This post is about getting my baby to sleep through the night. If that doesn’t interest you feel free to move along. It’s also a way for me to have details about what I did so I can remember next time.
Ritter was on a basic 3 hour rotation from the beginning. When he came home from the hospital he was put on the bilibed for a couple of days. He would lay on the bed for 3 hours, come off to eat, and then go right back on. This kinda set things in motion for the 3 hour cycle and we just stuck with it. We would feed every 3 hours, play after the bottle, and then put him down when he seemed tired. So he was usually up for about an hour to an hour and a half, then down for 1.5-2 hours. However, none of the feedings were at set times so everything would vary from day to day. I tried pushing this to 3.5 or 4 hours on a couple of occasions and learned that he didn’t do as well with this. If I didn’t wake him to eat at the 3 hour mark, he was WAY too hungry when he woke up and would scream through the bottle. Since we have been sticking with 3 hours, he wakes up happy and eats well and never fusses. I also learned that pushing past 3 hours during the day meant he didn’t fill up as much and didn’t sleep as well at night.
I had read a few rules about sleep and helping infants learn to sleep well and I tried to follow these from the beginning….
1) eat/play/sleep – always follow feedings with a period of play and then put baby down when he seems drowsy. Don’t let them get used to feeding to go to sleep. Everyone suggested this – attachment parents, babywise folks, even several pediatricians I talked to. It’s great for R because (if he’s well rested) he is always happy and alert after a bottle so we talk and coo and play. The only exception to this rule is the nighttime feedings.
2) After being up for 1-2 hours they will need to go back down – they can’t tolerate more than 2 hours of wake time for a while or they become overtired. Unfortunately I tested this theory thinking that I should keep him up as much as possible during the day so he’ll sleep better at night. Way wrong answer. He became overtired and cried and cried and couldn’t go back down. I also tried to push him too far on wake time and I have realized that even now at 3 months he can really only tolerate being awake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1.5 hours – never the full 2. If I push it he becomes overtired and can’t nap.
3) Lay them down drowsy but awake and let them learn to go to sleep on their own. In other words, don’t rock them to sleep or let them become dependent on any other props for sleep. This has proven to be the most valuable thing we did. Because we basically did it from the beginning we never had any crying or “cry it out” nights. We laid him down when he was sleepy and he would usually go on to sleep by himself within 10 minutes. In the very beginning he might “fuss” or “chatter” in the crib for a few minutes but then he would go on out. During the day he occasionally goes down with the pacifier but never at night. If he loses it or it falls out of his mouth while he’s sleeping and it wakes him up, we let him go back to sleep on his own. We don’t go give him the pacie back over and over. In the beginning he would fuss a little but now he just lays there until he drifts back off to sleep. Sometimes this takes 5 minutes, sometimes 15, but he rarely ever cries out. He also will sometimes naturally wake up when going from a deep to light sleep cycle and he is able to soothe himself back to sleep. Again, he usually never makes a peep when this happens. I read a lot about sleep cycles and how we all naturally move from deep to light sleep and back again through the night and that babies do this more rapidly so it’s very important that if they wake up they don’t require anything from you to go back to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, we rock Ritter, alot, but we do it during “cuddle” time and not to put him to sleep. We use it as part of our soothing routine for naps and night night – but as soon as those eyes get heavy we lay him down.
Let me make this disclaimer…I read just about every popular or well known sleep book on the market. I even broke down and read Babywise out of curiosity. I was blown away at basically how similar every single book was – I’ll come back to this later. I also polled every parent I knew about what they did with their child. If someone had a great sleeper I would try to do exactly what they did. I very QUICKLY became overly frustrated and anxious about this whole thing. I was so focused on getting Ritter to sleep through the night because I had SO many friends who claimed their babies had done it at 8,9,10 weeks so I was determined that Ritter could do it too if I followed what those parents did. Nope nope nope! I finally realized how lucky I was that Ritter fussed very minimally, he didn’t require to be rocked to sleep, he napped well, he was generally very happy – who cares if he was still waking at 3am to eat!!! He went right back down without a peep and rarely got fussy during the day unless he got overtired or constipated. I really didn’t have much to complain about.
So around 9 weeks or so I shifted my focus from getting him to STTN to just simply getting him on a predictable schedule. He was on a good 3 hour rotation but those times weren’t predictable. I was freaking out about trying to get ready and out the door in the mornings when I had no clue when he would wake up. So I decided to start waking him at 6 to start the day. This way I could feed him and put him back down while I got ready for work. He would eat at 6, 9, 12, 3, 6, 9…with naps in between and go down for the night around 9:30pm. This was working well except that he seemed sleepy during some of his feedings during the day and we sometimes couldn’t even get the entire bottle in him because he was so sleepy. I realized that his bedtime might be too late and he might be getting up too early in the mornings. The only thing was that as long as his last feeding was around 9 or 10, we could get through the night with him only waking to eat once…but if it was earlier I figured he wouldn’t make it til 6am on only 1 feeding. So I started researching common schedules for babies his age and I found that most go to bed much earlier and wake a little later – around 7 or 7:30. I also found that most people do something called a “dreamfeed” around 10 or 11. So baby goes down around 7 or 8 then right before the parents go to bed, they sneak in and feed baby in his sleep without even waking him. This allows him to make it to morning only needing 1 more feed, or sometimes none at all. The very first day we shifted from the 6-9-12 schedule to the 7-10-1 schedule, everything changed. He woke up more rested and he was alert during all of his feedings. So then we started to do bath at 7pm, final bottle at 7:30 and bed at 8. Around 10:30 or 11 one of us would go in and do the dream feed. He would wake again around 3 or 4 to eat and go right back down, then sleep til 7am.
This only really lasted a couple of weeks because he started moving that middle of the night feeding later and later or sleeping right through it. That happened a couple of times. Then I realized that if he was getting a feeding at 4 am he wasn’t hungry for his morning bottle at all. So I decided to try a couple of nights of skipping it and just giving him the paci and seeing what happened. He got the paci and went right back to sleep and woke up happy happy at 6:30. After a few nights of this the paci wasn’t even needed and he was sleeping through.
Then he started a new trick…busting out of the swaddle. He’s been swaddle for naps and night time from the beginning so he didn’t know how to sleep unless he was swaddled. We got in this vicious cycle of going in and reswaddling him over and over and we realized we were all getting less sleep than when he was waking to eat in the middle of the night. I decided we were going to have to go cold turkey on the swaddle. The first night he woke once and fussed for about 15 minutes and then got himself back to sleep. The second night he fussed for about 40 minutes and then cried off and on for about 15 more then went to sleep. After that 2nd night, nothing. Not a peep. The past few nights he’s gone down at 7:30 or 8 and we don’t hear from him until 6am. And he’s so happy in the mornings.
With the time change, we moved the schedule back a bit since he was waking earlier. Here’s what our current schedule looks like…it’s working like a dream!!!
Schedule as of 11/4/13
Wakes up around 6 and is happy in crib until bottle at 6:30 (6.5 oz bottle with probiotics)
Goes back down for nap by 7:30 (this is the longest nap of the day)
Wake/Feed at 10 (about 5.5-6 oz)
Nap by 11:30
Wake/Feed at 1 (6.5 oz)
Nap by 2:30
Wake/Feed at 4 (6.5 oz)
Nap by 5:30 (this nap has been getting shorter and shorter and we expect him to drop it soon)
Naps til about 6:15
Bath at 6:30 (followed by bedtime routine- lights off, lotion, massage, pj’s)
Night night bottle at 7:30 (6.5 oz)
Dream feed at 10:30 (3 oz – we discovered any more or less and he doesn’t sleep as well)
Sleeps til 6ish
I found that having predictability in our day was better for both me and Ritter. He doesn’t ever get overtired or over hungry. His body has gotten into a good rhythm and his sleep patterns have adjusted.
I had several, and I mean several, friends who followed Babywise and swore by it. I had a few friends who begged me not to follow Babywise because it’s so bad for babies. So..I never looked into it. From what I had heard Babywise suggests 1) the eat/play/sleep cycle and 2) scheduling feedings thru the day to prevent getting overhungry and to provide predictability and routine. I never heard anything about withholding food or sleep or anything like that. So we go for Ritter’s 2 month checkup and I’m asking about tips to help him start sleeping longer at night and my pediatrician recommended feeding every 3 hours during the day, doing eat/play/sleep, and doing a dream feed to help him go longer in the night… but then she said “don’t follow Babywise, it’s not good!” After a little research I thought, well this sounds like Babywise. I was so confused as to why she would recommend what Babywise recommends and then tell me not to follow Babywise. I realized that a lot of people criticizing Babywise don’t know what it’s about. I got a copy of the book and never read a single thing about withholding food or sleep. Quite the opposite… it says to anticipate their hunger accurately so they never get over hungry. It also preaches about the importance of not letting them get overtired and making sure they get the naps they need. It’s basically the same principles as all of the recommended sleep books – but just with details about how to get on a feeding schedule. So…I sent out a FB message to all of my friends who followed it and got tips. Once I started it, things became so easy. Ritter never cries unless he gets overtired for some reason. I am wondering if the criticism comes because it’s basically trying to help babies get most of their calories during the day so they don’t need as much as night…but you never NOT feed in the middle of the night when they still need it. Ritter kept the middle of the night feeding until he started sleeping through it and dropped it on his own. What Babywise gave me was a formula for a schedule…something that my Type A brain could follow. It gave both of us predictability and routine. Babies need that. Kids need that. Ritter never wondered when he was going to eat – things weren’t sporadic or chaotic anymore. He knows that he is going to be fed regularly and before he has to make a fuss about it…it helps him to trust me. I found a companion website that has a TON of info to help you work out a schedule that works for you. It has tips for dropping feedings, dropping naps, introducing solids, troubleshooting sleep problems, working out schedules for multiple kids, weaning off the paci and the swaddle…and everything else that having a kid entails. It’s been awesome. It’s called Chronicles of a Babywise Mom but the bulk of the info really isn’t about Babywise at all. It’s just an all around good resource.
It really is SOOOO true when people say “you have to find what works for you!” I have a friend who has a baby about 6 weeks older than Ritter. She is super laid back and go with the flow. Her baby eats/naps on demand and she figures things out as she goes along. She never really had a set plan. THAT fits her personality and that’s totally okay for her. She’s also a stay at home mom who has that flexibility and doesn’t want to be tied to a strict routine. I, however, need structure and routine. Every day pretty much needs to run the same way if I am going to be able to do my job, take care of the household, cook meals, get in workouts, etc. The only drawback is that it’s hard for us to get out and do a lot of stuff because we want to keep Ritter’s schedule consistent. We’ve had to adjust here and there but overall we like to be home for naps because he naps best in his crib. As he gets older he’ll start to drop naps and we’ll be able to go and do more. But for now, I think sacrificing to help him learn good sleep habits is worth it.
Finding time and an update on our New Normal…
The amount of stuff I do in a typical work day is insane. I remember when Ritter was first born I wondered how I would ever have any semblance of my old life again – it just felt like I’d never get in a good routine. But we are here and it feels so good. Here’s what my typical day looks like
I wake at 5:30 or 6 – make and eat breakfast
Feed Ritter at 6:30
Play with Ritter and visit with Daddy while he eats b’fast
Put Ritter down for nap
Make bed, straighten up the house, etc.
Get ready for work around 7:30
Pack lunch, pack gym bag
Leave for work 8:40
Clients at 9, 10, 11
Lunch and paperwork at 12
Clients at 1, 2, 3, 4 – end last session as close to 4:45 as possible
Paperwork, emails, etc until 5:10
Head to the gym
Gym til 6:40
(Eric is at home starting bath by now)
Get home, help Eric finish bath and get started on bedtime routine
I fix dinner while Eric gives bottle
Ritter goes down and we eat dinner
Shower and bed by 10 or 10:30
One of us does Dreamfeed
My entire day is pretty much scheduled to the minute but this is the only way I can get it all done. Now that Ritter is STTN, Eric has started back going to the gym at 5am so we are both able to get our workouts in. On the weekends we have to clean the house, do all the laundry, meal plan and grocery shop for the week. It’s exhausting but somehow you push through and get it done. I’m drinking a lot of coffee these days! But honestly I wouldn’t have it any other way. I can’t imagine life without Ritter now. The days are long and busy but coming home makes me so happy. And I don’t work on fridays now so I get that whole day with him and get stuff done around the house while he naps. However, I have to admit, I sit and think “what in the hell did I do with all my time before???” With a baby, you manage to find minutes and hours in the day you never knew you had before! Oh, I have 5 minutes, I can fold this load of clothes, or empty the dishwasher!!! You just do what you can, when you can!
We’ve definitely found our new normal and it’s priceless!