Doesn’t the baby just go to sleep when it’s tired??
In a perfect world, yes, but in a perfect world I would have a 6 pack! This is one topic that I was really glad I researched well before baby came. I forgot most of it, as soon as we brought the peanut home, but still knew that it was going to be one of the hardest things to deal with once the “4th trimester” was over.
Clearly when you get home you are not thinking about sleep training, and you shouldn’t be! All you need to worry about is making sure the little bambino eats, sleeps, poops, and pees. As long as those things are happening, then you can relax. After the first month lack of sleep is going to start wearing on you, actually its really after the first week. This is the time your help (daddio, parents, friends) start to slowly fade away. You just feel like a bus hit you most days, because you are still feeding baby every 2-4 hours, and that includes at night. Then ALL OF THE SUDDEN, baby sleeps for 5 hours! Clearly, you assume baby has died. You shake your husband as fast as you can, to let him know that baby is still sleeping. He rolls back over, whispering loudly, “THEN LET HER SLEEP!”
Now, in some cases you have turned a corner and baby is starting to develop their circadian rhythm (AKA: getting their days and nights in order), in others it was a fluke thing and you baby will start having these long stretches only occasionally. The first time G did it, my bestie was watching her. I texted her that night demanding to know what drugs she gave her!
My little chick was sleeping 7-4am at only 2 months old. By 3 months she was sleeping from 7-7. Some peeps will tell ya that “sleeping through the night” is a 5 hour stretch. Well, in my world, “sleeping through the night” means SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT. AKA:The clubs are closed, and the late night diners have stopped flipping burgers.
Routine, Routine, Routine
I started a bedtime routine at 1 month old, and do it every night no matter what. Even if we travel we try and emulate the same routine, and it really seems to work. Our bedtime routine takes about 30 minutes, and my husband and I do it together almost every night(I know this is not realistic for everyone, but the important part is NOT the husband, but the routine) You have to decide what’s best for your family and your family’s lifestyle, BUT the most important part is to stick to a routine. Baby needs it, loves it, craves it! When baby knows what to expect they are happier and calmer! Here is what we did…
Starting at 1 month
- Bath (turn the lights down, use calm voice, baby needs to decompress from all that stimulation from the day. Read The Witching Hour)
- Infant Massage (3-5 minutes, tops!)
- Jammies (AKA: Pajamas)
- Diaper and diaper cream
- Bottle & Burp
- *If you know that baby has peed while you were feeding her, then I would change the diaper again before swaddling.
- White Noise
***Make sure to do all of the above activities, besides bath, in the nursery, as you want the nursery to be viewed as a calm and relaxing place, and not just a place where baby sleeps. Baby might start to view the nursery as a negative place if all she does is cry/sleep/and get diaper changed in there. My hubby and I try and treat the entire bedtime routine like a day at the spa! Only the hot man giving the massage is my husband. 😉
**Its important to remain consistent here, because your babe will thrive on it. Within two weeks I promise you will see your baby become very pleasant as soon as you start running the water for that bath! This is where my little one really started turning a corner, and sleeping longer stretches at night.
*As your little one gets older you can swap out the infant massage for a story or a song, but the important part is to keep with the ROUTINE!
Eat, Awake, Sleep… ALL DAY LONG!
There are a lot of baby books out there that will tell you this is the quickest way to get your baby on a schedule and a rhythm, and get them to be hap hap happy!
My Fav book is ON BECOMING BABY WISE by GARY EZZO and ROBERT BUCKNAM. They really promote the idea of a feed/wake/sleep routine. TRACEY HOGG/THE BABY WHISPERER calls it the E.A.S.Y routine, which stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, YOU. I was crazy about following this from 1 to 6 months. I decided when she would eat, sleep, and be awake. Yes, even if that meant waking a sleeping baby. This principle does not apply once baby goes to bed, but during the day GO FOR IT!
Parent directed feeding is quite controversial to many mothers and doctors. Again, it is your choice to follow this, and sometimes when baby is really fussy you WILL just have to feed them. I followed a 3 hour schedule with baby G, and believe me there were times when 2 hours had passed and she was flipping out for some milk. Worst cry EVER! I would feed her, but I always tried to keep her awake after I fed her, and just would continue to try and push her to the 3 hour mark the next cycle.
Sample Schedule 1-2 Months **This can be adjusted to a 2, 2.5, or 3.5 hour schedule.
7-7:30 Feed (Try and get baby to take a full feed, to prevent snacking)
7:30-8:00 Awake Time (Tummy Time, sing to baby, Read to baby. Do whatever you can to keep them awake)
8:00-10:00 Nap (You can let baby sleep on you, or put them in the swing/bassinet etc. for months 1 and 2, but I would try to begin putting baby in the crib for naps, especially at month 3 when sleep training can begin.)
10:30-11:00 Activity time
1:30-2:00 Activity Time
4:30-5:00 Activity Time
5:00-6:30 Final Nap of the day
6:30-7:00 Bedtime Routine (Bath, PJs, Bottle/Boob, Swaddle)
10:00-10:30 Wake baby for a feed/diaper change and put right back down for the night
**You can always tweak the above schedule to put baby to bed earlier, it will just change the time baby will wake in the morning. In the first couple of months your babe can sleep up to 12 hours at night.
*Somewhere in the night baby will take 1-2 more feeds at around 1 and 4. Eventually baby will be too tired to wake, and will drop one of those feeds. Our chick dropped her 10:00 feed first, and we just feed her when she woke at around midnight. During month 1 we had a 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm, 1am, 4am. At 2 months baby G had already dropped the 10pm feed, and at 2.5 months she was sleeping from 7pm-4am. At 3 months she was sleeping from 7-7. If your baby’s weight checks are going well at the doctors office then their is no reason to wake them at night. If you are breastfeeding, you want to keep your milk supply up, so if you have to pump and let baby sleep then do so….
4 Months=Time for a 4 Hour Schedule
If baby is starting to wake in the middle of the night, or is taking poor naps, then they are most likely ready for a 4 hour schedule. You can ease into this schedule by adjusting it by 15 minutes every week until you get there, or you can just do cold turkey.
8-9:30- Playtime/awake time
12:00-1:30 Playtime/awake time
5:00-5:30/6 Cat Nap (This is just enough to get them to bedtime, don’t let them sleep past 6 o’clock.
7-7:30 bedtime routine (Bath, Bottle, Bed)
** As you can see I have not included the swaddle at bedtime anymore, because you really should ditch the swaddle by this time. Baby has started to stop hitting themselves in the face, and will begin to start rolling over. Its hell getting rid of it, but they will get used to it. Use a sleep sack from now on.
At 6 Months we dropped the cat nap, and now we have 2 naps a day, and will until she is about 15 months, where we will drop the morning nap.
6 Month Schedule
8:00-9:30 Activity Time
9:30-11:30 Morning Nap
12:00-2:00 Activity Time
2:00-4:00 Afternoon Nap
4:30-7:00 Activity Time (Possible cat nap if baby is a total crab, maybe in the stroller)
7:00-7:30 Bedtime Routine (Bath, bottle/boob, PJs, Sleep Sack, Bed)
Wait, a couple more things I want to tell you…
- I will talk more about naps, because they deserve their own post. Naps are a hellava lot harder than night sleep if you ask me! Once you get naps and night time sleep in order then derailing from the schedule is a lot easier. If you are out and get home 30 minutes after nap, then you can just push the schedule as needed. At this point your babe will be so used to the routine, that they should just go down 30 minutes later with no problem. This will push the schedule by 30 minutes: which means nap might run later, feed later, and bedtime later. The point is that when you have a solid routine/schedule, then it is a lot easier to stray from the schedule. The best part is then you can be sups confident about what your baby needs at all times. For example; You have to be out and about at nap #2, so you do your best to get baby to sleep in the car or stroller, but baby only gets a 45 minute nap, instead of the usual 2 hour nap. Baby is super crabby around 5pm. You just so happen to know, that the reason baby is upset is because they missed crucial sleep time. What do you do? Well, you can lay them down for a cat nap, or put them to bed early, or just bear through it saying, “I know, you’re tired.” Hey, at least you are not one of those moms saying, “I don’t know what her problem is, why is she crying?!” You will feel so in control!
- Awake/Activity time can be really hard in the first couple of months, because baby really just wants to fall asleep after they eat. Do what you can to keep them awake, and if you can only get them to stay awake for 20 minutes, then re-adjust the schedule to fit that. If you have to do Eat, Awake, Sleep, Awake/Storytime, Eat, Awake, Sleep, Awake/Storytime, Etc. Then do so, just stay on schedule with the feeds, and keeping baby UP after the feeds for a period of time.
- If you are going back to work, then have your nanny or daycare follow this schedule as well.
- At 4 months old, your baby will most likely go through the 4 month sleep regression. I talk more about this in Is my baby 6 months yet?! Baby is sleeping through the night, and then suddenly they start waking in the middle of the night. It can last anywhere from 2-4 weeks. WARNING: You might consider jumping out the window during this time!
- If baby is past the 3 month mark and waking up at the exact same time every night, then it just means that is what your baby is used to, and doesn’t mean they are hungry. Kind of the same way we have a hard time sleeping in on the weekends, our bodies are just used to it. Some suggest waking baby 30 minutes before that time, to re-set their clocks. Ex: If baby is waking at 4am every night, then wake baby at 3:30 for a feed for a couple of nights. Baby should re-set their clocks, and then only wake if they are actually hungry. If baby is waking at different times in the night, then baby might just be hungry or wet, if so you shouldn’t ignore that. Try out some new diapers, or different sizes to get baby comfortable.
- Be CONFIDENT! If you put your baby down with the idea in your head that they are going to sleep well, it will help!