Hi there pretty Mamas! As I write this post, I’m knocking on wood. We know all too well that babies can be unpredictable and just when you think you’re getting into a smooth routine with things… it can quickly change! Before I go any further, let me throw a disclaimer out there… I am a new mommy of a 3-month old baby boy. I am by no means an expert in the mommy category… I’m learning new things every day. This is just some friendly advice on what has worked for me. My little Michael is sleeping through the night (for now!) and I’ve received a few questions from friends so thought I’d go ahead and write a blog post to share my thoughts with everyone.
I realize that all babies are different and their behaviors, habits, feeding schedules, sleep patterns, etc. will vary. I also realize that all mommies have different lifestyles… some are on maternity leave, some are SAHMs, some work, some are single parents, some have 1 child, some have lots more! So, all of these tips may not work for you and your baby but a few of them might where you can then start a routine that works for you! The important thing is to be flexible. So, if you’re a tired Mama that’s looking for some remedies to help your baby sleep through the night then hopefully this blog post will help you!
By 6 weeks old, my son Michael, was sleeping long stretches during the night in his own crib in his nursery. When he was born I planned to keep him in the bassinet in our room for at least 3-6 months… depending on what article you read, many will say they should sleep in your room for up to 12-months. Between 4-6 weeks old, I was putting Michael in his crib for daytime naps and nursing him in his nursery so he could get well-acquainted with the room and know that it was a “safe place”. Just to note, I have one window in his nursery with plantation shutters — I purposefully didn’t get blackout curtains because I didn’t want him to get used to sleeping in a pitch black dark room (this way he can easily nap anywhere). By 6-weeks old, I had established a bedtime routine and I put him in his crib one night just to see how he would do and he slept for 8 straight hours!!! He did that for the following 3 nights… so it was a no-brainer to go ahead and transition him to his crib for good. As much as I loved having him sleeping in the bassinet right next to my bed… he clearly had better sleep in his crib… and so did I!
As I mentioned earlier… babies can be unpredictable. This is why establishing a regular schedule can bring some order to the chaos. It’s important to start your routine schedule early — ideally in the newborn stage. At this stage they are sleeping all the time, cannot easily differentiate between daytime/nighttime, so a schedule helps your baby get on the right circadian rhythm.
The ideal timeframe to establish a nighttime routine is once your baby is between 4-6 weeks old. By now, your baby is likely eating every 3 hours during the day/night. Side note… it’s important not to feed your baby more frequently than every 2.5-3 hours during the 4-6 week timeframe (unless recommended by your pediatrician) because your baby’s digestive system needs time to process the food and feeding more often will encourage “snack” feeding throughout the day. Even though they are waking up at night (or you’re waking them up) to eat every 3 hours, the important thing is you’re establishing a foundation at nighttime and associating cues with your baby to let them know that it’s time to sleep. When I say routine, I mean I do the following 10 steps below every night (with few exceptions if we’re traveling, have company over, etc.). Other exceptions to the rule would be if baby is sick, special event during the day/night, vacation, etc.
SO! Before I go into my top ten tips to sleep train your baby I want to preface with the importance of establishing good habits during the daytime so you can get positive results during the nighttime!
When I was pregnant, a friend of mine recommended that I read “Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old”. I would highly recommend it! It’s an easy read — you could start/finish it in a day — and it’s packed with some great tips! The goal behind this book is to get your baby on a feeding schedule where they are only eating 4 times p/day (eating at least 24 ounces) and sleeping for 12 hours at night… putting them to bed at 7PM and they either sleep or rest quietly in their crib until 7AM. Amazing!
The book mentions that “official” sleep training cannot start until your baby is at least 8-weeks old. However, you can start to establish good habits much earlier than 8-weeks which will make your sleep training easier because you’ll have less bad habits to break. One of many takeaways that I read in this book was… “good habits take 3 days make and 3 days to break” whereas “bad habits take 3 days to make and 7 days to break”. Good habits would include: “start” your day at/around the same time each day (I aim to feed Michael at 7AM, then again at 11AM, again at 3PM, and his last feeding at 7PM). An example of a bad habit would be using a vibrating swing every time your baby cries to calm them down… they will quickly associate that they need the vibrating chair in order to stop crying (instead rock in a glider, bounce on your knee, sway back and forth, etc.). A pacifier and thumb-sucking is not considered a “bad habit” when they are this young since it’s a self-soothing mechanism.
The book goes on to explain that you have a “daytime toolbox” and a “nighttime toolbox”. When baby is awake during the day and is having a tough time making it to their next feeding… distract them! Daytime toolbox ideas are to place baby in a bouncey seat, entertain baby with toys/music, place baby on an activity mat, tummy time, outside time, bounce baby on your knee, play games/read books, use a pacifier, etc. Michael’s favorite Baby Einstein video to watch is this one. When baby is in their crib and is crying at night… reassure baby that you’re there but you’re not going to pick them up… encourage them to fall back asleep on their own by using your nighttime toolbox tools such as use a pacifier, pat or place your hand firmly on baby’s tummy, sush baby, whisper to them (all while keeping the lights off). Of course, if your baby is screaming uncontrollably then pick baby up to soothe them… you’re the mommy and you know your baby best… use your best judgement.
OK… now for my top ten tips!
- Assuming your baby is feeding every 3.5-4 hours… After your baby has had their 3PM feeding, keep your baby awake (whip out your daytime toolbox if baby gets fussy) and hold off on feeding him/her again until 7PM. This will ensure they get a full feeding in at 7PM.
- By 6:00-6:15 PM start your nighttime routine. Ryan and I take Michael upstairs to our bedroom (I dim the lights in my bedroom) and we prep for bath time! During this time, dim the lights in the room(s) your baby is in and keep the noise level to a minimum. After I turn the water on to begin filling the tub I then head to his nursery to prep for post-bath.
- While the bath water is running… I go into Michael’s nursery and turn on his white noise machine to the max volume (I keep this on until I go in at 7AM), I pick out his pajamas and sleep sack, and I turn off all of the lights in his nursery so just the nightlight is on in his room (I also have a candle in the window that I left after taking Christmas decorations down because it’s the perfect amount of light that I need if/when I need to nurse/soothe him at night). All of this I do while the bath is filling up with water so post-bath everything is ready, the “mood” is set for bedtime.
- Time for a bath! Of course, little babies don’t need to have a bath every night but the warm water helps calm them down and get them in a more sleepy state. Since Michael is only 3-months old we typically do a bath every 3 days… on nights where we don’t give him a bath we do all of the steps mentioned here just excluding the bath and we start our bedtime routine closer to 6:30PM. We have the 4Moms Infant Tub and it’s awesome! Now that Michael is kicking and squirming around more, we recently we got the Otteroo and he loves it! It allows him to explore and interact more in the water. It’s easy to wash him while he’s wearing it too so it’s a win-win! We use Johnson & Johnson’s Head-to-Toe baby wash.
- Once bath time is over, take baby to the nursery. Dry baby off and put on a Pampers Baby Dry nighttime diaper. This was a game-changer for us! These diapers stay dry for up to 12 hours! Unless Michael has a poopy diaper in the middle of the night, I don’t change him again until he wakes at 7AM.
- Rub baby down with Johnson’s Baby Bedtime Lotion. I rub this lavender lotion on Michael’s chest, legs, arms, forehead, and cheeks. I avoid his hands since we swaddle him with his arms out now and he’ll sometimes put his hand/thumb in his mouth at night. Lavender is clinically proven to help calm and soothe babies! Michael has gotten used to the lotion by now so when I rub it on him he starts smiling like crazy! Get baby in their PJs (preferably something that zips on easy so you don’t overstimulate him/her). At this time, I also put on his sleep sack so he’s all ready for bed.
- During this time don’t make a lot of eye contact nor do you want to talk a lot to baby (I know… hard to do because our babies are SO cute!)… but the idea is to be winding down. If you need more light in the room to maneuver around aside from a nightlight I would suggest getting a very low wattage bulb from Home Depot (i.e., 25W) and putting a towel over the lampshade.
- By now it’s close to 6:30/6:45PM… dinner time! While still in the nursery with the lights off (with the exception of the nightlight) and the white noise machine on… I’ll sit in my rocker and nurse Michael. I want to ensure he gets a full meal at this feeding. The more he eats the longer he’ll sleep! This last feeding I’ll always do in the nursery so he knows it’s almost time for bed.
- Once he’s done eating I lay him on my chest and rock him in my chair while patting him in a slow rhythm on his back to make sure I get him to burp. I don’t sit him up to burp him because I don’t want to overstimulate him. I then put him in his crib (on his back) while he is sleepy but not fully asleep. This has allowed him to learn to fall asleep on his own which will help when he wakes in the middle of the night to soothe himself back to sleep. If baby cries once you leave the room and/or in the middle of the night… check the clock and give it 10 minutes. If you have a baby cam you can check on baby in the meantime. If there is a point during the 10-minutes that baby quiets down and stops crying then you reset your 10-minute timer to the beginning. This will help train your baby to fall back asleep on their own.
- Once babies are in the 8-12 week range you shouldn’t need to wake and feed them (unless your pediatrician says otherwise). Should your baby awaken to be fed during the night… The idea is to gradually eliminate all off the middle-of-the-night feedings so you’ll want to gradually reduce the amount of milk at each night feeding (one feeding at a time). For example… for the night feedings… on Sunday night give baby 3 oz. (or 12 minutes breastfeeding), then on Monday-Wednesday night give 2.5 oz. (or 9 minutes breastfeeding), then Thursday-Saturday night give 2 oz. (or 6 minutes breastfeeding), then Sunday-Tuesday give 1.5 oz. (or 3 minutes breastfeeding), then Wednesday-Friday give 1 oz., then Saturday-Monday give .5 oz. Of course, this is just an example and will vary. Some tips to keep baby in a slumber-like state during the night feedings: do not change baby’s diaper (unless it’s a poopy diaper), keep the room as dark as possible, do not talk or make eye contact with baby, and be prepared (have food ready to go! Easy access bra if breastfeeding, or place pumped milk into a warmer as soon as baby starts to stir).
Hopefully these tips will help you establish a bedtime routine and help your baby sleep through the night. Would love to hear if these worked out for you and/or if you have any tips of your own that I left out! 🙂
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