Hudson has been sleeping through the night since week 9. He falls asleep at 7:30pm and sleeps for a full 12 hours. When I tell this to other new parents, I usually get a stunned look and a response of, “I hate you.” Many people have asked if we sleep trained Hudson, but I wouldn’t call it that. We just followed some simple rules that we found worked for all of us.
Disclaimer: Every baby is different and not all of these examples will work for everyone. I do not claim to know the secret to getting a baby to sleep through the night, but we had success with our own experience.
- No co-sleeping. We had Hudson in a bassinet in our room for the first 8 days of his life, but he made a lot of noise and would keep us awake. On the 9th day we moved him to his crib. We were still able to hear him when he woke up and needed to be fed. I realize that many people like co-sleeping; but getting as much sleep as possible is crucial for a new parent. I made up for the lost snuggling time in the morning when Hudson would breastfeed and cuddle with me in bed.
- No holding or rocking the baby to sleep. This is probably the most important rule to follow. We always put Hudson down in his crib, even when he is still awake. We wanted him to learn how to fall asleep on his own. Kevin and I have read numerous articles that emphasize this routine. They stress the baby’s need to learn how to fall asleep early on…or, you just might have a toddler that still needs you to be in bed with them until they fall asleep. You can start teaching your baby how to self-sooth when they are just a couple weeks old. Because of the routine we have established at bedtime, Hudson doesn’t even need a pacifier to sooth himself.
More information can be found here.
- Help baby differentiate between naptime and bedtime. Many babies have their days and nights mixed up when they enter the world, but there are ways to help them sort this out.
During Hudson’s naps we open the window coverings, allowing natural light to filter into the room. I resume daytime activities like normal (things like vacuuming and other noisy household chores). Then at night during his last feeding, I turn off his nursery lights and turn on the white noise machine. This almost instantly puts him in a sleepy state. It may sound silly, but we also tell Hudson when it’s naptime and bedtime. I want him to learn the difference as early as possible.
- Learn the difference between a sleep cycle cry and a hungry cry. We pass through numerous sleep cycles as we sleep. When adults finish a sleep cycle, they may change positions in bed or fluff their pillow. This is something we won’t even remember doing. When babies finish a sleep cycle, they cry. It’s important that they learn to go back to sleep without intervention. Picking them up after every sleep cycle interferes with the process of self-soothing, and they will have trouble getting back to sleep on their own. The best way to tell if your baby is transitioning between sleep cycles is to wait 5-10 minutes. If the cry persists longer, there is probably something else that they want.
For more information on baby sleep cycles, click the link here.
- Swaddle and pacify. Newborn babies have a natural, intense urge to suck. Breastfeeding fulfills that urge and calms the baby down. A baby’s pacifier mimics this process, allowing the baby to calm down just as if they were breastfeeding. It is an amazing tool. Kevin and I learned how to wrap Hudson in a tight swaddle, and used the pacifier to soothe him. IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM!–especially after night feedings when he tended to be a little more sensitive. Now, Hudson has learned how to self-sooth and we don’t need to use the pacifier anymore. It is recommended that you discontinue pacifier use after 4 months.
- Big feed before bed. This is key. The best way to get your baby full is to not let him fall asleep while feeding. My sister is a public health nurse. She told me to strip Hudson down to his diaper before feeding, and have a wet cloth nearby. Babies can’t easily fall asleep if they are cold. If the baby still wants to fall asleep while feeding in his diaper, run the cold cloth down his back. This will wake him back up so that he can continue feeding.
- Let them cry to sleep. If I knew Hudson was fed, changed, and comfortable—and there was no reason for him to be upset—I let him cry himself to sleep. I would set a timer for 10 minutes so that he wouldn’t get too worked up. This isn’t the easiest thing for a mom to hear; but in the end, he always fell asleep and slept really well.
- No stimulation before bed. Turn the TV off and put your cell phone down. Babies are super sensitive to any lights and sounds, so it is best to keep them off. You can resume your social media updating when your baby is down and peacefully sleeping.
- Never keep your baby awake. Babies do not have sleeping habits like adults. If you keep them up when they are tired, you will pay for this mistake. They become overtired and work themselves up so much, that it becomes harder for them to calm down and fall asleep. Sometimes, your baby may even take a nap before their bedtime. Hudson does this regularly.
So there you have it—the tips and tricks that worked for us to encourage Hudson to sleep through the night. Again, each baby is different. You know your baby best and can figure out what works for your family. Sweet dreams.