Hey Mommies! As promised in my last post, I wanted to share with you how I got two babies sleeping through the night at 8 weeks.
My biological son is 3 years old and has been sleeping through the night since about 7 or 8 weeks. He has been an amazing sleeper! I thought, “Maybe I’m just lucky?!?”
However, we had a newborn baby girl in our care (not our biological child) for about 2 months that we were going to adopt. I applied the same sleeping methods with her. At 6 to 7 weeks, she was sleeping around 6 hours. Around 8 weeks, she was sleeping through the night (about 8 to 9 hours).
*Disclaimer*– There are many different methods for sleep training your baby. My method will not be for everyone. It is a personal choice of what feels best for you and your family. BUT, I know sleeping through the night is often a HUGE concern for parents. I work with families all the time that are struggling to get their children sleeping through the night and in their own beds. My method addresses these issues from the start. I believe that is one reason why it works.
So, what did I do to get them sleeping through the night???
I put both babies in their own beds, in their own rooms, from the day they were brought home from the hospital.
No co-sleeping. No same room sleeping. (At least for bed time)
Throughout the day, and for naps, I would let both babies sleep in various places (a bouncer, the couch, a swing, in my arms for a bit, etc). However, when it was time for bed, they went to their own beds in their own rooms.
I know that many parents may not feel comfortable with this. I know that some people will say this is not natural. Some pediatricians even recommend sleeping in the same room. I also know it’s not the most convenient situation for nightly feedings. BUT, it establishes your baby’s night time space and gets them comfortable in their own room from day one.
This leads to Step 2.
I prepared the baby rooms for sleeping.
I used white noise, room darkening curtains, and soft lamps to help the babies sleep.
It was a bit of trial and error with my son. Initially, I did not have room darkening curtains in his room. He started waking up with the sun (which was entirely too early for me). I decided to try room darkening curtains. Almost immediately after that, he started sleeping in longer.
I used white noise from the start with both babies. The white noise works well to drown out background noise and to give a consistent tone to sleep to.
I still use it with my son, who is 3. It works well when we are in new environments to provide him with a sound that feels like home. We can also be quite loud with TV or friends after he goes to bed, and he does not wake up.
Soft light lamps help keep the environment calm, relaxed, and not too bright to prepare for bed time.
I feel that establishing and keeping this calm bedroom environment, helps with sleeping through the night.
I swaddled both babies.
Initially, I did NOT swaddle my son. He did not seem to like it, but he would not sleep very long to start. As soon as I started swaddling him at night, he started sleeping longer.
I started with a swaddle from day 1 for baby girl, and she did longer stretches of sleep than my son did from day 1.
There are many different swaddles you can use. I personally found that something with velcro that held well worked better than just a swaddle blanket. I used these Swaddle Me swaddles. However, I know there are others out there that are similar and would likely work just as well.
*STOP SWADDLING WHEN BABY CAN ROLL OVER*- Once a baby learns to roll over, you do not want to swaddle. They can get stuck face down and be unable to roll back over.
I put both babies to bed before they were sound asleep.
I know this can be so hard because you may just want to hold and cuddle your little baby and let them sleep in your arms. And some nights, I did just hold them a little longer and let them sleep in my arms. However, MOST nights, I laid them down as soon as they finished eating and were not yet sound asleep.
This starts teaching babies to self soothe and fall asleep in their own bed from day one. There were definitely times that both babies would end up crying and need some additional soothing and comfort before drifting off to sleep, but I would always be quick to lay them back in their bed as soon as they started to calm and seem ready to fall asleep.
I didn’t rush in to every moan, groan, sneeze, grunt, or sound the babies made.
Babies make noises while they sleep. They may even let out a brief cry or whimper while they sleep, but that doesn’t always mean they are waking up and need you.
As a first time mom with my son, I felt I needed to hear every sound he made. I was worried I wouldn’t hear him, and he would need something. We had a monitor, but every little sound would have me waking up even when he didn’t need anything. Eventually, I realized he was just fine, and I needed to relax and get some sleep myself.
After a few nights, I even turned off the sound on the monitor and just used the video to see him. When he needed me, I allowed his cries to carry from the other room to wake me up.
With baby girl, I never even used a sound monitor because I realized there was no need for me to hear every little noise she made. I only needed to hear when she was crying, and that would wake me up without a monitor.
Sometimes I just let them cry for a minute.
I know there is huge controversy over the whole “cry it out” method. That’s not exactly what I’m saying to do here, but there are times when a baby just needs to cry for a minute or two.
Around 5 to 6 weeks, I really started to notice this with baby girl. She would wake up. I’d feed her, change her, swaddle her, lay her down as she was about to fall asleep, and suddenly she’d start to cry.
I would go back in to see if I could calm her, or thinking maybe she needed to eat a little more. She wouldn’t want to eat. She would calm a little if I held her, but would still be a little fussy. All her basic needs were met, but she would still just be a little fussy and restless.
Eventually, I just laid her down, walked away, and let her cry. After about 2 to maybe 3 minutes. She settled and fell asleep. I started doing this when all her needs were met and most of the time, she would settle and fall asleep.
I know when babies are so little, it doesn’t seem or feel right to let them cry. Crying is typically their way to communicate that they need something. However, if all their basic needs are met, they just might need to cry for a minute in order to calm if they are restless.
In the beginning, I would never recommend letting them cry much more than a few minutes, but by allowing this, it again, starts teaching them how to self soothe and fall asleep on their own.
As the babies got a little older, I didn’t immediately jump to feed them when they woke up.
When we had baby girl, I knew she could go 4 to 5 hours between feedings when she was about 5 to 6 weeks old. If for some reason she woke up at 2 or 3 hours, I would try to calm her with some pats, or a pacifier before jumping right in to feeding her.
Some nights, a pacifier and pats would calm her and get her to sleep another hour or two before really needing to eat. Other nights, she legitimately needed to eat.
As I started using this approach, I noticed she progressively made longer stretches at night before needing to eat. She would often eat a lot and very frequently in the morning. But, she was doing really well making it longer periods at night, which was my goal.
If you immediately jump to feeding, you’re going to reinforce the baby’s routine to wake up and eat every few hours. I have worked with families who have 6 to 9 month olds who still wake up every 2 to 3 hours at night to eat because this has been their established night time routine.
Final Thoughts and Tips for Sleeping Through the Night
I know that some of the things I did may sound crazy, especially to a new mom. You might think, there’s no way you can put your newborn in their own room. Or, letting a small baby cry for even a few minutes may sound awful to you. You might think there’s no way you could go without a sound monitor!
I understand all of that, but I just wanted to share what worked for me…For 2 different babies… that weren’t biologically related.
In my job, I work with so many families that have sleep concerns for their children. I’d say in about 80 to 90% of the cases, it’s because of routines that were or weren’t established from the beginning.
Fear seems to guide so much of what we do as parents. Putting a baby to sleep at night can be one of the scariest things you do especially as a new mom. Often because there’s that fear they won’t wake up. 🙁
If you have this fear, as I’m sure every new mom does, there are some pretty awesome breathing, movement, and even heart rate monitors out there now that let you know if your baby stops moving or breathing. Check out Angelcare or Owlet.
These monitors may help put your mind at ease when you lay your baby down for the night. I actually used an Angelcare monitor for awhile, and it did help me rest a little easier. I haven’t used Owlet, but it seems pretty awesome!
One final note- I pretty much followed this method from day 1 with both babies. If you’re a couple months in and are looking for something to try, you can start this method. It will likely have pretty good success because your baby is still very young.
If your baby is older, it may be a little harder. Not impossible, but it will take some more effort and dedication to break old habits/routines. Consistency is key!
If you have any questions, let me know! And, if anyone decides to try my method, let me know how it works for you!
By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L
Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author HeyMommies.com