How to Raise Solid Sleepers


This post is part of an editorial series, “Sweet Sleep,” brought to you by the Fort Worth Moms Blog. We hope these pieces provide you with helpful information, encouragement, and insight as your navigate your family’s sleep journey.

I have successfully taught all five of my children to sleep through the night by six weeks old. If it sounds like I am bragging, well . . . I am. As the mother of five, I have mostly floundered through motherhood, feeling like a failure for long chunks of times, but I do know how to make my babies sleep! It may be the only thing I am truly good at in those early years.

Before the birth of my firstborn, I was mentally prepared to get up at night for six weeks. From all the sleep books and blogs I had read as well as advice sought out, I felt comfortable with setting a deadline for sleeping through the night. My mother had raised six children, and all of us had slept through the night around the six-week mark; so with that as my battle cry, I embarked on motherhood.

sweet sleep editorial seriesMy firstborn came at 42 weeks and weighed eight and a half pounds. The first few days at the hospital, and then later when we were home, I did not have any expectations for eating or sleeping.  I nursed him every two hours to help my milk come in. He slept in spurts just like any newborn.

The first night home from the hospital, we kept him in a bassinet near our bed. However, after the first night hearing each little grunt and squeak, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my children would not be sleeping in the same room with us. The next night we moved him into the crib in the nursery, which was adjacent to the master. Close enough to easily hear him when he cried, but not too close to wake me up with a rustle of the swaddle blankets.

Around day five or six, I started to implement a little routine. It was a very paired down version of Babywise. The methodology of Babywise was far too serious and rigid for my personality, but I did glean some valuable advice from it. I decided to implement a loose structure of “eat, play, sleep” with my newborn. First, I would nurse him, and then “play” for about five minutes (mostly just making eye contact, cooing, and enjoying him). Next, I would change his diaper, swaddle him, and lay him down. I did use various sleep props at this time, so he would often be in the swing or baby seat during the day, but I would make sure he had one or two naps in his crib to ensure he was getting familiar with that as well.

This continued all day with the cycle repeating itself about four or five times a day. At night, I would omit the play part, and put him straight back to bed. Also, I would only feed him every three or four hours during the nighttime. If he fussed or cried before then, I tried to shush him back to sleep. Sometimes I would even let him fuss or cry for a bit. And before anyone gets all up in arms that I was torturing my baby with cry it out (CIO) at far too young an age, I am literally talking about little pockets of time that were about 10 or 15 minutes long.

I had a very good milk supply, so thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about that. If he fell asleep during a feeding, I would try wake him back up for a complete feeding. I didn’t want him to fall asleep every time he ate as I didn’t want that to form a bad habit. I also added a dream feed around 10:30 p.m. when I was ready to go to sleep. I would pick him up from the crib, still swaddled, and feed him for 15 minutes, then put him back in his crib. This helped stretch out the time between when I fell asleep and when he woke up again.

After the dream feed, he usually woke up around 2:00 a.m., then again at 5:00. After two weeks with that routine, he dropped the 2:00 feed. This was around four or five weeks. Around six weeks, I cut the dream feed out, so that he was sleeping from about 8:00 p.m. till 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Then around the two and half month marker, I started putting him to be even earlier around 6:30 p.m. By then he was also sleeping later in the morning, so that most nights he was getting between 13-15 hours of sleep. It was heavenly!

With each subsequent child, I followed the same routine. From the start with parenting, one of my mottos has been, “start as you mean to go along.” So with each baby, as soon as we came home from the hospital, we started “eat, play, sleep.” If the little one fussed right after feeding, instead of fretting that he might need to eat more, I was resolved to get him to sleep. I also firmly believe that all babies need more sleep than we, the adults, think they do. When in doubt, I put them back to bed or move their bedtime up to an earlier time. And that is how I survived the early years when I had four children under the age of three! All you need is sleep!


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