On Training Your Baby To Sleep Through The Night



Once upon a time I wrote a post about what we did to encourage Wyatt to sleep through the night.  And even though I was very clear in that post that every baby was different and the things we did with Wyatt wouldn't necessarily work for every baby, I'm confessing right now that I did pat myself on the back a bit.  We had taught our baby good sleep habits.  Yay me!

But after we had Gwen (ah, here the other shoe drops), I realized that Wyatt was a really good sleeper.  



(Napping.  Wyatt was about the same age here as Gwen is now.  That is crazy to me.  It doesn't seem that long ago.)


Wyatt was a textbook-Babywise baby.  I didn't read Babywise before we had Wyatt, but when I did skim it the main points I got from it were:


(1) Make sure your baby gets full feedings so they can naturally fall into a good feeding schedule.

(2)  Keep them awake for a little bit after they eat, because this will help them sleep better.

(3)  Try not to let them develop a dependence on something to fall asleep (ex. nursing, pacifier, swing . . .).

(4) Don't assume that they are hungry every time they cry - they might need something else besides food, so make sure they are actually hungry before you offer them milk.


That's what we did with Wyatt.  And I thought it worked beautifully!  It seemed like common sense to me.  He was sleeping through the night (i.e. going 8 hours between feedings) by 10 weeks old.  We must have done something right.  

Right?  Right!

Then Gwen was born.  And I tried to remember how we did things with Wyatt, I really did.  And we did do many things the same way . . . but not everything.  Here's about how things went with Gwen.


(1)  I really tried to make sure she ate full feedings, but inevitably she'd nurse, fall asleep.  I'd wiggle her around, try to wake her up, and attempted to feed her more . . . and she'd purse her lips.  She'd squeeze them together so tight there was no way I was going to coax her to open up and take a little more.  You can lead a horse to water . . . (not that my baby can be compared to a horse, but you know what I mean).

(2)  I was at MOPS one week and was just finishing up feeding Gwen, and one of the ladies came over to see if she could hold her.  I gladly handed her off so I could go gather my craft supplies (all of the good scrapbook paper was probably gone by now, after all).  When I came back the lady told me my daughter was fast asleep, and she apologized because she didn't know if I usually tried to keep her awake after feedings.  And then (only then) I remembered that rule, and realized that I totally had been letting Gwen fall asleep after she ate.  For weeks.  Whoops. (Actually, now that I think about it, I broke this one with Wyatt at times too.) 

(3)  Um, I've been nursing and/or rocking her to sleep before I lay her down in her crib almost every night from day one.  Ooops again.

(4)  The other day Gwen started to cry and I didn't bother to look at the clock (I forgot about checking the spacing of her daytime feedings a long time ago).  I grabbed my baby girl, threw on the cover and got ready to feed her.  It took me a couple minutes to realize that she really didn't want to eat, she just had a dirty diaper.  That would be a Babywise F(-).


I know what you're thinking, but the story does have a happy ending.  Somehow, despite all of my delinquency, Gwen managed to start sleeping through the night.  At 10 weeks, 3 days, in fact.  And she also somehow manages to fall asleep now even when I put her down awake.


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Am I saying the above-mentioned Babywise principles were a bunch of hooey?  

Not at all.  I really do think they worked well for Wyatt!  But I also knew when it was appropriate to "break the rules" with Wyatt, because looking back, I didn't follow those principles perfectly with him either.  He was just good at sleeping.  He's still good at sleeping.  That's part of who he is - a good sleeper.

And Gwen must have the good sleeper genes too - because I was pretty inconsistent on when I felt like following "the rules" and when I let it slide.  And here we are.  With a three month old who sleeps through the night, and will go at least 6 hours every night even if she doesn't make it the full eight.

What's the point of all this?  

I'm reading a book right now (The Christian Mama's Guide To The First Year by Erin Macpherson), and the author suggests coming up with your own "sleep training plan" for your baby.  Because not everything works for every baby, so you have to figure out your baby.  

And when I read that, I agreed with it 100%.  I think that's what I ended up doing with Wyatt and Gwen - I took what I could from the books that I read, tested them out on my babies, and then went with what worked.  

I think the key is to be flexible and just do what works for your baby.  Because not all babies are Babywise-textbook babies.  And not all babies will respond well to the attachment parenting side either (which is usually the other side of the sleep-training debate).  In fact, I think most babies would fall somewhere in between.  There are no hard and fast "rules" when it comes to baby sleep habits.  Every baby is different.

And you know, some babies are just good sleepers.  They are going to figure out how to sleep well, because that's just in their nature.  Realize that while you may be able to take some credit for helping them along the way, you definitely can't take all.  Just thank the Lord for giving you a good sleeper and enjoy it!

And I hate to say it, but some babies just aren't good sleepers.  It's not necessarily that the parents are doing anything "wrong" - they could be doing everything they can think of and still have a baby who doesn't like to sleep.

And if that's you . . . I'm sorry.  I'll say a prayer for you.  They will sleep through the night eventually, I promise.

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Cassidy Robinson said...

Yes!! You said it perfectly. I too skimmed Babywise and remember beating myself up after Micah was born and I would nurse or rock him to sleep. But part of it was due to the fact that Micah had a hole in his heart and I wanted to make sure he was fully fed before sleeping (at least that's what I told myself). But he slept like a charm from 7 weeks old!! We went through a few growth spurts and he would wake more frequently, but from 4 months on he has been sleeping 10-12 hours a night. And I still nurse/rock/sing him to sleep. Whatever it takes. I enjoy that time with him so much. Thanks for sharing your experience! I completely agree that it has a LOT to do with the baby! :)

Natalie said...

I know you've mentioned it before and I was just curious if you always nurse with a cover on at home and if so why? I was just wondering because I always try to avoid it haha. my babies both got so hot under it and then didn't eat very well :/

Brittney Galloway said...

Good post, I agree with the general principle behind this. I'd add in that you SHOULD pat yourself on the back when your child starts sleeping through the night, good sleeping genes or not,(but especially the not,) since parenting is hard work, and you have found a way to tackle this challenge in a way appropriate for your family.

The Clem Family said...

My first was also a textbook baby and baby wise was perfect for him. For goodness sakes, the boy would fall asleep on the couch in a room full of loud adults while my my friend's baby would cry in his crib with the black out curtains and sound machine. I must admit that I had a lot of pride and wondered what other parents were doing wrong. Then God blessed us with out second child which we feel was given to us to knock down our parenting pride! Baby wise still worked for him and he is a great sleeper but it was a much harder path to get him there. You are right that ever child has a different personality! Good post!

"B" said...

I am one of those people with a baby that just ISNT a good sleeper. She doesnt nap AT ALL for anyone else (and she's at daycare all day EVERYDAY) she wakes up at any sound, different motion, doesnt sleep well in the car, or if she hears anything AT ALL. I definatley didn't make it quiet when she was first born either. She just would much rather be UP. Last night at 4AM there she is chatty kathy talking away! As I am trying to coax her to LIE DOWN and sleep another hour at least. Oh well. She will sleep eventually and I will miss the her and me time (at 1AM) when she does, I am sure.

Emily said...

i have been reading babywise, and i too, agree with many of the things they say. it makes sense to me. but i know that when liam is here, he's not going to follow "the rules" exactly and that's okay. i hope i'm able to find a good balance just like you have with your kiddos! thanks for posting this!

Cameron Morrison said...

Thanks for this post! I have been blessed with two girls who were and still are excellent sleepers, but it's been a rough go since Brady's been born. He's a total night owl who wants to eat AT NIGHT LONG! I'm trying to be patient with him because I realize even though he's 2 1/2 months old, he's only supposed be about 3 weeks old since he was premature, and I wonder if that has something to do with it. He is getting better, sleeping about 5 hours (starting at 8 pm) and then after that he's up about every 2. We're getting there....

Lindsey said...

Ah, all it takes is having a non-textbook baby to realize that sometimes the best advice is to put all books away and roll with it. Or read a lot of books and piece something together on your own. Glad that your little girl is sleeping through the night, our third took about 18 months :) The other two were text-book!

Julie S. said...

I got so much flack from family for rocking Brayden to sleep before bed. As he got older, I would still rock him, just not until he was asleep, and then from there we did a modified version of cry it out. Kenley is 18 months old, and I still rock her before naps and bed every single day. And I wouldn't change it for anything! :) It's true-- you just have to do what works. Now I can rock her for 5 minutes, lay her down awake, and she goes right to sleep.

Meghan said...

Hi Callie, I am loving all of these practical posts! I have the most random question for you, but I knew you'd have some good insight for me. With your 2 littles now, do you do a separate laundry basket for each, or just share and do their laundry at the same time? That is such a lame question, but one that popped into my mind sometime around 2 in the morning when I was unable to sleep last night and I thought, I should ask... Callie! :) Ha ha!

Melanie said...

Funny..Makayla used to do the same thing Gwen does..fall asleep after eating (or during, more like it)! Maybe thats a girl thing? I dunno..but I thought Makayla was a good sleeper..even if I cant remember right off hand when she started sleeping thru the night! I ALWAYS rocked her before bedtime too..but you know..thats something I'll never regret..I miss it now!!

Ashley said...

Ah yes the topic of sleep. Brayden was an awful sleeper and I/we tried everything. He still woke up twice a night until he was well over 1. And I remember for awhile feeling like an awful parent because I couldn't get my baby to sleep. And then I finally realized I just didn't care what people thought. We rocked Brayden and I let him fall asleep after nursing and even though it took time I wouldn't change anything. We have a 2 year old who sleeps great now and naps 3-4 hours a day. I wish it would have happened much sooner, but for whatever reason it didn't. He found his groove and sleeps great now. And even with all the naps I let him take in my arms as a newborn I still wish I could go back in time for just one day and get some more. ;)

Erica Layne | Let Why Lead said...

Well said, Callie! The more babies you have the more you realize that all babies are just different. I can relate, because I thought I was so good with my first son! Then my second came along and proved me wrong! Now I'm on number three, and she has some entirely new challenges (mainly, hating the carseat and being unable to soothe herself to sleep in the car, which both my boys were great at). I guess it's the Lord's way of keeping us on our toes! :)

eliz said...

I'm still trying to figure this sleeping stuff out...my baby was born tiny so even though she is 5 weeks she is only 8 pounds and doesn't eat a lot so she constantly needs feedings...I cannot wait until she sleeps 4 hours (or more) in the night...I been reading so much but nothing works yet..

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