Help! My baby won’t sleep through the night
I remember prior to having a child, this was the bane of many young mothers I was around. I hardly came across anyone that had figured how to achieve this monumental task till I met a lovely Scandinavian lady who although had the privilege of a nanny still stood out to me in how she managed her child. Long before I became pregnant, I asked her for help even though I didn’t need it yet (I tend to like to plan ahead on things 🙂 ) and she recommended a routine led approach to parenting and suggested I read Gina Ford’s The little contended baby book which I did. Now please note, this is not a sponsored post for Gina, neither am I saying there is something wrong with whatever approach a parent decides to opt for. I also don’t rate people that bash Gina because she has no children of her own (side note this is rude, is pushing out a child all that it takes to qualify a woman to be a mother? …thats a post for another day). I just think if you haven’t figured it out and she has given she worked with over 300 babies and most women have an average of 1-4 kids …It begs to reasons that listening to the woman with clearly more experience is a good idea. In addition Rachel Wadlove’s Sleep solution carries on a similar ethos though a bit feistier in style at times 🙂
Please ensure you check with your midwife if you are unsure of anything as I am not qualified in any areas of the sciences, just a new mother who has found these resources tremendously useful and seen that they do work after all. I have been asked by a few ladies to share my timetable and really hope it can be of benefit. First here are a few pointers to help you understand the principles behind what you are doing:
1. Remember every child is different. It may take a little longer for your child to adapt to the routine but be patient, persistent and persevere….it will work eventually. I have heard of babies as young as 6 weeks get into it, mine took a little longer and didn’t start to sleep through till 2-3months partly due to my midwife not recommending I start till about 6 weeks to get him on a routine.
2. You must get into the habit of a bedtime routine, the rest of your day is then structured around this. Providing a routine encourages baby to be less fretful as they have the security of what to anticipate next the more you teach them. Its also great for you as you can know when you will be free, able to talk and can time your outings and strolls more easily.
3. Its very important that baby gets most of their nutritional requirements during the day…not at night! By 6 weeks, baby can go 3-4 hours between feeds, if you find you are feeding baby still every 2 hours especially on the breast where you do not know how much they are receiving its possible baby is not getting enough or not reaching the hind milk the fuller fatty milk that keeps them content for longer. There are a range of reasons why this could be the case but the most popular issue is usually positioning and a local breast feeding counsellor can help. However, I prioritise baby’s need to eat over the type of food. This is where I suggest if necessary, supplement through combination feeding some expressed milk or formula in a bottle so you know baby is eating their daily requirement at day time feeds. There is nothing wrong with formula! There are babies who cannot breastfeed because their mother is no longer that grow to be strong healthy children. It takes more than exclusively breastfeeding your child for 6 months to grow a healthy child. This I will discuss in another post more fully.
4. Establish day time naps not sleeps. Yes baby needs restful day time naps as babies can get overtired after about 2 plus hours of being wakeful. This is why they can sometimes cry and its not a cry necessarily for food but tiredness as they are trying to wind themselves down to sleep but are still young and learning. You need to teach baby and establish morning (45 mins-1hr), afternoon (2-2.25 hours) and evening (15-30mins) naps. When baby gets the required naps in the day, it helps them go down to sleep better in the evening as they are not overtired and more relaxed. Do not underestimate the power of a good nap, you know what it feels like when you get a short but good nap!
5. Learning to soothe. In order for baby to go down and sleep at required times, you need to teach baby. Yes! you need to teach them as they will only learn what they get used to doing. I urge you to avoid rocking and patting baby down to sleep. As whatever you do becomes their sleep association which you may find harder to break later when they should have outgrown it. So if they suck a dummy to sleep they will develop that habit. If you use a dummy make sure you take it out before they fall asleep otherwise you will later have to go cold turkey to get rid of it. Also, sometimes it can be useful to give baby a little of their next feed if they are too fretful and won’t go down easily just in case, they may still be a little hungry for another few mls, but be careful especially when using the breast for comfort you do not do this too often and even if you do like the dummy scenario make sure you wake baby up so they are half asleep before you put them in their cot so that they learn to go to sleep themselves. This can involve some level of crying but it shouldn’t last long (5-10mins, if a child is over 6 months crying down instead of out can take longer as the older they grow the wiser they get. Easier to train them from younger but still possible to train them nevertheless) and shouldn’t be a whaling type of cry unless they are new to this, it may be a little harder initially. You can try the crying down method if its a little too harsh for you by leaving them for 5 mins first, then check and reassure, then 10 mins, and more before checking on them to reassure them but avoid picking them up. Please note, you should never leave a hungry, soiled or ill baby to cry out or down. You are not making them cry but rather allowing them to cry down for controlled periods of times when they are fed, clean and not ill.
I hope this has given context to the timetable. Try to be guided by it as much as possible especially starting bedtime routine at 6pm so that by latest 7pm baby is washed, fed, in bed and tucked in. You have to be committed to waking baby and feeding baby at those times regardless. If you let them oversleep the time periods in the day, it will catchup with you in the night with more wakeful hours for you. Remember that as much as this will help you get more sleep at night, you are ultimately doing it for your child and teaching them lessons like discipline, independence and helping them grow into healthy well mannered individuals. You will not regret laying a good foundation with this training. Gina also found it easy to eliminate colic in babies once they were placed on a routine that ensured they were properly fed and slept well. This is our timetable at 6-12 weeks. Eventually we will drop the 10.30pm dream/late feed once weaned unto solids. I will upload this timetable at a later date. Click to enlarge and print.