I’m just going to start this off by saying I AM NOT A SLEEP EXPERT. I have done my fair share of research, read my fair share of books, and also worked with a few sleep experts from Baby Sleep Science - and used the same techniques on both of our girls, with much success. I posted a poll recently on my Instagram stories asking if a post like this would be helpful and 89% of you said YES, so I’m giving the people what they want ;) The other 11% can ignore this post, or just check back later when something interests you again!
The first thing you should RUN and do is buy the book “Twelve Hours of Sleep by Twelve Weeks.” Just trust me on this one - it’s a game changer. It’s a super easy read, is very straight-forward and gives you an ACTUAL plan of attack. If you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate the detailed plan because it gives you sort of a baseline to work from. I didn’t do absolutely EVERYTHING the book says, but I will say, probably 90% of it I did and both of my girls are amazing sleepers. London slept through the night (7pm - 7am) at 5 months old, and Malia slept through the night at 13 weeks (6:30pm - 6/6:30am).
Here are a few things that I think are important when it comes to grooming your babe to be a good sleeper…
Establish a feeding schedule
Try to do this around 8 weeks. The book spells out exactly how to do this whether you are bottle feeding or breast feeding. The goal is to try and consolidate feedings so your baby isn’t just “snacking” all day but instead, eating at set times a day. For both girls, we decided on a 7am, 11am, 3pm, and 7pm feeding schedule (give or take 15-30mins).
Establish a consistent bedtime routine
London is 3.5 and we’ve had the same routine since she was 8 weeks old. It consists of a bath (yes, she gets one daily), lotion/massage/pajamas, brush teeth, read books, and prayers. She knows what comes next and bedtime is smooth as can be literally EVERY night because we have been super consistent. I’m a big fan of baths before bed - it’s a pretty clear signal for bedtime and also it calms them down. I also have the sound machine going and play the same lullaby song every time I put my babies down to sleep.
“Eat, Play, Sleep” Schedule
This is also important. If you try to keep this in mind - you’ll avoid the habit of feeding your baby to sleep. I get lots of messages from moms that say their kids will only go to sleep while drinking their bottle or nursing. Of course, that happens when they’re super little because they sleep SO much, but around the 8-10 week mark, if you work to establish this “eat, play, sleep” schedule you can avoid getting into that habit! For example, Malia wakes in the morning and we change her, feed her then let her play for an hour or so before her first nap. We rotate her between her Bjorn bouncer (pictured below), play mat and usually my lap :)
Put your baby down awake at bedtime
This is KEY. I’m not going to lie, I was SHOOK when it was time to do this with London, but by night three and at 12 weeks old, she was putting herself to sleep with just 1-2 minutes of fussing. We used the “limited crying” method that the book suggests. Essentially, you put your baby down, pour yourself a glass of wine (do NOT skip this step), and if he/she starts crying then you start a timer. After 3-5 minutes, you enter the room and “shush” him/her, give them a pacifier, pat their backs - whatever it takes to calm them without picking them up. When they calm down, you leave the room and repeat. If you buy the book, there are even more details to help you with this part - but I think this is the CORNERSTONE of helping your baby learn to good sleeping habits!
Nap training is zero fun. I put it off until London was almost six months but started earlier with Malia. I would say the key here is to try and wait until your baby is consistently putting themselves to sleep at night. If you know they’ve mastered this skill, than you know that they will be able to put themselves to sleep at nap time. There may still be some crying…but you’ll get there. I would say doing a shortened version of your bedtime routine at nap time is a good place to start! Skip the bath of course, but if you change their diaper, put the sound machine/lullaby song on, read a book - those are all indicators that it’s time for sleep.
I think it’s typically the 5-6 month mark when babies can connect their sleep cycles, so don’t get discouraged if you get some short naps. You’ll get there. You can try letting them cry for 5-10 mins if they wake up after one cycle, to see if they’ll put themselves back to sleep. I did that with Lo and after just a few weeks she would put herself back to sleep after a short nap.
If you guys have any questions - let me know! Like I said, I’m not an expert, but I have done lots of research on this sleep stuff because mama is a BEAR if she doesn’t get her rest :) I hope this helps some of you!