I am not suggesting I am any kind of expert on the subject but this is the method I used with both my children, who had EXTREMELY different personalities from birth 😉 What I did may or may not work with your baby, its not an easy thing to do and all babies are different. But if you give it a week or so depending on how old your baby is maybe it will work and you’ll start getting more sleep! I picked up these techniques from a great book, Moms on Call Guide to Basic Baby Care, then adapted them a little to work best for me.
The Hardest Part!
These next couple things will be the hardest so I put them first, that way if you decide this will not work for you, it will be early on in this post. I truly believe everything I’m telling you, so don’t just dismiss it, at least try for a week. You may be surprised.
First, and this was REALLY hard. If your baby falls asleep while you’re holding them, put them down! I know, its horrible. They are so sweet when they are sleeping you just want to snuggle and squeeze them. Snuggle with them and squeeze them to your heart’s content when they are awake!! Use the time when they are sleeping as limited as it may seem to take a shower, watch a tv show, read a magazine/book, put on makeup, paint your nails something for yourself. Or something that you probably should be doing like folding the laundry, loading the dishwasher etc. 🙂 The point of this being you don’t want your baby to only sleep well if someone is holding them.
This is especially important if you are going to be going back to work. If your child is at daycare or a sitter, they will not be able to hold your baby all the time. Be honest with yourself, your child will suffer if you do not let them learn to be comfortable sleeping without being held. As much as anyone wants to be able to hold your baby in a setting where there are multiple children to take care of it is not realistic to think they can. I only have my two children at home and sadly one has been crying because I’m having to tend to the needs of the other. And, don’t think its not sad for the person taking care of your child, no one wants for a baby to cry whether that baby is their’s or not.
Here is the next hardest thing, put your baby in their crib while they are still AWAKE, tired but awake. You shouldn’t rock your baby to sleep, or as I was guilty of with Fallyn, rock the bassinet. Here is the problem with rocking your baby to sleep, EVERYONE wakes up during the night, you just roll over and let yourself fall back asleep. If you do not give your baby a chance to learn how to put themselves to sleep they will need you to do it everytime they wake up. They will cry during the night not just because they are hungry but because they truly need you to put them back to sleep, since they do not know how to do it themselves.
Routine & Swaddling
Babies are incredibly adaptable and learn routines very easily. Our night time routine now is very simple bath, story, good night hugs and kisses then bed. Its gotten to be where I’ve tried to let Fallyn stay up later for one reason or another and at a certain time she starts asking to go bed. Both my babies loved to be swaddled, in fact, I still swaddle Dominic and he is almost 5months old. Not only did swaddling comfort my babies but as I’ll suggest later helped them learn the difference between night and day.
Ok, so I don’t know about you but I HATE when people say keep you baby awake during the day. Has anyone actually been successful at this? When a baby wants to sleep there isn’t much you can do about it, that being said I figured out a couple of things to help along the learning process.
First of all like I said I think its ridiculous to try to keep your baby awake! But, you do not have to let them sleep as long as they want either. I would only let my babies sleep uninterrupted during the day for two hours, when the two hour mark hit I would pick them up, change their diaper, talk to them. Even if they only stirred for a moment I believe it helps them work out during the day its time to be awake. At night I would leave them sleeping for as long as they wanted. Another little trick I had was to only swaddle them at bedtime. This was something I figured out along the way I swaddled Fallyn during the day too at first, but realized it may help her learn the difference between night and day if I only did it at night.
At about 8 each night, we have bath time, pjs are put on, a story is read and maybe if there is time some TV(for Fallyn, she didn’t start watching TV until she was over 1). Then off to bed. Here comes the hardest part. Honestly, I didn’t start with Fallyn until 3weeks. Until then I was rocking the bassinet until she fell asleep and then would rock it after I fed her in the middle of the night. Around this time, I had finished reading the Moms on Call book and decided to put their suggestions to work. I did it and I think you should too!
Put them to bed when they are tired but still awake and if they cry, you have to let them cry for a designated amount of time. Because Fallyn was only a few weeks I would only let her cry 2minutes straight. A real two minutes is A LOT longer than you think. It seemed like hours when my baby was crying. And in the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I did sit in the living room and cry too. I don’t want you to think I’m heartless and it didn’t concern me my infant was crying. I hated it! After the two minutes I would go in, check her, reswaddle if needed and give her a pacifier and leave. You cannot take them back out of the crib once you’ve put them to bed. The crying will last longer if you do.
Here’s the good news, the longest she ever cried was the full two minutes, one check and another minute after that. By the 5th day she didn’t cry anymore at all. Now, I’ll tell you the amazing thing, I think because I did all the things I recommended above right away with Dominic he never cried when I put him down for bed.
Middle of the Night Feedings
This is after they are two weeks, before this point feed on demand as soon as they need it. After they are two weeks, when they wake up in the middle of the night to eat , wait until they cry(really cry), don’t immediately jump up because they are stirring. When you pick them up, have the bottle ready, keep the lights as low as possible, don’t talk to them. Feed, change, reswaddle and back to bed. The middle of the night is not time to play, if they are hungry then of course they should eat but you don’t want your baby to get too stimulated in the middle of the night.
By the way, I have also read that by 8weeks babies no longer NEED to eat during the night. They can get all the food they need during the day. This is how I knew when to start offering my kids more at each feeding, if they started waking up during the night again then I would offer them a little more formula in each bottle during the day and they would sleep through the night again.
Another sidenote, I have NEVER put cereal in my babies bottles, they got no food until 4months and it was always fed to them with a spoon. I am not a fan of the cereal in the bottle technique, as I’;m sure MANY people will not be fans of my technique, to each his own. I do not judge, but I will tell you honestly I don’t like it. I worry about their little tummy’s not being ready to digest the food.
Why I think these things work
The most convincing proof I have is I have NEVER had to let Dominic cry himself to sleep. I swaddle him, put him in his crib and he goes to sleep. By the time Fallyn was 4-5weeks she slept from 9-3 then back to sleep until 7-8. At 6weeks she was sleeping through the night from 9-6. With Dominic all of this happened even faster. By 2-3weeks Dominic slept 9-3 and by 4 weeks from 9-6. Then Fallyn started sleeping from 9-9 around 10-12 weeks; Dominic started sleeping from 10-8 around 10-12 weeks.
Again, I read and adapted the techniques suggested in the Moms on Call book to fit for my babies. Maybe you can find a way to make this work for your baby. Its not easy, but if you stick it out and give it a REAL chance I’d have to bet you would get more sleep.
NOTES ADDED 1/09/14….I had my third baby December of 2012! Just like the other two I used these steps and she too slept through the night at an early age. My children continue to be decent sleepers. Dominic turned two in September, sometimes he does cry that it’s bed time but once in bed and covered is happy. Fallyn wakes in the middle of the night some nights and wants to sleep the rest of the night with us. We let her, she’s 3 and won’t be little forever. Sooner than we would like we will be embaressing, she won’t want to hold our hands or snuggle. I’m taking advantage. And our little Alexa turned is about to be 13months, she lights up our life and is the sweetest, happiest baby. People are always noticing her beautiful smile.
***I also want to add that none of my babies had colic or other health issues. Overall, I had extremely good babies. Again, I am not pretending to be an expert. I had three babies and this worked for me, I simply want to share my experiences in hopes that maybe it will help another mom get a bit more sleep***