One of my main concerns before having my first baby was sleep. It might seem selfish but I was thinking about myself! When I am not rested, I get very grumpy and I just don’t feel right. I’m one of those people that can easily sleep for 12 hours every day… and take a nap too. I “sleep like a baby” – well, at least like MY babies!
People always tell me “You’re so lucky! Your babies are so good.” I’ll take the compliment, but trust me, it didn’t come easy. My hubby and I did our research and committed to a particular method of “sleep training” and “soothing”.
Our babies (Jackson is 3 now and Waipuna is 4 months old) both slept through the night very early.
Jackson slept the number of hours at night of his age – so, when he was 4 weeks, he did 4 hour stretches, 5 weeks – 5 hours, until 10 weeks when he slept 10 hours through the night. He has never slept longer than 10 hours.
Waipuna on the other hand, nearly from the beginning was sleeping in 3 to 4 hour blocks (at night). She also did 5 hours at 5 weeks and 6 hours at 6 weeks but at 7 weeks she jumped ahead to 8 hours and by 8 weeks she was sleeping 8 to 10 hours at night. She is a 4-month-old now and sleeps 11 hours a night. She probably could sleep longer but putting her down at 8 p.m. is already a struggle for me so getting her down earlier is more “my bad” than hers. Here’s a little vlog…
Okay, so what do we do? My hubby and I read a bunch of books and were SO CONFUSED. So, I decided to look at my friends and pick the family I thought had the best behaved kids and best sleepers… this happened to be Aaron and Corinne Gold! They led me to the book “Babywise.”
Babywise coupled with the “Happiest Baby on the Block” is the method we use. Let’s call it “Happiest Wise Baby on the Block” – ha ha! I recommend reading both books and figuring out if the methods fit within your ideologies and whether or not you think it’s the right fit for your baby and your ohana. ALWAYS DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH. This blog is just an “outline” of what we did – there are so many little nuances that I have either forgotten or could write a book about (much too long for the intent of this blog)… so if you think this could work for you, again, I recommend getting the book so you can truly understand the method and can refer back to it as baby grows. The books are about $10 each. Here’s a couple of links to the books on Amazon >> Babywise | Happiest Baby on the Block Book & DVD (you can also just click on the icons below)
After you read the books and compare it to this blog, you’ll see that we did kind of a combo approach. First off, ‘crying it out’ (Babywise) didn’t work for us. I tried. It was heartbreaking AND my son is super stubborn so it didn’t work (A “Life’s Swell” reader pointed out that there’s research out there that suggests that when you let baby cry it out it can lead to anxiety in the future – it’s always good to do your own research). Instead of allowing baby to “cry it out” – we did the 5 S’s (Happiest Baby on the Block) to soothe baby to sleep. Babywise actually would call this a “sleep prop” and wouldn’t recommend it. What ended up happening for us is that our babies would sometimes be able to put themselves down for sleep (eyes open and no crying, at times with some whining but I wouldn’t ever call it crying) and if they were fussy, we could rely on the 5 S’s to calm them and even put them to sleep.
Here is a link to my blog on how to do the 5 S’s from the book “Happiest Baby on the Block”. If you have to choose just one book get Babywise. You can get the gist of the 5 S’s from our video above.
My intention with this blog is not to judge anyone else’s way of doing things… I’m simply sharing our experience and how it worked for us. At the end of the day, YOU do what is best and feels right to YOU… and I support you! We are all just trying to do what is best for our kids. Whether your child sleeps through the night or not, YOU are doing a GREAT JOB. Believe it. Live it. For those of you who would like to know more about our experience… here it goes!
First of all, here is what I like about it…
1) You feed baby when they are hungry. So it has that element of attachment parenting.
2) Flexibility to change babies routine based on activities of the day. So a bit of “scheduling” also gets into the mix.
3) Baby self-regulates their inner clock.
4) Parents assess the needs of baby and respond to them.
5) Baby experiences optimal alertness during wake times and optimal sleep during naps / overnight.
6) Baby is well rested, so THEY are happier and YOU are happier (well rested). Those two things go hand in hand!
“Babywise” Main Tenants:
- Work toward “full” feedings from birth
- Feed, wake, sleep cycle NOT Feed, sleep, wake cycle
“Happiest Baby on the Block” Main Tenants:
Okay, so here goes the abbreviated version of what we did. First, you need to work toward full feedings. When both of my babies were born, they each latched right away. From that point and through the first four weeks of life, research shows you should feed baby every 2 to 3 hours and never let your baby go more than 4 hours without eating. We went 5 hours (by accident) when Jackson was 3 days old and it caused a panic when he became so lethargic that we couldn’t wake him from his sleep and he wouldn’t eat. The hospital recommended we feed him with a dropper until he gained enough energy and strength to nurse on his own. It was scary! So don’t let baby go more than 4 hours.
What is a “full feeding”? The answer to that is actually quite complicated and totally varies from one child to the next. Jackson would eat 10 to 15 minutes on each side at each feeding (recommended time frames in Babywise – he was textbook!). Waipuna, on the other hand, never ate more than 5 minutes on each side. For her, this was her full feeding. A “full feeding” will also change as baby grows. Babies eat more the older they get, they become more efficient suckers and when you introduce solid foods their appetite will change.
According to Babywise, some signs of baby feeding well are: Hearing swallowing of milk, baby pulling away when they are no longer hungry (different from falling asleep), baby burping well afterwards, baby napping well, 5 to 7 wet diapers/day after the first week, 3 to 5 or more yellow stools/day for the first month and consistent weight gain.
So in the first 7 to 10 days of life, just work on making sure baby is getting a full feeding. BUT DON’T OVER FEED THEM. You need to find that delicate balance. What happened with us is baby naturally transitioned into a 2.5 to 3 hour routine where we provided a full feeding, some short awake time, put baby down for a nap and then they wake up hungry. The longer you’re on the routine, the more they self-regulate. Also, one important thing to remember is that this is not a “scheduled” routine where you only feed baby at certain times, instead it’s based on time frames that are flexible with your schedule and dependent on your babies needs. BUT, if baby is hungry, ALWAYS feed them.
Tip: Once you determine what constitutes a “full feeding” for your child, you need to make sure they don’t fall asleep while eating. You can undress them, massage their chest, back, hands and feet. Use water to wake them up. Change their diaper or burp baby to keep them alert and sucking. Sing or talk to baby to hold their attention. Keeping baby awake to get their full feeding is going to be your BIGGEST challenge in the first few weeks of their life.
Once baby has had their full feeding, they will get a bit of awake time. During the first two weeks of life, baby doesn’t have a distinct “wake time” separate from their feeding time. Their feeding time IS their awake time. You use this time to feed, change, burp baby, etc… Between 2 and 3 weeks this changes slightly and their awake time starts to separate as a distinct activity where you have finished all of the necessary hygiene, feeding and other needs and simply have time to spend with baby awake. By 12 weeks of age, wake times can get up to an hour or more (per cycle) depending on your baby.
By the time baby has had this quality awake time, now they are tired. Especially early on, baby is always tired so it’s pretty easy to put baby down. We always swaddled and did as many of the S’s as were needed and let baby settle into sleep. In the first two weeks of life, doctors advise never to let baby go more than 4 hours without eating. Yes, that means waking a sleeping baby at times. What we did was during the day baby would have 2 to 3 hour cycles and at night 3-4 hour cycles. (Sample feeding times: 7 a.m. / 9 a.m. / 11:30 a.m. / 2 p.m. / 5:00 p.m. / 8 p.m. / 11 p.m. / 3 a.m. / 7 a.m. – fitting 8 to 10 feedings into a day. Every baby is different. Waipuna needed shorter segments early in the day because she was hungrier and longer segments in the evening because she was tired and took longer naps. You adjust to what fits with your baby and their needs. Always respond to baby’s needs.)
Jackson started with 3 hour cycles at night but Waipuna immediately was comfortable with 3.5 to 4 hour cycles at night… which was nice since that meant only getting up once in the middle of the night. You’ll be amazed at how giving baby a full feeding and a little awake time will give them such quality sleep. After those first two weeks, both of our babies self-regulated and started waking up on their own at the 2.5 to 3 hour mark since their last feeding.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
The first thing you need to keep in mind is that you need to pick a time for the first feeding of the day. With Jackson we picked 6 a.m. – WHAT is WRONG with us?! – it was a bit early in hindsight. It’s worked well with his school schedule now but that is early for me on the weekends. ha ha! He’s been waking up between 6 and 6:30 a.m. ever since the beginning. With Waipuna, I chose 7 to 7:30 a.m. and she is also still waking up around that time. Although she also has an older brother that doesn’t understand that he shouldn’t wake his sister! That is always a challenge. Babywise talks about some of the challenges throughout the book but also has a chapter on “Problem Solving” with real life examples on page 227. Very helpful!
Once you have your starting time, you make sure baby has full feedings and based on your 2.5 to 3 hour cycles you kind of work backwards. So let’s say Waipuna eats at 7 a.m. and takes 20 minutes to eat and another 10 minutes to get changed and burped… that’s 30 minutes and brings us to 7:30 a.m. Baby takes 1.5 hour to 2 hour nap and each complete cycle from the START of the feeding time to the start of the next feeding time is 2.5 to 3 hours. So, I could put baby down right away (as an infant) after those 40 minutes of feeding/awake time at 7:30 a.m. and I would wake her anywhere from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. for her next full feeding. You would continue that through the day… sample routine of when you would feed would be perhaps 12:30 p.m. / 3 p.m. / 5:30 p.m. / 8 p.m. / 10:30 p.m. / 1:30 a.m. / 4:30 a.m. / 7:00 a.m. and start over. Baby should have 8 to 10 feedings a day when they are infants - so this routine would be acceptable. Sample feed-wake-sleep routines can be found on page 107. Sample daily schedules start on page 89. Here are a few examples (image below – email me if you want a higher res version).
You can see how flexible it is… that’s why they leave the “times” blank. You adjust to whatever your schedule is and what’s best for your baby. My schedules were not the same for Jackson and Waipuna and are not exactly the same even day by day! You can see how even by three weeks, you’re already starting to “extend” baby’s sleep time at night with one less feeding. By 24 weeks, things change drastically. It all happens so quickly! I’m constantly referring back to my book and making sure we’re on track with our merges and transitions.
Very RARELY have either of my babies showed hunger cues outside of when they “should” be hungry within the routine (right after waking from their sleep). It does happen though. For example, during growth spurts babies wake up early from their naps and want to be fed. So you feed them and start the next cycle from there. You can read more about growth spurts on page 76.
What I like most about this routine is that it’s flexible – both for baby and whatever needs they have (every baby is different) and for mommy and her daily routine. If I have to be at work for an hour or go grocery shopping or something I can “schedule” baby to be sleeping during that time by working backwards. So if we take the example above and let’s say I had a 3 p.m meeting I had to get to. I would simply feed baby in a 2.5 hour cycle at 9:30 a.m. then at noon and again at 2:30 p.m. so I could jet off to do my thing (while someone babysits baby of course) and be back in time for the next feeding at 5 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.
Another thing I love is that baby always seems HAPPY. She is well fed, well rested and therefore has amazing awake time. She loves to be held and played with but is also content hanging out by herself if I need to put her down to say… take a shower, brush my teeth or fold some laundry! ha ha! When baby is fussy, there is ALWAYS a clear explanation. With both of my babies the culprit was usually gas (just massage their abdomen or push their knees into their belly lightly to help that air make its way out). Other culprits are dirty diapers, a toe tourniquet or the witching hour (7pm-ish) when a lot of babies just get cranky for no reason.
There have been challenges along the way. Sometimes, even the 5 S’s don’t work to put baby to sleep “on time” within the cycle. Babywise says not to do this BUT, I’ve done it once or twice and I feel like as long as you don’t make a habit of it, shhhhh… it’s okay. If I just can’t seem to calm baby down, I’ll put her on the boob (even if she’s not hungry). The sucking reflex and intimacy always puts baby down. A happy medium to putting baby down was doing the 5 S’s to calm baby and then transfer to pack’n play or crib and continue shushing and rocking baby, while they are lying on their side but lying in the crib.
With Jackson there were a handful of times where the only thing that worked was getting into the car and driving him around. They’re babies… sometimes there’s no rhyme or reason and you just gotta do what you gotta do to keep your sanity! ha ha!
Transitions and merges are also a challenge. As baby grows older, they will need less sleep during the day and will lengthen their nighttime sleep until they are sleeping through the night. Their feeding patterns also change, especially when you start solid food. Whenever baby wakes up 45 minutes into a nap (too early, this is what Babywise calls a “cat nap”) or refuses to eat for more than a minute (not enough food, this is what Babywise calls a “snack”), my husband and I look at each other and say “Where’s the book?” There are sample schedules and problem solving chapters to get you through all of the transitions. If anything doesn’t “feel right” to you with the technique, trust your gut. For us, the “crying it out” just didn’t work… so we adapted and figured out a way that felt right for our family. Always do what feels right to you.
A lot of mamas have also been asking me if this technique works for older babies. It’s ideal to start it from infancy but according to Babywise (pg. 235) you can start “late” and still get baby to respond to this technique. I’ve never done it, so I have no comment on that but the research and logic presented in Babywise makes me a believer so I would say… if you’re dying to have a full night’s rest… what do you have to lose? (There is also an entire chapter on how to make it work for parents of multiples on page 187)
Okay, so I’m not sure this blog was very clear. The way you enact these principles is highly dependent on your child. You need to get to know baby and adapt. I wanted to share my experiences with you and encourage you to do what YOU think is best for YOUR child! For us, this WORKED…. and if it works for you, awesome! I’m an open book… if you have any questions about our process feel free to shoot me a message on my Facebook page >> @MalikaDudley – I’m happy to connect!
When your baby sleeps through the night… Life’s Swell!
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