What are your expectations of yourself and baby when you’re pregnant, or every month after? Whatever they are, toss them out the window and expect less, and stop being so hard on yourself. The less pressure you put on yourself and your baby, the better you’ll cope with lack of sleep and life in general. This guide may not work for everyone, but here is my experience with babies and sleep:
Things we use to help us sleep better: Noise Machines, a routine, bath-time, Sleep Sacks or swaddles, packnplay mattress, essential oils, swing and rocknplay. And when in doubt, going to bed early is always the answer. Always.
Newborns sleep a lot or very little. They sleep between feeds, sleep while feeding, or sleep sporadically. Who knows. Whooo knows. Your newborn is usually needing to feed every 2-4 hours, depending on how old they are. They may even be cluster feeding off and on all day. So don’t worry about routines until the end of the first month. Just do whatever works. For us, the first week was mom, me, and hubs taking turns rocking Teddy at night in shifts. Then when my milk came in and he slept a little longer, he started sleeping in the packnplay beside the bed. He now wakes up every 3-4 hours to nurse. Or he’ll wake up grunting and working on a diaper.
Co-sleeping in the same room, with baby on their own sleep surface, cuts the risk of SIDS. It also means you get more sleep. You don’t have to travel as far to nurse or change diapers in the middle of the night, and that’s a big deal. It’s a game changer to have baby in the same room as you.
Right before Teddy hit the 2 month mark, a week or two before, I started a sleep routine. You’ll know when they need it. It might become harder to get them to sleep. You’ll deal with a fussy baby, who may cry non-stop during witching hours. They might make you jump through hoops—walk, bounce, rock, put down, etc. Pick one. Just one. And do it every time before bedtime and naps. Stop doing them all. You’re making your baby overstimulated and making it harder for them to fall asleep. They may fuss a minute or two, but it will be easier for them to fall asleep when you stick to one routine.
Part of that routine can include singing, bath or wipe down, book, lotion, pjs or blanket or swaddle, a phrase you say over and over each time. Whatever you do, do it every time in order.
When they are this little, their tummy being upset might be a frustration. Find patience here. It’s hard. Everyone’s tired, and tummy-aches make things frustrating. When baby cries and makes the “Eh-Eh” sound, a cry with an E sound at the start, it usually means there’s a bubble in that tummy or they are working on a diaper. Grunting can also be another sign of this or reflux. Holding babies knees or feet to chest helps pass gas. Burping baby every time after at least the first feed is key. And then sometimes, you’ve tried it all and end up rocking them back to sleep. It’s okay.
From 0-3 months, baby is most likely going to need a nap anywhere from 30mins to 1 hour (ish) of being awake. If you miss the sweet spot of them laying quietly, staring off to space, etc. then you’re probably going to end up with an overtired little. Apparently, when they start yawning, they are already overtired. But, don’t quote me there. Who knows. *shrug* This is why you need to lower your expectations. Don’t expect anything magical to happen. There will be some unicorn babies who sleep hours at a time, sleep all night by 2 months, and go to sleep alone… Magic, I say. It’s not common. At all. So don’t feel like you’re failing and don’t feel like there’s something wrong with your baby. A baby or toddler waking often is totally normal as long as they are getting the recommended hours of sleep that day.
Start waking baby up at the same time every day and putting them to bed at the same time every night.
3-6months is hard because you hit a 4 month sleep regression. If baby’s light sleep cycle wasn’t ruining your life before now, get ready for baby to wake up easily during sleep transitions. Little Bear hit his early and started waking up at 3am… yeah. Loads of fun. Around five months they are learning to sit up. They probably learned to roll somewhere 3-4months, and by 6months you’re introducing solids. So, expecting baby to sleep well when their little brains and bodies are trying to process all this new information is ridiculous. They might even be practicing some of their tricks in their crib, which could wake them up. Expect this to be part of the struggle. This is when we started using the Zippy Sleep Sack. Keep up your nap and bedtime routine the best you can, even when you’re not able to be home. Protecting sleep time is important.
6-9 months your baby is probably learning to crawl and is most likely teething, which is the worst of the worst. From 9months-2 years old, your little can continue to teeth. This causes sleepless nights, more frequent nursing, and major tantrums and fussiness. Your little’s tummy is still adjusting to new foods they’re trying too. And, 9 months is another regression! Yay for learning and processing their newly developed skills. 9months-1year is more of the same.
By 1 year, they are probably walking. Another development. Still teething. Starting to be independent and occasionally having some big emotions like a toddler! They’re on the way to being a 2 year old. This year goes fast. This might be the time they start sleeping better, longer stretches, or even without you.
Little Bear started sleeping through the night at 2 years old. He still wakes up sometimes and needs help in the middle of the night from daddy. But he’s sleeping in his own room from 6:30/7pm-5:30/6am. He still sleeps with his lovey bear, his favorite blankets, with a noise machine, with his oils. We still go through the same routine every day and night. He eats lunch early and goes down to naps alone at 11:30am or 12pm. No later than 1pm. On a good day, he sleeps three hours. And there is always 4 hours of awake playtime between the time he wakes up from a nap and goes to bed. When in doubt, we do a bath. It always helps. And we go to bed early. As early as 5:30 if we need to, so he’s asleep by 6-6:30. Sometimes it takes an hour of calm down time before he falls asleep. But most nights we aim for 7pm. It seems to be the sweet spot for toddlers.
Teddy Bear is 2 months now. We’re struggling with being overtired. He, unlike Little Bear, will go down to sleep awake and alone at night for bedtime, but not for naps. Even if he does, he wakes up soon after. I’ll continue trying to put him down in the packnplay for naps because it’s best for them to nap where they sleep at night. Makes things easier as they get bigger, knowing where they are and feeling comfortable. But he’s still too little to connect his sleep cycles, and wakes up during his light cycles. On bad days, I stick him in the swing or rocknplay because mommy needs a break. I find he sleeps better at night if he has good naps.
My advice, do what you need to do for nap time. Nap time is the hardest, so anything you try or add to your routine to adjust your baby to, do it at bedtime first. The better naps, the better bedtime. The better bedtime, the better naps. It’s one giant, annoying cycle. And once you figure out their pattern and something that works, it all changes in a months time. So, don’t beat yourself up over it. Enjoy the rocking and the cuddles while you can. Know that it all will pass, and lower your expectations from the start.
It is not recommended to sleep train until at least 1 years old. I don’t recommend it at all. There are gentle techniques you can start with, but if you don’t have a routine in place, nothing will work. If you’d like more my advice, contact me and we’ll chat!
Just remember, no two babies are the same. My first little slept way worse than my second does now. Regardless, I keep to our routine. I say no to things the first few months when I know I need to protect our bedtimes. And I lower my expectations, assuming Teddy will sleep like Little Bear did—awful, so when he does sleep well it’s a nice surprise.