Sleeping like a baby

Since this can be a hot topic for some, let’s start with the standard disclaimer:
I’m going to share another of our methods for maintaining general sanity in the form of sleep patterns. This is not a principle, that must be obeyed lest ye fall into sin. This is our account of how we accomplish a goal that, we think, ultimately aids us in ordering our lives and maintaining a good attitude – something that is pleasing to God. Your mileage may vary; your childrearing style may make other methods more suitable for your family; you may think we’re callous nuts who hate our children (in that case, we’re right and you’re wrong; go read someone else’s blog).
All of our babies but one have slept through the night by 6 weeks. That one was reared under very different circumstances where we could not apply our method, and thus we saw very different results.

Here are some factors that we believe help our children to sleep for a 7 hour stretch from a very early age:

  • I always nurse our babies on waking, and self-consciously do not nurse them to sleep.
  • Our babies sleep near us, but not in our bed. I rest better this way, and the baby learns to sleep well without depending on snuggling or nursing constantly – this also translates to better daytime naps, when Momma can’t necessarily lie down with Baby.
  • I nurse on demand, but I do not use nursing as an all-purpose pacifier; I try to distinguish between a hungry baby and one who just wants attention – which is a perfectly valid request on its own. Know your baby. Learn to recognise her different cries when she is hungry, dirty, lonely, etc. and respond accordingly. The breast (ok…or the bottle…) doesn’t answer every need in the best way.
  • We also do not rock, pat, or otherwise “entertain” a baby to sleep. When the baby is clearly tired, we lay her down; she may fuss a little, but not much if we do this from the start.
  • We encourage thumb-sucking [ducking]. We think that babies who know how to pacify themselves fall asleep much more easily and are generally more content. This is especially nice when they wake up in the middle of the night and don’t *need* Momma to get back to sleep. Many people use binkies for this, but if the baby loses her binky during the night, she often can’t get to sleep until someone finds it for her. The thumb is conveniently attached, and is standard equipment with every baby.
  • When babies wake up during the night, we don’t let them “cry it out,” but we do make sure they work up to a *real* cry. We don’t rush to rescue a whimpering baby who may fall right back to sleep on her own. For a newborn, this may mean 30 seconds of real crying. For an older baby who usually sleeps through the night, maybe 5-10 minutes for us. This is not cruel. Babies can learn from the start that Momma will take care of them, but does not have to obey them instantly.
  • When feeding a baby during the night, I keep it dark and quiet, and I make it brief. This is not a social engagement or playtime. I do not lie down with the baby, and I often will stop them before they’re quite finished. No lingering about at 2 A.M. Our middle-of-the-night feedings usually take 10 minutes or less, and baby is ready to go right back to sleep. I think this trains their systems to eat more in the morning and evening, so they are less likely to wake up at night due to genuine hunger. Then, when they wake out of habit, they go back to sleep more easily.

Again, this is just how we do it. We like to sleep all night, and we like our children to sleep in their own beds. Follow your husband’s lead.

Also, consider the season in your life and your own parenting style. Some people just don’t see a problem with waking up every hour and a half with a new baby, or waking up once or twice a night with an older baby. If this suits you and your husband, then keep doing it cheerfully.

As our helpers get older and my job gets a little more flexible, I don’t wait quite as long to pick up a crying baby during the night. It’s not such a big deal if I’m a little short on sleep because I can nap during the day now. When we had many Littles and no Bigs or Middles, nighttime sleep was essential for me to hold things together during the day.


  1. Thanks…I surfed on in from largefamilylogistics even though this is our first child. Before I had my son, I found the website and she had some excellent advice which I tried to follow. My son is 11 weeks old and is put down at 10 pm and wakes up around 6:30 am with no fussing. Such a rested, happy baby!! When I read your list, it was like you were at my house. We do exactly like you do. God bless.

  2. TulipGirl says:

    One of the things I found most encouraging when I had several small children, including babies who still needed me at night, were the ideas that Rebecca Prewett shares here.

  3. I love those ideas. My one hinderance is that dh doesn’t like me to let the babies fuss, especially when very small, so I always feel like I “miss” the window for them to learn to fall asleep on thier own. Can’t let them fuss, and all the rest of that falls apart.

    Dh also very much believes in cosleeping (cultural thing), and I do end up nursing most of the night some nights. sigh

    However, I’ve just learned to cope, and it does get better. Our almost 6 month old is finally getting back into good sleeping habits, after a month or so of trying to fill all his caloric needs only when it was dark! Oy!

  4. The Daring One says:

    This is what we’ve done and everyone just thinks we have magical sleeping children. They are magical but we helped a bit. Most sleep books I’ve read are too extreme. This just made sense to us and it worked.

  5. We practice attachment parenting and it works out wonderful for us :>)

  6. Hi! I love your blog-title! Very fun!

    Your methods for your babies sound very much like what my hubby and I have done-it has worked very well for us!

  7. I meant to say thanks Janet and Kim!!!

  8. Thanks, Janet….I’m goig to try that tonight.


  9. Anonymous says:

    Sorry, my name is Janet.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Carey, could you move #4 in to the almost 3’s room and move almost 3 out while you are training #4 to sleep through the night? Then when #4 is sleeping all night move almost 3 back and voila they both sleep all night in the same room. I think it can be done…it might hurt a little at first but it will pay off in the end.

    Kim, I came here from Carmon’s blog. Very nice blog.

  11. Carey,
    This is how we got our own “exception to the rule” baby – there was nowhere to put her that wouldn’t disturb several other people. She finally started sleeping all night when we resigned ourselves to the fact that she might wake up the other children during her training.
    If you haven’t already done so, talk to your husband about this. Is he willing to lose some sleep and hear your son cry a bit in order to break the habit? He may not mind as much as you think.
    Or can you move the baby’s bed anywhere farther from your bed? The hallway, living room, a walk-in closet or even the 3yo’s room?
    I wouldn’t suggest changing things too suddenly, but you might start letting your son cry just a little before you go to him, and try leaving sooner – pat him just till he’s relaxed, but not entirely asleep. It seems like his response would depend a lot on his personality.
    You also might want to focus on retraining him during naptimes, when your husband is at work. If your son can learn to go to sleep during the day without being patted, maybe it will make the night-time change easier as well.
    I would love to see suggestions from other readers, esp. those with boys, as I suspect training a boy could be entirely different from our girls.

  12. Kim,

    Thanks so much for your blog! I really appreciate your wisdom and love your sense of humor!
    I would like some advice if you don’t mind. I have a 14 month old who has quit sleeping through the night and I got a bad habit started so he may never sleep all night! He is #4 and is still in our bedroom (in his own bed) because we don’t think he’s old enough to sleep in his older brother’s (almost 3 yr old) bed yet. When he started waking up I started patting him or picking him up (yeah, I know that’s bad NOW!) so as not to wake my husband up because he gets up at 5:30 for work. So, needless to say, he expects to be babied every time he wakes now and I don’t know how to break this habit! Help! Any suggestions? I bounce back and forth between fuzzy and cranky….I really need to sleep!
    Thanks, Carey

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