I never thought I’d say this… but, at five weeks old, our son Noah joined the Sleeping Through the Night club. I can’t help but think the universe felt bad for us after what we went through with Liam… So bad that it decided we deserved a break with this second baby. Most nights, Liam wanted to nurse so often that that I just gave up and plopped him in bed between me and Joe. I’d lose track of the feeds and wake up drained, as if I hadn’t slept at all. When I look back on the first few months, I don’t know how I taught an 8:30 am college course after sleeping, on average, a total of 3-4 hours.
Noah has me spoiled. I groan when he wakes up at 6am instead of 7am, after sleeping 11 consecutive hours. The little guy loves his sleep, and yes, it most likely is an “every baby is different” kind of thing. We just got lucky this time around.
But, I like to think that, as second time parents, we know the mistakes not to make again. We aren’t hesitant, inconsistent, frazzled like we were the first time.
We know the drill. We have the upper hand. We’ve got this sleep thing under control.
In the past few weeks, so many moms have asked me what our “secret” is. But the truth is there probably isn’t one. These conversations did, however, make me wonder what we may have been doing to help Noah find his natural rhythm so early on.
Here are the three things that we do that may be contributing to our little guy sleeping through the night:
Some parents aren’t big on routines and consistency, but I know my kids have thrived on a schedule. For newborns and infants especially, being aware of their awake windows is key. For example, I know my son Noah shouldn’t be up longer than 1.5 to 2 hours so I try to never stretch it.
When he wakes up from his naps, I always feed him first, then set him up for some “play” or discovery time on his back, a little bit of tummy time, then nap time again. I find that this is what works for him in terms of stimulation. I keep an eye on the clock for naps and bedtime (I never put him down later than 7:30pm at night), but also for feeds: In order for a baby to stretch his night feeds, you need to make sure he/she eats plenty of time during the day. In our house, that’s about every 2.5 to 3 hours.
This is key when it comes to baby sleep: don’t do the work for them! An important skill for babies to learn is to know how to soothe themselves. This ensures that if they wake up in the middle of the night, they will be able to put themselves back to sleep without requiring your immediate help. The easiest times to put a baby to sleep drowsy is the first nap of the day (they’re usually the most tired then) and bedtime. The most difficult might be the final nap of the day, which usually becomes a cat nap or helps your little one make it to bedtime.
Make sure that you’re never putting your baby to bed fully asleep, which can easily happen if you nurse or give your baby a bottle right before bed. A good way to prevent this is to feed your baby before bed in a well lit room.
This one can be tough at times, but I assure you it is necessary. Now, I’m not saying to let your baby cry hysterically for hours. Not at all! You can decide, as a parent, what your comfort level is with this… but for us, when Noah cries a bit then whines (on and off), I know he can probably soothe himself back to sleep. If he is really upset, I’ll usually go in and stand there for about a minute to calm him down. The key is to figure out if you are establishing a negative habit by always running into your baby’s room when he makes a peep. Sometimes, they just need a little while to figure it out on their own.