So you’ve finally gotten to the point where it doesn’t take three hours to put your baby to bed each night, right? But now the challenge is how do you KEEP them asleep?
It didn’t take me long after Little D was born to learn that parenting is one constant learning experience, for both the parent and the child. Just as one skill is learned, it’s time to move on to a different skill with each new one building on the one that came before it.
Now I’ll admit, before I was a parent it never occurred to me I’d have to teach my baby to sleep. After all, sleep seems to be such a natural act why would it need to be taught? Well tell that to any parent whose baby spontaneously wakes up every night at 2:30a and won’t go back to sleep.
Rick and I tried a number of different strategies during our quest to get more than 3 hours of sleep at a time but these are the ones that ended up working the best for our family and I hope they’ll work for you too.
Have your baby sleep in their own room
We moved Little D into his own room a couple months before he actually started sleeping through the night but I think it was an important first step in the overall goal. Having your baby sleep in your room in the first few weeks of life is definitely expected as there’s a convenience factor that comes into play. It’s a lot easier to feed and change your baby’s diaper every two hours when they’re sleeping just at the foot of your bed.
But once that time has passed, having them sleep in their own room even before you expect them to sleep through the night will start instilling good sleeping habits. Your baby is a smart little thing and it won’t take them long to become attached to doing things a certain way. If your baby only knows how to sleep if you’re in the room, that’s going to make the process of teaching them to sleep through the night a couple months later that much harder. You probably don’t want to be teaching them to sleep in their own room at the same time you’re teaching them to sleep through the night. Knowing they’re already accustomed to sleeping by themselves will make teaching them to sleep through the night a lot easier on both of you.
Each parent will be comfortable with their baby sleeping in another room at a different point but trust me, this is as beneficial to the parent as it is to the baby. You finally won’t be sleeping with one eye open just waiting for them to wake up at any moment or be awoken by every little noise they make.
Avoid coming to the rescue at the first sound of their whimper
Once Little D was falling asleep on his own and sleeping in his own room, we thought we were doing pretty good in the sleep department. But despite those two accomplishments, I was still waking up several times a night to feed him. It didn’t matter if he’d been asleep 2 hours or 5 hours once he’d start to cry, my reaction was always the same. I’d hop out of bed, change his diaper, nurse him, lay him back down to sleep. Rinse and repeat. No seriously, it was a never ending cycle. Since Little D was way past the point where nighttime feedings turned into multi hour crying sessions and he’d go right back to sleep, we didn’t really see the issue. But even under the best of circumstances, a person can only stand waking up numerous times each night for so long.
Then one night we decided to see what would happen if we waited a few minutes before going into his room. As each week went by, we’d increase the amount of time that we’d wait before going into his room. Color me shocked when he’d actually fell back asleep!! And stayed asleep for a few more hours!!
Now I’m not saying it worked this way every time, but after some trial and error, we began to recognize if he was crying because he just happened to wake up and was working through getting back to sleep or if he was crying because he really needed something. We started off small, like around 5 minutes, and worked our way up to 30 minutes before we could officially say Little D was sleeping through the night.
This is the time where it really helps if your baby is already used to sleeping in their own room. If they’re not, they may have a harder time getting themselves back to sleep just for the pure reason that you’re not there. If they’re already over this hurdle, it’s one less roadblock preventing them from going back to sleep.
If you decide you’re up for trying this same method, I’ll tell you that having a video monitor will help out greatly. No shocker here, it can be hard to watch your baby cry because you feel like they really need you. But if you can see them on the monitor and be assured they’re doing just fine, there’s a better chance of you giving it some time for them to try to work it out on their own.
I think the book What To Expect The First Year put it best… “the moment will eventually come when it will no longer be practical or possible for you to be her sandman. If you make that moment now, not only you will get more sleep, so will she.”
What methods did you find worked best to teach your baby to sleep through the night?