First things first. These photos were taken by Jeff Cho.
Walking around with a baby is kind of like being famous. Everyone either stops you or tries to avoid you. The ones who stop you always ask the same questions or make the same comments: How old is he? Wow, he’s big! You should definitely make more of those.
People have really nice things to say about my (IMHO) super adorable baby, but the one question I always seem to get is “Are you sleeping much these days?” You can imagine the surprise when I tell people that yes, my baby sleeps through the night! People typically follow with the usual response: What a good baby!
When people remark that I’ve been blessed with a good baby, I am tempted to snicker to myself. If only they knew the hard work and mindfulness it took to make sure my baby was getting good, restful sleep. The truth is, my baby may be naturally “good”, but it’s hard to tell, because I believe that my husband and I really worked to create an environment designed to help our child achieve sleep success.
1.) Develop a schedule and stick to it. There are several books available to help parents develop schedules. No matter what it is – Babywise, Ferber or Baby Whisperer – find a book you are most comfortable with as a guide. Most of them follow the same pattern: Eat, Wake, Sleep. We went with Babywise, because it emphasizes the importance of the strength of the marital relationship and also that the schedule is parent-led and adaptable to your best judgment as a parent. Think babies can’t adhere to schedules? Well guess what, babies put themselves on schedules in the womb! I was also told by lactation consultants that breastfeeding doesn’t really work on a schedule. Tell that to my breasts. Like clockwork, they are ready every 3 hours to feed the baby. Whatever schedule philosophy you choose, remember that it is simply a guide. It’s good to maintain a strict adherence at first to lay a firm foundation, but once everyone is with the program you can be a little flexible based on the needs of your baby and your family.
2.) Make nap time different than bed time. From day one when we took our baby home from the hospital we made sure that sleep time during the day was much different than sleep time at night. During the day the baby sleeps in the Rock-N-Play in the living room, the TV or music is on, the room is bright and the baby is not swaddled. At night the baby sleeps in his crib in the nursery, the house is quiet, the room is pitch black and the baby is swaddled.
3.) The baby sleeps in his own bed, in his own room. When we first brought the baby home, he slept in the Rock-N-Play next to our bed. He would wake up every 2-3 hours to eat, but for the most part slept pretty well. Babywise recommends that babies sleep in their own cribs by 4 weeks, so at 3.5 weeks we tried it. We laid the baby down around 11PM and were awakened by his cries at 4:30AM. I couldn’t believe it – in fact, I was almost scared that something was wrong and he had slept too long! It was almost as if we were the obstacle to our baby sleeping through the night. Keep in mind that we do have a pretty ideal nursery situation. It’s connected to our bedroom as if it’s a really large walk-in closet, and we keep the door open.
4.) The baby gets full meals, not snacks. During the day when the baby is scheduled to eat, he does so for at least 30 minutes at a time. This was a real struggle. Breastfeeding did not come naturally for me or the baby, and it took a good 3 weeks to get it down. Once we were breastfeeding, it was easy for the baby to become sleepy after about 5 minutes. To correct this issue, I stripped him down to his diaper to feed him and often implemented a cool, damp washcloth on his back to keep him awake until he could stay awake during feedings (which happened around 6 weeks). If the baby gets good, full meals during the day, he is less likely to wake up for a midnight snack.
5.) Don’t underestimate the power of the Dream Feed. For us, the last feeding cycle of the day is around 7PM, then the baby goes down to sleep in the Rock-N-Play at 8:30PM. By this time the sun is down and he goes into a really deep sleep. Between 10:30 and 11PM I’ll pick him up and “wake” him into a dream-like state to eat. He’ll suckle for 10-12 minutes, and after that we swaddle him and lay him down in the crib for the night. It’s just the snuggle and full tummy he needs to not wake up until 7AM the next morning.
So that’s how we got the baby sleeping through the night. I can’t emphasize enough that I am not an expert – this is mine and my husband’s personal experience. We are new parents, and this is our first child. As he grows, we’ll have to shift things around a bit, but even through major development stages when the baby has real trouble napping, he’s still sleeping straight through the night. One thing I’ve heard from a lot of parents is something similar to “my first child thrived on a schedule, but my second child doesn’t take to it as well.” This absolutely could be a personality thing, but I tend to believe that new parents have much more focus to aggressively stick to a schedule with their first child than with their second. In any case, making sure your baby gets good, restful sleep is vital to the health of his or her growing body, and making sure Mommy and Daddy get good sleep is vital to fostering a happy home and a healthy marital relationship.
Disclaimer: EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT, but more importantly, every couple is different. My natural inclination and strength is to develop strategies for success, and I am committed to sticking to the strategy, even if the tactics have to change. I am also schedule and routine oriented. For a mom or dad who doesn’t naturally gravitate towards schedules and the like I can see how my strategy may seem very difficult. Also know that I do not subscribe to the attachment parenting philosophy, and I find that those who do make up a loud minority. I’ve heard horror stories of loving moms being accused of child abuse for putting their little ones on a schedule. For this reason, the comments section will only be open to people who are genuinely interested in making this strategy work for themselves or other positive comments. Any negative or judgmental comments will be promptly deleted.