….almost four months, but that will include a regression and it’ll be terrible and there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
The topic of sleep is always so fraught with…everything…I guess, when it comes to babies. Babies don’t sleep like adults do, but they somehow sleep a lot. Babies don’t know how to sleep on their own, but it’s dangerous for them to sleep with you (according to some). Lack of sleep is used as a literal form of torture, so the parents dealing with this generally don’t deal all that well.
With Beck, I had a pretty staunch stance of “not worth it to try anything until six months,” which honestly I think works well for some people. She nursed a ton, we were up all the time, but I had time to rest with her during the day a few days per week and felt mainly like a human. With Will, though, I’m working more, have no time to nap, and have a toddler who needs my attention at all times.
In the early days and weeks of Will’s life, I felt much more desperate for rest than I ever did with Beck, although since the beginning he’s been somewhat more manageable than her in that department. It was probably the knowledge that there would be zero rest the coming day, but I couldn’t even fathom six weeks of truly bonkers sleep disruption, much less six months.
I started to review some of my favorite baby sleep tips from when Beck was little, and of course obsessively Googling expensive new products to magically make my child sleep. I know, I KNOW, at the core of my being that being born is confusing, the world is scary and big, and babies just want to be snuggled and then they sleep just fine. I also wanted to find a line between comforting my baby and living the rest of my life, easier said than done, as we all know.
Luckily (for once) I refrained from purchasing any new magic baby sleep products. We have some favorite things that we use FOR SURE, but it was mostly gifts or leftover from Beck’s baby days.
My internet obsession did, though, lead me to one new baby sleep product: an online class called Taking Cara Babies. It’s a series of videos that offer tips for establishing good newborn sleep patterns, whether or not they actually work. Such as: put your baby down flat on his back in the place you WANT him to sleep a time or two per day. If he sleeps, great! If not, get naps in while rocking.
I actually started following Cara on Instagram before purchasing the class, and the tips there are super accessible and valuable, so I’d recommend that even if you don’t buy the class. The online reviews are of course MAGIC, babies sleeping through the night with no cry-it-out at ten weeks, that sort of thing.
We had nowhere near that kind of success. We still aren’t!
Here’s the thing, though. What the class and some other things around the interwebz taught/reminded me is that all of these training sorts of things are just practice. Little steps with an end goal of sleeping through the night, in this case. We started with working on calming Will down when he was teeny and fussy, and got that down to a really quick science. Then it’s practicing naps in his Dockatot, which we love a lot more than I thought we would. Then letting Jay comfort him in the night once he got a little bit older to stretch nursing overnight so that he’d eat more during the day.
One super duper important thing I focus on a lot, and did with Beck, is not letting Will get too tired. When babies get too tired, especially in the early months, they have a harder time going to sleep and a harder time sleeping for a long stretch – the opposite of adults, which is why it’s hard to remember sometimes. At the first sign of sleepiness from Will, long before he’s fussy, I put him down for a nap. Baby sleepy cues are: not making eye contact, red eyes and eyebrows, rubbing eyes/ears, staring into space. When I see even one of those it’s off to the nap races before he loses his mind.
The happy to sleepy window is SUPER quick with Will, I learned, maybe two or three minutes of sleepy before meltdown, so, for me, focusing on noticing what Sleepy Will looks like was really useful. I try to share his cues with other people who watch him, too – I find that for a lot of babies they are tired more than they are hungry, but that mostly people assume the opposite, so they feed a tired baby, who then fall asleep while eating, and BOOM there’s a relationship between eating and falling asleep that is tough to break.
When Will was about 12 weeks old I was getting pretty good at noticing his sleepy cues and getting him down for naps – sometimes five or six per day if he didn’t sleep for very long. Then one day he was really tired around 6pm so I put him to bed, and he kept sleeping…until midnight. It was MAGIC, but I didn’t go to bed in time because I kept thinking he’d wake up, so I only slept for about two of those hours. Still, though, once he did that one time I decided that he needed a bedtime (before then we’d been keeping him up with us in the evenings, sleeping in our arms, etc) and to mainly not nurse for six or so hours after that big chunk of sleep started. It’s been great, very therapeutic for me and Jay to have a few hours in the evenings with both kids asleep. We still go to bed pretty early, but not going to bed at the same time as our kids is important for us to feel like adults.
So here’s where we are now: Will’s nights are mainly from 6pm until 8am, with a SUPER FUN awake time around 4am that I’m trying to get rid of. Some nights he stays up until seven, some mornings he gets up earlier, but that’s a work in progress. He sometimes fusses or cries out, but we go in and pop his paci back in and he goes back to sleep. We try to wait that out to see if he’ll settle himself down before we go in, and about half the time he does. He sleeps pretty well on his own until one or two in the morning.
During this first stretch of sleep we have him in his Dockatot in his crib in his room. This is controversial – it’s not recommended for babies to not be in the same room as their parents until one year old, some pediatricians say six months. But, we found that before Will was taking that long stretch we were trying to get him to sleep in our room but then couldn’t use our room, and no one was showering ever. So out he went, and I feel fine about that.
When Will wakes up the first time to nurse, I bring him in our room and put him back to sleep in the Uppababy Vista bassinet – we keep it by our bed and bought the stand for it. After that first big stretch everything is kind of a crapshoot. Usually he’ll sleep for two more hours, nurse again, then wrestle out of his swaddle and squeal and coo for about an hour (cute but not so much right next to your head at 4am), then I’ll get frustrated and nurse him again, re-swaddle, and put him back down. This maybe gives us a bit more time, but he sleeps in shorter and shorter stretches until about 7am, and then whenever he wakes up after that we call the start to his day.
Here are some rules we have that I think will pay off in the long run:
- Arms in swaddle until he rolls back-to-front, even if we have to re-swaddle in the middle of the night.
- After the goes down anytime after 6pm, night starts. That means minimal nursing, no lights, no getting him up for anything but to nurse, no diaper changes unless it’s a huge poop or blowout. Spitup does not warrant lights on. No talking, all of that.
- We try to nurse every two hours during the day, more in the evening near bedtime when he’s fussier.
- Sound machine on for naps and nights. We have a re-chargable one and the app on my phone and iPad so we have options when things die or are forgotten.
- Paci. Until he goes to college, I don’t care.
And here are some of our favorite sleep items at the moment:
- Uppababy Vista bassinet and bassinet stand.
- Nuk pacifiers (we have tried so many other brands).
- Miracle blanket swaddle.
- Halo sleepsack swaddle.
- Hush sound machine.
- White noise app.
- Leachco Podster.
- Taking Cara Babies newborn class.
The end! If you are a sleep guru and have any tips for improving our current method, I’d LOVE to hear them! I’d really like to keep him sleepy all night and decrease nursing to two or three times in that 12-hour stretch, dare to dream, right?
none of these products are sponsored, but they are items that we use and love. some of the links are affiliate links, so by purchasing through these links I get a small commission, which is the same as paying someone for their work, which is neat.