My method for sleeping longer stretches through the night sooner than you expect.
It’s all about teaching sweet lemon drop the difference between night and day!
Each of my babies was different. One has turned out to be a little on the OCD-side: an early riser, full of plans, and personal expectations. The second is part fairy, part author, happy as long as we’re having fun. Number three is a little general.
Despite VERY DIFFERENT PERSONALITIES, each responded positively to this routine. (Please keep in mind, I began from the first day home from the hospital, so it could take a little practice if your baby is used to something else.)
If you are still pregnant you can begin thinking through some of this now!
1-Establish the time period you want to have the longest stretch of sleep
In the beginning, that probably means 4 hours. If you are nursing, you don’t want to hurt your milk supply by going very long without feeding. For me that was 12a-4a. In my opinion, 12a-4a is definitely when I wanted my baby sleeping. I guess you could say for ME that is OFFICIALLY NIGHT.
So for me 12a was bedtime.
2-Designate ONE nighttime sleeping location
This could be a co-sleeper, pack-n-play, or bassinet in your room. (I do recommend keeping the baby in your room so you can respond to her cues more quickly.)
Do not put the baby in his nighttime bed until the “bedtime” you chose for any reason.
Where will the little lump sleep during the day?
Throughout the day, try baby-wearing, utilize swings, pack-n-plays, bouncers, carseats, etc. Keep baby near you with lots of light and sound so he knows it is daytime and there’s a lot going on!
3-Cluster-feed your baby before bedtime so she’s had lots of mommy-time and her belly is full.
3 hours before the bedtime, breastfeed the baby on each side (I never used bottles, but I would guess around 1-2oz). Then play with and interact with your baby, let her swing, or have some tummy-time. Keep the activity going.
Repeat 1 hour later feeding on both sides (starting with the side you left off on). You may have to wake baby by undressing and changing.
Repeat 1 hour later with the same process. This is the “last feeding of the night”.
4-Complete your bedtime routine
Change baby into “pajamas” and a fresh diaper. Next swaddle your baby. Yes sometimes they try to wiggle out, but a little perseverance is worth it. I often double-swaddled to keep my little darlings tightly wrapped.
5-Put baby to bed
Lay baby in nighttime sleep place. It’s great for baby to go down awake, because he will learn to fall asleep on his own. At this point, you can feel fairly confident that baby is full and ready to sleep after all that eating!
6-Prepare for a calm, consistent atmosphere
Leave a very low light on so that when baby does wake in the night you don’t have to ever change the lights to check on baby. You don’t want to change the atmosphere with harsh lighting.
Keep it quiet. Its sleeping time: no talking, tv, or light, throughout the night. Only “shh” if its really needed.
7-Meet your babies feeding needs throughout the night, as quickly as possible
If you put baby down around 12a, the next feeding maybe sometime around 4 am.
If baby begins to wiggle in bed and seems to be rooting around, go ahead and feed her. It’s better to meet these needs before she is struggling and crying. You may have to spend extra time calming her if you wait until she is upset. Then immediately re-swaddle and place her back in her bed. If breast-feeding is firmly established, you may want to consider offering a pacifier.
8-Try to master the side-lying hold
If you are able, breastfeed your baby in a safe, side-lying hold so that you can get some rest while she eats. (I will post my breast-feeding tips in a future blog) If you can’t yet no worries. 🙂
9-Stretch out the 4 hours of solid sleep to a full night
Once your baby is falling asleep at the bedtime you have picked and sleeping for 4 hours consistently, begin moving the bedtime back hour by hour. Eventually I worked all of my babies back to 7pm.
I am happy to report that 8 years later , all three darlings still faithfully march through their bedtime routines and are in bed reading or sleeping at 7pm.
Sweet dreams everybody!
DISCLAIMER: I am just a mom, not a pediatrician and I can’t possibly know your unique situation. But this method has been a healthy and successful plan for my family and many of my friends. I hope it can help some of you. I’m sure there are many other great ways to get sleep and sanity but this is the plan that worked for me. J