Newborn: Sleeping Through the Night!

I get a lot of requests for newborn sleep advice, so I thought I would write this down and keep it on here before I move on to the next phase and forget! Here are some suggestions I have been successful using for getting my babies to sleep through the night- it is somewhat based on Baby Wise by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam. I have had all three girls sleep 8 hours through the night at 8 weeks (actually the last two did it at 6 weeks) and the 12 hours through the night at 12-13 weeks. I am blessed with good babies, but I also put in effort from the start to establish a routine for them that encourages them to sleep through the night. I have said it before on here, it doesn’t matter what plan you use, but I believe you will be a lot more relaxed and your baby will be a lot happier if you have a plan. It is very rare for my babies to cry- having a routine gives them- and us- security to know what is coming next. I must say before you read this or Baby Wise; you do not need to be rigid with this plan, be flexible and relaxed with it. If you follow the basic idea and do what works for your family, you will be successful. I was a lot more rigid with my firstborn and I am forced to be really flexible with my third- and they both successfully slept through the night! Here are my suggestions based on what worked for me:

  1. Schedule: Baby Wise uses “PDF: Parent Directed Feeding”, I assume this is the main “controversy” with this plan- people don’t like to wake a sleeping baby. At first you need to wake them up at 3 hours to eat (until the 10pm or night time feeding)- this simply gets their days and nights in the right place- if you let them sleep all day- they will not sleep all night- seems logical to me. I think it also establishes a good expectation from the start- the parent runs the show, not the baby. The hospital and probably the doctor will say to feed the baby when they want to be fed- this is great at first when you are establishing milk (if nursing)- but after the first few weeks until week 12- I am most successful with the 3 hour cycle (of course if your baby is starving at 2 or 2.5 feed them and start fresh at the next cycle): change diaper (to get awake), feed, 1.5 hour from start of feeding is wake time, 1.5 hour nap time: here is a sample- (times vary based on morning wake time)
    {Week 1-12 or 13}
  • 7am wake and change diaper (get them really awake with the diaper change)
    Feed (they will try to sleep after feeding, lay them down and try to get them awake right after feeding)
  • 8:30am nap (if possible lay them down in a bed or somewhere safe- if they are held through the whole sleep it not only gets them used to that for later, it will probably not allow them to wake or sleep “naturally”- they are all snuggled in and don’t want to get up! I have had to rip babies out of people’s arms to have success with wake time! *Obviously this is flexible- sometimes just hold them and sleep and let others do the same- just not every time.
  • 10am wake, change diaper, feed
  • 11:30am nap
  • 1:00pm wake, change diaper, feed
  • 2:30pm nap
  • 4:00pm wake, change diaper, feed
  • 5:30pm nap
  • 7:00pm wake, change diaper, feed
    ***try to keep awake during this period- give a bath, lay down- if you pick one period to not let them sleep on you or a family member- this is the crucial one- as soon as they get sleepy- feed and put them down- try to get close to 10pm, but if you need to feed early that is just fine.
  • 10:00pm (or when sleepy) change diaper, feed
    *lay down for sleep and do not wake them up, feed when they are truly awake. A lot of babies wake up crying a little but are not actually awake- make sure they are truly awake before getting them up. I always wait 15 or 20 minutes before getting them up to make sure they are truly awake (this is after the 4 week mark, the first 4 weeks they will probably eat every 3-4 hours at night). Most of the time they go back in to the restful sleep and do not need to get up. This is where having them in a room other than your room is helpful. I have even put my girls in the living room outside my room- they can sleep anywhere and through anything as newborns.
    {Week 13}: switch to 4 hour schedule- for example: wake/feed 8am, nap 10am, wake/feed 12pm, nap 2pm, wake/feed 4pm, cat nap 6pm (for a couple of months), 8pm feed/bedtime
  1. Feeding: I believe a full baby is a happy sleeping baby! If you are nursing- mind your milk! Make sure you are getting enough calories to feed the baby- the theory that you will lose weight immediately when nursing is not necessarily true if you want to mind your milk. I nursed my first two girls for a year each and it wasn’t until I stopped nursing that I lost all of the baby weight. There are a lot of foods that upset babies tummies- dairy, coffee, etc.. so you have to be particular what you eat and you need extra calories to make the milk- frankly you are starving so this isn’t a problem! And drink a TON of water! If you cannot or do not want to nurse- don’t stress about it- the important thing is that your baby is receiving adequate nutrition and you are enjoying it!! I don’t use feeding as my first response to crying, see where they are in the cycle and attend to their needs based on that- lots of times babies act hungry when they are really just tired.
  2. Days and Nights: I said it earlier but getting the days and nights in order is huge at the beginning. I just make sure to wake them at the 3 hour mark and get them REALLY awake to eat and I make them eat a full portion- not snacking. If they fall asleep after feeding and you cannot get them awake- just let them sleep and start over at the next feeding- but really try for a little wake time- probably means laying them down! After a feeding they are all snuggly and warm and just want to sleep with you (at least all 3 of mine did) so I found if I lay them down right away they wake up and if they still sleep, clearly they need sleep. I call it natural sleep vs. artificial sleep- artificial because they are not naturally needing to sleep, they are responding to the snuggly environment!
  3. Be flexible: if they wake up early and are hungry or you have somewhere to be and can’t feed there- feed them and start the cycle from that feeding point. You can manipulate the schedule based on what works for you! After the 13 week mark, every day should be pretty predictable- wake time at the same time, naps at the same time, feedings at the same time and bed time at the same time- so you can schedule accordingly! Just relax and know that you can always start fresh at the next feeding!
  4. Bed: I like to put the baby down in various locations- sometimes in a Pack N Play by a window, sometimes in the crib, sometimes in the bassinet- they will sleep anywhere when they are newborns and this gets them used to sleeping in various spots. I always try to put them down in the crib for at least 1 nap when they are newborns, that way it isn’t a transition when they move in there. I move my babies into their crib at 1 month. It is hard (for you, emotionally) because it is a big bed and tiny baby- but you will sleep better and they will not have to adjust to the new place when they are older.
  5. Sound Machine: All of my girls sleep with sound machines- Ocean noise to be exact! Crank it up loud- they can sleep anywhere with anyone in the room and with noise- dogs barking, doorbell ringing, siblings crying, etc.. not an issue. And I believe it gives them the constant familiar sound no matter where they are that signals “bed time”. (yes, my kids can sleep without it anywhere, yes my 5 and 7 year olds still use them, yes, I use it at naptime and sometimes long car rides (there is a great “white noise” app to use), THIS is my favorite one- ocean to be exact- I think that covers all of the questions!!)
  6. First Month: Just enjoy and relax the first month- try to get them awake enough for feeding- but just enjoy the baby and worry about the schedule at 4 weeks! If you want to let them sleep on you or a loved one- go for it! As long as they are having wake time during the day and you wake them up every 3 hours to eat (again, working on days and nights)- just enjoy!
  7. Bath: They say to give a bath every other day, I like to give a bath every evening (when it works for my schedule and energy level) with just warm water and a wash cloth. I only soap every other day. My girls had cradle cap and Mustela makes a great foam shampoo for cradle cap, I like to lotion after every bath (again, love Mustela for newborns)- here is an article on baby massage it helps a lot with development and I use this time after bath with lotion to do the massage.
  8. Sleep Props: I think blankies (for older kids) and binkies are fine sleep props, if it gives a baby comfort- great! My first daughter loved the binkie and it was no problem to break her of it at 2. I made sure to always leave it in the bed only- no walking around the house with it. (of course airplanes are a different story- bring the binkie), my other two want nothing to do with it- so that is fine (I really wish my 3rd wanted one)! I had a few different blankies the girls slept with, they have their favorites but they are totally fine to sleep with another blankie if their favorite one is in the wash. This comes in handy for school bags later on- you can keep one in there and wash it and not have school germs in their beds. This also works well for travel- they can have their blankie at sleep times but you can wash it or give them a clean one later on when that one has travel germs! Lots of people love swaddling, I do a loose swaddle at the beginning, I like them to have their arms free and legs able to move around- so I loosely swaddle mainly for warmth! I also like the vibrate button on the bassinet to help them settle in to sleep the first month. Again, do what makes you feel comfortable. I like to rock my babies sometimes, I think it is fine to rock them to sleep, just not every single time- don’t let it be the only way they fall asleep. But I love a little rocking time once in a while (see #10)!
  9. Laying them down: I think it is important to lay them down in their crib completely awake (at nap or bed time of course) and let them sooth themselves to sleep most of the time. Sometimes it is just delightful to rock your baby and snuggle- but most of the time, simply lay them down and let them work themselves into sleep. Baby wise says there is a period of active sleep and restful sleep during each sleep period. Make sure to let them fuss a little to make sure they are awake and not just active.
  10. Naps: I wrote my nap thoughts down here- Nap time starts when mom says it starts and ends when mom says it ends. When you have a schedule, you will have the confidence to know when they need naps- you are absolutely meeting their needs by allowing them to sleep at nap time. If they cry at nap time- guess what they need..sleep!
  11. Wake Time: Sing, play, read, mobile, swing- but make sure to let them chill out and discover things around them- too much stimulation is not good for naps. Stimulate after feeding and then chill when nap time is approaching
  12. Growth Spurts: If you baby is waking at night and not soothing back to sleep or wanting to eat more often than usual, it is either a growth spurt or you need to “mind the milk”- they go through several growth spurts, so just feed them and they will go back to normal after the growth spurt. I haven’t had to adjust my schedule very much for growth spurts.
  13. My final word of advice is this, let your baby sleep! Don’t jump up every time they are sleeping and cry- make sure they are truly awake- this goes for nap or nighttime sleep. They will usually go back to sleep if they need more sleep. Once you know they CAN sleep 8 hours or 12 hours (nutritionally) it will make you more relaxed to let them cry a little bit and go back to sleep.

This is the plan that has worked for me, Baby Wise has so much helpful information and Baby Wise 2 has a lot of helpful tips on manners, etc.. it really helped me. Finally, sleep training is the first step in the child training process. Keep things like- teaching them self control, obedience and patience in mind from the beginning and you will be grateful you did when they are toddlers!

***I have received a lot of traffic on this post recently- thanks for stopping by- please check out my blog and feel free to follow on Facebook or Twitter! I just need to say to those of you who wish to comment negatively- I am not interested in hearing you tell me that this makes you sad and I do not want this to be a place of arguments or division- I have three of the happiest babies I know, I adore my children and I believe that teaching them self-control and allowing them to actually sleep is being the mother God called me to be. If this isn’t for you, then please do not read it- I am sure you have a wonderful plan for raising your children and they are wonderful babies. I am simply sharing what worked for my three babies and what worked for ME- because when the mother is relaxed and thriving- so are the kids! God Bless you as you find what works for YOUR family! You know what would be so much more fun than arguing- what if moms join together and support each other and pray for one another and accept each other for the individuals God made us to be! *I will gladly delete and not respond to any “hate mail”
Just in case you need to know- here are pics of my three babies at 6 months old- pretty sure none of them were starving by not feeding on demand (see rolls below!)- I nursed the first two for a year exclusive of any formula and the third is on month 9 with no formula- no starving children here!

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