The first 3 months are hard on parents for a reason, not only is it a big adjustment to your life having a little human to take care of 24/7, but what I found worst of all was the lack of sleep. I desperately needed to know how to get a baby to sleep through the night.
At the 4-month check up, I was sleep deprived and exhausted. He just wouldn’t sleep and I didn’t know what to do. The doctor took one look at me and asked how I was doing. Clearly, the bags under my eyes already told her. She suggested I kick my husband out of bed and co-sleep but I had already tried co-sleeping and I still couldn’t sleep because every time baby moved I would wake.
The next morning I was in literally in tears. He had woken me at least 4 times. I dragged myself to a free seminar hosted by a sleep consultant, and her advice, plus reading A LOT about baby sleep, ended with him sleeping through the night within a few days.
Suffice it to say, I saved myself A LOT of money. Sleep consultants are expensive! That is why I’m sharing what I’ve learned. I’ve been there and know the struggle is real.
This gentle sleep training method is best to start at 4 – 6 months. The longer you wait, the harder it will be and then you might be left with no choice but to get a sleep consultant.
I do recommend co-sleeping for at least the first 3 months, with the baby on a separate sleep surface, next to your bed. The first 3 months is considered to be the 4th trimester and baby may wake so often that it only makes sense to have him next to you so that you don’t have to get out of bed to pop a pacifier back in, pick him up, or feed.
Remember to swaddle and hang in there! The 4th month is around the corner and then you could start doing the steps on how to get a baby to sleep through the night below.
1. Know How Long Your Baby Should be Awake
Always wake baby at 7 am (7:30 am at the latest). 1st nap is always 2 hours after waking (or less depending on the age). For the last nap of the day, wake up baby by 5:30 pm at the latest for a 7 pm bedtime.
Here is a sample schedule for a 6-month-old:
7 am – wake up
9 am – 1st nap
1 pm – 2nd nap (depending on wake time)
5-5:30 pm catnap
6 pm dinner
6:30-7 pm bath
7-8 pm bedtime
Check out the graph below to learn about baby awake times:
|Age||# Naps||Duration of Naps||Time Between Naps||Hours at Night||Total Hours of Sleep per Day|
|Birth – 6 weeks||4 – 8||15 min – 4 hrs||45 min – 1 hr||8 – 14||14 – 18 hrs|
|6 weeks – 3 months||3 – 4||30 min – 2 hrs||1 hr – 1 hr 45 min||8 – 13||11 – 15 hrs|
|3 – 6 months||3||1 – 2 hrs||Just under 2 hours||9 – 12||12 – 14 hrs|
|6 – 9 months||3||1 – 2 hrs||2 – 3 hrs||9 – 12||12 – 14 hrs|
|9 – 12 months||2||1 – 2 hrs||Just under 3 hrs||10 – 12||12 – 14 hrs|
|12 – 18 months||1 – 2||1 – 2 hrs||3 hrs||10 – 12||12 – 14 hrs|
|18 months – 3 yrs||1||1 – 2 hrs||N/A||10 – 12||11 – 14 hrs|
Sources: Solve Your child’s Sleep Problems, R Ferber M.D.; Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, M. Weissbluth M.D.
Use the awake time as a guide for naps. Even if your baby doesn’t look sleepy, he probably is, so take him to bed as close to those times as possible.
An alternative schedule is the 2-3-4 sleep rule which can be done after 6 months when your baby no longer needs the 3rd nap. This rule works well for me sometimes when I need the extra awake time. This rule keeps the 2 hours max wake time in the morning, then 3 hour wake time after 1st nap, and 4 hour wake time after 2nd nap, then 7-8 pm bedtime.
2. Make the Bedroom an Optimal Place for Sleep
- Room temperature should be 19-21C. This is very important as babies cannot regulate their temperatures and you do not want your baby to overheat.
- Swaddle! These were my favourite for swaddling.
- Once baby is rolling onto stomach, switch to a sleep sack like this one or my favourite one which is a bit more expensive but can fit from 2 months to 2 years! It is also car seat friendly.
- Make the room as dark as possible with blackout curtains.
- Use a sound machine with white noise (preferably one that plugs in like this one).
- I use a pacifier as it helps my baby sleep and studies have shown it to help prevent SIDS. He loves the MAM pacifiers.
- A Lovey could be used once baby is old enough to roll to and from back. Again, it is best to do this after one year. Alternatively, after 4 months, you can use a soother that has a stuffed animal attached like a Wubbanubb, as there is little risk for suffocation. My son loves his and it is especially useful if he loses his pacifier as this one is much easier to find in the dark.
- Nothing else in the bed until at least 6 months (current SIDS recommendation is 1 year).
3. Have a Night Sleep Routine
My routine is as follows:
- Bath at 6:30 pm (this can vary to 7 pm at the latest)
- Dry off and moisturize (bubble bath and/or moisturizer should be scented with lavender to help sleep like this one)
- Put on diaper, temperature-appropriate onesie and sleep sack (make sure baby is not too warm!)
- Breast or bottle-feed
- Read a bedtime book like this one.
- Turn off light
- Sing a lullaby while holding baby upright, baby’s face in your neck or your hand on their forehead if eyes are not starting to close (Sleep Whisperer tip)
- Put in crib drowsy but awake with a pacifier if you choose. If the pacifier falls out during the night and baby is not crying, it is best not to put it back in.
4. Put Baby to Sleep by 7 – 8 pm and Dream Feed at 10-11 pm
After the bottle, try not to take more than 10 minutes to do the rest of the steps. Your baby is tired and wants to sleep so you should let them.
After starting this, your baby may cry at the beginning. DO NOT RUSH BACK IN. Let baby cry for 5 minutes, then go in. Put the pacifier back in his mouth, and if he won’t settle, try shushing for a few minutes. You can also try gently stroking his forehead down to his eyes in a downward motion or stroking his back while he is on his side.
If he continues to cry then you can pick him up if you want to for a few minutes then put him back down and walk out of the room. If he cries, again wait for 5-10 minutes then go back in and try again. Try to gradually stop picking up unless he won’t stop crying as this will actually keep him crying longer the next night. Crying will only happen for a few nights. After that, for most nights, he will not cry at all.
Believe me, I know it is hard to hear your baby cry, but it is only for a few minutes at a time. If you stick to it, then soon he won’t be crying at all. Think of it as you are helping your baby learn to sleep which is good for their health and well-being. Short-term pain for long-term gain. Remember not to let him cry for more than 5-10 minutes at a time.
Once your baby gets used to the routine, he will no longer cry because he’s tired and knows it’s time for sleep. It only took a few days for me.
Dream Feed between 10 – 11 pm
Baby can get a quick diaper change and a bottle with a small light on, just enough to see what you’re doing. No talking, singing, or smiling at this time and try to avoid eye contact as all these things are stimulating and it would be hard to get him back to sleep. Rocking is okay while feeding but then stop and sit still for a few moments before putting him back down as gently as possible. Dream Feed can be phased out after 6-8 months once baby is eating enough food during the day.
If you need some extra help to calm your baby, try the techniques for the Sleep Whisperer, which can be found here: http://www.mybabysleepguide.com/2009/07/four-s-wind-down-ritual.html