Why did no one tell me how little my baby would sleep when she was born?
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Hi, my name is Gill, and I am a mom who suffered from no sleep with a newborn.
And I’m here to say, there is a solution, don’t give up.
When your baby is up, wide-eyed, all night long. When she nurses to sleep and wakes up 20 minutes later. When everyone is telling you this is normal (it’s not). When they will only fall asleep in your arms. Or, my favorite, when they are screaming nonstop as you sway, bounce, coo, sing and try everything else to get them to sleep. There is hope, you can have peace, you can sleep again. I can tell you in one sentence what the problem is.
The problem is you.
Now quick note, this does not include those parents who have a baby with a health problem, lip or tongue ties, correctly diagnosed colic, and so on. This is for parents who have no discipline… parents like we were.
I didn’t know how much we sucked at routine until Annabelle came along. The problem was us as parents. She showed us right off the bat how much we needed to learn about schedules because our LACK of a schedule was making life with her more difficult than it needed to be.
She would wake me up almost every morning with 4 or fewer hours of sleep… and I would just cry… I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. We were on the brink of hiring a professional to come in, spending loads of money we didn’t have, and just letting them do the work for us.
We wanted more than anything, a sleeping angel baby. (and to not use the cry-it-out method… because we just couldn’t handle leaving her to cry all night.) We needed a routine and we needed it fast.
After doing SO much research and signing up for who KNOWS how many subscriptions to so many blogs that promised us sleep, we found out a few key things that got us rolling. I know your tired, mama, so learn from me in this article all you need to do, and STICK TO IT. You’ll have a sleeping baby in no time, I PROMISE!
1. First, Let’s Bust a Myth.
All I was told about naps before having my first baby was not to let them sleep TOO much or they won’t sleep through the night. WRONG. Wrong. Wrong. wrong. WRONG. Wrong. Drill it in your head… THIS IS WRONG! wrong…. wrong… ok I’m done.
If you keep your newborn up from those precious naps, they will get overtired and FIGHT sleep even more… I don’t know why babies work the opposite as adults, but it’s true.
Let them nap. But also, wake them in intervals during the day to feed.
We did this every two hours daily. Fed and played for one hour. And had her back into her crib/bassinet with the noisemaker on for two more hours. Doing this consistently, within the first two days, she started sleeping eight hours at night. I’ll show you a schedule if you keep scrolling. >>
RELATED POST: First-Time Mama Must Haves for First Six Months with Baby.
2. Stay consistent.
I can’t say this enough. Before, we weren’t making consistent sleep associations, I didn’t put her down in a consistent place to sleep, I didn’t know what the purpose of a swaddle was, I didn’t know she needed a dark room. ALL were essential.
So now, she is in a dark room, we have a noisemaker, she is swaddled up, and placed in the SAME. Place. Every. Time. She reads our communication clearly and knows it’s either bedtime or nap time.
Sleep. Wake. Change Diaper. Play. Swaddle. Sleep. See my nifty graphic below, save it to Pinterest, print it out, paste it to your wall or just write it in your own handwriting in your notebook. You need to become a master scheduler. Be watching that clock.
Here are some products that we COULD NOT HAVE lived without while sleep training:
- Muslin Wrap swaddle blankets (light-weight and restricting but not too tight)
- A baby sound maker (Annabelle LOVES the heartbeat noise).
- Footie Pajamas (She wasn’t “properly dressed” until about 12 weeks anyhow… Always in pjs until then!)
- Kid-E-Col (a natural tummy soother with Catnip and Fennel… Can be given every hour if needed to help soothe baby.)
- A bedside bassinet. (instead of sleeping beside their crib, bring their bassinet to your bedside and slowly move them out of your room and into theirs.)
This is my first baby, but I have not minded for one minute nursing her to sleep every time. It’s a good way for me to slow down my day, and cherish my time with her.
Change it up if you feel differently! Just be consistent with what you do before you put them down. Swaddle every time! Give them a binky, EVERY time… etc.
You need consistency and babies CRAVE that consistency. They LOVE to know what to expect every day and night, and so will you once you get your routine down! Also…
3. No need to rush… Babies can soothe better than you know.
We practiced something called “the pause”. Our pediatrician was kind enough to suggest this method to us. He said instead of running to your baby’s aid the MOMENT they begin to fuss or cry…
Pause for 15 minutes to see if she will self-soothe back to sleep and be fine. And as long as she was well-fed and safe in her bed, she would fall back to sleep just fine. Let this be your mantra…
The first night she slept more than four hours, I freaked out, to be honest! And then thanked the heavens… I wasn’t going to lose my sanity as a new mother… I was going to sleep again! I was going to be OK! Before, we had no intention to have more children, and now it has become more of a reality to give little baby Belle some siblings.
Now she sleeps a good eight to twelve hours every night.
She wakes early morning to eat for a bit, then goes back to sleep for a good four more hours. And you can definitely tell when she hasn’t gotten those twelve hours of sleep, she loves her sleep. Just like her Daddy.
As you will find on other infant sleep blogs, this isn’t usual. Most two-month-olds who are good at sleeping won’t sleep eight hours a night. This is, I think, just a rare occurrence with our first born, but you will at least get more than four hours… So don’t hate me when your baby doesn’t sleep through the night til they are even one year old, whether they are sleeping GREAT or not, they need routine.
Quick tip: We never had to do this, but you might want to “dream feed” your baby if they are having a hard time getting through the night. Read all about it here.
I just had to share, there have been a few people in my life who have asked how I got Annabelle on such a great schedule and how she sleeps so well at night, and I really owe it all to a blog called “Mother far from Home“, our pediatrician, the many prayers we said, and my hubby for being my confidant through it all.
Do you have her nap in her crib in the dark during the day? Would you mind sharing her nap schedule?
Don’t mind at all! Thanks for the idea. I will add a graphic to the article that explains our schedule better. And also describe here.
We had our little girl in a bassinet in our walk in closet the first six months of her sleeping life, naps and bedtime. This made a great training method because the closet was dark for naps and nighttime … It worked for us, BUT I think it made it harder to transition her to her crib when she out grew the bassinet. When the second baby comes around we will be doing naps and bedtime in their crib with black out shades the way we have it set up now with our now 11 month old. I would recommend crib in a darkened room from the get go.
Her nap schedule from eight weeks to about six months:
Awake at/around 730 every morning.
Back down for a nap and hour later.
Wake up every two hours to feed.
Intervals are one hour awake and two hours asleep through out the day.
Bedtime between 7-730.
If your baby is really hungry dream feed at ten thirty and then they should sleep through the night.
*This sometimes varied on if she was teething or growth spurts came about.
Does this help?
Yes – thank you!
What would you do when you tried to lay Belle down for a nap and she cried because she was used to being held? Mine would cry too long to have a decent nap by the time I should wake her up again to stay on schedule. I have a two week old and am really trying to get a schedule down
Awesome question, and brings up a good pont. The first days and week that we started this schedule for the first time, I would set her down and just sit and listen to her cry but see if she would self soothe for about 15 to 20 minutes. And when she didn’t (because she wasn’t familiar with this schedule or sleep arrangement yet) I would go in and re swaddle her and rock her and shhush softly to her. Swaying until she calmed down and her eyes started getting heavy again and try setting her down again. Then she would cry again cause she was difficult. 😥 And I would get her after twenty minutes of not self soothing and start the cycle of checking for a dirty diapers and unswaddling and then swaddling again and seeing if she would then nurse to calm down and go to sleep.
Eventually she would self soothe within those twenty minutes or even thirty minutes (we would wait if after twenty minutes she was still making noise but calming down.).. and the naps eventually got longer and to two hour increments during the day and a full night sleep at night.
You read a lot about not nursing to sleep or putting your baby down when they are tired or yawning but not completely asleep yet so they can fall asleep on their own, but our baby Belle was never that way. She needed to be completely passed out from nursing or rocking to then be put down and stay asleep. And I think there are a lot of babies like that to be honest.
And now that she is almost a year, it hasn’t be detrimental to her being able to fall asleep easily if put down tired but awake sometimes. She falls asleep fine doing it that way with her being older.
If you go to the site amotherfarfromhome.com, she has week by week breakdown of what newborns are trying to figure out in the first months if life that may help you more. With a two week it may be a stretch to get your baby sleeping longer than 4 hours at night quite yet, but the two hour naps during the day are probably much needed.
Let me know if this makes sense?? Does it answer your question?
So basically try the twenty minutes, then going in if they don’t self soothe and rocking and shushing.. then lay down and walk out. And do this consistently enough and they should get the message of right now is calm sleeping time. Consistency and routine. If the “numbers” on the schedule have to shift because they are skipping their routine nap time, just shift them and start again. I would write down a new schedule every day. If she woke at 8 instead of 730 I would write it in a notebook and start at eight and do my two to one hour increments off of that start time. Make sense?
And how old is baby when you start this routine?
My baby was about two months old or 8 weeks when we started this routine, it took about three days for her to get the official new routine down, but once she got it down it was smooth sailing. I especially remember this because I was calling around for professionals to come in to help and they said they don’t usually help until the baby is four months old and I was so distressed about that, and couldn’t wait two more months of sleep deprivation to finally get help. Hope you find this helpful!
Thank you for a super helpful and inspiring post! You inspired me with figuring out a schedule for my baby. Your opening with me being the problem was really eye opening for me. It’s so true. I’m learning to work around my baby’s patterns. The schedule we’re figuring out isn’t identical to yours, but there is a lot in common. The consistency we’re creating is so mutually needed! Thanks again!
I’m so glad you’ve been inspired. Seriously! I write to help others figure out an easier way, and so they know they aren’t alone in this crazy first-time mom life. Hope all goes amazing with your little one!
My son was a terrible sleeper. My husband and I were exhausted until Susan Urban’s guide ‘how to teach a baby to fall asleep alone’ ( got it here: http://www.parental-love and I’m sure it’s also available on Amazon). The technique in this guide gave my family desperately needed sleep in just a few days without any drama. I’m not a person who response a lot on the internet but I know how difficult this subject is and I’m sure that this guide will help you guys as well. Good luck!
Thank you for your input! It is a hard subject, and each parent can use all the help they can get!
It looks like the guide that you recommended also worked in our case and I thought that nothing would help us anymore. Thank you very much for sharing the link and your experience.
By the way, it’s a very nice and useful blog 🙂
I’m impressed! This guide gave me what I needed! Worked like a charm with my LO 🙂
YAY! I’m so glad!
YAY indeed 🙂 Girls are right about this guide. My son became a sleep champion in only four days. I’m more than happy now 🙂 Thanks
You’re welcome! 🙂
Hi My son is 3 month’s old and wants to eat every 2 hours in the mornings. How did you get your baby to eat more at a time? He will only eat 5 oz at bed time or when he sleeps for a long period. Otherwise its every couple hours he wants to eat 3 oz of milk. Do you have any suggestions for me to try?
I would have periods of time in my little one’s younger months where all she wanted to do was eat. Like every twenty minutes. If this is a new thing for your son (like he didn’t do it the first two months) I would say he might be reaching a growth spurt and wanting to cluster feed in the mornings to catch up from the long hour stretches the night before.
Maybe try stopping him before the 3 oz is up (at 2 oz, maybe?) right after he has woken from his nap/bedtime, burp him and play for an hour or 1.5 hours, then feed him another 2 ounces right before swaddling and putting him down for his first nap of the day?
I would split my feedings like that with our little girl. I would feed her on one breast after she had woken up, play and hang out for an hour, then feed her on the other breast before her nap. I’d repeat that each nap time. Then at bedtime, I would feed her on both sides, keeping her awake on the one side and then letting her nurse to sleep on the other.
Hope that helps?
Consistency is so hard! I aslo used Susan Urban’s guide and it worked very well. But the first step – building the routine – was bit of a challenge for me! I don’t like planning and routine but having a baby thought me how convinient it may be.
I feel like I’m just a wiz with consistency now, though it was a challenge for me too at first. It’s what our little girl expects even into toddlerhood, and it keeps me more sane as a SAHM now that I’ve got it down! I’m hoping with our second lil’ guy (due in January) I’ll be able to sleep train more easily with the things I’ve learned and mentioned in this article. It’s a reminder for me as well as a good tool for others who find it! 😉
My baby takes an hour to nurse some times so do I count that in her nap or awake time?
I’d count that as awake time. Or half of it as awake time. Depending on if your baby is nursing to sleep or sleeping at the breast.
When do you start this schedule? I’m due in a week and I’m so lost on all this. Do you start the sleep training right when you get home from the hospital or wait a while? Please help!
We started this schedule at 2 months with our first baby, and about 4 weeks with our second. Between the two of my babies, they were polar opposites with training so I had to kind of go with the flow with my second. But I just kept the rules of putting the baby down for their naps and bedtimes in the same place with the same sound machine setting. Swaddling helped with my first the best and having a sleep sack helped my second baby the best. If you feel like you can start right away and your babe is rolling with it then keep it up, but don’t hesitate to let your baby sleep in your arms every once in a while. It doesn’t spoil them, and it’s so good for their development. I tell you, the mother intuition doesn’t come automatically (at least not for me) but it will come and you’ll know your baby more than anyone else in no time.