I’ve been wondering how I could contribute to starting the third world war. What better way than writing about infant sleep training? I mean, if anything gets mommas’ panties in a bunch, it’s talking about sleep training philosophies. Amiright?
But seriously, here’s my disclaimer. These are the sleep principles that have “worked” for us with 3 children. “Worked” meaning they slept long stretches (10-12 hours) at night early on (by 12-15 weeks old), and have basically remained good sleepers through infancy and toddlerhood.
I’ve also seen these principles work successfully for many other parents.
If you don’t want to do these things, don’t. Contrary to what the mommy-war culture would have us believe, there is more than one way to skin the proverbial cat… or in this case, the sleeping baby.
This is a matter of infant sleep, not life and death. Not right and wrong. And at the end of the day, though it feels like life and death to me because I hate being sleep deprived, it is just sleep. You are the parent of your kid(s), and I’m the parent of mine. To each her own!
On the other hand, if you want babies who sleep well, this works.
The primary goal of this short guide is encouraging moms in their efforts to get baby to sleep. Because sleep is awesome. A well rested baby is a happier baby and a well rested parent is a happier parent. (And all the sleep-deprived-coffee-addicted mommas said, “AMEN!”)
My goal is to be detailed, but concise. The book I wrote about infant sleep is 30 pages long, and every single page is jam packed with the tools you need to teach your baby to sleep well. I purposefully left out everything non-essential because I don’t want to waste your time!
We have 2 girls and a boy (and are pregnant with a 4th baby whose gender we don’t know yet). I switch between pronouns throughout. Also, I’ve decided to use the first person “I” pronoun throughout the book. Instead of a scientific rulebook, this book is supposed to be from one momma to another – as if you came over for coffee and we’re chatting about all things infant sleep.
WHO THIS GUIDE IS FOR
First of all, this guide is intended to be used when sleep training healthy, full-term babies.
We’ve never had a babe in the NICU. I only have experience with babies born full-term, without serious medical complications. Please talk to your pediatrician for advice about sleep if your baby has any trouble gaining weight!
I’m a mom of littles, not a doctor. You should always run any questions you have about the safety of advice you receive regarding your kiddos by medical professionals! As you’ll soon read, the advice of our first pediatrician, who practiced what he preached with his own 12 children, greatly helped us develop our sleep training philosophy and methods.
Secondly, this guide is intended to be used for infants. The younger, the better. If your 4 year old is sleeping in your bed still, and you’re ready to evict her, this book won’t help. Sorry! (If that is the case, I highly recommend, “Parenting by the Book,” by John Rosemond.)
Generally, the younger your child is, the easier he is to sleep train.
I hope this guide is helpful to you!
PRINCIPLE #1: GET BABY FULL
FIRST THINGS FIRST: IN THE HOSPITAL
For the first few days after baby is born, I just let the baby nurse whenever she wants to stimulate the milk coming in. In the hospital, the nurses advise trying to nurse every 3 (ish) hours. If baby is still sleeping at the 3 hour mark, they encourage you to try and wake baby to attempt nursing.
If baby is too sleepy, no worries. Just try again later. If you need help nursing, get it!! Nursing can be hard and discouraging! I probably wouldn’t have stuck with it with my first baby if we hadn’t gone to a local lactation consultant for a few weeks.
Our second nursed like a champ early on. Our 3rd was really bad at nursing the first week home, then he started to get the hang of it. Get help with nursing if you need it.
If you are choosing to formula feed, or pump + bottle feed, that’s fine! These sleep training principles will still work. I nursed for the first few months with each baby, then eventually moved our babies to formula.
With the first baby, I went back to work as an elementary teacher, and I didn’t have breaks at the right times to pump, so my milk supply dwindled. Honestly, it was really hard for me! I expected to nurse exclusively for a long time, and wasn’t prepared for how I would emotionally feel about giving up nursing so soon. I combo breastfed and bottle fed until about 8 months when she really preferred the bottle.
With our second, I breastfed exclusively until 4 months, when we went on a vacation. She was sleeping through the night by then, so we felt comfortable leaving her with grandparents! Between a vacation pumping mishap, and not being near her for a few days, my supply again dwindled, and we decided to just move her to a bottle instead of stress about getting my milk supply back.
Finally, when our 3rd was 5 months old, I was just ready to switch him to a bottle. I was overwhelmed having 3 kids under 4, and the thought of other people being able to help feed the baby was a win.
All that to say, breast or bottle will not affect these sleep training principles. I’ve seen people successfully implement these principles with each type of feeding. To each her own! If you have more questions about breastfeeding while sleep training, please reach out to me on my blog’s contact form.
AFTER YOUR MILK COMES IN
Whether you’re nursing or bottle feeding, the main thing to think about the first few weeks is getting baby full each time he eats (once your milk comes in if you’re nursing). This doesn’t sound like it’s related to infant sleep, but it’s actually the biggest thing! Or, at least the first big thing.
A hormone in the milk makes baby sleepy, but if he doesn’t get full, then he’ll want to eat all day and all night long. Plus, he’s not getting the hind milk, which is more nutritious and filling. If you have a newborn (or have ever had one, or been around one), you know how ridiculously sleepy they are. The baby’s natural inclination is to suck for a few minutes, then fall asleep. Then, 15 or 30 or 45 or 60 minutes later, they’ll get fussy and want to eat again. It can make you feel like you are literally feeding the baby all day.
If you can get baby to stay awake and eat as much as possible each time he eats, he’ll go longer in between feedings, and thus sleep longer in between feedings.
I do everything I can to keep baby awake each time he eats. It’s hard at first when they’re so, so sleepy!!
Some ideas for waking your sleepy newborn up are:
- Tickle feet and tummy.
- Pull them back a little but not off the breast, which triggers their suck reflex to keep going.
- Compress breast to make more milk flow.
- If they doze off and unlatch, I take them off and wake them up.
- Take baby’s clothes off
- Lay them down on the floor or couch; they’ll likely startle themselves awake.
- Diaper change! I try to save a diaper change for in between sides when they’re halfway through because it seems to be the most successful timing.
- My first was so sleepy I had to rub her with a wet cold baby wipe to keep her awake!! #meanmom
Even though the baby may only actually nurse for 10-15 minutes on each side, the whole process takes up to 45 minutes each time depending on how focused I am at keeping him awake and how sleepy he is. It’s time consuming, but during the first four weeks or so, I prioritize feeding the baby fully. I nap in between feedings if I can and put most other things in life on hold. The baby will start to be more awake and eat faster by about 4-6 weeks old.
Around 6-8 weeks, daytime nursing sessions will get shorter and the full-feeding thing will start to pay off because he’ll be sleeping longer at night!
All that to say: the main thing I do for the first few weeks is try giving baby a full feeding each time he nurses instead of letting him snack at the boob all day. This regulates his metabolism, which helps him establish sleep and wake cycles.
HOW DO YOU KNOW IF BABY IS FULL?
If you’re bottle feeding, ask your pediatrician for recommended quantities of milk. Conventional wisdom says babies generally won’t overeat. Instead, they’ll refuse the bottle when they’re not hungry.
If you’re nursing, I don’t have a great answer to this. It’s kind of trial and error. But, if baby wakes up screaming and hungry after 45 minutes, you know he didn’t get full. So, try to nurse longer next time. Newborns are able to last 2.5-3 hrs from the start of one feeding to the start of the next if they get a full tummy. That’s the schedule NICU and hospital nursery nurses use too, so I’m not just randomly making this up.
The rest of the guide is now available as an ebook! AND it comes with a 100% money back guarantee. Because the book is just that awesome. And if it doesn’t work for you,well, you shouldn’t pay for it.