When my kids were babies, I spent lots of nighttime hours scouring the internet for articles on “baby sleep schedules” and “getting your baby to sleep through the night” and none of them had the magic formula to get my kids to sleep through the night instantly. With a newborn I was willing to sell my left kidney just to get a full-night’s sleep.
Leopold (oldest) started sleeping through the night at 5 months and Frederick (middle) started around 3 months. Odette (baby) started sleeping through the night at 2 months, which was AH-MA-ZING. While by no means do I qualify for expert status, after three kids I definitely learned a few things. Here is what worked well for our kids:
- Keeping a consistent bedtime routine
- Reinforcing “Sleeping Hours” and “Daytime Hours”
- Using a noise machine
- Sleep sacks
- Soft light in the nursery at night time
- A Dream Bottle (see below)
Our approach for Odette’s first 2 months is laid out below.
First 2 weeks
I channeled my focus on establishing breastfeeding during this time (feeding on demand) and didn’t worry about her sleep schedule. I was a zombie, but she was happy 🙂
Starting at week 2, after she was doing well with breastfeeding and the pediatrician was comfortable with her weight, I changed my focus to her sleep schedule. We determined that her ideal “Sleeping Hours” would be 6pm-6am. A 6pm bedtime would allow me to put her down and then go through the bedtime routine with her older brothers to have them in bed by 7pm.
During the “Daytime Hours” (6am-6pm) I worked on feeding her as much as possible. If she started to fall asleep during a feeding, I would try my best to keep her awake to ensure she was completely full before falling down for a nap.
Starting around 5:15, we would give her a bath. This was typically pretty quick. Then we would put lotion on. I really like Johnson’s Bedtime Baby Lotion, 27.0 Fl. Oz because it smells so good. It doesn’t really matter what you use, but I think it is nice to stick with one scent so they start to associate it with bedtime.
Then we would get her pajamas on and use a sleep sack. At about 2 weeks we moved straight into sleep sacks with our babies instead of continuing to swaddle them. Basically, once they started breaking the swaddle, we moved her into a sleep sack. This was just our preference. We liked the Carters sleep sacks like this one – Carter’s Baby Girls Sleepbag, Pink, OS9.
Next, I would feed her trying to get her to eat as much as possible. This is so hard when they are young because they like to fall asleep. After she was done eating, I would read a book and place her down to sleep (removing the heating pad).
I would leave the room, turning off the light…hoping she would stay sleeping!
At about 9:30pm before we went to bed, one of us would wake her up and feed her a “dream bottle” of pumped breastmilk. I read about this approach online and it worked really well for us. Instead of waiting to feed her when she woke up, we would feed her on our schedule (before we went to bed). It’s called a dream bottle because babies are typically really drowsy during this feeding. If Tim was home, he would often take this shift. During this feeding, we tried to get her to eat as much as possible so she would sleep longer (hopefully!) in between feedings.
From 10pm – 6am, I essentially tried to discourage feedings since this is when I wanted to sleep. At the beginning, she would typically wake up 2-3 times during this period. I would get up with her to breastfeed, but if she fell asleep eating then I would just put her back in her crib rather than waking her up and pushing her to eat more. My theory was that if she was used to eating 3-4 ounces consistently at 1am, then she would probably continue to wake up for that but if she was only eating an ounce or so then she may just continue sleeping.
At 6am, I would feed Odette. If she was still sleeping, I would wake her up. During this feeding, I would really encourage her to eat a lot so she could get used to “Daytime Hours”. I would continue to encourage her to completely fill up for all feedings during the day.
Sleep Over Time
Over time we continue to reinforce daytime and nighttime hours with large feedings during the day and smaller ones at night. Eventually, she started to wake up between 10pm-6am less and less until at 2 months she was consistently sleeping during that time without interruption (yay!).
At 4 months, we are still feeding her a Dream Bottle at 9:30pm each night but we are hoping to drop that feeding in the next few months. We are just happy that she is sleeping while we are sleeping 🙂
I hope this was helpful! All babies are different and there are many different methods to getting babies to sleep through the night. The good news is that eventually, all babies (and parents) will sleep through the night…it may just seem like a difficult road to get there!
Have a drink, take a deep breath and keep up the good work.
– Anna, Life with Little Ones