Today, I’m tackling sleep. Before I start, I just want to say that whether you decide to sleep train your baby or not is (obviously) up to you. I know for me, I would be miserable if I didn’t get good sleep. But, that’s ME. I have friends whose kids are not sleep trained, and sure they laugh/complain about it, but they get through it. Everyone will get through it. But, as for me and my house, we heart sleep. I am not saying I am the authority on this, but I now have FIVE children sleeping through the night. Sarah Noelle, our almost 12 week old just completed her first solid week of glorious sleep! Ahhhhh! So, what does sleeping through the night mean? For me, if I get 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep—that counts. Some babies are more awesome than others. Sarah is sleeping now from about 10:30 pm to 6:00/6:30 am. Dreamy. Last Saturday it was 7:45 am. Wow the week I’ve had! I am a new woman!!
I can’t believe how many books are written about sleep. It really isn’t that hard. So, here are the top three things to get your sweet baby sleeping through the night:
1. This one is numero uno for a REASON! Be sure to feed your baby every 2 and a half to three hours during the day. If they are sleeping, wake them up! Do whatever you need to do. I kept my angel babe awake by unbuttoning their outfit and tickling their feet. I know they say “never wake a sleeping baby,” and it is so tempting to let them sleep because you are SO tired. Don’t. I’d rather sleep at night—like good sleep. So, at night let them go as long as they want. They will wake up when they are hungry and let you know it! This simple thing helps baby learn the difference between daytime (awake time) and night-time (sleep time).
Now, talking about newborns specifically, they sleep ALL the time! You will feel like they are hardly awake. Totally normal. So their “wake time” might only be 15 minutes or so and then they most likely will just fall asleep on their own. Don’t get duped into thinking your baby is a super genius and you don’t need to sleep train them. You do. Stick with the plan, I am telling you it works.
Back or belly? Honestly, I’ve done both. My pediatrician in Tallahassee was not happy with me when I told her I was sleeping my then newborn Lucy on her belly. So, which one? I am going to say on their back for many reasons. It should be reason enough that it is what our Doctors recommend because of SIDS. But, may I also add that my three children who were belly sleepers were HORRIBLE travel babies!! And my “back to sleep” babies are much better travelers. Coincidence? You be the judge. But, I am convinced that it was just so hard for my belly sleepers to get comfy in their car seat being on their backs. *Side note* I do think it takes back sleepers a week or two longer to sleep through the night as compared to a belly sleeper, but it is worth it to me.
2. Get your baby on a schedule. Meaning feed your baby, play with your baby (awake time) then it is nap time for baby. Here’s an example of my day with my baby Sarah Noelle, now that she’s sleeping through the night:
6:30 am – 7:00 am feed
7:00 am – 8:00/8:30 am awake time/play time (play time is longer or shorter depending on her; if she starts to fuss, it is her telling me it is nap time)
8:00/8:30 am – 9:30 am nap time
9:30 am – 10:00 am feed
10:00 am – 11:00/11:30 am awake time/play time
11:00/11:30 am – 12:30 pm nap time
12:30 pm – 1:00 pm feed
1:00 pm – 2:00/2:30 pm awake time/play time
2:00/2:30 pm – 3:30 pm nap time
3:30 pm – 4:00 pm feed
4:00 pm – 5:00/5:30 pm awake time/play time
5:00/5:30 pm – 6:30 pm nap time
6:30 pm – 7:00 pm feed
7:00 pm – 8:00/8:30 pm awake time/play time
8:00/8:30 pm – 9:30 nap time
9:30 pm – 10:00 pm feed and to bed for the night
6:00/6:30 am she’s sucking her thumb waiting for Mommy, ready to eat.
*When she was not sleeping through the night there was a 2:00ish am feeding as well. And these times are approximate, give or take 5-10 minutes.
3. It is OK for your baby to cry. Here is the hard part, the training part. Anyone out there ever trained for anything? Be it sports, music, anything? It is NOT EASY. But, totally worth it and doable. I can see all the on-demand Moms rolling their eyes and wanting to scream at me. Save it. If you are good with what you’ve got going—yay for you!! Seriously, if that works for you, I am thrilled for you. But, I prefer NOT having a baby on my boob whenever they whimper. I want to know that if I feed my baby at 9:30 am, I know that I have a good little while to venture out before they are hungry again. I have plenty of friends that are on-demand feeding Mommas, and they are awesome at it! They can nurse babies doing just about anything—grocery shopping included! That is just not me.
So, now what? When do you start letting them cry it out? I am so glad you asked. Here you go: Your first month, just love on that sweet angel babe as much as you can. It will look something like this: feed them, burp them, hold them, let them nap on you, etc. Those will be the best and most precious moments in your LIFE! But, come week 5 and on, start letting them cry it out for nap time. I give a nap “allowance,” and what I mean by that is I give them an extra 30-40 minutes to settle into their nap before it is “officially” nap time. So, when (not if, when) they cry, they have enough time to cry and soothe themselves and still have a good hour of sleep time.
I know that hearing your baby crying is hard, so hard. Turn off the sound on your monitor if you need to. Watch the video monitor if you need to, but most likely, they are ok. If you are worried, go check on them. But, let them cry. The longest mine has cried was 45 minutes. Torture. BUT, that is only for a few days, a few nap times and then they get it, and boom—your baby knows how to nap. Praise The LORD! They might cry for 5 or ten minutes here and there, but that is rare. But, trust me, they will be asleep in minutes. It. Is. Awesome.
The hard part, for new Moms especially, is the “nursing expert” that will visit you at the hospital. She will tell you to be an on-demand feeding Momma. Basically meaning, feed your baby whenever they cry. This kills me. I am always respectful and sweet to these well-meaning women. But I basically disregard everything they tell me. Again, please hear me—no judgment here if you are an on-demand feeding Momma. This article isn’t meant for you. I am still going to get backlash from this post I know it…but it’s ok with me. If this helps just one Momma get precious sleep, it is worth it to me. I wish I could hug and kiss the woman who helped me!
Here’s my story with sleep training my first child, Hannah. I was super excited about nursing—could not wait to experience it. But, after about 5 minutes, that good feeling was gone and I wanted NOTHING to do with it. I thought she was going to suck my nipple clear off my boob she was sucking so hard. I remember crying to Petersen in the hospital, telling him ‘If this is what nursing is about, I can’t do this!” It was awful. We had to give her some formula in the hospital because she wasn’t getting enough from me. But, I kept trying and eventually we had success!!
So, we took this sweet baby home and for a week or two, getting up multiple times in the night was ok—I was just so excited to finally have her in my arms! But, pretty soon the adrenaline wore off and she wanted to party at night—we are talking WIDE awake. We started taking turns at night…who would feed her, rock her, and try to get her into her crib to sleep. I can still picture myself nursing her to sleep and moving like I had a pitcher of water on my head to get up and walk into her room; to then oh so carefully put her into her crib…and, ugh, FAIL. She knew I wasn’t holding her any longer, and would wake up. So, back to the rocking chair I went, trying to get her back to sleep. Oh I did it all—nursed her in bed, let her fall asleep in the swing, etc.
At about month 2 and a half I was MISERABLE. Miserable. I was so tired and I felt irritable all the time. I thought I was going to DIE. No longer did the idea of a big family sound appealing to me. I needed help; I needed to get out. I signed up for Bible study at my church and I am convinced God sent an honest to goodness real life angel to help me. I shared my sleep misery with the girls at my table and the next week, this veteran Mom did the best thing EVER. She smiled and handed me a book. She didn’t tell me what to do; just gave me the book. I read that thing from cover to cover in a day. Implemented everything it said to do the next day. And, you know what? I had a napping 3 times a day baby and a sleeping through the night baby in one week. ONE WEEK. And I’ve never looked back. So, Hannah took 3 months to get on a schedule—only because I didn’t know what I was doing and the whole on-demand thing was NOT working for me. But, Samuel, Bethany, Lucy and now Sarah were all sleep trained starting at about 4-6 weeks old and they all fell right into the schedule great and started sleeping through the night between 7-11 weeks old. And THAT my friend is the gospel truth.
Now, let me say that sleep training a 4-6 week old is MUCH easier than a 3 month old. My best friend April still remembers me calling her bawling that week I was sleep training Hannah. I could hear Hannah crying—so hard, for sooooo long…we are talking 45 minutes, for every nap time, for a good 4-5 days. Longest days ever. I would call her and cry to her, hearing my precious baby crying. And she would keep telling me that Hannah is ok, be tough, hang in there. I did. And, after probably day 5, training was over; she found out how to soothe herself to sleep. How wonderful to put my baby down wherever at nap time, wide awake and walk out, knowing she will settle into sleep on her own.
I know there is so much out there about how this will cause havoc with your child’s inner being and blah, blah, blah. I am sorry. I don’t buy it. My kids are awesome, happy, normal kids. They are fresh, rested and full of energy. They love nap time. And so does Mommy. You can do it!!
Any questions about sleep training? Comment and I will give you my humble opinion. Want to tell me about how awful I am to let my babies cry it out? Umm, can I sweetly say, don’t waste your time. You do what works for you. And, we will have to just agree to disagree on this one. This has worked for all five of my babies—all different personalities and temperaments, same results. I just want my sweet pregnant Momma’s and Momma’s of newborns to know they can do this and feel gloriously rested.
*For more detailed information read: Babywise. This is my short cut version of that book, with minor tweaking. It was my sleep training go-to. I am sure there are other great ones; this is just the one I read and love.
In other One Surrendered Mommy News! I am hoping for big additions to my blog next week; adding a resource section, my favorite go-to recipe section and more!! And can I say it again how much I love hearing from you? I do!! Please comment and share!! Thanks!! Blessings friends!!