How to get Babies to Sleep Through the Night!
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Well what a claim!
Now, I don’t think I technically ‘got’ her to sleep through the night, I am a believer in babies sleeping through when they’re good and ready. I do though believe that there are some things we can do to encourage that and make the baby as comfortable and happy in bed as possible. Of course, the below is all my own opinion and what seemed to work for me – there are no guarantees that this will work for any other baby, even my next one.
Miss M was a terrible sleeper from the start, which is quite normal.
As a new mum, I naively thought I was prepared for the lack of sleep at night time but I hadn’t quite bargained for the lack of sleep ANY time – day and night.
For the first month, Miss M seemed to be awake all of the time. All. Of. The. Time. And when she was awake, she was generally crying – unless I was carrying her around, upright, in the sling. Not sitting down. Not even ‘perching’ on the back of the sofa. CARRYING – walking, all of the time.
As the weeks went on, she would fall asleep in the carrier and be content to then lie on me for a few hours sometimes which was lovely – we could both rest and I could sit down and relax but of course I couldn’t sleep myself with her in the carrier so I was still shattered.
At night time, she would sleep no more than 40 minutes so myself and my husband would take it in turns to pick her up and walk round with her upright until she felt back asleep – only to put her down and have her wake up after 30 seconds of course.
We were exhausted, physically and mentally. She was a breastfed baby and I’d had supply issues from day one which also didn’t help my mental state and by 6 weeks’ old, I was climbing the walls with what little strength I could muster.
By about 7 weeks, she was doing much better at night but still waking 2-10 times which I now know is very very normal in a new baby but at the time, I felt it was getting very difficult to manage. I didn’t have friends locally who could take Miss M for a walk so I could catch up on sleep and my family were all living on the other side of the world – me in Australia and them in the UK.
One day I was confiding to a friend how hard I was finding the night wakings and she told me about a book she was reading – ‘Save Our Sleep’ by Tizzie Hall. All I needed to hear was that there might be a possible solution and I ordered the book to be delivered the next day.
My friend warned me not to take everything in the book too literally and I would definitely suggest letting your own common sense prevail rather than following the book to the letter. I read it as fast as I possible could. I read it standing up, walking round carrying Miss M in the carrier!
Another reason I liked the sound of the book is that it gave ideas for ‘routines’ and ‘schedules’ to follow to ensure your baby was getting enough of everything – naps, sleep, feeds, baths etc. As a very very new mum I wanted to make sure this was happening although of course I fed on demand and didn’t follow this part of the schedule too strictly.
At first the schedule I followed made me laugh – e.g. ‘wake your baby at 6.40am’ – um hello, I have a 7 week old baby, do you seriously think they’re not already awake then?? It also gave suggestions on how much breastmilk I should express and with my low supply issues, this wasn’t possible at all. These are 2 examples of using your common sense and gut instinct on what to do for your baby.
However I liked the idea of the schedule it provided – we ignored some parts but roughly did:
7am – feed
8.45am – swaddle baby and put down for nap
11.00am – wake baby and feed
12.45pm – swaddle baby and nap
3.00pm – wake baby and feed
4.30pm – take baby for a walk to nap
5.15pm – wake baby and bath
6.30pm – feed
7.00pm – swaddle baby and put to bed for the night (ha ha)
The routine I followed also suggested a ‘dream feed’ at 10.30pm as a way of keeping Miss M full up without her actually waking up so she could then sleep until longer in the morning and I did this for the first couple of nights.
We followed this schedule as closely as possible, determined to give it 2 weeks to see if it worked – unless Miss M hated it of course. The only thing extra I did was to keep feeding on demand – so if she was ever hungry I would feed her again regardless of the schedule. It was important for her and for my supply to keep feeding.
After 4 days, something strange happened. Miss M slept from 7.00pm to 3.00am. The panic I felt waking up at that time and seeing her start to stir was immense! Mums who can remember the paranoia when your baby is sleeping will understand. When the shock died down and I knew she was alive I was elated! As was my husband :) I hadn’t slept the whole 8 hours of course but I had slept enough to (almost) feel like a new women. Mr M had slept the whole 8 hours.
I realised that this might have been a one off and tried not to get too excited but we continued with the routine and things only got better – so much so that by 8-9 weeks old, Miss M was sleeping from 10-12 hours per night. Every night. She has done so every since too except for times of teething, illness or jet lag.
To this day I do not know for sure whether it was our adopted ‘Save Our Sleep’ routine, the other sleeping ‘aids’ we used or just sheer random good luck. A lot of me suspects it was the latter but I will certainly be trying the same for baby number two anyway!In terms of the other sleep aids we used, I’ll tell you what we did. Firstly at about the same time, we started to ‘double swaddle’. YouTube has some great videos from other mums showing how they do this. It keeps the baby very snug so their own arm movements cannot wake them up. Not all babies like this but Miss M did.
We also downloaded an iPhone white noise app and had it on the white noise setting from the second we put her down to nap or sleep. I think this helped me sleep too!
We were also guilty of feeding to sleep and ‘rocking to sleep’ and have only just gotten rid of that sleep aid a few months ago as she was getting too big but when you have a baby who sleeps through the night, rocking them for 5 minutes beforehand really is not a big deal – or it wasn’t to us anyway.
We tried not to tell many people of our happiness in having a sleeping baby as I quickly learned that to some mums’ this comes across as bragging and I hope this article does not do that – I simply want to give some of my tips to other mums in the chance it may work for them too.
One friend did ask me how Miss M was sleeping and when I told her she was sleeping through the night, she told me her doctor had said any mum’s who said their newborn slept through the night were liars. Hmm, learned my lesson there, didn’t confide too much after that.
It wasn’t a lie though – it was wonderfully true and I just hope we don’t pay for this in later life when she decides to keep us up worrying about her all night when she’s a teenager!
Miss M slept in her cot from day 1 in our room until she was 4 months old when she moved into her own room.
She was diagnosed with reflux when she was about a 4-6 week’s old (I can’t remember exactly) and took Zantac syrup before bed every night and we did end up getting a Fisher Price Rock & Play Sleeper for her as it’s helped keep her more elevated when asleep – I wish we had gotten this sooner and I highly recommend it for all babies with or without reflux. It keeps them snug and safe next to you, it can travel anywhere and you can sit or lie down next to them and rock them.
I hope my experience helps you in some way – remember it is my opinion only and what happened for me. It might not hold the solution for your baby but I hope it gives you some ideas. For our next one, we will definitely be double swaddling and playing white noise and when we feel the baby is ready, we’ll incorporate a loose routine like the one above as well. And then we will keep our fingers crossed!
Wishing you all a long and peaceful night’s sleep :)
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