Helping Your Baby Sleep

Getting sleep was on the top of my mind before I had Layla. During the last months of my pregnancy I slept in every chance I got and took lots of naps 1. because I was exhausted and 2. because I knew it was all going to be over soon! Of course, you don’t find all the answers in a book…sleep was a trial and error process. Some things we nailed! And some things we struggled with. So I thought I’d share some of our dos and dont’s for baby sleep.

Helping Your Baby Sleep: practical tips for baby sleep

  • Do get them on a schedule. After the first week or so I worked to get my daughter in the eat, play sleep routine. I used The Baby Whisperer and Babywise as a reference. I probably liked The Baby Whisperer more and found it more helpful and practical, but both are great resources.
  • Don’t beat yourself up when things don’t go as scheduled, especially in the first 6 weeks.  I sometimes felt frustrated when things (often) didn’t abide by the beautiful schedule. Accept that the schedule will flex and you-time is minimal in the first weeks.
  • Do get them sleeping in their bassinet/crib. For the first 10 weeks Layla slept in a bassinet in our room. To help her transition to sleeping in her bassinet (instead of on us) we ran a fan and laid a heating pad down on the bassinet for 3-5 minutes before putting her down. Then her bed was nice and warm like a human body.

how to help your baby sleep through the night.

  • Do swaddle. We swaddled Layla in the Adin & Anis swaddle blankets for the first two months and then continued to swaddle her in a sleep sack until she was 6 months. (We probably could have quit much sooner.)
  • Do keep the room dark and use white noise. Layla has always slept with a fan of some sort to help block out noise. Also, babies who sleep with a fan have a decreased risk of SIDS so it was a win-win. Layla currently sleeps in a room with blinds and a blackout curtain for extra darkness.
  • Do move them out of your room, when the time is right. When Layla was about 2 1/2 months she slept in a pack and play on a trip and did fine. When we came home I told Nate and he said, “Well, let’s put her in her crib then tonight.” We did and she slept 8 hours straight! We slept much better too! If not for Nate I’ve joked she’d still be sleeping in the bassinet in our room. The doctors at the hospital thoroughly freaked us out about co-sleeping so we never even tried it.
  • Do get a good, video monitor. We have this baby monitor and the peace of mind it gives us is amazing.
Naptime is going so well.
Naptime is going so well.
  • Do dream feed. A dream feed is a late-night feeding that you do at 10-11 at night while your little one remains asleep. You just get them up, no talking, no lights, just eating; you can leave your little one swaddled up and then put them right back down. It’s a nice little top-off for baby and it never bothered me to do it since I would normally be up anyways. I did a dream feed until Layla was 7 months old. (Probably longer than needed, but Layla has always been smaller than average so the extra calories did her good and I was up so I didn’t mind.)
  • Do teach them to fall asleep on their own not with breast, bottle, rocking, being held, etc. I’ll be honest here we did this “wrong” and had to re-train Layla to do this at 7 months.  For the first 6 months I’d say Layla was a great sleeper. We stuck to her schedule, then wrapped her and then I held her until she fell asleep and put her down in her crib. She always went down good so I didn’t sweat that she wasn’t able to go to sleep on her own. Honestly, I loved those sweet cuddles and wouldn’t trade them. Around 6-7 months Layla started to struggle to go down to sleep. I think she just started to become more aware of her surroundings. So I’d hold her, put her down like normal and then she’d wake up and fuss; so I’d hold her again, try to put her down again, etc. etc. It got a little crazy, so Nate and I decided we would tough it out and “sleep train” her. You can read more about sleep training in Baby Wise, but basically the premise is you have a bedtime routine, but the baby down when she is drowsy, but not asleep, and walk away.  You tolerate fussing up to a set period of time and then you might go check and reassure baby. After a very trying week Layla finally was able to sleep on her own. At the same time we moved her sleeping spot from our living room to the laundry room, which made a big difference as well. Now sometimes she still fusses for 20-30 minutes, depending on if she is overtired but she almost always settles down after a bit and goes to sleep. At 9 months she sleeps 11-12 hours at night and takes two 1-2 hour naps a day.

Waking up all smiles

  • Don’t wait too long. When Layla wasn’t sleeping well and I was still on the fence about sleep training a wise friend told me just to do it before she got big enough to want to climb out. It’s much easier to do it when they are littler. Next time around I foresee doing the sleep training sooner, maybe around 5 months. Although it may be different with another baby because I will not have an much undivided attention so it may happen sooner more naturally. Also, worth noting when we started sleep training Layla she self-weaned from her pacifier at the same time. She just didn’t want it anymore.
  • Don’t judge, hate, brag or criticize others. When Layla slept through the night relatively early (6ish weeks) I was SO thankful and I think it is partly due to our use of the Eat/Play/Sleep scheduling (aka nurture) I think that she is also just a good sleeper (aka nature). She does well adapting to a schedule, is easy-going, and loves sleep. I am (now) an expert (mostly) on Layla’s sleep, but that doesn’t make me an expert of your baby’s sleep or your family’s values.  If other baby moms were complaining about rough nights, I didn’t chime in with a perky “Well, gosh Layla slept 8 hours last night–what are you doing wrong?” #worstpersonever Be kind and sensitive whether online or in person. I love sleep!

So there it is…. the saga of the baby sleep.  It has definitely been a learning experience. I’m grateful for my husband’s patience and firmness. I’m also thankful for my mom’s wisdom–she’s raised five great sleepers and is a wealth of knowledge on parenting. Hopefully, this is an encouragement that good sleep is possible after kids! When Layla was two weeks old a lactation consultant (breastfeeding–another whole saga) told me something that really stuck with me and I think applies to sleep as well.”You are the parent,” she said “you must teach and lead her because you know how it should go and she doesn’t”.

If you have kids, do you have any great baby sleep tips? Did your kids sleep easily or was it more difficult? 

And, how many hours of sleep do you normally get?  Getting 7.5-8 hours is essential for me!

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  1. My second child is 7 months old now. My approach to sleep is very different from yours, but it works for my family. Here is the whole story of my firstborn’s sleep from birth to kindergarten. My baby girl nurses to sleep lying on a full-size bed in the dining room. Then we are walking around, talking, turning on lights as usual, and she sleeps right through it. Sometimes she’ll wake and cry during the evening, and then I nurse her again and she goes back to sleep. I do the dreamfeed when I get into bed. Then I sleep next to her so that if she gets hungry in the night, it’s almost another dreamfeed (for both of us) rather than her having to scream until I hear her from another room and my having to leave my warm bed and wake up enough to sit up! I work full-time outside the home, so I really appreciate the less-interrupted sleep…but I also appreciate that she’s now down to one feeding a night on average and sometimes sleeps through all the hours I am sleeping!

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