I read the book “On Becoming Babywise” during my first pregnancy and studied the sleep schedules it promoted. I familiarized myself with its parent-directed feeding principles, which, if followed correctly, will have your baby sleeping through the night by 12 weeks old. I thought to myself, “this sounds like a piece of cake!” My plan was to follow it to a “T.” I’d feed him, play with him and then put him down for a nap just like it told me to. It’s fail-proof, right?
Wrong. Luke was born weighing just over 5.5 pounds. I struggled to breastfeed. I was terrified that he wouldn’t gain weight. He had colic and cried ALL THE TIME. I’d look at the clock and realize I wasn’t supposed to feed him for another 2 hours, but he’d be screaming. How did I know he got enough milk during his last feeding? We decided to take a looser approach to routines and strategies for getting Luke to sleep, and here’s what happened:
- We maintained the idea of feed, play, sleep. But we did it on Luke’s schedule. If he was still sleeping at the time he was supposed to eat, we’d let him sleep. If he seemed extra fussy or needed to comfort nurse into a nap, sure why not? Those early weeks were all about survival for us, and if that meant nursing would give us all peace, we’d take it!
- Crying it out didn’t work for us. When babies are around 4-6 months old, you’ll often hear, whether from friends, doctors or books, that it’s time to teach them to sleep through the night by leaving them to cry. After a couple nights of lots of crying, they’ll learn to “self soothe” and sleep through the night. I think we lasted 20 minutes one night. It’s hard listening to your baby cry. Especially when you can simply nurse them for 5 minutes to make them feel better, helping them fall back asleep for a few hours.
- I realized his night wakings weren’t bothering me. I came across a page on KellyMom that talked about babies and sleeping through the night. It really resonated with me because it talked about how women often feel like a failure when their babies don’t sleep through the night, but that it’s absolutely normal for babies, especially when breastfed, to wake multiple times at night. Whether it’s for nutrition or just comfort, your baby might need something from you in the middle of the night. And if it’s not interfering with your daily life, why stop? It’s extra baby snuggles, after all!
- Sleep eventually came! When Luke was 10.5 months old, he started sleeping 12 hours through the night. Even though it was a long 10.5 months, I honestly missed our time together at night when he stopped waking up. They were really special moments, and I’ll never be able to get them back.
So far we’re taking the same approach with baby #2 and having similar results. I know that eventually he will sleep through the night. But for now, I’m enjoying every chance I get to cuddle my sweet baby!
What has worked for your family? Any tips and tricks to share?