Let me start off by saying two things. I was obsessed with figuring out how to get Smith to sleep through the night even before I was pregnant with him. I am a sleeper – I love to sleep and have never done well on less than eight hours a night. Being pregnant it was hard sleeping, but it was honestly nothing compared to the torture I felt in the first few weeks of Smith’s life when I was up every hour or two. It was the hardest thing I have ever experienced in my life, so I am very grateful I was armed with the knowledge of the best ways to get him to sleep through the night as soon as was possible. I have had a million conversations since a few weeks in about his sleep patterns, etc and I am so happy to say he has been sleeping for 11 or 12 hours a night since around eight weeks. The second thing I will say, is I am not a doctor or an expert, but I am just writing about what worked for me and what I believe in. If it can help one momma, it’s worth sharing my tips. So without further ado…
1. Get On A Routine/Schedule: In the very beginning I was desperate for some sort of a routine or schedule. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing with my newborn all day, so I am thankful for the book Cherish The First Six Weeks because it gave me ideas for a routine including times for feedings, nap time, playtime and nighttime. You are obviously at your baby’s command at first, so sometimes you can’t really control the schedule, but the sooner you get your brain on board the sooner your baby will love and crave the routine and THIS is the key factor in my opinion for a strong sleeper. Smith started sleeping long stretches (6 hours at a time) at 6 weeks and this was no accident! Also in terms of a routine make sure your baby gets to know his days from nights from the get go. Babies are sometimes nocturnal when they are born so making it loud and bright during the day is super important, just as making it quiet, calm and dark in the evening is. Believe me, this is setting you up for success.
2. Stretch Your Feedings Once You Get Approval: So in the beginning you are told you need to feed your baby on demand, which I completely did, but then after a few weeks when your baby get’s to a certain weight, your doctor will tell you you can go to feedings every two hours if your baby will let you stretch it to that. If it’s tough in the beginning, that’s normal, but both my doctor and baby class teacher said even distracting and stretching the in between time for 15 minutes to get closer to the two hour mark, the better and then eventually when the baby starts eating more you can stretch to the three hour mark! My BIGGEST tip is to wake the baby every two hours so that they get in all of their feedings (or three if that’s where you are) – the saying never wake a sleeping baby is NOT true. I learned that you want to feed your baby as much as you can during the day so at night they are not starving and waking up to eat. I also will say I had it easier once I switched to formula because I was very aware of the number of ounces he was eating and always staying ahead of the curve in terms of if he eats all of the formula, fill the bottle up more next time in case he wants more – he won’t overeat from what I was told by my pediatrician.
3. Swaddle and Crib: According to my pediatrician, the hospital where I delivered, along with both the books BabyWise and Cherish the First Six Weeks, they all agree that swaddling in the first few months is super important to helping your baby sleep. They just came from a tight cozy place in your belly and need this to feel safe and comfortable and it keeps them from waking from their startle reflex or just hitting themselves in the face when they have no control over their movements. Even if they fight it and try to get out of the swaddle, supposedly they all love it and need it. We have tried all swaddles with Smith from just regular blankets where we made the swaddles, which is hard, to easier ones that have velcro like the Swaddle Me or buttons from Aden and Anais, and then once he started breaking out of those we moved to the Love To Swaddle that zips until just recently when he started rolling over (don’t swaddle when they can roll over on their belly – very dangerous!). Now we have moved on to the Zipadee-Zip, which isn’t really a swaddle, but he loves being zipped up and and it’s better with his hards covered so they aren’t all over his face at night. One quick thing about the crib – we moved Smith out of our room and the bassinet at six or seven weeks and that is when he started sleeping for longer stretches at night right away. I honestly think we were waking him up by rolling around or just him smelling me.
4. The DREAM Feed: The Dream Feed is an actual dream for me! I was really confused as to what it was in the beginning, but I swear it made our life! This is a HUGE reason why Smith started sleeping through the night from nine weeks and on. Basically what happens is we treated the 7pm feed as the last feed of the night before we put him to bed, but then got him up and woke him as little as possible at 10 or 10:30 for the “dream feed”. The concept is getting in another feed for the night while you are still awake (hahah in the beginning you are dead asleep at this time) but it’s better than being woken up at 1 or 2 am to him crying because he is hungry. This really set him up to sleep all night. We first got him to sleep until 2 or 3am, and then 5am until finally 7am – which basically meant he was sleeping 12 hours, minus the dream feed. We eventually figured out Smith didn’t want to get up for the dream feed around three months or so, which led to us giving him smaller and smaller amounts of formula to wean him off until he slept through the night without it. Otherwise, the doctor said your baby can definitely sleep through the night without a feeding at 4 months or 14 pounds. They are big enough then to sleep train them if you need to. We didn’t have to because Smith was already on such a great pattern.
5. Sleep Begets Sleep: Don’t be afraid that if you let your baby take too many naps during the day that he won’t sleep at night. Smith has always taken 3-4 naps per day and sleeps great at night. I know when he is getting super fussy and not happy with anything, that it’s time for a nap. I am told there is a direct correlation between good daytime sleeping and good nighttime sleep. This also means that in the first few months we really scaled back our daytime schedule and didn’t make a ton of plans because we wanted him to get good long naps in his bed and where it was quiet. It’s not fun in the beginning, but once you sleep it is well worth it.
Anyway, let me know if you have any questions about what we did. The books I referenced and your pediatrician will obviously be the ones you will want to seek advice from, but all of the above really worked for us and Smith is a great sleeper with a happy momma who gets sleep! Thanks for stopping by and make sure to come back tomorrow for another fun post!