Monday, September 10, 2012

Tips for Sleeping Through the Night

A lot of friends have asked me how we got August to sleep through the night.  Honestly, I didn't follow any method or perform any witchcraft, but there are a few things that we did that I think may have contributed to him sleeping through the night.  August started sleeping through the night at 7 weeks old.  Now, the baby definition of sleeping through the night is 5 hours of sleep straight.  August started this at 7 weeks, and then quickly jumped to 6-8 hours of sleep.  After a few weeks of sleeping 6-8 hour stretches, he started sleeping 8-10 hour stretches, and now he often sleeps 10-12 hour stretches at 4 months old.  I'm not a doctor, and I can't make any guarantees that these tips will work for your baby, but they are worth a shot!

Photo by Samantha Willis

Weeks 0-3 of August's life

During this time, August slept in a co-sleeper in our room.  A co-sleeper is basically a bassinet.  I was supposed to wake August up every 3 hours during the night to feed him per doctor's suggestion.  I did that for about 1 and 1/2 weeks or so, but then I just let him wake up when he was hungry.

  • This is probably a given, but I would always feed him before I laid him down for the night.
  • When August would wake up during the night to eat, we would change his diaper before I fed him.  This way, when he fell asleep nursing, we didn't wake him back up with a diaper change.
  • When we would get up with August, we would only turn on lamps, no overhead lights.  This way he understood that when the room was dim or dark, that meant it was time to sleep.
  • Keep it quiet.  My husband and I would talk in soft voices at night, and we would not give August a ton of interaction.  We let him know that this was the time for sleep.
  • We used a "pippy" (passy).  Yes, this is a lifesaver.  Sometimes when newborns want to sleep, they also want to suck.  We had originally decided we were gonna be super parents and not use a pippy.  But when we had him home the first night, and he had been screaming for 5 hours straight, we gave it a whirl, and it worked like gold.  
  • For naps during the day, we would lay August down in either the co-sleeper or the crib.  We did not schedule his naps in the early weeks.  I would watch for his personal sleep cues: eye rubbing, hands up by the face, crying when not hungry, etc.  This way, he associated sleep with the co-sleeper/crib, so when we would lay him down there at night, he would know what to do.  (Sleep!)  I made sure to let him nap in his crib too, not just the co-sleeper, so that way it would be an easier transition to the crib.  He would already be familiar with it. He also took short cat naps in his swing and in our arms as well.
  • When August was napping, we didn't tip-toe around the house or lower our voices at all.  We wanted August to be able to sleep while we were still awake, and we didn't want household noises to wake him.  We wanted him to be used to noise.  We did this even in the hospital and early days at home, so when we had guests, we encouraged them to use their normal voice level.
  • We would swaddle him for night time sleep.  Newborns don't have much control of their limbs in the early weeks.  They often startle themselves on accident just by moving.  Swaddling him made him feel secure (think of the womb, very secure), and we only swaddled him when it was time for him to go to sleep.  This was another cue that let him know it's time to sleep.  

Week 3-Week 7

We moved August to his crib at 3 weeks old.  I realize this is really young for a lot of people.  However, this worked out best for our family.  August and I had a lot of difficulty with breastfeeding in the early weeks.  For the first 2 weeks Adam would have to help me get August to latch.  It would take a long time to get him to latch.  He tried to find the breast with his hands, but his hands would get in the way, and he would end up sucking on them.  Adam would have to hold his hands, and I would have to hold his head.  It was a team effort.  Breastfeeding was super painful, and it involved a lot of tears, prayers of pleading, prayers of asking for forgiveness, etc.  At about 3 weeks old, breastfeeding was still a struggle, but I was starting to be able to do it on my own.  Because breastfeeding had us awake for anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half at a time at least twice a night, Adam was missing out on a lot of sleep.  He was (and still is) working 10 hour days, so he needed every bit of sleep he could get.  So I decided to let August make the transition to the crib.  That's when he started sleeping 3 1/2 to 4 hour stretches.  Instead of nursing August in our bedroom, I nursed him in the rocking chair in his room or in the living room.  I continued to follow the tips I listed for weeks 0-3.

Week 7- Present (4 months old)

This is when August started sleeping about 5-6 hours straight.  The first night he did it, we were camping (in my parents' camper), and he was sleeping in a laundry basket.  I dunno, I guess he really liked that; either that or the day's activities had him super exhausted.  Up until this point, I did not schedule naps for August.  I just let him nap as he needed.  Newborn babies are good about sleeping when they are tired.  When he started sleeping for longer stretches at night, I scheduled his naps during the day to help regulate his sleep clock.  I didn't google "sleep training" or read up on any articles, but this is how I did it.  

  • At 0-3 months old, August would usually eat 2 times during the night.  He gradually dropped feedings until he reached 0 feedings around 7 or 8 weeks old.  
  • Before 7 weeks old, August would eat about every 3 hours.  So in 24 hours, he would eat about 8 times.  However, when he started sleeping through the night, I had to increase how often I fed him during the day to make up for his lack of feeding at night.  This helped encourage him to sleep at night because I would get all of his feedings in before bedtime.  So at this point, I started feeding him every 2 hours during the day (every hour and a half or so during growth spurts).  I did get this information from BabyWise, and it makes total sense.  So now he gets about 7 feedings during the day, and none at night.  If this sounds like I'm super rigid and calculated with our schedule, I'm not.  It comes as second nature.  I had to think about it pretty hard to be able to type this out.  So if you're thinking this sounds too "scheduley," it's really not.  Our days are just pretty consistent.  Sometimes he only gets 6 feedings, or sometimes he'll get 8 feedings.  He is human just like we are, so sometimes he needs more sleep instead of food or vice versa depending on the day.      
  • Bedtime and Wake Time.  Weeks 7-10 or so, August would go to bed when we went to bed (around 11 or so), and then he would get up around 5:30 or 6 a.m.  As he got older, around 3-4 months, he would go to bed at about 8:30 p.m. and wake up anywhere from 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.  He typically wakes up a little bit before 7:00 a.m.
  • Naps.  I lay August down about the same time every day.  Not necessarily the same time each day according to the clock, but the same time according to his schedule (number of feedings).  I believe regulating his feedings with his naps is what lets him know when to sleep.  Our day goes something like this (on an ideal day....sometimes we get a little off, but it all works out).
    • 7:00 a.m. Feeding #1
    • 9:00 a.m. Feeding #2
    • Morning Nap
    • 12:30 p.m. Feeding #3
    • 2:30 p.m. Feeding #4
    • Afternoon Nap
    • 5:30 p.m. Feeding #5
    • 7:00 p.m. Feeding #6
    • 8:15 p.m. Feeding #7
    • Bed Time
  • I usually plan trips to the grocery store, errands, etc after his morning nap.  I'll get him up, feed him, and out the door we go.  If we aren't back in time for his next feeding, I just feed him while we're out. That way he will still get his afternoon nap when we get home.  
  • August naps in his crib.  We don't use the co-sleeper anymore since he sleeps in his own room now.  He doesn't really take cat naps anymore.  
  • August started getting out of his SwaddleMe when he was about 3 months old, so we transitioned to a sleep sack.  When the sleep sack goes on, he knows it's time to sleep.  We put him in the sleep sack for naps too.
  • We let him cry.  I wouldn't say we follow the "cry it out method," because we aren't following any method.  We do let him cry, because he is a baby, and babies cry.  As long as I know that he has been fed and changed and that it is time for him to sleep, I'm ok with him crying.  I usually let him cry a few minutes, then I go back in and stick his pippy back in.  Then if he is still crying 5-10 minutes later, I'll go back in and put the pippy back in again.  This is usually all it takes.  There have been rare nights where he will cry longer, but I don't take him out of his crib to comfort him.  I just rub his forehead, tell him it's ok, and stick the pippy back in.  He has never cried for more than 20-30 minutes.  Wait I take that back, he cried once for 40 minutes, but that was a really off day for him.  
These are just the things that have worked for us.  I know every baby is different, and many parents are different.  I don't think there is one right way to do things.  This is just the way we do it, and it has worked wonderfully.  If you have any questions, leave me a comment, and I will be happy to answer you.  Hope this helps!

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