One of the most popular terms in my Google search when I was pregnant was “sleep training.” I was determined to get my baby to sleep through the night within a month of him being born.
Talk about unrealistic.
First of all, my baby slept a total of 3 minutes every night for the first 3 weeks and the rest of the time he spent crying. For HOURS. Second, every baby is different and what worked for my baby may not work for yours and thats OK.
When we brought Winston home, all will-power we thought we would have about sleep training, went out the window in the absence of sleep. Winston cried and cried for hours, the little dude didn’t seem to ever get tired. I think during those first 2 weeks, I probably cried as much as he did. We let him sleep on us, in his bouncy chair, rocking in the glider, and even in our bed when I was completely desperate to get him to sleep.
Although, none of these things actually worked and he didn’t sleep any better with them. And then I realized, we’re doing it all wrong. Winston wasn’t sleeping good because he was tired. Baby’s need sleep in order to get sleep, I remember reading that so many times and somehow still forgot it.
But its important.
Once I saw what the problem was, the sleep training began. We worked in steps, creating one good habit at a time so as to let Winston adjust at his own pace. Also, we made the decision to move Winston to his crib at 3 weeks old with the help of a baby monitor with a camera and an Owlet smart sock, but that is completely up to you when you want your baby to start sleeping in their own crib and bedroom.
1. We made a bedtime routine that was set in stone.
I know, it seems like a lot of work to do the SAME thing every single day but its worth it. I didn’t believe it either but here I am, only 6 weeks after starting to do the bedtime routine and even the site of the bathtub could make Winston fall asleep on the spot (Okay, not really but you get the picture.)
Our bedtime routine consists of nice warm bath, lotion and lavender essential oils, pajamas and swaddle, read a book, and then feed. We start the bedtime routine at about 7:30pm and he’s asleep in his crib by 8:40pm. By the time we’re finished with the book, his eyes are practically rolling back in his head even without having eaten yet.
It’s magic stuff people. Having a routine helps your baby associate these things, like a bath and pajamas, with sleep.
2. We taught him to self-soothe.
Now I know, any mention of the words “crying it out” and some of you are out the door. That’s fine. But to those of you that are still reading, it only took us one week for Winston to be able to be set down in his crib and put himself to sleep.
The first day, we did the bedtime routine and once he was SUPER sleepy but still awake, I set him down in his crib, told him I loved him, and LEFT THE ROOM. The deal is to wait 5 minutes the first night, then go back in and calm him down. Then keep adding 5 minutes to every time you have to go back in. (Ex: Go back in after the first 5 minutes, then 10 minutes after that, then 15 minutes after that, etc.. until he’s asleep.) Yes, he cried. Yes, I cried. But within 5 minutes, before I could even go back in his room, he was asleep.
The second night, you’re supposed to wait 10 minutes before you go back in there. He did cry through the first 10 minutes so I went back in his room and told him I loved him, patted his tummy until he calmed down and then I left while he was still awake. He went right to sleep after I left.
The rest of the week, I added 5 minutes to the time I was supposed to go back into his room the first time. He never needed me to go back in to his room to comfort him more than once and after that week, I haven’t needed to go into his room to soothe him at all after I put him to bed. I set him in his crib, wide awake or super sleepy (whichever he is when at 8:30pm), and he’s asleep within 10 minutes.
3. We decided on a feeding schedule and started stretching his feedings.
Once he had learned to self-soothe, he was about 4 1/2 weeks old and still wasn’t sleeping through the night. I didn’t understand why until I realized, he still needed to eat at night. Duhhh.
Now, how to wean him off?
During my search for the answer I read about this book that promised to get your baby sleeping 12 hours by 12 weeks old so of course, I was all over it. Check this book out and read it for yourself, its completely worth it.
In the book, the author tells you to stretch the feedings. Try to get your baby to eat every 4 hours instead of every 2-3 hours. So pick a time you want your baby to sleep to every morning and that’s when the first feeding will be. For us, that was 8am. So we fed him at 8am the first day and tried to stretch his next feeding until 12pm. We gave him the paci, walked him around, and tried to distract him until that 12pm feed.
BUT, my baby at 4 1/2 weeks is the size of some 3 month olds. It’s recommended that you don’t start stretching the feeds until the baby is over 9 pounds and of course check with your pediatrician before implementing any feeding/sleeping schedules. My baby was 12 pounds at birth so I was already there haha.
Once your baby is ready to start stretching and won’t stretch those 4 hours, try to get him/her as close as possible and then feed them, Don’t let your baby get so hungry that they’re senslessly screaming. If your baby can only lasy from 8am until 11am, thats okay. Feed him at 11am and then the next day, feed him at 11:15am, then 11:30. and keep trying to stretch his feed until that 4 hour mark.
Another point the book mentions, feed four hours from the START of the previous feed, not when the baby finishes eating.
Continue to do this until the baby is eating four hours apart. Which is 4 feedings during the day. For us, we feed at 8am, 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm but you can adjust the first feed time to adjust the schedule so it fits you and your family’s needs!
Your baby should start eat more at each feed because he will be more hungry. After you start this plan, if your baby is gaining weight, he is getting enough at each feed! (I know, most people don’t have a baby scale just laying around. My pediatrician said its just fine if you get on the scale, weigh yourself, then weigh yourself with your baby and subtract your weight, it can be close to accurate and give you a good picture of the baby’s weight in between doctor appointments!)
4. We started weaning him off of night time feeds.
Once Winston had mastered the 4 day-time feeds, we moved on to getting him off night time feeds. Now, Winston had already worked himself up to sleeping 6 hours at a time and when we started this stage, he was already eating only once, MAYBE twice a night. One feeding at 2-3am and one at 6am-ish.
But the books recommends that you wean your baby off of the 2nd, then 1st, then 3rd feeding in that order.
Since Winston was already eating once a night most nights, we started weaning him off that one feed. I had been feeding him 4 ounces when he woke up so the first night, I dropped him down to 3.5 ounces.
NOTE: I am exclusively breastfeeding but I also pump so for weaning him off, I would pump for his night feeds so I could measure exactly how much he was getting and be able to reduce it by the half ounce. If you don’t want to do that, then just try to reduce the feed by minutes instead, its a little harder but still doable.
I continued the 3.5 ounce feeds for 2 more nights, then dropped down to 3 ounces. and repeated that cycle until I wasn’t feeding him at all. With Winston, once I started dropping his feedings, he started sleeping longer and longer. He went from eating 4 ounces and sleeping 6 hours, to eating 3 ounces and sleeping 8 hours and so on. She mentions this in the book, the more that you reduce the feed amount, the longer the baby may start to sleep. Before I was down to 1 ounce, he had worked up to sleeping 11 hours without waking.
For those of you with babies that do feed three times a night, start with the second feed and follow the above steps until the second (middle of the night) feed is eliminated and then go on to the first feed, then the third feed. And for those of you with babies that feed only two times a night, eliminate the second feed first, then the first feed.
MAKE SURE your baby is making up for those lost ounces at night, during the day. The book goes into further detail about how babies need 24-30 ounces a day. As long as your baby is gaining weight (for breastfeeding moms) or getting those 24-30 ounces during the day, then its okay for the baby to not eat at all during the night.
5. The Schedule
I schedule Winston’s feed time but I don’t care much for trying to schedule nap times. If you do that, go ahead and continue, I just don’t find it helpful for me and my baby. Once I feed him, he usually gets grumpy about 40 minutes to an hour from the time he started feeding so I just swaddle him, give him a paci, and put him in his crib whenever he gets grumpy. He usually falls asleep within 10 minutes and that’s what works for us. Our day-to-day schedule looks like:
8am: Wake up, diaper change, eat
8:40ish-11:50am: Usual nap time
12pm: Diaper change, eat
12:40ish-3:50pm: Usual nap time
4pm: Diaper change, eat
4:40ish-7:20pm: Usual nap time
7:30pm: Bath time/ Bedtime routine
8:30pm: In crib
8:40pm: Usual fall asleep time
Like I said before, this is just what worked for us. You, of course, know whats best for you, your baby, and your schedule but I do hope this helps!