Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Some people can function as a regular human being on no sleep. Me, I crack. I become someone that I really don’t like and usually end up as a big puddle on the floor. Alright, that is being a little dramatic but I really don’t cope well. So imagine my state when babies were introduced to my world, what am I thinking, I’m sure it doesn’t take a lot of imagining as you can all relate to what I’m saying.
Anyhow, I was fairly confident while I was pregnant that we would be just fine when our first child was born. I am the oldest of 9 cousins many of whom I remember as infants. I babysat for years and years, including newborns, I was a swimming instructor and lifeguard and took classes including child psychology in my undergrad degree. I vividly remember having a conversation with my husband shortly before my son was born and he expressed that he was slightly concerned because he’d never been around babies before. And I think I may have said, don’t worry I got this, I’ll help you out. BFFFFF….well didn’t I end up eating my words!
Having our first child was one of the biggest adjustments I’ve gone through in my life, and I’ve gone through some adjustments. But I really think I would have been better served if I had had a plan about what to do with an infant. I can appreciate that not everyone feels like they need a plan and I’m sure many of you look back and think having a plan wasn’t really the way you wanted to parent and I completely get that. But for some, becoming new parents can be somewhat overwhelming, and having some structure can really help get everyone on the right track.
Eight weeks into being new parents, my husband had been talking to his best friend who recommended a book called On Becoming Babywise to us (check my previous blog for details). Well just like the iPhone has changed my life, this book too, changed my life. My son became happier, he would sleep for longer stretches at a time and I became a happy mom. When my daughter was born we followed it from day 1 and she was the best baby ever, who knows if it was because she was the second child or if it was Babywise. I don’t particularly care either way because it was a plan that worked for me. Both were sleeping for 9 hours at night by 2 and 3 months respectively and 12 hours by 4 and 5 months. Here are the basic details but if you want the full version pick up the book and read the Sleeping and Eating chapters (I skimmed the rest).
The premise of the book is to follow the Eat, Wake, Sleep pattern. You want to pick a start time every day that works for you, so say 7am. Feed your baby at 7am, have them “play” so basically just awake time and then put them down for a nap, or let them fall asleep. Initially you’ll feed them every 2.5 hours and as they get older and sleep longer then you’ll increase that to 3 and eventually 4 hours. The key is not to let them fall asleep while they’re eating, they need to get in a full feeding. If you’re breast feeding it is somewhat difficult to tell, but you start to get a sense. Then play time which can be anything from being on a playmat, sitting in a bouncy chair, reading a book, whatever you want to do to stimulate them, sometimes it will be as short as 30-45 minutes before they’re ready to go to sleep.
You want to stick to that 2.5-3 hour window of feeding initially so if you have to wake your baby during the day to stay on track, do so. This will ensure they get the appropriate amount of milk during the day which will allow you to let them sleep longer at night. I believe by about 6-8 weeks pediatricians say that it is ok to let your child go 5 hours before you need to feed them (check with your own for advice). You want to make sure that that 5 hour stretch falls at night (so you can be sleeping). Obviously if they wake up earlier then that then you feed them, but there is no need to wake them at night before 5 hours (again ask your pediatrician about appropriate age for this).
Eventually you’ll find that the time between feedings increases so you won’t have as many feedings during a 24 hour period but they will still be getting the right number of ounces as their intake at each feeding will increase. You’ll be able to have the last feed of the day be earlier and earlier in the evening until eventually they’ll be sleeping for 12 hours a night. And you my friend, can crack open that bottle of vino and toast your husband for a job well done.
There is one part of the book that I’ve heard people balk at and decide it isn’t for them. And that is their recommendation for having the child fall asleep on their own, which sometimes can be inferred as letting them cry it out. Well, what you decide to do is your business but my sister used the book and never once let her child cry it out or fall asleep on his own and it still totally worked for her. Her son was sleeping through the night by 4 months.
So my theory is that if you are like me and would like to at some point have your child sleeping through the night then you are going to have to go through some kind of sleep training. The end result of this method is having a child that sleeps through the night, but instead of having to go through the rigmarole of Ferberizing and all that, you’re building the habits for your child to know when to sleep and when to be awake.
The great thing about being a parent is being able to make your own choices about what is best for you and your child. I wanted to share what worked for me and hope that it can help out someone else as well.