** The topic of sleep for babies is extremely polarizing and there are strong advocates at both ends of the spectrum. I like structure so I lean more towards the scheduled sleep side. While not for everyone, I found that it works well for me and my family and this post is simply my family’s journey. 🙂
Recently A has been sleeping well both for her naps and nighttime sleep, which we are SO thankful for! Sometimes I definitely feel spoiled since Kp and I both get at least 7 – 8 hours of sleep, and before entering parenthood, we didn’t think that would be possible. But, let me tell you, this was not always the case, and we’ve come a LONG way from A’s newborn days.
If you know me well, you’ll know that I love schedules and writing things down so I can analyze them, so during A’s first few weeks, I religiously wrote down all her feeding times, poops and pees, how much we fed her, how much I was pumping, and even the times I took my pain medicines (mostly to know when I could take it again). It’s always kind of surreal looking back at my data, and seeing that I fed at for example, 1:10am, 3:38am, 5:45am, 8:06am, 10:25am, 12:30pm, 2:35pm, 5:05pm, 7:05pm, 9:10pm, 11:02pm, and then did something similar the next day! You’re probably wondering how any of this relate to sleeping… and I wish early on I wrote down the times she slept, because I’m pretty sure my times would have been like 2am – 2:30am, 2:50am – 3:30am, 4:30am – 5:30am, etc. etc. Anyways, all this to say, A did NOT sleep well in the first few weeks of her life… and neither did we. We were pretty much sleeping 4 hours a day, in 45 minute increments, where Kp would sleep when I fed A for an hour, and then Kp would rock her, walk around with her in hopes of getting her to sleep, while I napped. It was brutal, but I’m sure it’s a rite of passage into parenthood, right?! We did this for close to 2 months until I heard that a friend’s baby was sleeping through the night at 3 months. Here I was at almost 2 months, waking up multiple times in the middle of the night, and longing for the day of even just 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep! I talked to a few other friends about their babies sleep and realized I was a long way off with A. Up until this point, I was following an on-demand style of feeding/parenting, meaning watching baby’s cues and respond accordingly, but honestly, to me all of A’s cries sounded similar and even when I thought she was having a ‘tired’ cry, and we’d try to put her down for a nap, she’d only cry even more. Needless to say, this was exhausting.
At the advice from another friend, I slowly started with trying to jot down the first signs of tiredness (yawning, rubbing eyes), and trying to see if there were any patterns. The first couple weeks were utter chaos, but slowly, with the help of this site, I began to see patterns. A would get tired at around the 1 hour mark from when she woke up from a nap. And from the principles behind “On Becoming Babywise” we implemented a Eat, Play, Sleep pattern, basically meaning we’d try out best to not put A down for a nap immediately after eating, since she’d associate being able to stay asleep with having a full belly.
I remember at A’s 2 months checkup, our pediatrician asked us how A’s sleep was going, to which I had to sheepishly say, “she only naps if we rock her, bounce her, or take her out in her car seat and drive around or stroll her.” At this point, I had just started tracking A’s naps and sleep times, and she was probably getting about 12 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period, but the average sleep chart said that babies that age should be getting 15.5 – 18 hours of sleep each day. Our pediatrician just said “you’ll need to work on that”. And work on it we did! Over the next few weeks as I read through “Secrets of the Baby Whisperer,” which has a similar principle to Babywise, we slowly but surely saw progress and we were able to go from erratic feedings and naps to a more set schedule.
This however was still a long ways off from being able to put A down in her crib and let her fall asleep by herself. We spent most of the time before her naps, rocking and bouncing and then as she drifted off, we’d lay her down in her crib. But it was often that she’d wake up after 40ish minutes, which I learned was a common thing in babies, known as the 45-min intruder. Apparently there are different methods to combat this, but at the time, I didn’t know that, so I’d try to help her fall back asleep by rocking some more, at least within 30 minutes of her next feeding.
I think it was around 10 weeks we also started implementing a ‘light’ version of cry-it-out for night time sleep. Our pediatrician had told us that if we felt comfortable, a good place to start was to let A cry for however many weeks old she was, so at 10 weeks, 10 minutes. At that time, she was in the room with us, and Kp and I would often just stare wide-eyed at each other while she cried, wanting to pick her up, but also wanting to teach her how to fall asleep by herself. We quickly learned though the best thing for us was actually to just leave the room for a bit. Hearing your baby cry is hard! This is random, but I remember it was basketball season, and a lot of nights, we’d put her down and then sneak out of the room to watch the Warriors play. The first week it was pretty bad, and after 10 minutes of crying I’d end up going in and trying to help her fall asleep. Patting her, shushing her (this apparently imitates the sounds in the womb which are comforting..), rubbing her belly… basically anything but pick her up! It was by coincidence one day that I started fanning her with a burp cloth (it was summer and hot, so I thought maybe she needed to cool down) and she immediately stopped crying and started watching the burp cloth move back and forth. After what seems like forever (but was probably only like 10 minutes) she actually fell asleep! Yes, my arms were burning from holding them up for so long, but it felt so good to see her fall asleep without crying and without us having to pick her up! Needless to say, the next few weeks, I did a lot of ‘fanning’.
Looking back at my baby tracker app, the first time A ‘slept through the night’ was on May 16, a glorious 8 hours, 20 minutes, starting at 11pm. But it didn’t last long… over the next few weeks, as we tried playing around with her bedtime (from my research seems like a 7 – 8 bedtime works well with most babies), she’d wake up anywhere from 12am – 6am, once or twice, and at this point, I just sort of went with it. When she’d wake up in the middle of the night, I’d just feed her, and put her back down quickly. It wasn’t until around A’s 3 months, that we established an 8 pm bedtime, and from that I slowly weaned her off the middle of the night feeding (still feeding her when she woke, but trying to feed her for shorter and shorter time). Her wake time in the morning still wasn’t that consistent and would range anywhere between 6am – 8am, we just went with it.
It wasn’t until July 5, and I remember this well because we went out on July 4 and her naps were all over the place that day, but for the first time ever, she gave us an 8pm – 8am stretch! Woot Woot! For the next few weeks, our baby girl slept like a champ, and we were obviously pretty excited! Especially since she had already turned 4 months, and we thought we managed to escape the infamous 4 month sleep regression.
But one night, out of nowhere, we heard her crying at 4am… For the next few days, I fed her, thinking she was probably hungry, but then she kept waking up earlier and earlier, one day at 2am… and this was when I knew she wasn’t hungry! We let her cry it out that night (the longest 2 hours ever… ) and since then, she’s been pretty consistent about sleeping from about 7pm – 7am.
So that in a nutshell (if you could consider all that a nutshell), is our sleeping journey from A sleeping about 12 hours a day at one month to A sleeping about 17 hours a day at 4 months. Nowadays, her waketimes and total sleep times are pretty much aligned with the averages for babies (roughly getting about 15 hours of sleep a day at 6 months).
Honestly, it’s been a lot of work to get to where we are today, but I’m definitely not complaining since 8 hours of sleep for myself is so helpful for taking care of baby girl during the day! I’ve been learning lately though that as great as having a schedule is, and she does great on it, breaking the schedule to fit into my life is equally fine! She’s a pretty good baby, and usually bounces right back into her schedule the next day!
So there you have it! Our sleeping journey…. At least for now, as baby sleeps well, we do too!
Future post on the schedules that have worked for us at each month! ** That future post is here!