I get asked often how I got E to sleep through the night at such a young age. By 7 months she was sleeping 12+ hours consistently through the night. I am no baby sleep expert, but I want to share what worked for me, and hopefully it’ll work for someone else! First and foremost, I’m going to go ahead and state the facts. If you research sleeping through the night you will find millions of articles about the best way to get your child to sleep, all the steps you should take and when to just let your kids cry. Asking your doctor or a friend will also lead to an array of trials and tribulations and what has and hasn’t worked. There is no tried and true way to get your baby to sleep ‘through the night’.
Everyone’s Opinion of What ‘Sleeping Through the Night’ Differs
If you’ve read more than one article or book about babies sleeping. there are a lot of discrepancies when it comes to the term ‘sleeping through the night’. Some people think that it means 8+ hours, while others think 6 hours covers it. Before you use research or a friend’s advice find out what each source thinks it means to sleep through the night. That way there is no disappointment when your child sleeps less than you expected or someone thinks they should sleep and you’ve tried all the methods recommended.
Establish a Routine Early
I think that babies need a routine, and so do most pediatricians. Getting one started around 4 months is what worked best for us. When the baby is in utero they have a routine, your routine, you stick to it pretty solidly, get up for the day, move around a bunch, and then at night you go to bed. During those 9 months it is the same thing for them everyday and once they are thrown out into an unfamiliar world life gets tough. Make a point to establish a bedtime routine around that 4 month mark. I chose a time that I wanted her to go down at night and began the routine around an hour before bed. I started with a bath, then lotion and pjs, followed with a story and rocking/nursing her to sleep. By about 5 months this was what she had come to expect, and she knew it was time for the bed routine to start and gradually I trained us both to follow the routine. As time went on we added more steps in our day that we follow. Dinner time was instituted around 7 or 8 months, we added it half an hour before the bath and etc. I really think this was key in making our lives together easier.
Do What Feels Right
This is something that I struggled with, I thought I should be doing what everyone else thinks is right and taking people’s advice I disagreed with. Do what feels right for you and your baby. I tried other people’s recommendations and I felt some of them didn’t work for us. Crying it out. I tried it once, and I just couldn’t. It was terribly sad and it made me feel sick. I could hear her downstairs bawling with the door shut and just could not allow my poor baby to be so sad. From the start (and even still now) myself or my husband went in every time she cried at night, changed her and rocked her as well as offered her breastmilk from bottle or boob. I was told that I was just encouraging her to wake up during the night for another feeding and we were forming bad habits. In my situation E slept 12 hours at night at around 7 months and now at 13 months she still does. She has an occasional waking, usually when something life changing is happening (i.e. a new tooth) but typically with a clean butt and a little milk she is back down in less than half an hour. If you don’t feel right about letting your baby cry DON’T! I ended up having her sleep in my room swaddled, strapped in a swing until she was about 6 months old.
I’m going to be completely honest, a lot of nights in those early months we co-slept. The up and downs a bunch of times a night, adjusting to motherhood, and in general just my entire life changing in a matter of days. Most nights while E and my husband slept, and I lay uncomfortably trying to ensure I didn’t squish the baby in my sleep, or my hubs didn’t roll over on her either. It was all that I could do to get her to sleep, but it didn’t work for us. Some people can do it and love the idea of bed sharing, it gives them peace of mind to know that their babe is super close and can be comforted at a moment’s notice. I’m sure you have heard the risks of co-sleeping and I think that there are pros and cons to it, and again the decision is yours, do what you think is right and what works best for your family.
Nursing on Demand
I am a strong believer in the idea that, the baby is crying then she must need something. For too many months to count E would wake in the middle of the night and I would go in change and nurse her. I swear I thought it would never end. It’s not for everyone though, some nights I sat in her room the entire night, nursing her and not sleeping. Lo and behold it paid off around the 7 month mark she began sleeping 10-12 hours a night. Looking back it was totally worth it to miss all the sleep and the serious amount of baby being latched to my chest.
Give Yourself a Break
Being a mom is tough work, and for some reason no one will tell you that until after there is a baby crying in your arms. Honestly no joke ladies, this is the hardest job there is. Caring for a helpless baby is way more intense than I ever thought it would be. Take a long hot bubble bath, have your husband take a turn with the baby, hire a sitter (or have family babysit) and go out to see a movie and have a nice dinner. Just don’t beat yourself up, you are doing an awesome job, no one can do it better than you’re doing it now. No matter what that baby will appreciate and love you for all you are doing YOU ARE A GOOD MOM!