I’ve had a few people ask me about my sleep training method for my boys so thought I would share what I do today. It might be a little long and drawn out but I’m going to try to put all the tricks and tips I’ve learned and everything I know about sleep training babies into one post…so bear with me.
First, let me say I’m no professional and honestly my kids didn’t sleep through the night for a long time so I’m just putting that out there before people say my methods are ridiculous. However, tons of people I know have had success with this soooo I think my boys are just genetically made to not want to sleep through the night for a while. Secondly, I read a few books, before I had Logan, and ended up combining all sorts of methods into one heaping sleep mash. I found a combo worked better for us and our babies so stuck with that with all the boys. Thirdly, I had Logan 9.5 years ago so there are probably much better books and tips out there now but I’m a creature of habit so stick with what I know.
Alright, so let’s jump into it. I call this method the 3 or 4 hour rule. It’s 3 if your baby is 0-12 weeks and 4 if your baby is 12+ weeks. This method really stresses a good DAY routine. Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “How in the world does a good day routine help my baby at night?” Trust me everything you do during the day is going to be setting up for either a great night or a bad night so pay attention. How this “rule” works is really quite simple. It’s basically diaper change, feeding, playing and sleeping all within a 3 (or 4) hour time span and you repeat this all day. Pretty darn simple. Now let me show you how this might look.
I am going to use the 3 hour rule here:
7:00 Wake, change diaper and feed
7:30 Play or stimulate baby
10:00 Wake, change diaper and feed
10:30 Play or stimulate baby
1:00 Wake, change diaper and feed
1:30 Play or stimulate baby
3:00 Wake, change diaper and feed
3:30 Play or stimulate baby
6:00 Wake, change diaper and feed
6:30 Play or stimulate baby
Now from 6:30 (or whenever your schedule approaches evening time) you want to keep your baby awake for as long as you can. If they are really wanting to sleep then put them down but if you can – try to keep them awake. Basically, the later they go to bed the later they sleep meaning you get more sleep – or at least more hours of sleep in one sitting.
Okay, so before I continue let me insert a couple of notes here.
- Set this schedule up for whatever time your day fits around. Adjust it accordingly and move the 3 (or 4) hours as you need them to be.
- As far as the evening times go here is my personal opinion and what works for me. Some parents may keep their kid up until 10, for example, that way everyone goes to sleep at the same time and mom (or dad) is sure to get a good initial bout of sleep. This is completely fine and means a very well rested momma. For us personally I try to have my baby down the same time as the other kids -or if you only have one kid- the time of an ideal bedtime. Our time is 8:00. Yes, I don’t usually go to bed until 10:30 so I’m losing precious hours of initial sleep BUT the biggest reason I do this is to set that initial bedtime expectation right out of the gate. Having done this with all the kids we have NEVER had a single problem with any of them having a bedtime, fighting us to go to bed at night or any sleep issues whatsoever. The expectation is always a certain time so they just learn that that is the time they need to be done with the day and rest. This helped HUGELY when our boys became toddlers and made sleeping transitions very smoothly. Now this doesn’t mean if you keep your baby up later than you’ll have all these problems. I’m just saying it did wonders for us. Soooo with all that said choose how you want to deal with “bedtimes” and then adjust this schedule accordingly.
- Whenever you establish what “bedtime” you are shooting for then change their diaper and feed them right before bed. Always lay a baby down at night with a full belly that way you maximize the amount of time they are sleeping.
- Keep in mind that with babies (especially those before 12 weeks) you may put them to “bed” at 8 and then they wake up at 9. This is okay and doesn’t mean your future dreams of 8 o clock bedtimes are shattered. Just be CONSISTENT and they’ll eventually get the hang of it.
- With the 4 hour schedule all you do is adjust the naps to 2 hours and the diaper changes, feedings and play time to 2 hours. Otherwise, its the same concept.
Alright, a very important thing to remember with this is to limit the amount of holding your doing while baby is sleeping. The first 4 weeks of life you get a pass with all of this because newborns should be snuggled and cuddled and loved on as much as possible, in my opinion. After that you probably need to get a little less handsy. 😉 This doesn’t mean you (or someone else) can NEVER hold your baby while sleeping ever again, so please don’t freak out. Just means to limit it a bit. The most important time of the day to NOT hold your baby is the the evening slot because you want them to get used to putting themselves to sleep. So when you do put them down make sure you’re putting them down in different places and allowing them to sleep in different rooms. For example, lay them in their crib the first nap, bassinet in the living room the second time, swing the third, bouncer the fourth and so on. This allows them to be flexible with where they sleep, teaching them to fall asleep anywhere and on anything. It also helps them keep their days and nights aligned since days tend to be more noisy and nights more quiet. If they are in a super duper quiet environment ALL DAY LONG they may start to get their days and nights confused making for some very long sleepless nights in the future.
That is the basic routine of what I use and over the long term it really does help and we’ve had good results. As a side effect it also makes the days go super smooth since I can plan errands and outings and visits around naps and feedings and so on. You will never have a perfect perfect schedule every day but if you just stick to this the best you can then you’re doing fine.
Okay, so now as a second part of this post I’m going to share a few tricks I’ve learned with sleep training and sleep in general.
- BE PATIENT AND FLEXIBLE!!! This is soooo important. It’s called training for a reason and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Babies need time to learn and adapt and figure out what you want them to do. Also, some days are just not going to go smoothly and that’s okay. Little people sometimes want to eat all the time and that’s alright. Chalk it up as an off day and then try again tomorrow. On that same note just BE CONSISTENT. Without consistency babies will be all sorts of confused and you’ll develop bags under your eyes the size of a small country. So be as consistent as you can and it will pay off. Heck that’s my advice for parenting in general no matter what the age…..so remember that one!
- Bedtime routines are a must. Do the same thing every night and this will help you with babyhood and toddlerhood and everything in-between and after. This also is another big factor in helping kids put themselves to sleep. If they know what to expect it helps them relax and calm down enough in order to soothe themselves into slumber. Bedtime routines do not have to be glamorous and pinterest worthy. Reading a book, throwing on some jammies and singing a Frozen song is good enough…as long as you do it every night. Make it as big of a deal or as small of a deal as you want just make sure it’s something you can stick to most of the time.
- Put your baby to bed not all the way asleep. They can be drowsy but not fully asleep. This also helps them soothe themselves and not have to be stimulated to go to sleep.
- Your baby will wake up at night (for a few months at least) and so remember the following things:
- Don’t stimulate your baby at night. What I mean by this is try not to play with them or even talk to them if you don’t have to. (I know that sounds harsh but I have my reasons) I also don’t recommend changing their diaper every single time unless they really need it. All of those things wake the baby completely up which signals to them “hey, it’s daytime and time to play.” This is especially true for 3 month+ babies. You want them to stay drowsy so they will easily fall back to sleep. So try to limit the stimulation as much as possible.
- On that same note, buy a red lightbulb. I know it sounds all sorts of strange but I swear it works. There is a lot of research talking about how red calms babies and de-stimulates them so it goes along with #1 and helps them stay drowsy. This is great for when you do need to change a diaper or feed. It’s impossible to do both of those things in the dark and you really don’t want a bright light glaring cause that’s just annoying for everyone.
- I also highly recommend buying a music mobile. I don’t mean the ones that hang above the crib. I’m talking about the ones that attach to the crib and do all sorts of music, nature sound etc. Kind of like a noise machine but one that actually attaches to the crib. Here is the one we have. Any white noise is great for soothing babies to sleep but it’s even better when they become toddlers. I have had one of these with every single kid and have thanked my lucky stars every time. My kids had this thing until they were 4 they loved it so much. When they are toddlers it has extended the minutes in nap time because it gave them something to interact with when they woke up so they didn’t instantly start screaming. This taught them to enjoy their bed and those precious extra minutes are lifesavers for moms, especially when you have multiple kids. I will say it does suck batteries but so worth it. My kids also sleep with fans, as do we, and this helps keep any noise out as well.
I think that is most of it. Again, I’m sorry this post is so long. There are never short lists with parenting. HAHA. Hope this helps someone get a better nights sleep and if you have any questions please let me know and I’ll do my best to help.
Happy Sleeping, Mommas!!!