We’re on a 3-night streak of Leo sleeping through the night (from about 8:45 or 9pm until 7am). At the risk of jinxing it, I’m going to tell what’s been working for us… and what didn’t work.
- returning to swaddling. We swaddled Leo for the first 9ish weeks. Then we started having him sleep on his stomach, because he slept so much better and was sleeping for longer hours. Around 13 weeks this stopped working, as he started to roll over more easily and would startle himself awake. Sleep quickly regressed and soon we were getting up twice a night again – generally at 12 and 3am. I had suspicions that Leo wasn’t really hungry at 3… and maybe not even at 12. We tried to let him cry it out. After 6 nights things had gotten worse, not better. Leo was getting up at 12, 2, and 4:30am. Dave and I were exhausted and frustrated. I talked to a friend of a friend (Bobbie) and she told us to go back to swaddling and to put Leo on his back so he couldn’t roll and wake himself up. We’ve been swaddling (either both arms or one arm) for nights and naps since and it’s working great!
- increasing feeding time and quantity. Bobbie suggested that we make sure we were giving Leo enough milk at each feeding. For bottles we determined how many ounces he should have by using the formula Leo’s weight x 2.5, then divided by the number of feedings in the day (5, if he’s sleeping through the night). The total was 5.5oz., which was more than we had been giving him when we bottlefed him. I also increased my breastfeeding time with him. Leo had been breaking off around 10-15 minutes, so I figured he was satisfied and done feeding. However, Bobbie said that if Leo doesn’t get all his milk during the day, he’ll wake up in the night in order to get what he needs. So now I breastfeed for at least 20 minutes. If Leo breaks off, I keep offering. He always comes back for more. So now he’s eating fewer times a day (5 instead of 6 or 7), but eating more at each feeding.
- tag team effort. For the weeks where Leo was getting up 2, 3, or sometimes even more times a night, Dave and I took turns going in to comfort him. I would have lost my mind if I had done it all on my own. We were able to help each other – if one was obviously struggling, the other took over. This also meant knowing where we were at personally so we could tell the other, “I can’t go in there right now.” A crying baby, feeling exhausted and unable to do anything, and a late night can make you a little on edge.
- keeping the schedule. We have tried to base Leo’s schedule off of the Babywise book. It hasn’t worked perfectly, but it’s been really helpful. Basically we try to make sure Leo starts his day at the same time every day (7am). He eats right when he gets up, then has playtime/stays awake. Generally he’s up at least 1 hour (including feeding time), but sometimes he’s up longer. He goes down for a nap and sleeps about 1.5-2 hours. Sometimes he wakes up mid-nap, but we try to let him cry it out (we listen to how his cry sounds and give him about 10 minutes, then will go in, give a little comfort – pacifier, pats – then go out again) and most of the time he’ll go back to sleep. Then he wakes up in time for the next feeding! He knows when to expect food/bedtime/morning wake-up and we have an idea of how our day looks. During growth spurts we obviously feed him more often, whenever he shows signs of hunger.
- ask for help. Talking to Bobbie was a lifesaver. She has 3 boys who are wonderful sleepers because she worked hard to help them sleep. Hearing her perspective and advice really gave us hope and confidence in what we were doing (it was getting really discouraging and tiring). Sometimes it was even just asking people to pray for us!
So that’s our method right now and right now it’s working! It’s not perfect and we’re constantly tweaking/adapting as Leo changes and grows… and sometimes (okay, a lot of times) it feels like we have no idea what we’re doing!
What are/were your tips and tricks for helping your baby sleep through the night?