to different people. So before we get into the post, let me define what I personally consider to be sleeping through the night.
From everything I’ve read, I believe any wake up past 5am is considered “through the night.” This time is considered an early wake-up, even though to the parent it may still feel like the middle of the night.
I also need to share that Lacey has been inconsistent with sleep in her later months of life. Between dropping the dream feed, teething, and transitioning out of the Magic Merlin Sleepsuit, her sleep has been erratic. She was actually a better sleeper between months two and four!
One last disclaimer before we dive in: every baby is different. And every parent is different. The choices we make absolutely affect baby’s sleep schedules, and baby of course has his or her own opinions about middle of the night wake-ups. So keep that in mind as you continue to read!
I’m going to break this post down by months and give you a gist of how things went for us, including what worked and what didn’t. Here goes:
M O N T H S 0 - 2
Getting baby on a schedule at this time may seem ridiculous, but to me, it wasn’t because it worked! By eight weeks, Lacey was sleeping until 5-6am. I chose to follow the Babywise schedule, which meant in her super early days, I was waking her up every three hours to feed during the day. This meant she was bulking up during the day and was able to do longer stretches at night. She was a very classic Babywise baby in terms of scheduling.
Starting at 7am, I fed her every three hours (of course this start time varied based on the night). From there, we would try to have her down by 8pm at the latest. We did start a bedtime routine early on, which I’ll be sharing in an upcoming post. If the idea of a routine scares you, a simple playlist can trigger bedtime for baby. Lacey has super sensitive skin so we only bathe her every three days, so a bath is not a part of our routine. Shutting the shades, playing the same playlist, singing, etc. are all great cues for baby.
Lacey would get a dreamfeed around 10:30pm from our night nurse (she was with us until 10 weeks), and her stretches extended as the weeks went on. In the beginning, she would wake up around 1am and 4am. Within two weeks, this merged to one feeding around 3am. By seven weeks, this feeding kept stretching until she hit 5am. By eight weeks, she was able to stretch until 5:30-6:30am.
Other factors to take note of that helped us along the way:
1. Lacey slept in her own room.
Lacey has been sleeping in her room since she was four days old. I’m not sure what we would’ve done if we didn’t have a night nurse, but I know she would’ve been in her own room or in the guest room with me. Ryan has narcolepsy, and for this reason, Lacey was never going to be in our room long-term. The first few nights were different because we had no idea what we were doing and I was a nervous nelly!
This debate is specific to each couple, but for us, it was important to have Lacey sleep in her own space. Babies start to become very perceptive as early as six weeks, and I didn’t want her to freak when it would’ve become time for her to sleep in her own room (which many couples do at 3-4 months old). From my experience in talking to friends, the parents who chose to keep their baby in the room with them until three or even six months had a difficult transition because baby was aware of where they were sleeping. Those are typically the babies who also sleep regress around this time. So, here’s the thing: it’s all about choosing when you want to be uncomfortable, because it does take time for baby to learn to self-soothe. You can choose to do this from day one like we did, which is really hard because they’re so little and I totally understand why someone wouldn’t. Or, you can choose to handle this in the later months, when a regression may occur. There’s no right choice. You have to do what works best for your family!
2. We always listened to her cues, regardless of the schedule.
If Lacey was hungry before two or three hours, or if she protested a nap for whatever reason, I listened. It takes time to understand baby’s different cries, and knowing what’s a cry for no reason versus a cry because she’s uncomfortable will happen with patience and experience.
For example, Lacey went through a phase where she did not want to sleep anywhere but in a carrier on me for her first nap. I used to fight this since I was teaching her to sleep on her own in the SNOO or Rock ‘n’ Play for naps (early on her naps were downstairs in the family room with me), but one day I said “F it!” and would put her in the carrier no matter what when she was ready. Sometimes she slept in there for 90 minutes! For whatever reason, she wanted to be comforted at this time, and I let it happen without caring about a schedule or the fact that it would probably be a shorter nap. I secretly loved that she wanted to be close to me and soaked it all in!
3. We implemented a 10-minute CIO rule.
When it was time to go to sleep, and we knew all the boxes were checked (fed, clean diaper, sleepy), it was time for bed. From our first week home, we implemented a 10-minute cry rule, which was the best thing we ever did. As a new mom, it’s painful to hear your baby cry. My mom and Ryan would literally have to hold me back from going to pick her up. But without fail, Lacey never cried for longer than 10 minutes and would always fall asleep on her own without any sleep associations. There were one or two times where it took 15 minutes, but it always happened.
It may seem harsh, but again, it’s about choosing when you want to have the battle. From early on once she understood it was bedtime or naptime, Lacey wouldn’t cry when I’d put her down (not every time, but most times). To this day at bedtime, she smiles at me as I sing to her and put her in her crib, and that’s because of the work I did early on. Around three or four months when they “wake up,” if you’ve been soothing them to sleep, there’s a chance you’ll have to sleep train them all over again which will result in quite a bit of crying. It’s hard both ways!
Lacey continues to be a great self-soother. Babies cry, and teaching them how to sleep and self-soothe is as important as teaching them any other skill. Once I learned that she could be crying just because she was tired, it was easier for me to step away.
3. I made sure to have her finish both breasts.
Another post on our breastfeeding journey is coming in the near future, so I’ll keep this short. It was important to me to give Lacey full feeds every time, which as any new moms knows can be challenging with a newborn. They tend to fall asleep on the boob! I would keep a wet washcloth nearby and use it to startle her ever so slightly if I saw that she was breathing heavy and falling asleep. To this day, Lacey is super comforted by breastfeeding, so even though I’m not doing it a ton anymore (mostly bottles), if she’s had a hard day, I breastfeed her and she’ll take a little snooze. It’s the sweetest thing.
A fully fed baby will be happier and sleep better. So my suggestion is to make sure you’re always getting in full feeds, no matter what you have to do! A lactation consultant can really help with this in case you’re struggling.
4. Snuggle Me Organic + Swaddle
I was worried about Lacey being in her crib with just a swaddle. It seemed like such a big space! So based on a recommendation from a friend, I ordered the Snuggle Me Organic, and Lacey LOVED it. It’s very similar to the Dock-A-Tot, but is supposed to mimic the womb. We used this in combination with SwaddleMe Velcro swaddles, and she slept in this combo until she was almost three months old. Then we moved on to the Merlin with no problem!
M O N T H S 2 - 4
These months were a dream, and I don’t have a ton to say about them. Lacey did fight naps here and there as she went through Leap 4 (which was the most difficult leap for us – check out Wonder Weeks!), but at night she was amazing. We were still on a 3-hour feeding schedule during the day, and would do the dreamfeed around 10pm. She usually woke up anywhere from 5:30-7:30am. The Magic Merlin really was magical! Until it wasn’t…
M O N T H S 4 - 6
So yeah. I thought she’d sleep like she had previously forever (HA!!), but things got really hard right after she turned four months.
My anxiety spiked because I was so afraid of the sleep regression. She never fully regressed (as in waking up several times a night), but she did start waking up early. Like, really early ha.
The night before we left for a big trip to the Bahamas, Lacey woke up at 4am. I thought maybe she had pre-travel anxiety like me (kidding!), but no. This became a new normal. As I’m writing this just before her six-month birthday, the latest she’s slept is 6:40am (which we celebrated this morning!!). There was about a month span where she was up anytime between 4:15-6am, and it took me a while to figure out why.
Poor girl was hungry. My milk supply couldn’t keep up with her fourth month growth spurt, and I became a mess. There was no formula that Lacey could tolerate, I was exhausted, and Lacey was hungry. She also started waking for the dream feed and wiggling herself out of the Merlin. Oh, and the teething!! As you can see, it was a tornado in the Morgan household with all of those transitions at once.
So, I did something I believe more of us need to do. I asked for help. We hired a wonderful nanny who comes 2-3 times per week to help me during the day (mostly so I can get out for pelvic floor physical therapy, acupuncture, and work on my blog), and a night nurse for a few weeks to help with those transitions. I had become such an anxious person that I thought I was struggling with postpartum anxiety (that's a thing, by the way). It's a serious condition, so I didn't want to f*ck around. Originally, I was embarrassed to share our decison to hire a night nurse again, but ultimately, it was the best decision for our family.
This nurse helped us drop the dream feed and get Lacey out of the sack, and also helped me get some much needed sleep. The nurse was as much for me as it was for Lacey, and I’m so grateful to her. I feel like a completely different person than when she started. I understand not everyone is going to be able to afford help like this, and if my mom were able to be here, I would’ve asked her. But with no family nearby to help in this regard and a husband who physically couldn't, it was our only option and necessary for my sanity! They say it takes a village, and in other countries around the world, there’s help next door. It’s not like that here, so I created my own village and am so happy I asked for help.
Here’s what we worked on during this time regarding sleep:
1. I learned to be flexible.
This has been the most important lesson for me, by far. I was never married to a schedule because Lacey’s always been inconsistent, but I had to really let go. And then, I had to let go even more.
I admit it: I’m a control freak. If you’ve been to my house, it’s freakishly clean. Everything has a place. I get this from my mom!
I like things orderly, both in a physical sense and psychologically. Having a baby will throw this off for people like me, and as much as I fought it in the beginning, I now welcome the chaos with (almost) open arms. Lacey has taught me so much about myself and I’ve had to really surrender and become even more selfless as I adjust my life around her needs and schedule. Finding a balance was and continues to be tricky, but I feel so much more at peace with it all than I did two months ago.
2. We had to essentially re-train Lacey to sleep.
Lacey was always a pretty good sleeper, especially at night. She always knew when it was bedtime. Once she could wiggle herself completely out of the Merlin (don’t ask because I have NO idea how she did this!!), it was time for a sleep sack. Initially, she didn’t love the sack. She could roll over, so she instantly would roll to her tummy, but then have a mini freak session because she forgot how to roll back.
We had to let her figure it out on her own (which included a few days of cry it out that were so hard for me). She ultimately decided she doesn’t love sleeping on her tummy, and I mostly find her on her side or back. She did figure out how to roll back to her back from her tummy, but I think until she feels totally confident, she’ll sleep on her back and side. Thank goodness this was the last sleep transition in terms of what she’s sleeping in, because I’m done!! We also leave her in just footie PJs sometimes and she sleeps great like that too.
3. Bedtime at the same time every night.
From very early on (I forget exactly when, but somewhere around 4-6 weeks), we implemented a 7-7:30pm bedtime. It was 8pm in the beginning, but Ryan and I realized we were barely able to hang out with such a late bedtime, so we kept pushing it earlier and earlier. These days, it ranges anywhere from 6:15pm-7:15pm based on Lacey’s naps and what time she woke up that morning. The important thing is that no matter what, 95% of the time she’s asleep by 7pm. This has been so great because Ryan and I get to eat dinner together almost every night. I’ll be sharing our bedtime routine in an upcoming post!
I know you’ll ask, so here’s a “gist” of Lacey’s schedule, even though it literally changes every single day:
LACEY’S CURRENT SCHEDULE
6-6:30am: Bottle, 8-9oz
Naked time, lotions, change, playtime downstairs
8-9:30/10am: Nap #1
10am: Bottle, 6oz
Change, playtime, walk outside
12-1:30/2pm: Nap #2
2pm: Bottle, 6oz plus solids
Change, playtime, walk outside
If she woke up early and didn’t go right back to sleep after (so sometimes if she wakes up at 5:30-6am I put her right back down and she’ll fall back asleep), she’ll take a third nap.
3:30pm: Nap #3
4-4:30pm: Snack bottle of 3oz or solids or I breastfeed her on one side (Because I miss it! I’ll explain why I stopped in an upcoming post)
Playtime, walk outside, bath if it’s a bath night (every three nights)
6pm: Start bedtime routine and bottle
We’re trying to get her to four bottles per day, but her schedule with waking up so early doesn’t allow for this right now. Soon enough!
Wow, longggggg post. If anyone has questions I’d love to answer them below. And I’d also like to know what your experience was like with sleeping through the night!