Ladies, I am by no means a baby sleep expert, but I can share a few tips that have helped us to get our little guy sleeping through the night consistently by 6 months of age. He sleeps from roughly 7 PM to 6:30/7 AM, and he is down to just one nap as a one-year-old from about 12-3 PM daily. These are the things that we have done to get this little guy sleeping through the night:
Make sure that the room is conducive to sleep -We have black-out curtains in our son’s room so it seems like nighttime in there no matter what time of day that we put him down (we got ours here). Having these has been especially helpful with daylight savings time because he is going to bed when it is still fairly light outside. Another aspect of making his room “sleep friendly” was getting a white noise machine to avoid us waking him with every sound we made (especially getting ready in the morning) and a crib music/light machine to entertain him when he is falling asleep so he is not just sitting in a pitch black room. We got our white noise machine here and our adorable crib lights/sounds machine here (our little guy can turn it on himself which he really likes).
Make sure that baby is as comfortable as possible – At first, when our son was too young to have his blanket and stuffed talking bear in his crib, we just made sure that he had soft/cozy jammies on that would keep him warm throughout the night since we keep our house pretty cool. Now that he is over the 1-year mark we allow him to have his security blanket and talking bear in the crib with him. Our little guy, like most babies, sleeps much better when he is nice and warm so he sleeps in footed pajamas year round (again we keep the house pretty cool).
Have a solid before bed routine – Babies love routines! For us, our son has a dinner of solids around 5:15 PM, then we have a bath and quiet playtime, then we have time for books, and then he goes down in his crib around 6:30 with his sippy cup of milk (around 8 oz). He is always asleep by 7 PM after he drinks his milk and plays in his crib for a little while. Now I know that putting baby down with a bottle/sippy cup is not best practice, but he does not fall asleep with the sippy cup or milk in his mouth (which is the main concern when talking about baby bottle tooth decay). We are currently working on moving this milk drinking to an earlier time to avoid the bedtime sippy altogether though. We follow this routine every single night with a few exceptions for when we have evening plans or other engagements that require us to change the plan. I do notice though that when he does not have his usual evening routine he does not sleep as well and is generally more crabby the following day.
Make sure that baby is full before falling asleep – Since our little guy is cleared to eat everything under the sun, he gets an afternoon snack around 4 PM, followed by dinner at 5:15, and then his roughly 8 oz of milk before bed. Our child eats a lot of food at snacks and meals, so we just let him eat until he gives us the sign for all done whenever he is eating. If baby is actually full when they go to sleep they will usually sleep longer, especially after they start solids. This part can take many forms including a snack before bed or putting dinner closer to their bedtime. For babies that are not yet on solids, this may take the form of waking them a couple of hours after they go to bed to give them extra breast milk or formula to get them through the night (dream feeding).
Sleep training of some kind – I do realize that this one is a touchy subject that many moms don’t want to touch with a 10 foot pole, but in all reality you may have to entertain the idea of sleep training at some point unless you are comfortable waking at night to feed your baby for an extended period of time (which if you are, that’s awesome!). There are many books on the subject, but this was our experience. With the implementation of the above strategies, we had to do very little “sleep training” with our little one. When he was still exclusively breast fed, we would put him down in bed to fall asleep by 7 and then I would give him a dream feed around 10:30 to hold him over until morning. We had about 2 nights of him waking every 2-3 hours after that feed because he wanted the comfort of being breast fed. When this happened, we went in and turned on his crib music/lights and gave him back his pacifier. He did a very short amount of crying for about 2-3 minutes at each waking before self-soothing, watching his lights, and going back to sleep. After about 2 nights of this he was not waking in the middle of the night, and on the occasion that he did he was able to put himself back to sleep. We never had to go back in his room and comfort him because he quickly got entertained by the crib music/lights and quieted down.
If you are past the point of exclusive breast feeding and your baby has started solids, the same principles can still be implemented. If you know that baby is full and is just looking for the comfort of the breast/bottle, then they can fuss in their crib for a short time and learn to self-soothe back to sleep. Having the crib lights/music I think was really helpful in making this process less stressful for both me and our son because he had something to soothe him and did not just simply have to cry it out back to sleep (the whole process of cry it out really makes me uncomfortable as a parent so I wanted to minimize the stress as much as possible). Also, if your baby is old enough to have soft toys in their crib it may also be helpful to let them have a stuffed animal or two in their crib to “play” with briefly when trying to fall back to sleep. You may still have to go in and comfort them during the sleep training process, but try to stay strong and not give into the urge to just give them the breast/bottle. You will end up just undoing all of your hard work.
These were some of the strategies that worked for us in getting our little guy to sleep through the night while minimizing the stressful impact on all of us. Our son now very easily goes down to sleep on his own in about 15 minutes and sleeps for 12 hours solid at night. I am confident that other moms can use these strategies to get their babies sleeping through the night without the stress that other sleep training strategies can cause, mostly for mommas!
I’m Phoenix. I am a full-time nurse, wife, and mother to a beautiful one-year-old little boy. We are expecting baby number two very soon, and we are excited for the challenge that two under two will bring. I am passionate about helping moms create a more frugal lifestyle while still enjoying life and motherhood to the fullest. Please check out more stories at www.crazythingcalledmom.com