Sleep. A glorious thing–isn’t it? We’ve always been big sleepers over here and one of my biggest worries with having a baby was the lack of sleep we were going to get. I don’t function well when I haven’t gotten enough sleep and I’m most definitely not the happiest or nicest person! So, I knew that getting Owen on a good sleep schedule as early as possible was a top priority for us!
Of course, those early days, there’s no way around it. You will lose sleep. You will be exhausted. You will walk around in a daze for a few weeks. But, here’s some good news. It’s doesn’t last forever. When you’re in the thick of it, it definitely feels like that’s what your life is going to be like forever. But, then all of the sudden it changes. It gets better, and easier! And before you know it, you’ve forgotten about how bad those first few weeks were all together!
There are so many books out there that promise to have your kid sleeping through the night at 8 weeks. I read Babywise before he was born and was determined to have a baby that was sleeping 8 hour stretches at 8 weeks. While it’s totally possible, don’t be upset if your babe doesn’t hit that marker. Owen didn’t and a part of me felt like I’d failed. But a month or so later, I realize how ridiculous that was!
So, if you’re finding yourself in that same spot, try not to get hung up on the details. Your baby will sleep eventually. There’s plenty of reasons why they might not be sleeping at that age too. They might not be getting enough calories during the day, or maybe your baby was born a few weeks early and isn’t developmentally ready to sleep that long. There’s plenty of explanations and I sort of hate that books don’t always point that out.
Before we dive in, this post is super long, but I also hope that it’s super helpful! I’m most definitely not an expert on baby sleep and can’t guarantee that this will work for you. I know I had a gazillion questions these first three months and I was constantly texting and calling friends for advice. I wanted to put as much as I possibly could in here. This is what we did and what worked (and didn’t work) for us, but by no means is a suggestion that you do the same! At the end of the day, you know your baby best, and you have to do whatever you’re comfortable with!
Baby Sleep from 0-3 Months
Sleep Must-Haves & Books
Swaddles & Sleep Suits
We swaddled Owen until he was 3 months old. He typically broke free of the traditional arms-down swaddles, so we ended up using this Love to Dream Swaddle Up. I later realized that he didn’t really mind being swaddled if I used the 5 “s’s” trick! For the next baby, I’ll definitely be getting this Ollie Swaddle that Cara suggested. It grows with them too, so there’s no need to buy a new one every few weeks!
At 3 months, we transitioned out of the swaddle and into the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit. We got the fleece one because it was winter in Chicago, but if you live in a warmer climate or it’s summer, I’d recommend the cotton one. We’ll use the Merlin until Owen starts rolling over.
Sleep Books & Courses
This should have probably been the first thing in this baby sleep post! If you haven’t heard of this little trick, then this might be a game changer. This was one we learned from Taking Cara Babies video course. I loved that I could see exactly how she was doing it in the video so we knew we were doing it correctly!
Babies have the moro reflex that causes them to twitch and wake up. A swaddle prevents that and keeps them asleep longer.
2. Side or Stomach
Not for sleeping, but for soothing a fussy baby, turn them on their side against your stomach facing outwards to avoid stimulating them with eye contact.
Did you know that being inside the womb is as loud as a vacuum cleaner? Crazy, right? Anyway, babies don’t like complete silence. Shushing helps calm them down and I highly recommend a white noise maker, we love our Dohm, for naps and nightime sleep.
4. Swing or Sway
Babies fall asleep when they’re being rocked, or riding in the car or stroller, so swaying or swinging side to side and calm them.
I know some people are against pacifiers, and that’s totally fine, but if you’re not and your little one will take one, holding a pacifier in their mouth can be the key to getting them super calm and eventually konking out.
I end up doing this pretty often before naps. As soon as I put him in his crib, he’ll fuss a little while I get him into his Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit (previously we used this swaddle). I’d scoop him up, turn on the sound machine and practice the rest of the 5 “S’s” until he was calm and his eyes looked droopy. I always always put him down in his crib before he falls asleep so he learns to put himself to sleep! So far that’s been the greatest advice a friend has given me and it’s really worked.
Nighttime Sleep from 0-4 Months
First Two Weeks
Plenty of books recommend getting on a schedule as soon as you bring your baby home, I found that it didn’t work for us. We had family in town, I was exhausted and Owen was hungry every few hours and then some, so any sort of schedule would have just been a joke! My main priorities these first few weeks were just making sure he was getting plenty to eat and that I was also eating enough, drinking enough fluids and getting enough rest. Getting enough rest is sort of tough, but get as much as you can!
We started Babywise when Owen was about two weeks old. As you know, kids don’t come with a handbook and I was clueless on what to do. What I loved about Babywise was that it gave you a rough outline of what your day should look like (Moms on Call does this too). Essentially you follow a “feed-wake-sleep” cycle over and over again. That means, they eat first thing after getting up, then they have “wake” time or play time, then they go to sleep. A well-rested baby eats better, a well-fed baby plays better, and a tired out baby sleeps better!
The hardest thing for me was keeping Owen awake after eating. Newborns are super sleepy and trying to keep him awake during breastfeeding was a real struggle. I’d blow gently on his face, tickle his feet, rub his back and even feed him in his diaper only so he didn’t get too cozy and warm! Half way through I would sometimes change his diaper just to wake him up again!
We continued to follow Babywise, and at around 6 weeks old, Owen dropped one of his middle of the night feeds on his own. I was SO happy! It meant a few longer stretches of sleep for us. His schedule also turned into a bit of a mess over Christmas. We were out doing stuff and everyone wanted to hold him, so it was tough.
When we got home, he got sick and the schedule was really out the door at that point and we were back to feeding whenever he was hungry. Thankfully, that passed and we got back on schedule after he was over his little cold. The point of me telling you this is to not fret too much about the schedule! It’s great, but life happens and there’s no sense in getting worked up over it. They’ll get back on it in a few days!
Sleep Details: Still in his bassinet, but in our closet! We moved him here, which is just outside our bedroom and there were no closed doors between us. Having him a little further away kept me from waking up to little grunts and kicks. We could easily here if he cried. We also started using this Love to Dream Swaddle Up since he liked having his arms by his face. His last nighttime feed was around 11pm and he would sleep until 4:30-5am.
This is when I started getting a little frustrated and started doing more research and reading more. Owen had been cruising along for a while, but when he hit 8 weeks, he was suppose to drop the other nighttime feed according to Babywise and two weeks later, he was still waking up every night at almost the exact same time. He’d wake up, wouldn’t fall back asleep unless I nursed him. But, he’d only eat for like 2-3 minutes, which to me meant he wasn’t really hungry, he just wanted a little love.
Guys, it was life-changing!
It taught us how to calm Owen down when he was fussy (see the section called the 5 “S’s”) and help him learn to fall asleep on his own. All of her methods are no-cry methods. Of course, babies will cry, but you don’t have to let them cry it out to get them to sleep through the night. I highly recommend this for anyone with a newborn! It’s great for them at 10 weeks, but would have been so much better if we had read it earlier and practiced it from the start. It’s really affordable too, so no excuses!
After two weeks of practicing these new skills, we’d gotten a few nights where he slept through the night, but it was still really inconsistent and I still would have to get up and try to calm him down.
Sleep Details: In the bassinet in the closet, still in the Love to Dream Swaddle Up. His last feed was around 10:30pm and he was waking up at 4:30am on the dot for weeks. Last feed at 10:30pm and sometimes he’d wake up around 4:30am.
This is when things really started to change and get easier for us. One of my good friends had told me about Moms on Call, but for whatever reason, I still hadn’t bought it. It popped into my head again as I was desperately searching for ways to get our little guy to sleep through the night and I bought it.
This is another book that I can’t recommend more! I love the way it’s broken down, which makes it really easy to find advice on just about anything you need. I skipped straight to the sleep section for 3-month olds and it said that if your baby was 3 months old and at least 12 lbs. they could and should sleep through the night in their own crib. Not only is sleep when babies release the human growth hormone, but it also gives their little GI systems a break! Owen was of age and 13 lbs. so we decided to try out their method that night.
How We Dropped the Night Feed
Their method is basically the cry it out method. I know it’s a little controversial and it’s not for everyone! You have to decide that. But, basically, you put your baby in their crib at 7pm and don’t come back until 7am. I was nervous, but guys, it worked. Heads up, they say it can take about 3-5 nights for babies to break a habit, so stay strong! A full night’s sleep for you is totally #worthit.
I felt really lucky, but it only took one night for Owen. He cried for about 30 minutes that first night and was good after that! I kept waking up to check the monitor thinking I was hearing crying and I’d check it and find him snoozing away! He did wake up several times in the night, but didn’t cry. Instead just wiggled around and put himself back to sleep, which was such a relief!
I guess we did cheat on the method a little, as we still give him a dream feed just before we go to bed at 9:45-10pm. Instead of a full bottle (he usually eats 5-7 ounces each feeding), we would give him 3-3.5 ounces of formula to give him a little more in his belly and I think that helps him last through the night.
If you’re breastfeeding, you can totally offer the boob! We started doing formula at night because I was getting too stressed about making enough milk, which in turn was making me produce even less. Some people say formula helps them sleep longer and honestly, we didn’t see a difference at all.
First off, I can’t believe Owen is 4 months old today. When people tell you it goes by fast, believe them—it really does! It also gets easier, better and more fun with each stage. There’s always new challenges, new leaps and more to learn, but at this stage, it’s so much more fun. I don’t stress out as much and in general, I’m a much happier mama!
So, at four months I’m a little nervous about this whole 4 month sleep regression I keep hearing about. Last week, he did hear him wake up a few times in the night, but he wasn’t really crying, just talking to himself and then put himself back to sleep. Maybe that’s part of this regression? We’ll see. I don’t plan on making any big changes to our schedule right now, in fear of rocking the boat and losing the good thing we’ve got going. Crossing my fingers that he makes it through this regression quickly!
For the past two weeks, we give him his last feed at 7 and put him in bed at 7:30pm. He talks to himself for about 5-10 minutes, which is so cute, and then falls asleep. We’re still doing a dream feed as well, but I’m slowly giving him less and less. Right now he gets 2-2.5 ounces of formula. We use Hipp, it’s an organic brand that we get from Organic Start—possibly overkill, but he likes it and his tummy seems to as well! I add a half ounce of water to it since he hasn’t been pooping as frequently (usually every other day now). Sorry, that was gross, but if you’re a mom, you get it!
Inconsistent Naps are Normal
Ahhh, naps! The struggle is real here. Once we got Owen sleeping through the night, I was so relieved, but daytime sleep is a whole other can of worms. When he was really little, I got really caught up in his schedule and naps, or rather the lack of consistency in them from day to day. If I could go back now and give myself some advice, it would be “don’t sweat it”. When babies are under three months, their naps just aren’t super consistent. If your baby does nap great, then props to you! Owen napped, but some days it would be for 45 minutes and the next it would be two hours.
I’d try to do your best to stick to the 3-hour feed-wake-sleep cycle as best you can. It won’t be perfect, but keeping your morning wake time and bedtime the same everyday can do wonders in helping your baby establish a good sleep schedule and circadian rhythm. What happens in between isn’t as big of a deal. Eventually, it’ll click and get easier!
Daily Nap Goals
My goal was to get him to have at least 2 naps in his crib each day, and get at least one good one (1.5-2 hours long). The other ones varied from 35 minutes to an hour and 15 minutes. Obviously, I’m human and have to get out of the house, go to the grocery, walk the dog, go to the gym, etc. I like giving Owen that first nap at home so I know it’s a good one.
After that we’ll go out for any errands that need to happen and he’ll usually doze off in the car or in the stroller, which isn’t ideal, but sometimes it happens—that’s life! If I’m being honest, at least one nap each day seems to be kind crappy. Either we’re out running errands or walking the dog and it throws off that one nap, but he’s doing just fine. As long as we get one more nap in the crib, he’s a happy camper!
If your baby is in a bassinet, you might try having them sleep in the crib during nap time to help make that transition smoother when the time comes!
How We Established Good Nap Times
Getting them to nap is easier said than done though! First thing’s first, we always try to put him to bed as soon as he starts looking tired. He’ll rub his eyes or make this funny gurgling noise that we’ve learned means “I’m sleepy!”. Yawning is also a good sign. Basically, you want to avoid getting them overstimulated so they can easily fall asleep! Sticking to that 3-hour feed-wake-sleep schedule has definitely made Owen a much better napper. His schedule is pretty predictable and I think that helps him feel comfortable and fall asleep easier.
We put Owen in the Merlin for nap times (before the Merlin, we’d swaddle him for all naps). I turn on the sound machine and do the rest of the 5 “S’s” until his eyes look droopy. Then I put him down when he’s drowsy, but not asleep, and then I leave the room. He sometimes coos and makes noises for 5-10 minutes, but eventually goes to sleep. If he really starts crying, I’ll go in and try to put his paci back in and rock his belly without getting him up. If that doesn’t work, I do the 5 “S’s” again (minus the swaddling, unless they’ve broken free!).
Naps Get Easier
I don’t know what it is about three months, but we hit that mark and everything just seemed to get a bit easier. Maybe my own confidence in this whole mom thing has also gone up, but he just started to fall into a better rhythm. Now we almost always get an hour and a half nap in the morning (8:30-10am), which is great. It lets me knock out some work, get the house tidied and get dressed for the day.
The next two naps are a little more unpredictable and last anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour and a half. We put Owen down for one last nap from 5:30-6:30pm and he always passes out during that one. We have to wake him up for bath time at 6:30pm and he always looks so sleepy!
Knowing his schedule allows me to plan my day and take advantage of when I know he’ll be napping. I try to get work done during that first nap because it’s often the only time I get to work on stuff all day.
We’re getting to another crossroad though. Owen’s wake times are extending, which is exciting! But, navigating how to extend his nap times and eventually drop one will be interesting! I’ll save that for another post though because you probably won’t be dealing with that in the first three months!
Making it Through
Sleep is a truly magical thing and sometimes we don’t realize just how great it is until we’ve lost it. It’s super important for our babes as this is when they do most of their growing! But, it’s also super important for us. Of course, we can only get as much sleep as our little ones allow us, but I learned some lessons the hard way. I tried pushing through days without taking a nap so I could vacuum or get some laundry done, and within a few months, my body was so out of whack.
I had a hormone imbalance, I wasn’t sleeping well even when Owen finally started sleeping through the night, I was stressed out, breaking out and felt foggy all day long. I’d get angry or frustrated at little thing and generally wasn’t my best. I felt like crap and frankly, it felt like things would never get easier. I don’t think I had postpartum depression, but the exhaustion hit me hard, so maybe there was a bit of that in there.
Either way, my advice to you is to take care of yourself. Motherhood can feel a little isolating in those weeks after everyone’s gone back to work and you’re still in the trenches. Call on your partner, a family member, or friend—or heck, hire professional help if you need! They can give you a break by taking care of your baby for a few hours while you nap, take a shower, go get your hair done—whatever it is that’ll make you feel more like you.
If you’re still breastfeeding, you might consider pumping a bottle so someone else can feed your baby, so you can have more breaks like this! For me, that was a game-changer! It was nice to not be the only one that could feed Owen.
Taking the time to heal your own body and show yourself some self-care and self-love will go far! It was a big reason I decided to take back my own health and visit a functional medicine doctor—I’m sharing the details on that this Thursday, by the way.
Lastly, it doesn’t last forever. I know it can seem like it will when you’re going on months of sleep-deprivation, but your baby will sleep at some point. If you’re really struggling, just ask for help! I can guarantee your friends and family and more than willing to assist! If you need a little boost, feel free to email or DM me—I know how tough it can be and I’m so thankful for the moms and friends who gave me a little extra love during those tough months!
Okay, well if you made it this far, you’re amazing. I think this is the longest post I’ve ever written! But I hope there were some tidbits in there that help you out! If you have any questions, please ask—I tried to cover everything I could think of, but I’m sure I forgot something!
How did you feel during those first few months with your baby? What sleep tips or methods worked for you?