Sleep. Oh, how we take this for granted before we have kids.
I knew waking up every 2 hours to feed would be tough in the beginning.
After a couple of months, however, that gets old QUICK.
Nobody wants their life to revolve around their child’s sleep schedule.
End your sleep deprivation THIS WEEK with these SLEEP TRAINING tips: How to get your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
MY ROOKIE MOM APPROACH: I expected my kids would settle into their own natural schedule and eventually start sleeping through the night when they were ready.
We didn’t want to follow an intense schedule, put our babies through any traumatic crying, or be “those parents” that had to manipulate every minute of their baby’s day.
After what felt like a trillion sleepless nights, we quickly realized that we needed to provide more structure than we initially anticipated. Luckily, once we learned about sleep training and tried it out, it ended up being much simpler than anticipated.
It got both of my children sleeping through the night in less than a week. Any sleep-deprived mama knows: that is as close to winning the lottery as you can get…
Here are my top sleep training tips to get your baby sleeping through the night:
HAVE A CONSISTENT BEDTIME ROUTINE
Having a consistent bedtime routine is important for setting your baby’s internal clock.
Babies love routines, and a good bedtime routine will help them wind down and get ready for a long night’s rest.
Babies usually have day and night mixed up at first, and THIS ROUTINE will be what teaches them that bedtime is for long stretches of sleep, rather than a short nap.
Try winding down with bath-time, reading a story, feeding in a calm and dark environment, snuggling in the rocking chair, whatever you prefer.
Try to keep it simple, because this will likely be their bedtime routine for a while.
Don’t commit to anything you don’t want to do consistently down the road. Make this a calm and enjoyable experience for both of you.
PRO TIP: Avoid anything that ONLY mom can do. This will allow anyone to be able to put the baby to sleep, even when mom needs a break or isn’t home.
FOCUS ON QUALITY NAPS
My daughter used to fall asleep at random times in her swing or my arms. It was adorable, and we counted these as naps.
She would sleep for about 30-45 minutes tops, and always be fussy when we had to put her down at bedtime.
We learned that if you wait to put them down until they are so exhausted that they fall asleep randomly on their own, they’re already over-tired and will not get quality sleep (thus only napping for 30-45 minutes.)
We started putting her down for a nap around 2 hours after she woke up from the previous sleep.
(She always seemed to be wide awake at these times, so I never thought it would work.)
We also started putting her down in her crib at these times and SURPRISINGLY she started going down easily!
After a few days, she started rubbing her eyes at these times and eventually went right to sleep when I put her down, and sleep for 1-3 hours at a time!
We made the mistake of thinking the more she slept during the day, the less she would sleep at night.
WRONG. SO WRONG.
Babies need A LOT of sleep. If they’re over-tired, they don’t get quality sleep. Not having enough quality naps throughout the day WILL leave them overtired at bedtime and not sleeping well throughout the night.
Better quality naps = better quality sleep through the night.
CRYING IT OUT
This part is tough.
We never want to hear our sweet innocent slice of heaven cry. And when we do, we want to rush to their side and comfort them immediately. Not doing that goes against all motherly instincts.
Unfortunately, we need to make difficult decisions sometimes for the betterment of our children.
It’s hard, however, it is effective for teaching them to self-soothe.
(Don’t worry, if you’re not interested in this part of sleep training I have an alternative method for you below!)
Moral of the story: Babies need to learn how to self-soothe.
It is extremely important for their overall development, independence, health, and well-being.
Always remember: whatever got them to sleep initially will be what gets them back to sleep when they wake up in the night.
If you’re rocking them to sleep, feeding them to sleep, etc. then that is what they will need when they wake up in the night.
Give them the tools to self soothe and confidently put THEMSELVES back to sleep quickly and easily.
The key is putting them down “drowsy but awake“.
You can help them wind down, get sleepy and ready for bed but gives them the opportunity to put themselves to sleep.
Start with naps. Make sure they are fed, changed, clean, comfortable, and content. Do your routine, place them in their crib and allow them to cry for as many minutes as weeks old they are.
For example, if they are 8 weeks old, put them down for a nap and let them cry for 8 minutes before going in to comfort them.
Once the 8 minutes are up, go in, comfort them, let them know they are safe.
Repeat this step until either they fall asleep, or an hour without sleep is up.
Keep them in their crib for a minimum of 1 hour during nap time. If they cry the entire time, that’s okay, go in to comfort them every 8 minutes (or however long depending on their age.)
Just take them out after the hour is up and try again next time. If they cry for 45 minutes and sleep for 15 that is fine too, as long as they are in there for at least an hour.
Eventually, sleep time will increase and crying time will decrease.
If you stay consistent, they will put themselves back to sleep before having to go through this cycle very many times.
WHAT IF I’M NOT COMFORTABLE WITH CRY IT OUT?!
If you are opposed to the cry it out method, that is completely okay!
All you need to do is take things much slower. Big changes all at once can be the cause of a majority of the crying.
Many believe getting it over with all at once, or the “cold turkey” approach can be easier and more effective, but it is not the only way.
Taking it step by step, and slowly incorporating new routines and expectations can work just as well.
Start by having a calm bedtime routine that will let baby wind down, get sleepy, and begin to associate this routine with bedtime.
Next, begin to phase out any “crutches” for falling asleep such as nursing or rocking to sleep. Cut down the time little by little each night until baby has adjusted to no longer need these things.
Eventually, baby will be drowsy at bedtime and won’t need to rely on anything to get to sleep. This is the goal!
Their crib will be their familiar space for sleeping, and falling asleep on their own won’t be such a scary task.
Whatever situation they are used to falling asleep with initially will be what will gets them back to sleep during the middle of the night wake-ups.
Again: If you are rocking or nursing, this is what they will need. If they are able to fall asleep on their own, they will be able to get back to sleep on their own as well!
TRANSITIONING TO THE CRIB
Get them familiar with sleeping in their crib as soon as it is safe and possible. In the early weeks, naps in the swing, bassinet, or in your arms are great.
They’re sleeping what seems to be all day, they’re learning how to survive in this big scary world, and your snuggles and comfort means more to them than anything. Soak in these precious moments. Don’t put too much pressure on either of you. Do what feels right, and take it day by day.
After those first couple of months, it’s important to get them comfortable sleeping in their crib and having a place that’s solely for sleep.
We started with naps in the crib at around 2 months and both of my kids slept better there than anywhere else. Soon after, we made the full transition to the crib for naps and bedtime.
Having a nice calm and dark environment helps tremendously in getting better quality sleep.
Remember: Until the startle reflex is gone (around 4 months) it’s best to swaddle them any time they are sleeping in the crib. If you don’t, when they startle, they will jerk their arms and wake themselves up.
USE A VIDEO MONITOR
I wasn’t comfortable leaving my kids in their rooms unless I was able to hear them and see them.
Having a video monitor allowed me to feel comfortable with them sleeping in a different room.
Once you get them sleeping longer stretches, putting themselves back to sleep, and only have that ONE middle of the night wake-up to eliminate, try turning off the monitor.
I know, it sounds scary.
For my kids, they weren’t feeding at that time, and every time I got up to soothe them, they were completely fine. I knew they didn’t need anything, so we tried it.
We could still hear them cry a little bit from our room, but it got shorter and shorter until they finally just stopped waking up.
Sometimes we tend to automatically jump up to get them as soon as they start crying. Especially when we are waking up from being sound asleep. Turning off the monitor when they are ready can help you to give them the opportunity to learn.
USE THE RIGHT CRIB BUMPERS
Crib bumpers are not safe if you are using the old school kind.
DO NOT use a regular crib bumper.
They are linked to SIDS and do not allow proper airflow.
I recommend a mesh crib bumper.
These are safe. It only took one time where I heard my daughter screaming bloody murder as I rushed in and saw her poor little leg stuck in between the panels of her crib.
That minute, I purchased a mesh crib bumper on Amazon and never looked back.
Educating yourself on some of the most important aspects of parenting to be sure you are making an informed decision and going about it in the most efficient and effective way.
Pick the topics that are most important to you, and invest in some quality education.
As a busy, exhausted new mama, I doubt you will have the time or energy to go to the store, let alone an entire class!
That is why I am SUCH a huge believer in online classes! This day and age comes with some major perks: TONS OF AMAZING QUALIFIED PROFESSIONALS CREATING AFFORDABLE, EASILY ACCESSIBLE COURSES! Woohoo!
Take advantage of this! One of my favorite courses is by Jilly of Baby Sleep Made Simple. She has some amazing courses for all different age ranges, guides for weaning nighttime feeds and day time schedules/activities, and more!
Check her programs out HERE!
Disclaimer: Please only do what you feel comfortable with and feel is right for your baby.
I hope these tips help you as much as they helped me! Every child is different, but I hope this information helps a tired mama out there get her precious baby sleeping through the night! You both have been through A LOT and deserve to have a good nights rest EVERY NIGHT!
Let’s get those babies sleeping through the night! Good luck!!!
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