I really hope I don’t offend anyone by all the things I’m going to say in this post. It’s all trial and error. Every child and parent are different. Every life and circumstance are different. If I suggest not doing something that you’re already doing please don’t feel bad or guilty for it, these are just suggestions. You keep doing what you feel is best for you and your baby. This is just what I’ve done and have had great results.
I am talking about my own life experiences and that’s all I can base this topic off of. So, please forgive me if I say anything that bothers or offends you. This is not my purpose. I am going to be blunt and honest in my experiences though.
The three most dauting things about babies are trying to figure out breastfeeding, handling a fussy baby, and getting your baby to sleep at night or during the day for that matter! It’s beyond stressful and hard. It’s exhausting in every way possible and it’s time consuming.
Every pediatrician I have ever talked to has always told me you can’t spoil a newborn. You can snuggle and hold your baby as often as you want, but once they hit 3-4 months this is when you need to start developing a sleeping routine and good sleeping habits.
For me, personally, I agree with the pediatrician, you can snuggle and hold your baby all you want and that’s exactly what you should be doing, but I personally believe that it’s never too early to start developing good sleeping habits for your baby.
My first child I did EVERYTHING wrong! I let him sleep with us whenever he didn’t sleep good at night, I held him way too much while he was sleeping. I rocked him to sleep until he’d be completely out. I didn’t have a good bedtime routine and I didn’t put him to sleep at the same time every night. I let him stay up way too late and he slept in way too long. It was a mess.
I think this is very common with your first child. You have more freedom with one. You’re usually younger and have a lot more going on. You’re still in that “hanging out with friend’s stage.” You can stay out late with them easier, you can keep them up late at night without it causing problems. You can take them with you anywhere. It’s just so much easier with one to create all these bad habits for babies.
Then if you’re anything like me and my child you end up creating a sleeping monster. Naptime ceases far too quickly, tantrums escalade, and everything seems to be out of control. Plus, they end up sleeping with you every night until they are 5 years old! IT’S TERRIBLE!
Having good sleeping habits and making sure your child gets good sleep is HUGE for EVERYONE!
My second time around I promised myself I would not go through that again! I was going to create a good sleeper who loved her bed; and I did! She ended up loving sleeping alone so much that even when she was sick I couldn’t get her to snuggle me or sleep with me at night, she just wanted her bed (that part made me super sad, because I wanted to just cuddle my sick baby.)
With your second child this is a lot easier to do though, because a lot changes when you have two kids instead of one, it causing you to become more home-bound. You have an older child now that can possibly be in school or is on a good sleeping routine, so it’s easier to blend your second child into their routine. It is also harder to go out and stay places late with two kiddos, so you tend to stay home a lot more.
Life just changes the older you get and the more children you have. Your freedom lessens, and your life becomes more of a routine.
So, now back to my theory of starting your baby on a sleeping schedule as early as possible. I truly stand by this, I think it helps tremendously. This strategy will be really hard to implement with your first child (because all you want to do all day is hold your baby.) I say this because when it’s your first child you actually have the time to focus completely on that baby and tend to all their needs, so you get to spoil them so much more than your second, third, fourth, and so on. When you have more children, you’re pulled in more than one direction, so it makes it a lot harder to focus all your attention on just one child.
STEP ONE: WAYS TO HELP EASE INTO A GOOD NIGHTS REST
This is not a fix your baby’s sleeping habits over-night strategy. It takes times, but I promise it’ll do wonders for you and your baby and will help your child develop good sleeping habits.
I have read multiple things on sleep training your baby and nothing I read helped me exactly where I needed help, or I just didn’t feel comfortable trying certain things, or I couldn’t handle letting my baby cry it out for hours, because not only would they cry, but I would too! It wasn’t worth it to me.
So, I started implementing different things that I’ve read different places followed by my motherly intuition and these are some things I’ve done that have really helped.
1. From the day your baby is born don’t be afraid to let your baby cry. I don’t mean to sit and let them cry for a long period of time, and I don’t mean to let them cry themselves to sleep. What I mean is that the second your baby starts crying, don’t rush over to them so quickly to fix their needs that they barely had anytime to even figure out what it was they’re crying over in the first place. Give them some time to fuss for a minute. Over time you’ll get to know your baby’s cries and so you’ll know exactly what they need and how urgent of a response you need to give them. I think it’s important for your babies to self soothe themselves and the earlier you allow them to learn this, the better. Although, it’s important for them to know you’re there, so if you don’t rush over to them quickly, talk to them, let them know you’re there and you’re coming.
2. The earlier you start helping your child put themselves to sleep the sooner they will sleep better for you and throughout the night. During the day if you’re snuggling your baby or feeding them and they are starting to get tired, put them down where they sleep at night (whether it’s a crib, bassinet, whatever it may be.) The key to this is putting them down DROWSY, not completely asleep or wide awake. You don’t have to do this EVERY time, snuggling your baby and holding them is good and it’s something you NEED to do, but if you do this 3-4 times a day while they are newborns it will really help you get a good jump start on sleep training. I know a lot of baby’s pass right out during feedings and after, if this is the case then this probably isn’t the best time of day to do this for them, or you can wake them up a bit before putting them down after feedings. If you put them down and they fuss for a bit, let them fuss (YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE ROOM THOUGH, more on this below.) See if they can get to a self-soothing state on their own. Fussing and screaming is very different. If they are screaming then get them, but if they are just fussing then let them fuss for a good five-ten minutes and see what happens. If they don’t stop fussing and start to cry harder within those five-ten minutes, that’s ok, just go get them. You’re still training them by getting them aware of their surroundings during those drowsy states.
3. This one is a BIG DEAL! If you are putting your baby down to try and get them in the habit of self-soothing themselves to sleep then you CANNOT be in the same room during this time. So, make sure you’re putting them where they usually sleep or where you’re wanting them to sleep and you leave them alone. If you are sleeping in the same room and you yourself are going to sleep too, then this is fine, but if it’s during the day and you’re in your room doing things and trying to get them to fall asleep it won’t work. They need to be alone.
4. Everyone may hate me for this one, but this seriously is so important! In order for your baby to self soothe themselves and have good sleeping habits YOU CANNOT CO-SLEEP WITH THEM! I’m so sorry! I know this totally stinks and makes things even more difficult, but there is just no way to make any of this work if you co-sleep with your baby. They can be in the same room as you, but it needs to be in a bassinet, crib, pack n’ play, or whatever it may be, it just has to be completely-separate from your bed and from you.
So, there you have it for step one. These tips are to help you and your baby ease into the sleep training method. This will get the ball rolling into having your baby sleep through the night.
There is no set limit on how long to do this for until you move to step two. I think that once your baby is putting themselves to sleep easily for naps throughout the day then it’s time to move on to the next step.
STEP TWO: SLEEP TRAINING YOUR BABY WITHOUT ALL THE TEARS
If your baby is 3-4 months old this is when sleep training starts to become crucial and a must! The reason why this age is so important is because this is when your baby starts to really come alive! They’re personality is starting to burst. They are becoming more alert and aware of their surroundings. They are realizing when you are by them, and when you’re not. They are becoming more attached and know when you’re holding them and when you put them down.
At this point you should have a pretty good routine and sleep schedule down with your baby. If you haven’t already started doing the things mentioned in step one, then now is the time to start implying them.
1. In my opinion if there is no necessary reason to still have your baby sleep in the same room as you then this is the time to transition them into their own room. This is usually the time to transition them to their crib as well (if they weren’t already using one.) So, this is the first thing you need to do: get their crib all set up and ready to go; and get their nursery in order (if you haven’t already done so.)
2. If your baby was sleeping in a bassinet, pack n’ play or whatever it may have been while they were sleeping in your room then this is what you need to do for a little while to get them accustomed to their new surroundings. Put what it was they slept in, in the room you are transiting them to. Let them sleep in there for a good week or so before transiting them to their crib. This is very important! Every time it’s nap time or bed time they need to sleep in their room and you need to follow the same steps mentioned in step one: number 2 and 3.
3. If you were co sleeping with your baby before then this is probably going to be a lot harder. Try putting them in their crib multiple times a day wide awake so they can get used to their surroundings. Then start putting them in there for their naps through-out the day. This may be more of a gradual process because co-sleeping can make them be more attached.
4. When you are putting your baby to sleep in their crib there can be no distractions! Do not let them have any form of a toy, a mobile, stuffed animal, nothing! If you are wanting your baby to sleep at night, then you need to create an environment that will make them want to sleep. If there are all these things to look at and play with in their bed, then they won’t want to sleep.
5. This is one that a lot of people may hate me for saying. I’m sorry! When your baby is older and can hold their bottle on their own, NEVER put them to bed with their bottle or sippy cup. I say this for multiple reasons. They get attached to it, it is so bad for their teeth when they start to come in, it’s hard to wean them off this habit, it’s a distraction, it’s messy, and it really isn’t safe. The only thing that is ok to put in your baby’s crib is a binky. Loose blankets, stuffed animals, pillows, etc. are extremely dangerous as well.
6. Night time sleeping will be way different than nap time sleeping during the day. Your baby may take easily to nap time and sleep like a champ during the day, but really struggle at night or vice versa. If they are really struggling at night, please remember it won’t last forever. It’s super hard to endure and it’s exhausting, but don’t cave and let them sleep in your arms all night or put them back in bed with you (unless you really have to because your sleep deprivation may kill you.) When you cave you erase all your hard work and you have to start all over again, it may be worth it though if you’re that tired. It’s your call.
7. I am not one for letting them “cry it out.” I absolutely hate this method and I think it’s torture for you, your baby and your whole family for that matter. I will never let my baby cry for more than 20 minutes without going in and comforting them in some way (and I usually only do this when my babies are 6 months and older. When they’re younger I don’t let them cry for more than 5-10 minutes.) What I like to do when they’re having a hard time is let them cry for a bit (about 5 minutes,) this wears them out a bit. Then, I go into their room, I don’t turn on any lights or say a word. I put their binky in (if they take one, luckily for me, mine all did,) I rub their belly and their face for a minute and then leave the room. If they start to fuss again, I do it again. I try this about five times, but only if they aren’t screaming and really upset, this is only if they are fussing and acting restless. If these things don’t work, then I rock them until they are drowsy and once they seem to be getting tired I put them back in their crib and immediately leave the room. *Keep the room dark, quiet (or use a noise-maker/fan), and free from distractions.
8. I am a big fan of noise-makers. I honestly think this has been harmful to my kids though because I have used one with all of my children from the start and now that some of them are older, they have a hard time sleeping without noise. So, I honestly created a bad sleeping habit by trying to get them to have good sleeping habits. Oops! I do find them so helpful though to help soothe your baby and to sleep better, especially during the day because it drowns out noise in the house while they nap.
9. If you swaddle your baby and are now transitioning them to their crib and you notice they move around a lot and kick their legs up and seem fussier than they were before, they may not like having their arms swaddled anymore. When babies are put into a bigger, open space, like a crib and are swaddled they can sometimes be uncomfortable and feel like they are falling. When they are in a smaller, more confined space, like a bassinet, Rock n’ Play, DockATot, swing, or sleeping next to you, then they feel safer. Try swaddling them with their arms out and see if they do better with that. Apparently, you’re not supposed to swaddle your baby with their arms in anymore anyway because it increases the risks of SIDS. I was surprised when I had my twins and we were leaving the hospital and they gave me the run down of all the do’s and don’ts and they told me this. If your baby is moving around a lot or rolling, then you shouldn’t be swaddling them anymore because the blanket can become loose and they can suffocate in it. I suggest putting them in a sleep sack. You can find them HERE. Remember to remove anything loose and free in their crib to reduce the risk of suffocation.
Well, there you have it! I hope these tips are helpful to you. Remember that this is a gradual process. It takes time, but it is successful. It’s so much easier emotionally to do it this way, but if you don’t have the time or patience then my suggestion is to try the cry out method. If you let your baby cry it out, they should be sleeping through the night by day 5 for sure, but it’ll be 3-5 days of heart wrenching hell!
When your baby is older, like 6 months and up you do have to let them cry it out a little bit more with my method, but like I said I don’t feel comfortable letting my baby cry for more than 20 minutes, 30 minutes max, without consoling them. You do what works best for you and what you feel most comfortable with. Every baby is different, and every parent is different. You have your mother intuition for your babies, like I do for mine. There is no right or wrong, you do whatever you feel is best.
All my babies were binky lovers so this helped me a ton to sleep train my babies, but I always get rid of their binkies at 12 months old, so then I have to sleep train them without their binkies and I have to use the cry out method a lot more with this because there is really nothing else I can do to soothe them, besides rock them. I do that a lot too during this time, but then I don’t want them to get used to being rocked to soothe them to sleep, so the cry out method is the way I go when weaning them from binkies, nursing, and bottles.
Good Luck! You’ve got this! Just take one step at a time. I promise your sleepless nights won’t last forever.
UPDATED *I get a lot of questions about why their babies don’t stay asleep throughout the night. They tell me that when they put them to bed they fall asleep fine and sleep for a while, but they don’t stay asleep throughout the whole night. They wake up once or twice or even three times.
This is a hard question to answer because not every baby is the same and not every need for baby is the same. My daughter was an amazing napper and sleeper, but she wouldn’t sleep throughout the night until she was eleven months old. She always woke up at about 3:00am for a middle of the night feeding, but she’d go right back down after she was fed without problems. I truly believe that she was hungry and needed that midnight feeding.
So, I’m going to ask you a few questions:
When your baby wakes up at night are they just fussy, tossing, and turning or are they waking up screaming and really mad?
Are they acting hungry?
If you feed them do they go right back down?
How often are they waking up?
If they take a binky and you put it in do they go back to sleep?
Do you ever let them fuss and cry for a bit before you go in to get them?
Answer these questions and see what you feel may be the problem.
Some babies really do need that extra feeding at night. They may just need their binky. They may just need a little bit longer of a crying session before they all back to sleep.
You should know your babies cries by now, if it’s a hungry cry, then feed them. If it’s a fussy cry, then leave them alone for a bit and see what happens. If it’s a I want my binky cry, then give them their binky (don’t you wish you could tape those things to their mouths haha.)
If you think it’s just a habit and they are manipulating you, then try the cry out a method for a couple days and see if that works.
It’s really important to keep the lights off, don’t simulate them or talk to them when you go in, just put the binky and leave, or feed them and leave. You want to keep their surroundings quiet, dark, and calm so they will go back to sleep easily.
If they seem wide awake and nothing seems to work to get them back down, then you may be putting them to bed too early. Try putting them to bed an hour or two later at night and see if that helps.
I’m sorry! I wish I had all the answers. A lot of this is trial and error. It’s hard to figure out what to do and how to do it. Babies are experimental, but the upside is, if whatever you do doesn’t work, then you get another night to try something new. Babies are adaptable, nothing’s set in stone. Thank goodness!
Good Luck! Please leave comments with suggestions that work for you, or if you have any questions!