I knew when I signed up for motherhood that there would be sleep loss. I tried to mentally prepare myself for this by sleeping more through pregnancy.
I figured that I could store up more sleep hours on the front end right? Surprise surprise, the last trimester you will wake up many many times a night to “tinkle,” a term I am using because yes I woke up to pee, but nothing substantial came of it!
So since this strategy didn’t work out as well as I thought it would I decided to share a different strategy to get back to sleeping that has been working great for our family! Here is our process of going from third trimester wake up calls, to night feeds, to ahhh yesss, sleeping through the night!
For the first 6 weeks, don't worry about helping your baby to sleep through the night
No schedule is the best schedule
From birth to 6 weeks, please do not worry about the schedule of your life, your sleep, or your baby! This is more of a survival mode where you take care of your baby’s basics needs as he transitions into this world.
Yes, you will need SOME sleep. You will notice yourself getting creative to catch a few extra Zs here and there. You can achieve this by tapping into your support network (and honestly I am writing from the experience of having one). Take naps and let your baby’s father, your mom, or best friend take over for a bit in between nursing sessions!
Related post: How to survive the first 6 weeks of breastfeeding.
Phone a friend
Some people don’t want anyone in their home right after the baby is born. In some cases this is extremely understandable. You are used to your space and way of doing things. But you are very vulnerable during this period and you may find you don’t mind having an extra helping hand.
I personally found my mom to be a complete God-send. She cooked nutritious foods, kept up with the laundry, and cleaned up around the house. I was able to surivive off of 4 hours of interupted sleep through at 24 hour period because I had some responsibilities off my plate.
Eat, eat, and oh.....EAT!
For your health, nutrition is key. You need to eat CALORIES to fuel your body with the energy to commit to the task at hand. Which is of course to help your precious new human baby stay safe and grow healthy.
At this stage of human development, we are not capable of cardiac rhythms or having an understanding of day verses night. It is unreasonable to expect this of your baby and thus not a reason to try and implement some sort of intervention to assist in “normal” times of sleep.
I guess that is why they call this time the “fourth trimester.”
Humans are not fully developed yet and our large heads could not exit the small hole required to survive birth if we were born “fully developed” (I wonder sometimes if I am fully developed).
6 weeks, It's time to help your baby sleep!
This time comes with a really interesting change in persepective. You have been doing the no-sleep thing for a while now, and are about ready for a change. So what can you do to get this train moving towards the promise land.
It is time for that golden egg which is working on establishing a bedtime routine! I know the word ROUTINE tends to be met with a negative connotation. But you may find that this is exactly what helps your baby learn what she is supposed to do at night.
Related post: How to get more personal time through a daily schedule.
You might be wondering what exactly is a bedtime routine? Well I can tell you there are many varieties and you have to find what works for your family. This is how we did it…
Bedtime routine example
We repeated these steps every single night from the time our son was 6 weeks old until this current day. We do not use soap for every bath, but the warm water is soothing to him and the steps seem to prep him for bed. By the time we are reading the book, he is already yawning and half asleep.
Methods to help your baby learn to sleep
There is tons of information and resources about infant sleep. There are proponents of cry it out for as long as it takes. There is the method of gradual extinction, letting baby cry for intervals that get longer and longer. Others cosleep. None of these are right or wrong.
You can read a dozen books and but it seems they all allude to one of these 3 methods. This is my advice. You have to do what works for your personality and your baby’s personality, which you will learn through trial and error.
I highly recommend the book Brain Rules for Baby. There is an entire section devoted to the neuroscience about infant sleep patterns. We found it very helpful to have for the first year of life!
When our son was 6 weeks old I started the bedtime routine, and then laid him down by 7 pm.
I looked at my watch and waited 2 minutes after he started to cry before I went back in to soothe him. At this stage that was as long as I could bear to let him cry.
I did not pick him up. I just went back in, placed my hand on his chest and said, time to go night night little love. Then promptly walked back out.
It didn’t exactly work, so I waited 5 minutes and repeated the same method, prolonging the wait times every time.
Finally, after an hour of not getting anywhere, I couldn’t take the crying so I picked him up and rocked him until he calmed down. They say the trick with this type of sleep training is to let baby know you are there, but not pick him up, but I was not able to abide by this rule.
Once he was calm I laid him down and strarted over again. This process went on until 10 pm when I nursed him and he fell asleep. Epic fail!
The next night I was really dreading experiencing listening to him cry so I still did the bedtime routine and he just stayed up with us until he fell asleep naturally. Which was late! He still woke up around every 3 hours to eat that night.
I knew I needed to figure out something so I could have at least one long stretch of sleep.
The following night I put my mental armor on and prepared for the task ahead.
This time after bedtime routine and laying him down, I called my mom. I needed to see if there was anything she could suggest to help.
While we were on the phone he was crying and it was very distressing. I kept trying to get off with my mom so I could soothe him. She continued to ask more questions in which I didn’t know the answer.
Maybe she was doing this on purpose but somewhere in the midst of me trying to get off the phone and get to my baby, he fell asleep! All on his own WITHOUT ME!
It took 35 minutes of crying but that night he slept for 8 hours straight and I woke up in a puddle on milk.
When do babies start sleeping through the night?
Every baby has different personalities and I have seen that some are just better sleepers than others. I pray that you will be blessed with a good sleeper!
My son started consistently sleeping for longer stretches (approx. 8 hours) after I figured out that he needs to be left to fall asleep on his own. This happened around 2 months of age.
It did not take long get to the point where he would not cry when I laid him down. This was around 3 months of age but it was inconsistent. There are a few additional things that helped make his experience with falling asleep much better.
One of these was his swaddle blankets. We wrapped them around him tight for the first 3 months of his life. It seemed to be comforting as he would push against it. Swaddles are a safe way to keep your baby warm at night as they will not come unwound and cover their little heads.
The next wonderful item we used was the DockAtot. This little cosleeper bed provided a consistent sleep environment for him no matter where we went. It also prevented him from rolling all over the place.
Check out my brutally honest review of the DockATot to figure out if it is worth the money. (It’s so dang expensive!)
Sleeping at last!
Around 5 months of age my little man was generally sleeping from 7 pm to 7 am, with only occasional nights of wakefulness and night feeds.
There is a sleep regression around 4-5 months of age due to a big leap in development, however this does not last long and sticking to the bedtime routine helps immensely to get past this stage.
If your baby starts sleeping consistently for a few weeks and then all of a sudden starts waking up again for feeds, he is probably going through a development leap. You can learn more about these from a great book called The Wonder Weeks. You can also download the app to your phone!
Is Cosleeping right for your family?
I want to breifly address cosleeping. There are many moms that find this is the ticket for getting more sleep at an earlier age.
I highly recommend using a cosleeping bed like the DockATot for this. Cosleeping is great for breastfeeding and building a close bond with your child. Some moms have even reported sleeping through the night the first week their baby was home!
I was not able to cosleep because I am such a light sleeper. I ended up losing more sleep when we tried this method because I would wake to every little squeak. However if you have tried everything else and nothing is working, it may be a great option for your family!
People did this for years and many still do in other countries where it is not the norm for families to sleep in seperate rooms.
I know this post was a bit long-winded and for that I apologize! Lack of sleep is not a problem you want to wait for long to address. Implementing a bedtime routine in the beginning is a great way to teach your baby how to prepare his mind for sleep. It will take time for your baby to sleep through the night but it will happen so hang in there mama!
Please feel free to leave me a comment below and share if this helped you.
The Cheeky Mommy