Happy Saturday, friends! I’m laughing right now at the idea that I’m about to share my routine for how I’ve been able to get all 4 of my babies to sleep 8 hours by 8 weeks considering I’m 100% on survival mode from my baby’s growth spurt over the past 3 days. Y’all, growth spurts catch me off guard every time and they hit like a ton of bricks. The entire schedule gets tossed out and they feed all the time. At that point, I think the best thing to do is to go with the flow and ride it out with your baby since growth spurts come every 3-4 weeks.
SO, sleep training. I hate it. I don’t enjoy this part of rearing children. But looking back, reading On Becoming Babywise (a HUGE thanks to my sister-in-law Brittany) during my first pregnancy was the best thing I could have done. I also read through many, many articles on scheduling and I took everything I learned and adapted it to best fit each child and our family situation at the time. Some of my babies have been easier to adjust to a routine than others but the schedule has helped all of them become more predictable and happier while awake and eventually sleeping through the night. (I haven’t met a mom who’s read and fully implemented a schedule that has not had the exact same success! So no, I didn’t just get lucky with 4 great sleepers. Wouldn’t that have been dreamy 😉 )
But first, this blog post is NOT written to persuade anyone that this is what’s right for their family. I’ve seen tons of mom-shaming spewed at moms who think scheduling a baby means that you obviously don’t love your child. A few of the myths imply a baby being on a consistent routine means that the baby can’t be breastfed because you’ll lose your supply (totally bogus! It’s my saving grace for being able to nurse my twins + I’m exclusively breastfeeding Avery now). Or the myth that a routine requires you to make your baby Cry It Out (the whole point of scheduling is to recognize and respond to your child’s needs. It’s the only way I’ve known when something was truly wrong with my baby). Or the myth that scheduling requires you to make your baby go hungry (I mean, if we’re FB/Insta friends then you’ve seen Avery’s perfect double chin. Babywise literally states a grand total of ZERO times to not feed a hungry baby. However, it does state to feed a hungry baby at least 27 times.) So again, this blog post was intended to share my story and for the mama who’s asked me where she can start with creating a consistent routine for herself and her new baby. This is not for the mama who’s decided schedules aren’t for her. You know your personality and what’s right for you and your baby. This has been my experience with what has worked for me! And just for the record, you can’t dip your toe into creating a schedule. You need to be all in because the key is CONSISTENCY. Which is why creating a schedule for my babies has worked the best for me since I can stay home when they’re fresh from heaven to devote the time to learning what type of schedule my baby is the happiest on. Moving on…
I like to start sleep training early because it seems unfair for me to teach my baby to fall asleep in a certain way (like rocking or nursing to sleep) only to then turn around a few weeks or months later and take that all away. The reasoning behind sleep training early that made the most sense to me is to “start as you mean to go on”. I wanted my kids to go to sleep in their beds when I needed them to. This topic can get incredibly lengthy since there are SO many situations and hierarchies of importance! I’ll start with the basic things I’ve done with my 3 older kiddos and Avery in her short 8 weeks of being with us. With that said, I’ve never sleep trained an older baby or child (but hopefully the principle of consistency will still apply). My experience with sleep training my first child was successful which encouraged me to do the same schedule with my twins and then on to this last baby of ours. It works! I will say, sleep training isn’t for everyone. I completely understand that! For my family, the sacrifice of sleep training and having a consistent routine created a much happier and predictable lifestyle for everyone.
(How cool is this triple bunkbed built by their Grandad?! My older 3 share a room. It’s a party ;-))
Here we go! There are 2 main things that I focused on for the first 2 months with having a newborn. The first and most important thing is to keep the baby up for a full feeding. The second is to have a consistent schedule of WAKE/EAT/PLAY/SLEEP.
Full Feedings. For the first 6 weeks, feeding time should be 20-40 minutes long. It takes SO long! Breastfed babies especially get sleepy after 10 minutes of feeding and this is the point that you either create a snacker or you can keep the baby awake enough to finish a full feeding. Believe me, it’s SO easy to fall asleep with the baby or want to let them go back to sleep so you can rest since these first 2 months are exhausting. We’re in straight up zombie mode and it doesn’t sound appealing to work on getting a sleepy baby to nurse for longer than 10 minutes. Spend only 10-15 minutes trying to re-wake the baby to finish the feed. But don’t let more than 3 feedings go by that aren’t full feedings. Your baby will get used to snacking and will be up within an hour or so because they are hungry. If the baby won’t even start the feed, let them sleep for another 30 minutes and then try again. If your baby is sucking for 4-5 times before swallowing then they are asleep which means it’s time to burp and switch sides. This was certainly the most time consuming thing but the pay-off is huge!
WAKE/EAT/PLAY/SLEEP. This will help create a healthy schedule for the entire day. Pick your feed times and BE CONSISTENT. Typically you will feed the baby every 2.5-3 hours. Pick a morning wake time and a bedtime. For example, I chose 7:00am to be the morning wake time and 7:00pm to be the “bedtime” (I mean, it’s not really a legit bedtime just yet since you’ll be seeing a lot more of them before the sun comes back up…). I noticed Avery did well eating every 3 hours and so I chose her feed times to be 7am, 10am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm, 10pm, 1am, 4am. This was our schedule for the first month. At 6 weeks old I switched to 7pm, 9pm, 11pm to start seeing if we she was ready to drop the middle of the night feeding. I set my alarm and wrote everything down. First: wake them up. Hard to do especially if the baby may happen to want to sleep in in the morning or take a longer morning nap while mommy is taking a much deserved nap! Next: full feeding time. Remember to not let them fall asleep while feeding! Next: Play time unless it’s after “bedtime”. When they’re tiny, most of the “wake time” is spent feeding and you typically want the entire wake time to last 50-60minutes total. Finally: Sleep. This is tough, but the baby needs to be put to bed while they’re awake. I have the same routine of swaddling, singing, etc so Avery knows it’s time to settle down for naps. For the first couple of weeks she was pretty much sleeping when I put her down. I also had her fall asleep on me for at least 1 nap each day to soak up the sweetness and to help her to be flexible enough to fall asleep with different surroundings. (I didn’t do this with my first baby and she had a difficult time falling asleep anywhere except her crib.) After that, I put her down awake in her crib and she will either go right to sleep or will fuss for 5-12 minutes. If she cries longer than that, I’ll pick her up, check her diaper, make sure she’s comfortable, check for burps/gas then put her down and give her another 10 minutes. This hasn’t happened yet with Avery, but did with the other 3, if they’re still not going to sleep after the second 10 minutes, I would feed them again and put them right back down.
So a typical example. I’ll wake Avery up at 7am and settle in for a nursing session. For the first few weeks if she began to fall asleep after 10 minutes, I’d talk to her while wiggling her toes and holding her fingers. I’d take off her jammies or change her diaper to help wake her up. I did whatever it took to nurse her for 20-40 minutes. (It gets much easier as the weeks go on and they start “waking up”) After I feel that she has had a full feeding I’ll burp her and play with her for the rest of the hour wake time. About 7:50 I wrap her tightly in a swaddle and make sure all of her burps are out before I place her back down for bed (while she’s still awake) by 8am. And then start it all over again at 10:00! I’m flexible if she needs to sleep longer or feed earlier but try to get back on the consistent schedule by the afternoon. With my twins, Ethan wanted to feed every 2 hours while Charlotte was a sleepy little thing and would feed every 4 hours. I compromised by feeding them every 3 hours. I worked hard to give Ethan long and full feedings and worked hard to keep sleepy Charlotte awake for the feeding. Having them on the same schedule was the biggest blessing and is still my biggest advice for any twin mama.
Well, there you have it! A very basic guide to creating a consistent schedule for a baby! Avery is struggling with the dreaded “witching hour” and should be finishing a growth spurt fairly soon but last night she slept from 11pm-6am. Her ‘witching hour” lasts from 6-11pm every night and so I do lots of cuddling, cluster feeding (feeding her every 1-2 hours), and riding it out until it passes! I’m incredibly grateful for this little corner of the internet to express and share ideas for making motherhood a bit easier to enjoy. I would LOVE to hear any of your own experiences with helping babies adapt to a schedule and what that’s been like for your family!