A few years ago, we went through a 2 – 3 year period where all of our friends were getting married. We went to wedding after wedding after wedding. One summer we had 15weddings!
Now, it seems that we’re going through a baby period. Several of our friends are having babies – and we’re so excited for all of the new friends that Miles and Alice will have to play with!
Some of my pregnant friends (or those that have just had their babies) have started asking about the whole sleep thing. How old were Miles and Alice when they started sleeping through the night? How do we get our kids to do that? Can you help, please!?
I thought I would post our “sleep strategy” (because it really is a strategy) here for everyone to refer to on their own time. Hopefully it works for you! Feel free to post your comments on what worked and didn’t work for you!
Miles and Alice are great sleepers. We thought we lucked out with Miles. He was so tiny, but began sleeping for hours at night early on. By 12 weeks he was sleeping from 9 pm – 6:30 am and by 4 months he was sleeping 11 – 12 hour stretches.
We thought it was a fluke. We thought we were just lucky. Then Alice came along. She was also a good sleeper. By 8 weeks she was sleeping from 9 pm – 6:30 am. Now, at 5 months, she’s sleeping from 7 pm – 6:30 am. Sometimes longer.
Maybe it’s not such a fluke. Maybe it’s all part of our strategy! This was developed by our pediatrician and tweaked by us. Use it at your own risk. (see disclaimer below).
You will need:
- Miracle Blanket.
- Sound machine. No joke. Get one at a garage sale or set up a fan or a radio. White noise reminds babies of their time in the womb and recent studies have shown that babies that sleep with sound machines, become better sleepers as adults. (And you don’t have to worry so much about the dog barking or someone ringing the doorbell while your child is sleeping.)
- A watch or clock. A timer might even be helpful.
- Wet washcloth
- Formula (optional)
- Bottles (also optional)
- Lots of patience
Let’s start with the first six weeks. Good luck!
The first six weeks are all about survival. You can’t expect much. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a 3 or 4 hour stretch of sleep at night. That’s if you’re lucky. I suggest you still utilize the steps below, but don’t expect amazing, reliable, consistent results until your child is 6 weeks old or weighs 12 pounds. But truly, the first six weeks are a total crapshoot. Sorry!
The strategy was created for breastfeeding. You’ll probably have even better results if you’re formula feeding – but you may need to tweak things a bit to make it work for you.
Yes, power feeding. I know. You feel like you’re feeding your child all the time anyway – what is all this about power feeding?
Most babies (at a young age) want to eat every 2 – 3 hours. In fact, you may even feel blessed if you get a 2 hour stretch between feedings. You would literally jump for joy to get a 3 hour stretch between feedings if you weren’t so tired. The sleeping through the night strategy is largely dependent on how you spend your DAY.
So here it is – from 12 pm (noon) on, feed your child every 2 hours. She may want to eat that often anyway. She may not be crying to eat that soon. But set your timer, and feed her every two hours. Wake her up if you have to. Feed her every two hours. Did you get that?
Feed your child every two hours after 12:00 noon. So, feed at noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm.
Not every 2 1/2 hours. Not every 1 1/2 hours. Every two hours!
Side note: If you’re breastfeeding, you may find that your child wants to eat more than every two hours. He really doesn’t need to eat that often. My kids were small (5 1/2 pounds and 6 1/2 pounds). If he’s trying to eat more than every two hours, then he isn’t being fed long enough (assuming you’re breastfeeding.) My kids were known to fall asleep while they were eating, and they’d wind up with just a snack, and then want to eat 30 minutes later. If you do that too long, you’re on a slippery slope to feeding your child round the clock.
The key is to be diligent while you’re feeding them. Keep him awake and make him eat on both sides. How to keep him awake? That’s where the wet washcloth comes in. Rub it on his head and neck. Still asleep? Strip him down. Still not waking up? Change that diaper. Still sleeping? Put an ice cube on his feet. It may sound cruel, but you’ll be happy when you don’t have to feed him every 30 minutes because you made the effort to give him a good feeding.
Okay, back to the strategy. You’re on a roll, you’ve set your timer, your child has eaten every 2 hours since lunch time. Now what?
After the last feeding at 10 pm, you have three options (listed in the order of most to least effective).
If you’re open to formula, then the best option is to give that baby a slug of formula. Mix 2 or 3 ounces in a bottle, and feed that baby a bottle. But you just fed the baby? Trust me – give him a slug of formula.
If you’re not open to formula, give her a slug of breast milk in a bottle. But you just fed the baby? Trust me – give her a slug of breast milk. Seriously. Not another two hours later – right away after you’ve finished feeding.
It’s easier for babies to drink a bottle than it is to nurse. And oftentimes babies will drink their bottle while they’re sleeping (not in bed, of course). So, give it a try. It might make all the difference.
Not open to bottles? Seems like a lot of work? That’s okay. Skip this step and see how it goes. If you’re not getting the results you want, go back to option 1 or 2 later on.
After you (or your loving partner) has finished feeding the baby, wrap that child in your miracle blanket, turn on your sound machine, place the baby in the crib and go to bed.
This will be your longest stretch of sleep. Enjoy it.
When your child does wake up to eat at night, be diligent. You’re tired. It’s easy to put the baby back to bed if she falls asleep while eating. It’s easy for YOU to fall asleep while the baby’s eating and not really know how long she’s been eating. It’s easy to focus just on getting yourself back to bed ASAP. But that won’t help you get more sleep in the long run.
If you have to be up anyway, take the time and the energy to get a really good feeding in. This is where that washcloth and ice cube comes in handy. Wake that baby up to eat more. You’ll know if she’s falling asleep before she really should. How to keep her awake? Rub that wet waschcloth on her head and neck. Still asleep? Strip her down. Still not waking up? Change that diaper. Still sleeping? Put an ice cube on her feet. Do what you need to do to make absolutely certain that she won’t need to eat again for at least 2 hours.
Then wrap that baby back into the miracle blanket, turn on the sound machine, put him in his crib and go to bed.
By the time your child is 12 pounds, he should be able to go 7 – 8 hours at night without eating. If he’s waking up more often than that, it’s either that he’s not getting enough food during the day (which wouldn’t be possible with all that power feeding) or it’s a habit.
But how will you tell if she’s hungry or it’s a habit?
When your child has reached 12 pounds, and you’re ready to get that 8 hour stretch of sleep at night, keep up with the power feeding. And when she wakes up to eat at her usual middle of the night hour, go in and give her a pacifier. Don’t change a diaper. Don’t turn on the lights. Just give her a pacifier, and help her go back to sleep. Don’t feed her. Just give her a pacifier.
Your child won’t take a pacifier? Alice wouldn’t either. But guess what? When she’s half asleep in the middle of the night, she takes a pacifier. We had to try lots of different types – so make sure you do too. But don’t assume that your child won’t take one just because they don’t want it during the day. Try it in the middle of the night. You might just be surprised.
Now at first giving your child a pacifier might seem like more work than feeding him. At this point, you’ve probably got the feeding thing totally down, and you could be back to bed within 30 minutes. But – you don’t want this to become a habit. For 4 – 7 days, try the pacifier every time your child cries in the night. I think that you’ll find that within a week, you’ll be getting at least that 8 hour stretch you deserve. (You can also just try the crying it out method, but I have a hard time doing that with babies this small.)
Be diligent. Some days it will work for you to do the power feeding. Some days you’ll be off here and there. Don’t stress over it. Keep up with the strategy, and look forward to those nights in the near future when your child will be sleeping 12 or more hours at night.
I also highly recommend the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. The strategy I’ve outlined here is a great start. But there will always be bumps and hurdles along the way. You may have a few sleepless nights with teething or colds or earaches. You may find that your child wakes up every night for a week when they’re off their schedule – like for vacations or something. This book helps solve all that. It’s also great for napping tips and tricks.
So, good luck. And when your child starts going to bed at 7 pm (or earlier) at night, give me a call. We can meet for drinks. (Or we can chat on the phone while we wash bottles, pack lunches, do laundry and clean the house.)
Disclaimer: following the steps above could result in your child sleeping through the night. Once your child is going to bed at 6:30 pm and sleeping 12 hours at a time, you might start to think that parenting is easy. Once you start thinking it’s easy, you might think it’s a good time to have another baby. You might end up getting pregnant when your baby is only six months old. Your kids might end up being 16 months apart. Don’t say you weren’t warned.