How We Got Our Baby to Sleep Through the Night by 7 Weeks Old
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*I am not a medical professional. You should always consult with your doctor and do what's best for your family*
I am tired.
Aren't we all?
But in all honesty, I'm feeling much better than I was even three weeks ago.
Our sweet LJ is seven weeks old now. She is sweet as could be. If I'm being honest, I was a little terrified to bring her home because her brother hated sleeping! I mean he loved to sleep, but getting him to do so would often be an all out war.
I was so tired that I found myself wanting to give in to unsafe sleep crutches just so I could get an hour here or there. But I wouldn't. It felt physically painful to stay awake for one more moment sometimes.
Not only did the tiredness take over my entire being, it also made me more irritable. When I'm exhausted I'm just not in my right headspace. I wasn't able to be the wonderful, loving mother I wanted to be because I was just so. darn. tired.
So when we brought LJ home we started working on safe sleep practices that were responsive to her needs.
We knew we had to give her the foundation of good sleep so that she had the opportunity to learn to put herself to sleep with as little frustration as possible.
Wait, did I say "to learn to put herself to sleep"? Yes. Babies are not born with the innate knowledge to put themselves to sleep like we are! We have worked our buns off to get our little girl to sleep through the night (for us this means a solid 7-8 hour stretch before needing another feeding, she usually sleeps a total of 12 hours per night with 1-2 feedings sprinkled in).
This goal required a lot of front end work, but it is already starting to pay off just seven weeks in. Here's what worked for us:
1. Consistency and routine.
This is, in my opinion, the most important thing we did. As a teacher, I know the kids I teach thrive off of routine and the second that routine is messed up, all hell breaks loose. I know the same to be true for kids of all ages.
For a majority of the naps she takes throughout the day and at bedtime every day we follow the same routine.
Nap Time: Diaper change, swaddle, white noise, cuddles, lay down drowsy but not asleep, lights off. Sometimes this takes 2 minutes, sometimes we take advantage of cuddles and it takes 10. Sometimes she needs extra cuddles or rocking and it takes a little longer--we are responsive to her needs.
Bed Time: We begin her last wake window with a bottle, 15 minutes of upright time, either bouncer time or time on the floor while we put her big brother to bed, then tummy time. When she's been awake for 45-60 minutes, we take a bath. After bath time we put on bedtime lotion and pajamas, then read a book. By this time she will usually take about 2 more oz of bottle while we listen to white noise. Then we swaddle her and lay her down drowsy, not asleep.
By laying her down drowsy but not fully asleep, we know she is close to falling asleep and her drive to sleep will be much higher. As she grows, we will try to put her down for one sleep session a day awake and give her the opportunity to try putting herself to sleep.
If at any point she fusses or cries, we go back in and comfort her. I try to start with a hand on her tummy and shushing her or gently rocking her back and forth. If that doesn't work, we'll pick her up and rock for a bit longer.
We keep the room dark so she knows it's still time to sleep. Then we try laying her down again. (We have found that most of the time if she cries when we've put her down drowsy it's because she's worked up another burp that she needs help getting out).
Anytime during the night if she wakes up, I keep the room as dark as I possibly can so she doesn't get too excited about being awake. This helps her fall asleep much faster than in the beginning when I would begin by turning the lights on to nurse.
2. The 5 S's.
The 5 S's that Dr. Karp believes will help calm a crying baby by recreating womb-like sensations are swaddle, swing, sush, suck, and stomach or side position. We focus on swaddle and sushing.
We play white noise for our kids any time they are sleeping in their crib. That sound is part of their routine in knowing that it's time to sleep. It also mimics the sound of blood loudly rushing through the placenta that they are familiar with from their mother's stomach. Lastly, in our favor, white noise blocks out some of the background noise in our home-- dog barking, TV, siblings crying, putting dishes away, etc.
When we first started using white noise, we kept it pretty quiet. According to Dr. Karp, the sound of blood rushing in the womb is louder than a vacuum cleaner! After reading that, we tried turning up the volume on the white noise machine and that did wonders for us. If you feel like it's too loud, there are lots of apps that measure decibels that you can download to ease your mind.