Sleeping Like a Champ

I can't remember if I have posted on this or not, but lots of my friends have asked me how I got Jack to sleep through the night so young. (Just for clarification, by "sleeping through the night", I mean 8 or more hours.) He was on his way to sleeping 9+ hours at night by 7 weeks, and then the holidays hit and we vacationed to California for Christmas. But by 9 weeks we got him back on schedule and the little champ was sleeping consistently through the night.

I just received an email from BabyCenter - these are my favorite emails to receive about pregnancy and parenting. Oddly enough, it talks about sleeping habits. I'll share it below, highlighting in bold the things I followed:
One of the hardest challenges parents face is whether to let their baby "cry it out" or not at bedtime or after nighttime wake-ups. Doctors and experts disagree on this one. Some, like physician Richard Ferber, the expert behind the sleep method informally called "Ferberizing," contend that letting your child cry for a bit is okay when you're teaching her to fall asleep without your help.Ferber's method (also called "progressive waiting") involves waiting for longer and longer periods each night before going in to pat and comfort your baby. When you do go in, you check on her but don't pick her up or cuddle her, and eventually she learns to soothe herself to sleep. (This technique presumes that your baby is healthy and old enough to sleep through the night.) 

Other experts say babies ought to be comforted to sleep. Pediatrician William Sears, for example, advocates that parents co-sleep with their baby in a family bed, holding and cuddling the baby until she's soothed into sleep. Still others, like "Baby Whisperer" Tracy Hogg, take a middle position, saying that parents shouldn't jump up and rush to a baby's crib every time she whimpers or cries in the night; sometimes the baby will drift back to sleep on her own after a few cries. 
 I followed the book BabyWise for the first two months. I still reference it a bit, but mostly follow a combination of my schedule and Jack's. BabyWise teaches you to get your baby into a 3-hour routine of sleep+eat+play (specifically in that order), and by following this your little one will sleep through the night by 9 weeks. We loosely followed this routine, and his sleeping habits formed on their own.

This isn't to say it was easy. There were a couple of nights that Jack woke up whimpering and crying, hungry for food. My mom's first babies were twins, and I tried her advice to repeatedly stick a binky in his mouth until he fell back asleep. Unfortunately Jack has never taken a pacifier so this didn't really work. He would suck on it for about three minutes and spit it out again. The little guy soon associated his pacifier with being tricked, and after trying that method he won't take it AT ALL. So I just let him cry it out a little bit longer each night (as long as I could stand) before going to his crib and feeding him.

Here's a reference list of tips:

  • At 4 weeks (should have been earlier though, looking back on it) we stopped rocking him to sleep. We set him in his crib to fall asleep on his own. This caught on very quickly.
  • Jack is bottle-fed. This helped my sanity when he was a newborn because on weekends Tyler could help by waking up with him in the night. I'm not advocating one way or the other, but bottle-fed babies sleep through the night quicker because their tummies are fuller.
  • Because he is still young, I "top him off" at night. I read somewhere to cluster their feedings in the evening. When Jack gets fed at 6 or 7pm, he falls asleep right afterward and is "out" for the night, but if I left him he'd get hungry around 4 or 5am (not so cool for Mommy). I wake him up and feed him (extremely groggy baby will only take half a feeding if I'm lucky) around 10 or 11 and put him right back to bed. This "topping off" helps him be full enough for the night.
  • At his "top him off" feeding I also change his diaper for the night. I sprinkle baby powder in his diaper so he doesn't get too wet and get a diaper rash, and so he doesn't feel the moisture and wake up wanting his diaper changed in the middle of the night. 
  • I try not to lull him to sleep with a bottle, becoming dependent on the bottle for sleep. I do it occasionally (because it works!) when I'm in public or he is extremely grouchy and is too tired to sleep, but I don't make it a habit. Sleep+Eat+Play - Repeat.
  • Make sure baby gets plenty of rest during the daytime, or they won't sleep at night. You might think that your baby will sleep longer at night if you shorten his naps during the day, but this isn't true! It will just make them too tired to sleep well, if this makes sense. So make sure your baby gets all of his nap times in.
  • Sometimes Jack will wake up at 4 or 5 in the morning and talk to himself for a little while. I have learned to ignore him when he does this because he falls right back asleep. As a general rule, if they're not giving you the "hunger cry", they may have just woken up to play for a while by themselves.
Good luck! Let me know if you have any questions, or shoot me an email.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

This advice is so helpful, especially since my due date is next week, so our little one could be here any time now!

Two questions I do have:

When do you think is the earliest you could start letting a baby cry themselves to sleep without traumatizing them?

Would you be willing to post your feeding/nap schedule, starting from when Jack was a newborn, and progressing to as he got older?