I’m convinced that the idea of losing out on sleep is a scare tactic used to discourage expecting, first-time parents because it sure scared us straight. We’d heard horror stories of babies keeping parents awake all night and we feared that if we didn’t take action, we’d become those sleep-deprived parents. We couldn’t wait until the time came for our son to sleep through the night.
While I was pregnant, I read tons of articles and books on sleep-training techniques. Of the books I read, On Becoming Baby Wise: Giving Your Infant the Gift of Nighttime Sleep is the one that I studied and still reference from time to time. Like the name suggests, the book is all about establishing nighttime sleeping patterns and placing your baby on a schedule. If you’re looking for sleep-training techniques backed by research, I highly recommend this book. While the book was instrumental in helping us begin the sleep-training process, we had some hiccups along the way.
5 Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
1) Don’t worry about a sleep schedule in the beginning.
When your baby is first born, you want to take every moment you can to get to know them. They’re already familiar with your voice so now it’s time to get comfortable with your presence. You wouldn’t want to be concerned with trying to establish a sleep schedule, especially with them needing to eat around every two hours.
2) Don’t fall into the trap of co-sleeping.
Nursing my son every two hours throughout the day was a breeze. It wasn’t until nighttime that feedings became a struggle. My body was telling me that it was time to sleep but all his little body knew was eat, eat, eat. After the first few weeks, getting out of bed every two hours became exhausting. I found it was easier to co-sleep, especially after discovering the gem that was rolling over and nursing. While this led to me getting a few more hours of sleep, my son was still waking up in the middle of the night. Learn from my mistakes. It’ll be easier to sleep train if your baby is in his own bed.
3) The swaddle is your friend. YOUR BEST FRIEND!
Listen. By the time our son had grown out of the swaddle, we could wrap a baby burrito with our eyes closed. I’ll be honest, in the beginning, I couldn’t wrap (ha! see what I did there?) my head around the idea of swaddling. It just seemed so cruel to be putting him in what my grandmother called a baby straightjacket. But it made complete sense. He was used to being in a tiny, contained area and that’s how he felt the most comfortable. When he slept unswaddled, any arm or leg movement would startle and wake him.
4) Sleep cues are a thing.
Our adult bodies know the difference between night and day but a baby has to learn. During the day I made sure to keep the curtains open and the house a bit noisy. On the other hand, at about the same time each night, we would settle the house down and begin our sleep routine: bathing, nursing, and reading a bedtime story. This is still our routine each night.
5) The “Cry It Out” method might be brutal, but it’s worth it.
We first tried letting our son “cry it out” when he was four months old. He cried and so did we. We didn’t last 30 minutes and he was back in bed with us. I was just about to give up and accept that fact that he’d be sleeping in bed with us until I was done nursing when a friend reminded me that he would be fine. At this age, his little belly could hold him over until the morning and he was only waking up out of habit and not out of need. The second time around, I made sure he was well-fed, burped, and swaddled and I placed him in the bassinet. He cried for maybe 15 minutes and like magic he was asleep! The first night he slept from 11 PM to 6 AM. I couldn’t believe it! And yes, I cried! As the nights progressed, the cries didn’t last as long and eventually, he went down without a fight.
Now when 9:30 PM rolls around, we have an “us” again because our son is down for the night and he doesn’t wake up until 8 AM. We’re working on gradually moving his bedtime to earlier in the night but the schedule works for now. Things are almost like they were before we had a baby. We’re just sure to be a lot quieter during our nightly shenanigans than before. Because there’s nothing like living your best “the kid is asleep” life and he wakes up to remind you that he’s here to stay.