I’ve bragged in the past about how early my babies sleep through the night. Did anyone notice that I’ve been strangely silent on that topic for the last few months? Go ahead. Yuck it up, people. Laugh me to scorn. After a brief but glorious stint of 7 hour nights, Parker is back to waking up every 4 hours or less. At 4 months, my boy is still waking up at least once/night, usually twice – especially if you, like me, consider 6 AM to be part of the night. If I’m not up yet, it’s night. That’s how the definition reads in my dictionary.
I think I’ve become soft in my old age. I used to wait until my babies got good and angry before I got them up, and all but one slept through the night by 2 months. Now, I value sleep so much that I’m not willing to lie there listening to a cranky baby complain. I’d rather get him up and feed him so we can both get some sleep.
Like a good adult, I finally woke up to the fact that a short-term sacrifice of sleep might be a win for the longterm cause. If I buckle down and exert some tough love, we’ll all sleep better and be better people. We’ll be doing our bit to further world peace.
It helps that I have suddenly realized that he’s just toying with me. When he wakes up at 2:00, he doesn’t cry. Not really. He fusses. He whines. He tosses and turns, and complains that he can’t get back to sleep. He asks for a drink of milk. Then he wakes again at 4 AM and does the same thing. The boy is bored, not hungry. Boredom just doesn’t tug at the heartstrings like a wailing hungry little babe. Proof: when I get him up to feed him, he falls asleep before he finishes.
And so I resolved to take my own advice.
TIPS TO GET BABY SLEEPING ALL NIGHT
- Wait to get him up until he really and truly cries. Once he works into a genuine cry, give him a minute or two to make sure he means it.
- Cut feedings short, ending them as soon as the baby begins to slow down.
- No socializing: keep lights out, and don’t talk or play. Don’t change diapers unless absolutely necessary.
- Put baby back to bed asap. DO NOT doze off and let baby sleep at the breast.
Let me clarify: There is nothing wrong with doing any or all of the above if you don’t care whether your baby sleeps straight through the night. If you’re convinced that your baby is waking because he’s truly hungry, by all means feed him. If your baby is scared, comfort him. If you enjoy his company at 2 AM and expect to continue enjoying it, then don’t let me change your mind.
But if you long for a full night’s sleep while your baby is waking up because he thinks sleeping at night is just boring and he has better things to do, you might want to try my tips. This is the method that has helped all of my babies to sleep through the night at very early ages.
Here’s what happened the first 10 nights after I decided that I really did want to sleep through the night and actually took my own advice.
Unless otherwise specified, Parker usually goes to bed around 11 PM. Then…
On the first night after my resolution, he fussed for nearly 2 hours from 2 AM until 4 AM before he finally got angry and started wailing. At that point, I brought him to my bed for a quick feeding. He was asleep and back in his own bed in less than 15 minutes, without even taking time for a full feeding. He slept until nearly 7 AM that morning.
The second night, he didn’t wake up until 4 AM. He fussed for about 40 minutes, then fell back asleep without ever crying! He woke at 6:30, moderately hungry but not famished as I would have expected.
This time, he woke around 3 AM. He talked to himself and quietly complained for about 40 minutes before dozing off. He didn’t make a peep until 8:30. He woke up good and hungry this time.
Parker went to bed around 10, and woke up at 1:50 AM. That could be my fault, since Perry and I were sneaking into bed just about that time. I let Parker fuss, expecting that he would doze off as he had for the past few nights. Not so. He fussed for over 30 minutes, and then finally broke into a real cry, so I got him up and nursed him. After that he slept soundly until 8:30 AM.
The fact that I had to give him that nighttime feeding was a little disappointing since he’s been doing so well during this transition, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I didn’t expect him to progress so quickly anyway – I’m thankful that we’ve seen such immediate changes already, and if really is hungry now and then during the night then of course I’ll feed the poor guy!
Pickle – did I tell you his nickname? That’s how Bethany pronounced Parker at first, and it stuck – Pickle went to bed early this night, about 9:30. I didn’t expect him to make it through the night, and he didn’t. He did sleep until 4, a stretch of 6 1/2 hours. He woke and fussed as usual, finally breaking into a cry after about 20 minutes. He dozed off 15 minutes into a feeding, and slept until 8:30 AM.
Fell asleep around 10, up at 5 to eat. We’re still not where I’d like to be, but a 7 hour stretch is nothing to complain about. I’m proud of my little guy.
The little guy slept from 11 to 5:45, woke for a quick half-hearted feeding, and went back to bed for a gloriously long time. This is progress!
We seem to have a new norm. Once again, he went to bed between 10 and 11, and woke for a brief feeding around 5:30 or 6. This is a nice stretch, but I’m hoping it lengthens gradually – or better yet, I’m hoping it lengthens quickly. Just another hour would make it a full night’s sleep! We’re so close!
Ten nights into this effort, Parker finally slept an 8 hour stretch! Unfortunately, he went to bed earlier than usual so the end of his 8 hours came much earlier than the end of mine, but I’m not complaining! I wonder if he’ll give an encore performance?
You might be wondering if sleeping through the night will affect your baby’s daytime routine. Every baby is different, but in our case improved sleep patterns at night seem to help with daytime sleep as well. My babies seem to take longer naps, sleep more deeply, and wake in a better mood if they’re sleeping well at night.
This link between daytime and nighttime sleep patterns carries over to something we’ve noticed about our 4yo boy: He still needs naps. If he misses his nap, he seems fine until after bedtime. Then he’s far more prone to wake up crying or angry during the night (often multiple times) or to wet the bed – something he never does if he’s had a nap.
This isn’t just about sleep for a tired mama. A good night’s sleep makes life easier for the little ones too.