How Did You Get Him To Sleep?

I’ve gotten a couple of comments recently asking me how we got Wyatt to sleep so well, and I was thinking about how to answer that question, I realized the answers were worthy of their own post.

Wyatt started sleeping through the night at about ten weeks. By “sleeping through the night”, I mean he started going eight hours between feedings at night. Derek and I always timed his feedings in the early days so that his last one was right before our bedtime, so we could optimize the sleeping time – so it translated into a solid seven hours for us, which is amazing when you consider those couple months of only getting 3-4 hours at a time! Wyatt was going six hours at night before ten weeks, but I didn’t count it as sleeping through the night until he went eight.

At six months (well, at seven months now - where does the time go? Monthly post coming soon...), Wyatt goes to bed at 7:00 PM (giving Derek and I time together before bed), and he sleeps anywhere from 9-11 hours before he wakes up to eat. Then we feed him and he goes right back to sleep for 3-4 hours. Our day “officially” starts somewhere around 9:00 or 10:00 AM.

We didn’t have to use formula to get him to sleep, and we only just started rice cereal at 5 ½ months, so it can be done while exclusively breastfeeding.

I certainly can’t take complete credit for his amazing night time sleep – I’m fully aware that some babies just sleep better than others, and we were blessed with a good sleeper! But there are some things that we did to encourage him to sleep through the night, and I’ve compiled a list of things we did that I believe helped Wyatt to sleep better.

1)We didn’t hold him constantly the week he was born.

This one happened by accident – I very well might have held him 24/7 after he was born, but because of my preeclampsia I was on some medication that made me a little blurry, so as soon as the nurses saw me getting drowsy they’d take Wyatt from me and put him in his bassinet. In retrospect, this was a really good thing, because Wyatt got used to (1) not being held constantly (which made him an easy-going baby), and (2) sleeping without being held.

Don't get me wrong, we still held him alot, but not all day, and not every time he was sleeping. I think you should hold your baby as much as you can when they are young, because soon they'll be too big and wiggly, but it's good for them to learn to be okay when they're not being held too.

When we got home we continued the practice of putting him in his cradle or crib for alot of his naps (though I like to hold him sometimes while he naps) and at night, and he was already used to sleeping alone because of those first few nights.

2)I didn’t nurse Wyatt to sleep.

I’ve heard of some moms nursing their babies until they fall asleep, and then trying to sneak them into the crib while they are sleeping. We never did that. If Wyatt fell asleep during his last feeding of the day, we changed his diaper before putting him to bed and laid him down in his crib when he was awake. I think this was good, because Wyatt was able to learn to fall asleep on his own, without having to be eating.

As a hygienist, I also think this is important for developing good habits later – once your baby has teeth, you don’t want them to have to have a bottle or nurse to get to sleep, because then the milk or formula will just sit on their teeth all night. This is what leads to “bottle mouth”, or baby bottle caries (cavities in the baby teeth).

I will admit though that during that first month, I did rock Wyatt to sleep some nights. He would get upset and would not go to sleep. After a couple nights of fussiness for a half hour or more after we put him to bed, we discovered that if I just rocked him and sang to him for a few minutes, he would fall asleep and would sleep well until he woke up for his next feeding.

I honestly am not sure if this was necessarily the “right” thing to do – it could have backfired on me, and Wyatt could have started needing me to rock him to sleep. But he didn’t; he grew out of it in about a month. Looking back, I think a lot of his fussiness was due to a touch of colic or gas, and I was glad I was able to comfort him enough for him to sleep. It was a special time for me to snuggle my baby before bed.

Moral of the story: Take it on a case-by-case basis, and don’t think you can’t cuddle your baby to sleep because it’s against the “rules”. They won’t need you to cuddle them before bed for long, so enjoy it while you can.

3)We didn’t keep the house super-quiet during nap times.

Now, obviously I didn’t go running the blender while my baby was trying to sleep, but I didn’t avoid any activities that were within the normal noise level around the house, even though Wyatt usually takes his naps in the family room (which is in the middle of everything in our house).

I emptied the dishwasher. I cooked dinner. I played music or watched TV. The dogs barked. People knocked at the door. Or sometimes I blogged, and the house really was quiet for his naps. The point is that Wyatt got used to sleeping regardless of what was going on around him, and he didn’t need the house to be noiseless while he slept. This helped with night time sleep later, because Derek and I don’t need to lower our voices at night when he’s sleeping, and with three hyperactive dogs, our house can become momentarily chaotic in the mornings. Wyatt sleeps right through it.

Of course there is always that momentary panic when one of the aforementioned noises really does wake him up, but I don’t go rushing right over to him the second he makes a noise, and typically he will fall right back asleep.

Which leads into the next point. . .

4)We didn’t jump at every little noise from Wyatt.

My doctor told me for the first few weeks Wyatt needed to be roused to eat every four hours or so, and not to let him go longer than five hours at night. Honestly, Wyatt probably would have slept longer immediately after coming home from the hospital, but I guess newborns may wake up hungry but not really think to cry, and then they end up going back to sleep without eating. When your baby is early, the doctors are especially concerned with making sure they gain weight, so they don't want them missing night time feedings. So we dutifully set the alarm and woke Wyatt up to eat for the first couple weeks.

Once we got the okay from our doctor, we started letting Wyatt sleep longer. Sometimes he would start making noises in the middle of the night, but we just knew he shouldn’t be hungry yet. So we’d wait fifteen minutes, and he’d usually go right back to sleep. This really helped with pushing back some of the night time feedings. If he would fall back asleep for another hour or two before needing to eat, he would start to get in the habit of sleeping a little longer. Then we started having those beautiful nights when I would look at the clock and realize he had gone two hours beyond what I expected him to!

Obviously, you have to use discretion. We never let Wyatt “cry it out”. Wyatt was just not a crier, so if he was all-out crying, it was because there was something really wrong. But to me, fussy noises are not crying. So we would let him have fifteen minutes (sometimes longer, depending on the situation) of fussiness before we went to get him, because a lot of times he’d just end up going to sleep if we gave him a little time.

5)We made sure Wyatt stayed awake to get full feedings during the day, and we kept him awake for a little while after feedings.

I read the book that came before Babywise (same author, same information, just a different book), and I think the whole book can pretty much be summed up in those two points. We did those two things, and Wyatt fell into his schedule naturally – it wasn’t nearly as complicated as the book made it sound. I really do think those things were a big part of what helped him though, especially making sure he stayed awake for a full feeding during the last feeding of the day. If that meant we had to undress him, tickle his toes, or move him around to wake him up, that’s what we did, but we made sure he was really full for that last feeding, and he’d sleep better.

6)We prayed.

The night we brought Wyatt home from the hospital, my (*amazing*) husband suggested we do “Bible time” every night, and that’s what we do. Almost every night we read a chapter of the Bible together and pray together as a family. And one of the things we pray for? That Wyatt will sleep well! I don’t think there is a single thing wrong with praying that your baby will start sleeping through the night – it can do nothing but help!

One thing to note: Expect relapses when your baby is going through a growth spurt or not feeling well. Wyatt had major sleeping relapses around 3 ½ months. The only thing we could figure was that he was going through a growth spurt and just needed to eat more. We tried not to get frustrated and just kept plugging through, and he grew out of it and started sleeping better again the next month. The point: when your baby starts sleeping through the night, that doesn’t mean they’ll sleep through the night every night, and it’s normal to have bad nights, or even several weeks of bad nights during growth spurts. Try not to be discouraged, and just do what you can to encourage your baby to get back on track.

I would like to be upfront and say that Wyatt does not take morning naps, and he will take an afternoon nap for maybe two hours each day (though sometimes he drops that nap too). If you want your baby to nap more during the day, you might have to accept less sleep at night. For me? I’d rather have 14 almost-straight hours at night than a morning nap! And I’d rather have some alone time with my husband in the evening than a longer afternoon nap.

I would also like to say that I’m not saying these things will work for every family, or every baby. They may not even work for my next baby! But you asked how we got Wyatt to sleep so well at night, and these are the things that I think helped. My list is certainly not law, and you should definitely take into account your own baby’s needs and situations, but I hope you can take away something useful from this post.

And may all you new moms be blessed with a full night’s sleep!

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deanna@delirious-rhapsody said...

we've been super lucky to have two boys that have slept through the night since about three months. i feel really sorry for those moms who goes years without getting a good night's sleep!

Jessica said...

My cousins did the same sorts of things with their babies, and they seem to sleep really well too! I'll have to remember these bits of advice when I have a baby

Kara @ Just1Step said...

I think I followed almost exactly the same system, Callie, and Krew was a pretty good sleeper too. He still goes through phases where he wakes us up 5 times a night crying...but it's usually because he's sick, his teeth are hurting, etc. I think he's also starting to have bad dreams. The other morning at like 5am or so he woke up crying, and I went in and he was standing with tears running down his face. I brought him into our bed with us and he went right back to sleep, then I moved him to his crib and he continued to sleep. So like you said, the system is good but you have to be willing to break away when something abnormal is going on to upset your child.

Lauren said...

I LOVE all this advice...I'm definitely adding it to my favorites to reference later! Thanks for sharing & being so detailed!

Kate Craig said...

good info! I really liked Babywise and plan to implement a lot of things from it

Natalie said...

This sounds like a lot of what we plan to do (of course, who knows how it'll actually go!) so I'm glad to see how it worked for you. I read Babywise as well and parts of it do seem really complicated. So I was also planning on just taking it with a grain of salt and seeing how her schedule falls!

Jenene said...

I would say that you have a good sleeper. I can't help but wonder if Sophia would be a better sleeper had I done things differently early on, but there's no use in dwelling on that.

I find it interesting that Wyatt sleeps better at night if he doesn't nap a lot during the day. I've been reading a couple of no-cry sleep training books to improve Sophia's naps and night sleep, and the author says that good naps and good night sleep go together.

But like you said, depends on the baby. I'll definitely do things differently with our second, and hopefully we won't run into the same problems that we're dealing with now.

Heather @ Mrs. Southern Bride said...

I really enjoyed reading all your tips. We are not expecting and probably won't be for a while, but I love learning stuff like this!

Amanda said...

callie...you guys are a precious, precious family! i enjoyed reading this even though i don't have a baby yet. i will definitely come back to your posts when that day comes!

Emily P. said...

we did some of the same things. I never feed her to sleep, but she does have a sound machine and is swaddled, we don't keep the house super quiet either but she has always napped in her room or cradle with the sound machine. I put her to bed when her eyes are closed but I know she isn't sound asleep, we let her cry it out if she needed/needs to - and she does full on cry. She is just an intense crier and can turn it off in a second (I'm so NOT looking forward to her teenage years!) I do rock/bounce/swing her in my arms and it works like a charm. If she wakes up though after she is in bed then we don't get her and she fusses and falls back asleep so she doesn't really have a "sleep prop". I think all mothers just try to figure out what their baby wants/needs and I did that but did it with the thought in mind of not creating any bad habits...like only sleeping in a swing or with a paci. I don't think she needs the sleep machine but it helps with our neighbor's dog who wakes ME UP!

The Clem Family said...

I think you hit the nail on the head when you said some babies are just good sleepers. We followed babywise with both of my boys (exclusively breastfed). My first son was an excellent sleeper. He was sleeping 8-9 hour stretches by 9 weeks and also took great naps. We have done the exact same things with my second son. He is a good sleeper but not as great. He was sleeping through the night (8 hours) by 9-10 weeks, but then had major regression around 4 months when he was diagnosed with reflux. I used to judge others when their kiddos wouldn't sleep at night thinking they must be doing something wrong. Now I know that some babies are just better sleepers. I say this not to criticize...You gave great sleep advice! A lot of what you talked about are actually babywise principles. However, I wouldn't want a new mom to get discouraged if she is doing all those things and her baby still isn't a great sleeper. Some kiddos are just more sensitive, have relux, etc. (list goes on and on).

Claire said...

Great post! I love to read how other momma's get their babies to sleep because tips are always helpful :) You're right to say that every baby is different though! Peyton was never a great sleeper at night, and didn't sleep through the night until she was maybe 6+ months. But she's always been an amazing napper. Britany is the opposite... slept through the night at like 6 weeks, but is so difficult to put down for naps. Every baby is so unique, but sharing tips between moms can be so beneficial because we can all find similarities in our kiddos!

HIS daughter said...

WOW! I really appreciated this post! It has been something I have already been thinking about! :) Thanks for sharing :)

cait said...

Loved the tips!! :) I was able to nod in agreement with each point you made...as far as our intentions for when she's here. One of my friends gave us the tip of praying for her sleep habits, too. Love that!

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