He’s sleeping like a baby

Our only son, our darling boy, our new little man. For the past 5 nights he has slept 9-10 hours straight. He wakes up frantic and famished and I wake up in a puddle, but that’s OK. I’m doing the happy dance.
In his honor and in hopes of sharing my bliss with other moms of babies, I will repost our tips on helping babies learn to sleep through the night with minor edits and updates.

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 7 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.

Comments

  1. Crystal,
    I’m sorry this is such a sensitive topic for you. Any parent knows that each child is different, and what works for one won’t necessarily work for another.
    It sounds like your son just needed to eat that often. We haven’t had a baby like that yet, but we may someday.
    I hope I don’t sound like I think I have found the magic formula to make any baby sleep all night – I just want to share our experiences in the hopes that other parents will find it helpful.

  2. Please please please stop saying that if you do it this way then your baby will sleep. This idea is what drove me into post partum depression with my first baby and it was HORRIBLE! I did everything you said, EVERYTHING! He went to sleep by himself, but would wake 3-4 times a night. The day I gave him solid food (at 4 months ) he slept 10 hours a night–the first time he had ever slept more than 4-5 hours a night. After getting solid food in his tummy there was no looking back, 10 became a solid 12 hours a night. That’s when my depression lifted as well.

  3. Ok I tried it your way the last two nights. The first night was horrible. But, last night daddy was home and he put her to bed after I nursed her and she only got up once!!! This is the girl who was getting up 3-4 times a night.
    Thank you Kim for the post and Sandra for the extra tips and thanks to all the other comments too!
    Jasmine

  4. jasmine, let her father put your baby to sleep. iF that’s not possible, give her a hug when she wakes up during the night and lay her on her bed. when she starts crying – she will – sit on the floor next to the bed and talk to her gently about her having to go sleep, keep her companie until she calms down. After the first four or five nights of this, she will sleep on her on own. If she’s in the sleep state and you want to lay her down, check to see if her mouth is open (this means the binkie will fall out of her mouth a little) – it’s a sign that her sleep has become deep.

  5. OK so I didn’t do this from the start and I need help now. DD is 5 months old and can’t fall asleep with out me. I feel I’ve ruined her. If I try to lay her down in that sleep state she screams and will keep screaming. I can’t let her go more than 5-8 minutes. She also wakes frequently, looking for me. When she is awake she is the most easy going baby, but she is clingy and needy at night. Any tips you have would be greatly appriciated.
    Jasmine

  6. Mom2Fur,
    I meant that I was ducking to avoid the shoes and other heavy objects that people would undoubtedly throw at me when they learned that I condone thumbsucking.
    Mamak,
    We haven’t needed to break them of the habit. Maybe we let it go longer than most, but it really looks like a security issue to us. A secure and happy child will normally outgrow the need.
    As they get older and realize that it’s a “babyish” habit, they have quit with very little help. They often ask us to remind them when we see they doing it and we’re happy to oblige, but that’s about it.
    Our 6yo still does it just a bit when she’s very tired, and one of the older girls is sometimes seen sleeping with her thumb suspiciously near her mouth, but these really don’t seem like problems.
    We have known stressful families where the habit hangs on much longer, but it seems to me that the habit has become a source of security to the child in a stressful environment.
    We *are* thankful that all of ours have kicked the habit so easily, and hope we don’t have to eat our own words someday.
    :)

  7. Well, first, how wonderful that Baby Dumpling is sleeping at night! Good for you, little Perry! Second, I don’t one iota of evidence in your post that you are callous nuts who don’t love your children. Exactly the opposite! You are close enough to be reassuring, you don’t ignore the baby, you attend to his real needs! I understand what you mean about the different cries. I had to learn when my first was a baby not to jump at the first ‘eh’ I heard. But I would never, ever let a baby ‘cry it out.’ I tried it once and it almost killed me. (Well, not really–but as a mom you know what I mean.) And the funny thing about it all is that someday they turn into teenagers and you can’t wake them with a bugle! (BTW, never heard the word ‘ducking’ in regards the the thumb before.)

  8. Kim,

    One question:

    How do you break your kids of thumb-sucking?

    I have a thumb-sucking phobia…I sucked my thumb (albeit in an chronically disfunctional family, so I probably *needed* it!) for a long, long time. LOOONG, long time.

    Because of that, I’ve always done binkies with my kids, and with one of them who had a strong propensity towards sucking his thumb, I actually trained him away from it. I just know how hard, personally, it was to stop.

    Have you had an easy time with this? What do you DO? I would love with future children to allow them this completely natural function, but I’m genuinely afraid to. Bizarre? I know…maybe so. But I would love to hear your method with this.

    ~Karen~

  9. I practice attachment parenting.

  10. We too did this with all 4 and all four slept throught the night almost exactly on the day they turned 8 weeks old!
    Thanks for posting this great advise we all can use as parents!

  11. you are actually doing everything by the book and it seems to be natural to you, so congrats on your good instints!

    I love your blog and the way you cope with life, makes me wish to be able to have a big familly someday… :)

    BTW, your baby boy is very sweet!… :)))

  12. Queen of Carrots says:

    Hmm . . . that’s what we’ve always done too, and it worked for the first, but the second is still waking up once a night at 11 months. Not sure what his deal is; not only does he need to nurse, he often wants a drink of water afterwards, too.

  13. This is exactly what we did, and it worked like a charm for all 3 kids. All of them were sleeping 10-12 hours every night by 8-10 weeks. It was amazing. I was SO thankful for the great advice I’d gotten before giving birth to our first child. Start this process in the hospital and likely you won’t have to listen to much crying! My favorite part of the no sleep props, is that two of my children from 6 months up, would crawl to their bedroom…to the crib and say, “Nite-nite? Nite-nite?” They wanted to go to bed, they were sleepy!
    We allowed thumb-sucking and special blankies. Thankfully, our first child gave up the thumb-sucking when we absconded with the blanket. They were attached! Our next two kids didn’t take to thumb sucking and we didn’t offer a pacifier.
    I adore my sleep, and am so thankful to have it uninterrupted!
    BTW, I found your blog through Meg Logan’s site. Love it!

  14. Kim -

    We used the same principles and it worked out fine. To this day, all my kids are serious and focused sleepers! Any tired mom knows what a blessing that can be!

  15. The Davenport Dozen says:

    Kim,
    Totally agree with you here. We learned the hard way. First baby did just fine with nighttime sleep on his own by 3 months, so that wasn’t so bad. Second baby, well, we had heard about demand feeding, meaning 24 hours a day feedings anytime the baby fussed. By the time he was 9 months old I was exhausted and he was just used to the habit of waking at night and eating. Just before baby three was born we were introduced to information that helped us understand the sleep/wake/feed cycle and how it effects nighttime sleep. What a blessing! I know for certain that we would not have been open to allowing the Lord to expand our family to the size it is (twelve wonderful children so far!) if we had not had a proven plan to get babies to sleep at night. I need sleep. So does hubby. As we get older, our need for sleep is even greater it seems. I sure can’t get up at night with a newborn as easily as I did when I was in my twenties! LOL!
    (Please note: this sentence does not mean that I don’t get up with babies, just that it is harder . I also am not complaining or find it bad to have to get up, or we would have stopped having children long before now.) And, when baby’s eight and nine (twins) came along, the plan worked just great for them too! They were happily sleeping through the night by 8 weeks.

    My heart really goes out to the sleep deprived moms who tell me they still gets up 3-4 times a night with a 6 – 8 – 10 month old. I don’t know how they do it. I would have fallen apart long before that! For some reason people think we are “lucky” to have babies sleep through the night, when really it is just a few simple guidelines we go by that yield such great results.

    One little addition and that is the over stimulated baby who cries and cannot be consoled, with nursing, bottle, binky, swing…. anything. I have seen this with some of mine and some friends babies. This is usually babies under 6-8 weeks old (but can also happen with older babies who miss a nap) who stay awake too long. Happens easiest in bigger families, I think, because there are so many helpful siblings who want to hold and play with the baby. Once the baby has been awake too long, they just lose it and don’t know how to get to sleep. At this point I would want to pull out my hair, trying and not being able to find a way to console my poor baby and help her get to sleep. Some babies need more sleep or shorter awake times. For my newborns I have found that if they are awake an hour (sometimes less if nursing took a long time) after finishing nursing they are ready to go back to sleep. By encouraging a good get-to-sleep pattern during the day also encourages good night sleep patterns.

    I understand this may not work for all families or every baby. It has worked for our family and had such a positive impact : rested parents, babies who know how to sleep not only during the day, but at night, toddles and older children who also know how to sleep well at night and are therefore well rested and able to start each day on the “right foot”, and a family that eagerly greets each new baby as the blessing he/she is intended to be.

    Sorry for the book! LOL! Just a subject that is near and dear to me!

    ~jerri

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