When our daughter, Kenna, was born, I followed all of the suggestions I’d been given: feeding her on demand and getting her to sleep using the swing, inclined lounger, or sleeping on my chest. We were getting by (barely), and I managed to find time to nap during the short intervals she slept. But my mental health was suffering – I was anxious about everything. Our pantry was completely bare because I couldn’t stomach the idea of leaving the house, even for a 20-minute grocery run. On top of all that, my husband and I argued. Every. Single. Day.
I fed Kenna when I thought she was hungry… sometimes she would eat for five or 10 minutes and maybe fall asleep while nursing. I even joked to my family and friends that she liked to get “milk drunk.” But when she was awake, she was often fussy (or hysterical), and I didn’t really know why. Was she hungry? Was she gassy? Tired? Wet diaper? All of the above?
My husband and I would take shifts at night to take care of Kenna. Early on, one of us slept on the couch while she slept in the swing or Pack-N-Play, and the other slept in bed. After a month or so, we moved her into the bassinet in our room, but then we both ended up waking when she did (as in, three or more times a night).
I think it’s safe to say we were all fairly sleep deprived and cranky.
Sleeping through the night? Huh?
Even though I was new to the baby game, I was quite familiar with the term and saw posts from my friends bragging that their babies slept through the night. Okay, cool, I figured, those babies were older and would be able to sleep a good 6-7 hours. No problem, I thought, we can get there.
I did try researching on my own. I read about 10 or 15 books on the topic, scoured the internet for tips, talked with friends… And I would make changes that helped marginally, but usually stopped working after a few nights.
So after lots of sleepless nights, many fights, and lots of heartache, we hired a sleep consultant when Kenna was 13 weeks old. Let me just tell you, it was by far the absolute best decision we have made for our daughter. And it might have even saved our marriage (or at the very least, prevented any more fights).
The first night, our daughter not only dropped the pacifier, but also slept almost seven hours, for the first time in over four weeks, and she only needed to wake to feed once in the middle of the night.
The next day, our naps improved. The second night, she fell asleep in three minutes and slept 10 hours straight.
Five days later, Kenna figured out how to suck her thumb, which helped her self-soothe.
In six days, Kenna kept extending her sleep stretches at night, until she finally slept all the way through the night! And by that, I mean a full 12 hours.
Now, Kenna is always the happiest child in the room, sleeps 12 hours every night, and always goes down for her naps without a peep.
And Mom and Dad? Well, we are feeling pretty well-rested and even considering trying for a second baby. 😉
After realizing that it was possible for infants to sleep 10 to 12 hours through the night, I became so eager to help other families experiencing the same situations as ours that I ended up becoming a sleep consultant myself.
Are you sleep deprived? Want your baby to sleep more than a few hours at a time at night? Read on for tips to help!
How to Get Baby to Sleep Through the Night
#1: Follow an EAT-PLAY-SLEEP routine.
When your baby wakes from a nap, try to feed him in a separate room from where he sleeps. Ensure he gets a full feed so he is able to go at least 2-3 hours before the next feed (that time extends with age). Then, have some fun. Play on the play mat, go for a walk, organize the cans in the pantry… whatever you want to do. Next comes sleep time. Avoid nursing to sleep, and instead put baby down awake.
#2: Prevent overtiredness.
Babies can only handle a certain amount of time awake before they are ready for the next nap. If they are awake past this point, that could lead to overtiredness, which leads to an adrenaline rush, making it much more challenging for them to fall asleep and including more tears and crying.
For newborns, a good wake time length is about 45 minutes. For a 6-month old, it is 2 to 2.5 hours. Check out the picture below for the appropriate wake times for your little one.
#3: Establish a short, but consistent bedtime routine.
We all need certain things in order to fall asleep. By doing the same things, in the same order, every single night, this helps your baby know when it is time to fall asleep. For example, this might include a bath, putting her into PJs and a sleep sack, a bedtime story, and saying “night-night.”
#4: Eliminate sleep props.
When your baby falls asleep nursing, or needs to be rocked to sleep, or loves the pacifier, this is a sleep prop. These sleep props are external things that certainly could help your baby fall asleep initially, but the problem arises when she wakes up in the middle of the night and that thing is no longer there. When this happens (and it might happen multiple times each night!), then she cries out and needs you to help her fall asleep again. By taking the sleep prop(s) away, you can encourage your baby to fall asleep independently.
It is my sincere wish that these tips are all you need in order to make a simple positive change to help your baby sleep better. But sometimes, the situation can be a little more complicated. That’s where I come in. If you have any questions about your unique situation, always feel free to reach out and schedule a no-obligation, free 10- to 15-minute consultation by visiting www.beewisesleepconsulting.com/book/.