If there is one thing I’ve learned from having four babies five and under, it’s that I cannot operate rationally without a certain amount of sleep. This means I HAVE to get my babies sleeping through the night as soon as possible if I have any hope of holding on to at least a shred of sanity.
I’m gonna just go ahead and toot our own horn here–we are the sleep MASTERS! Don’t believe me? Let me add that all of my kids sleep from about 8:00 p.m. at night and awake anywhere from 8 am-10 am in the morning. And the little boys still take a 3-4 hour nap in the afternoons.
Before you start throwing tomatoes or darts, let me remind you that I am SHARING my sleep knowledge, ok?
I will add that my five-year-old has taken to getting up earlier since school started, but he still wakes up, goes potty, gets dressed, and then settles himself in his own room for some quiet lego time before everyone else gets rolling.
As newborns, they started sleeping through the night like this: A at 5 weeks, R at 8 weeks, C at 12 weeks, and M at 7 weeks.
Now do you believe me?
We got the sleep thing down PAT. But don’t ask me about fixing bad attitudes, ’cause I got NOTHIN’. Really, you could leave your tips about that in the comments, if you wanted to-k, thanks! (no, really, please do.)
Before I get started with the sleep tips though, I want to put down my expectations by age range. Hopefully this will help you have realistic goals for baby and give you some idea of what I call success.
0-2 weeks: Really Crappy Sleep Phase
2-4 weeks: Really Crappy Sleep Phase part II
4-6 weeks: Really Cra– are you sensing a theme here?
6-8 weeks: Now we’re gonna get it together. Baby should start sleeping soundly from 11 pm to 6 am.
8-12 weeks: 11 pm to 9 am
12 weeks+: 8-9 pm to 9-10 am
So here it is, people, the ultimate sleep post including every trick I can think of for achieving maximum sleep.
1) The first two weeks, there are NO sleep rules. I call this survival mode. Get your feedings down, follow baby’s lead, get to know one another, sniff sweet baby heads in the middle of the night. Enjoy this precious (and too short) time of bonding with baby before you get in a tizzy about their sleep cycles. Start sleep training when you feel the time is right. For us that was in the 3-5 week range.
2) Babies have highly adept sensors. When you are holding them, their sensors go on and they start feeling you out. They can tell if you are stressed, tense, freaked out, what have you, and guess what? Then they will freak out. So chill. No really, go to your happy place, take a deep breath, slow your heart rate, whatever you do to relax, just do it. This really does help.
3) When you start sleep training, the first rule is FEED-PLAY-SLEEP. If you are a parenting book reader (which I really am not, but this one is worth it) check out On Becoming Baby Wise for more on this topic. Great book. I didn’t read all of it, cause who has time for that when you aren’t getting any sleep, anyway? I skimmed, got the gist, and learned as I went on my own.
Basically you get baby on a 3 hour cycle during the day of eating, being awake and alert, and then putting baby to sleep for a nap. At night you just feed baby and get them right back to sleep. Easy, right?
4) I’m gonna get some backlash for this, but at about 6 weeks, you can start trying to get baby back to sleep in the middle of the night rather than automatically going for the bottle/breast feeding. Just see if rocking them or re-pacying them (if you use the paci, 3 out of our 4 babies did) to get them back asleep. You are cueing them that this is not a time to be awake and eating. No my babies didn’t starve and no I never let them cry it out at this stage. Just stay calm and try it.
5) In the morning after their 5-6-7 am feeding, put them back to sleep. Again, you are cueing them that this is still a sleep time. Eventually they’ll start skipping that early morning feeding all together and you’ll both have a nice sleep in. Be consistent here and it will pay off.
6) Put newborns to bed late. Yep, they get to chill with you until 11 pm, wide awake. Give them their last feeding and put them to bed. I’m gonna say it–if you want your kid to sleep in past 5:30 am as a toddler/young child, etc. you better sleep train them now. This means getting them used to sleeping in during the morning hours, and then you slowly back that bedtime up until you hit the 8 pm range. But start with getting control of morning wake-up before you worry about watching Leno by yourselves.
7) At about 12 weeks make sure you lay baby down awake for nap times and bed times. We’ve done napping in the swing, naps rocking in our arms, etc., but at this point you need to get baby soothing themselves to sleep. This takes time, but you never know if baby will do it until you try.
Like most things in parenting, we hold kids back from doing things because of our own preconceived notions of what will and won’t work. Don’t handicap yourself in this way. Try it and follow-through. Give them 10 minutes of fussing, but never let baby get too worked up. They’re too little and precious for that mess!
BONUS TIP) I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again–in the end these tips are a bunch of bologna (yes, that’s how you spell baloney). YOU KNOW YOUR BABY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. You are the mommy or the daddy. The baby is yours. Do what YOU think is best, not what you get from a blog post or a book. Trust your own instincts!
By the way, all of this goes out the window when you are traveling, when baby is teething, when baby gets a growth spurt, etc. So…yeah.
We’ve used everything under the sun when it comes to sleep. We didn’t use noise machines for the first two kids, but now we have one in the hallway and listen to rain all night long. We didn’t use black-out shades for the first two either, but now we do cause that pesky sun interferes with our lighter sleepers. We liked swaddling, but some babies won’t sleep all bundled up.
These are the things you have to determine for your own baby. Remember you are in control. You are the parent.
Now, go getcha some sleep!