Our son is 10 months old now, and he sleeps about 12 hours a night generally without waking up. I’ve talked to a few friends who are having sleepless night because of sleepless children. So I’m writing down what we did to get our son to sleep through the night.
I think every baby is a little different so this may not work for everyone.
I think the most important step is to have a system. When you’re up at 3AM trying to get baby to stop crying, generally all rules go out the window. But that’s when you need rules the most. So think about what your rules are, talk about them and then religiously stick to them.
Our specific steps to getting baby to sleep through the night:
1) Track number of feedings per day, time of each feeding and volume of food at each feeding. You need to know exactly where you stand so that you can start to shape the schedule into something sustainable. We tracked our feedings on paper and then transferred that data to excel once or twice a week. You could start doing this right after birth.
2) With data in hand, look for places where you could consolidate 2 feedings into 1. Specifically: eliminate snacking. If your baby expects a little snack every hour of the day then she’ll do the same at night. Don’t cut down your babies total volume of food - just combine some feedings together.
3) Once you’re baby is 3-ish months old, you’re now entering a period when you can start to normalize nighttime feedings. If baby is waking at 10PM, 2AM and 5AM to eat, goal number 1 is to get rid of that 2AM feeding. To eliminate that feeding (again, without cutting down on total volume), we went cold turkey one night. We made sure he ate well at the 10PM feeding. And we managed his crying with the methods in Step #4. It was hard to do but soon enough, the 2AM feeding was gone. Next went the 5AM feeding using same process. Once we eliminated a feeding, we religiously enforced it. Only once did we cave when he was just ridiculously hungry (and we could tell that he was from the tone of his cries).
4) Crying. At night when he would wake up crying (maybe expecting that 2AM feeding), we stopped responding immediately to the cry. We would wait 5 minutes, then go in and put his soother in his mouth and immediately leave. If he started crying immediately again, we’d wait 10 minutes then go back in. And then 15 minutes. Never once did we get past the 10 minute mark. This got it into his head that he couldn’t just cry and get us in the room no matter what. It’s really important to distinguish cries that are asking for attention versus cries of fear or genuine distress. Anytime we hear a genuine distress cry we are with him in 1 second, no waiting. But 99% of cries are not that, so waiting to respond to the regular “hey, i want something” cries made a huge difference. This was one of our most critical steps in getting him to sleep through the night. Once we stopped responding to every cry right when it happened, we both started getting multiple more hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. And surprisingly, baby slept better too and woke up less often.
5) We moved him out of our room into his own room around 3 months.
6) We bought a video monitor that lets us keep an eye on him from afar without us walking into his room and potentially waking him. This also made moving him out of our room possible.
7) We got him a little blue dragon thing that makes music and shines a nice little light when you squeeze it. Every time we put him in his crib to sleep, we squeeze the dragon to associate that music with time for sleep.
8) We put him on a hard core schedule. 7PM comes and whether he is sleepy or not he is going to bed. For waking time, we generally do not fetch him before 6:30AM. For morning wake time, he has learned to play in his crib for a while and patiently wait for us.
9) For about 3 months, I gave him a “dream feed” around 10 or 11PM. He had been asleep for a few hours at that point. I’d pick him up while he was still sleeping, get a bottle in his mouth and let him eat however much he wanted. I made sure I got a good burp out of him before setting him down. Usually I fed him 3-4 ounces but sometimes way more if he had a light eating day, and sometimes just 1 ounce. We just stopped doing this last week after a week of eating just an ounce at the night feeding. I recommend cutting out the pre-midnight feeding last. Work on the 2AM first, then the 5AM.
10) Stressing this point again: don’t let cutting back on # of feedings make a significant dent in total food intake in a day. Babies can east 20%+ of their body weight per day - tiny changes can make a big difference in their weight gain.
11) We do not rock him to sleep nor do we let him fall asleep in our arms. He gets sleepy in our arms then we put him in the crib and leave the room.
I hope this helps someone!