How I Got My Baby to Sleep Through the Night
March 19, 2018

One year ago I had a three-day-old baby—blissful and elated, but incredibly exhausted. I mourned my full nights of sleep not knowing when I'd have one again, but I was determined to make that sooner rather than later. With a lot of research, advice seeking and some natural mama instinct, our baby was sleeping through the night by two months. Today, I'm sharing some tips that helped us reach that point, and some things that still help us to this day with a one year old! Plus, a sneak peek into our little guy's nursery, captured by Ruth Eileen.
First, I think it's important to acknowledge that every baby is different and will hit milestones in their own time. What worked for us might be the complete opposite for you. Many factors come into play... parenting styles, feeding methods, schedules, colds, teething, etc. We personally didn't follow one method or one single piece of advice but rather, a combination of things that led to sleep success for our baby, and ultimately us!


Our Timeline

The first year with our baby went a little something like this:

1-2 Weeks: Slept 2-3 hours at a time, feeding in between

3-4 Weeks: Slept 3-4 hours at a time, feeding in between

1 Month: 4-5 hour stretch, followed by two 2-3 hour stretches, feeding in between

1.5 Months: 5-6 hour stretch, followed by two 2-3 hour stretches, feeding in between

2 Months: 8 hour stretch, followed by a 3 hour stretch after early morning feed

3-6 Months: 8+ hours, followed by 2-3 hour stretch after early morning feed

6-12 Months: 9-10 hours, followed by a 2 hour stretch after early morning feed

For us, we considered STTN ("sleeping through the night") 8 hours, because that's what we both need to function—but you might consider STTN 6 hours, or maybe you consider a full night 10-12 hours. The ultimate goal we're all after: more sleep. So when those longer stretches start to happen it really doesn't matter what we call it, as long as we're catching those much needed zzz's. Read below for some things that worked for us...

Bedtime Routine

We started a bedtime routine with our baby when he was just a few weeks old and I'm convinced it is a huge factor in what a good sleeper he is. We do the four B's: bath, book, boob, bed and it has worked wonders! The routine hasn't really changed all that much in his first year, aside from moving his bedtime earlier when he was a newborn. When he was about 1 week old we were putting him 'down for the night' around 9:30pm. Over the course of 8 weeks, we moved bedtime from 9:30pm forward to about 7:30pm, moving it 15 minutes earlier each week. For us, 7:30pm was (and still is) his golden hour for bedtime. He does best with this time, but it may be a completely different time for your baby! We were just finding that his sleep was more disrupted when his bedtime was later. It wasn't until we pushed it forward that he started sleeping longer stretches.

We usually start bath around 6:45, which takes about 10-15 minutes. We do bathe him almost every single night, but typically only wash his hair every other night if it's not too dirty. When he was a newborn, we had shorter bath times and would only use soap on his skin every other night as well, so to not dry it out.

After bath, we put him in his nighttime diaper, lather him up in his baby balm, put on jam jams and brush his teeth (we used to brush his gums with a smaller finger brush before he had teeth). After that, we read a couple of books (sometimes we skip if he is super tired) and that usually helps to calm him down if he is full of energy. Lastly, we zip him up in his sleeping blanket, turn the lights off and I breastfeed him. He used to fall asleep while breastfeeding when he was younger, but now, I think it is mostly a comfort thing for him. He nurses for about 5-10 minutes and then when he's drowsy, I lay him down in his crib, kiss him and say "night, night" and close his door. All said and done, he's usually asleep by 7:30.

Even though we've always stuck to this routine, we've never let it hold us back. If we are out to dinner on the weekend, we don't rush home to start bath at 6:45. Sometimes, we'll skip bath if he doesn't need one and just wash him up with a face cloth instead. Having a routine is so helpful, but we've never stressed if things don't go according to plan.

'Le Pause'

When I was pregnant I only read a couple of baby books—my favorite being Bringing Up Bébé. The single most important thing I learned from it was 'Le Pause'. Author, Pamela Druckerman (who is on the hunt to find out how French parents get their babies to sleep through the night at two months old) interviews Tribeca Pediatrics French founder, Michel Cohen. His simple solution for her was 'Le Pause'. The idea is that when a baby wakes or starts fussing, French parents give them a couple of minutes to see if they are able to self-soothe and settle, rather than immediately rushing to the baby. After a few minutes if the baby is still fussing, they pick them up. Druckerman writes:

One reason for pausing is that young babies make a lot of movements while they’re sleeping. This is normal and fine. If parents rush in and pick the baby up every time he makes a peep, they’ll sometimes wake him up. Another reason for pausing is that babies wake up between their sleep cycles, which last about two hours. It’s normal for them to cry a bit when they’re first learning to connect those cycles. If a parent automatically interprets this cry as a demand for food or a sign of distress and rushes in to soothe the baby, the baby will have a hard time learning to connect the cycles on his own. That is, he’ll need an adult to come in and soothe him back to sleep at the end of each cycle.

The concept isn't genius, it's actually quite simple. But it is absolutely challenging when you are a new parent, as your instinct is to immediately tend to the. Just to clarify—'Le Pause' isn't the cry it out method. It's simply giving your baby a couple of minutes to try and self-soothe. I remember when our baby was around a month old and woke in the middle of the night—I instantly popped out of bed but had to pee SO bad, so before feeding him I ran to the bathroom. By the time I was done, he had stopped fussing and was already back asleep. From there on out, I implemented 'Le Pause' more and more and he started connecting those sleep cycles for longer and longer stretches of sleep.

Nap Time

We struggled BIG time with nap time. Although, the more mamas I talk to, the more I realize that what we went through is actually very common. Around 6-8 weeks (the time our little guy started sleeping longer at night), he began doing shorter naps, no longer than 40 minutes at a time. And, he had a really hard time going down—even if I was breastfeeding him to sleep. After some research, I found out that babies actually do 30-40 minute sleep cycles with stronger sleep drives at night, allowing them to connect those sleep cycles at night. But for nap time? I joked that our baby had a serious case of FOMO. Ha! There were plenty of naps where I let him fall asleep nursing and let him lay on me for 2 hours (not fun when you have to pee) and plenty of 'wrap' naps as well in our Solly baby wrap.

He was still sleeping in a bassinet in our room at night, but for naps I kept him in his DockATot or Rock n' Play downstairs with me. However, he was becoming more and more aware and would wake with unexpected noises. It was around this time that I decided to start trying naps in his crib. It only made sense to give him a familiar napping spot that was darker, cozy and quiet. Within a week or two, ALL naps were in the crib and he began doing even longer stretches at night!

Transition to the Crib

About a week or two after we started napping him in his crib, we decided to transition him from the bassinet to the crib for nighttime sleep as well. He was about 8 weeks old. I honestly didn't expect to do the transition so early, but it was incredible for our whole family. He was still waking to feed a couple of times in the night, so I had to get up and go in his nursery to feed him, but overall, I was able to sleep more soundly and so was he.

Window Blinds

Around the same time we transitioned him to the crib, we added window blinds to his nursery. Those sheer white panels sure are pretty, but they do absolutely nothing for lighting! Having a slightly darker room definitely helped for both naps and nighttime/early morning sleep.

Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit

This suit really is magic. In my search for a swaddle that our babe couldn't bust out of (something he started doing around a month), I found recommendations for this sleepsuit in many mama forums online. It's basically a perfect combo of a swaddle and a sleep sack and helps to muffle babies natural Moro reflex (an infantile reflex normally present in all infants/newborns up to 3 or 4 months of age as a response to a sudden loss of support, when the infant feels as if it is falling). The first night we put him in this thing, he went from sleeping 6 hours in a row to 8! And that continued on every single night after. Highly recommend. We used it until about 5-6 months when he started sleeping on his belly.

I hope these tips help if you are looking for sleep solutions! What are some things that currently help you or if you've already gone through it, what helped you and your baby during that time? Let us know in the comments!