To Sleep Like A Baby: To experience a very deep and restful sleep; to sleep soundly.
If only it were that easy. For the baby or for you.
All of these motherly things such as breastfeeding or settling a baby, I thought they would just come naturally. Little did I know it takes a lot of hard work and persistence to make
People will helpfully give you the advice: “Sleep when the baby sleeps”. I’m sorry, it doesn’t quite work like that. My experience might be different to most other people’s but my reality was a baby who rarely slept for longer than 20 mins at a time during the day and then stretches of 3-4 hours overnight up to 4 months old. It’s amazing how much sleep deprivation you can actually cope with as a new parent, but after weeks and weeks of it, it takes its toll. If you are experiencing anything like this, you have my deepest sympathy. Please be kind to yourself!
We reached crisis point with the catnaps, but mostly the upsets which turned out to be a feeding issue (see (Breast/Bottle) Feeding) and in came a Karitane Nurse who diagnosed the problem, taught us self settling and gave us a routine and was gone in 90 minutes. And from then our lives changed for the better. Let me save you $270 and further heartache, distress, worry and share with you what we learned and what is working for us. At 5 1/2 months, Jessica is sleeping from 7pm – 7am every night. Unless I’ve fed her a new food which disagrees with her. The thing I like about self settling and having a routine is that I know when she’s tired and when the upsets are from something else.
Jessica was just shy of 4 months when we started and it had immediate effect. It was important to me to never leave her to cry and cry so this method is a good option. And if I had just read this in a book, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to start but I saw it in action straight away.
For us, self settling doesn’t work without a routine and vice versa. The routine means baby and mummy know what’s coming next, we have a consistent routine and she will therefore self settle. It often means she’ll fall back asleep between sleep cycles – this isn’t always the case though but that’s ok.
I keep a running log for my own piece of mind and as a bit of a checklist.
A – for awake or woken
Bottle feed time
mLs (water and formula total waterline) – these routines are supposed to work regardless of formula or breastfed and worked when Jessica was mix fed
Notes – solid meals, whether upset or interruption to routine with appointment or travel
At 5 1/2 months, Jessica’s awake time is around 2 hours, so I look for sleepy signs then. Jess’s sleepy signs include:
- scratching the back of her head
- rubbing her eyes
- irritability – more than usual if she’s having a crabby day/week
- increased laziness (she cbf holding things with two hands anymore and cries when the toy falls from her grasp)
- then if I pick her up, nuzzling on my shoulder
Unless it’s nighttime bedtime, I don’t attempt to put her down without the nuzzle, but you will become familiar with your own baby’s signs. It takes me no longer than two minutes to put Jessica down.
- When I notice she’s getting tired, we start quiet time where I stop talking to her. Sometimes I can’t help it though and I whisper.
- We go into her room (curtains closed) and I pull her sleeping bag on as I whisper-sing “You Are My Sunshine” x 2 (good grief it takes some practice to pull the sleeping bag on while holding her upright and singing at an even, breathless, soothing pace with a little rocking and patting!!)
- Literally a few ssh shh sshshs in her ear
- Put her down – she’s still awake at this time but drowsy and may rub her eyes
- Put my hand on her chest for a few more ssh shhs
- Ssh sshh as I leave the room
Often, that works.
However there is a Plan B, C and then just plain old putting her in the car for a drive!!
She may grizzle or chat away to herself. That’s cool. I leave her. Same thing if she wakes up and starts grizzling or chirping after 20, 40 mins.
If she starts crying, I first leave for one minute, then if still crying go in and pick her up for a cuddle and a ssh ssh ssh. Sometimes a burp comes and you’ll know it was that!
Then put her back down with steps 4-6, however might spend slightly more time on each step for extra reassurance.
Next I leave her for 2 minutes (this seems so long if she’s upset). If she keeps crying, I know something else is up as we usually don’t get to this stage. This won’t work if she’s trying for a poo, has a sore tummy, she’s been put down too early, etc. After 2 mins, I’m supposed to go in and sooth her without picking her up. I will usually try playing her music mobile at this point and she can sometimes fall asleep to it. If she doesn’t go to sleep, it will be because of straining, or a new food we’ve tried that hasn’t gone down well.
I never leave her to cry for longer than 2 mins and obviously if she’s super-distressed I don’t leave her for that long.
Let me share with you what our routine looks like. I initially followed it to the letter (which can be super stressful if it doesn’t match up), but now just use it as a guideline.
Our original routine, at just shy of 4 months, was given to us by the magic fairy lady. I have picked up Save Our Sleep by Tizzie Hall and have modified based on her routine for introduction of solids – 6.5 months. There are lots of different routines in this book for different ages – I highly recommend!! It’s a really easy read too with troubleshooting.
When Jessica wakes up changes depending on what else is happening, but the only times I stick to as a rule are the feeding times. If she woke at 6.30am and I started feeding her then, then she would continue to wake at 6.30 or earlier (that’s what I think anyway). Also, if the feed times moved around too much, we wouldn’t be able to fit all her meals in throughout the day and I think that helps her to sleep through for 12 hours overnight.
Sometimes I can hear Jess chirping away from 6.30am, but she can happily do this until I go in to see the best smile of the day at 7am.
Because Jessica’s awake time is approximately 2 hours, I just restart the clock once she wakes. So if she wakes at 9.40am after her first nap, then next sleep time I’ll round up to about midday and feed her her solids slightly earlier (although it is quite a mish to spoon feed a sleepy baby). Just looking for sleepy signs at around 2 hours.
As you can see, during the day is really variable. Shortest first nap = no nap and longest at the bottom there just under two hours. And as I write this, her day has looked like this so far:
7.30am Wake and feed
11.10 Awake and feed
3.25 Awake and feed
So you can see the cycle of 2 hour awake time and 4-hourly feeds.
If you have a dreamfeed – you might try moving it back half an hour a night until you no longer need it (from Save Our Sleep) or just try cutting it out like we did (if baby is old enough – if they need the extra feed, they’ll still wake for it).
We had a 2am dream feed which saved us from being woken at a more awkward time, like the purgatory that is 4am – 7am. Once she’d been on decent, consistent solid meals for around 3 weeks (and I was sick of not having more than 4 hours of uninterrupted sleep after 5 months), we just dropped it.
The first night she woke at 4.20am. So I fed her and put her back to bed.
The next day was 6.20am so I held her out until her 7am feed and put her to bed at around 8.20am.
The next day she woke at 7am – success!!
How do we pass the time to the next feed/nap time?
- Go for a walk
- Go window shopping (ok, I buy things, don’t tell Andrew – haha he’ll never read this)
- Lie down on the playmat with her and read some books
- Sing songs (there are Spotify playlists, I’ve created my own or you can YouTube it – I just don’t show her the screen) I could do a whole post on songs!
- Leave her for independent play on her playmat
- Have her in the pram in the kitchen and entertain her by doing the dishes
- Go outside and lie down in the shade under the washing line
- Go for a tour of the house: “Look Jessica, it’s the bathroom mirror!! Have you seen this today? Wow” and “Oh look, a pile of unfolded washing. How exciting!“
For us, it doesn’t matter what happens during the day (how much or little sleep, etc.) the bedtime routine is always the same and she always sleeps from 7pm – 7am. If she doesn’t, we know there’s something wrong. We can rule out tiredness and get to the bottom of it.
I know every baby is different, but hopefully there’s a couple of bits and pieces in here that may be helpful for you to try for your little one.