Our sleep journey with each child has been different. We co-slept and did sleep training at 1yr year with Costa. He took to it quickly and was an incredible sleeper until around age two when he learned how to crawl out of his crib, and we had to move him into a toddler bed. With Paolo, I co-slept for a year and a half. So, much happened in the early years of his childhood, between moving five times in less than a year and dealing with Covid; we only recently got Paolo sleeping through the night on his own right before Bruno arrived (and sometimes both Costa and Paolo still sneak into our room at night).
With Bruno being the third child, we knew we needed to sleep-train him if we were going to survive! Here is a breakdown of what we have been doing to get him to sleep through the night by 5-6 months. I worked with newborn care specialist, Krista Cocke, to help me set up a routine and system from the beginning with Bruno. She likes to call it “sleep conditioning” initially because you are teaching them the skills to learn how to fall asleep in the early months. Remember, every child is different, so use this as a framework for getting started. You might have to adjust certain things to make it work for you and your little one.
We followed the Eat, Activity, Sleep approach for Bruno’s daily routine. They wake up from sleeping at night or from their nap, you feed them, do an “activity” (which in the beginning could be something as simple as taking them outside to look at the trees for 10 minutes), and then you put them to sleep for a nap. The idea here is that you are never feeding them to sleep; always put them down awake so that they start to learn how to put themselves to sleep on their own.
Basics Tools That Can Help Here are some things Krista recommended for us to do from the beginning to help Bruno fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
1) Swaddling: At first, Bruno HATED being swaddled. He would throw a giant fit every time. Once Krista taught me how to double swaddle him, it changed everything. I would wrap him in a Miracle Swaddle and then a thin Solly Wrap Swaddle or Loulou Lollipop Swaddle on top. Double swaddling prevented his hands from breaking free, ultimately giving him longer stretches of sleep without waking himself up.
2) Pacifier: We never used pacifiers with our first kiddos, so this was a whole new world. I always thought it would be so hard to break the habit if we gave them pacifiers. Well, Bruno proved us wrong on this one. He liked the pacifier for the first three months, and we would offer it to him when we put him down to sleep. But, by month three, he started spitting it out and stopped using it as a form of soothing on his own.
4) Dark Room: Bruno is in a small room off our room with very little light. We have a roman shade we pull down to keep it dark in there when he takes a nap, and that has done the trick so far.
We broke the day into two 12hr chunks, basically day and night periods for the schedule. We wanted to put him down on the earlier side so we could spend time with the other boys, so we opted for a 5:30 pm-5:30 am night schedule and a 5:30 am-5:30 pm daytime schedule to start. You can adjust this to get the program that fits your life and routine. During the day hours, we fed Bruno as much as he wanted, following an “on-demand” approach (or at least every 3 hours) to encourage him to get as many calories in the day as possible. By doing this, they will then need fewer calories at night.
In the early months, the baby should only be awake for 30-60 minute stretches and then down again for another nap. Pay attention to the baby’s sleep cues like yawning, sleepy eyes, etc, and try to get them down before they get fussy and overly tired. Even if you haven’t seen any signs of the baby being tired, still put them down if they have been up for an hour so they start getting used to the schedule and rhythm of their routine. We never let Bruno’s naps exceed 2 hours, and even if he was still sleeping, we would go in, turn on the lights, turn off the sound machine, gently wake him up, unswaddle him, and give him a bottle or I would breastfeed him. I used an app Krista recommended called Huckleberry, which helped me log sleep and feeding for the baby and made it much easier to get him on a schedule and understand his patterns.
We put Bruno in his crib (in a small room off of our room) for all naps and nighttime sleep starting at four weeks. We put him down and never rocked him to sleep or held him until he fell asleep. Obviously, you have to do what feels comfortable and works for you. We found that doing a routine of changing his diaper, swaddling him, turning on the sound machine, turning off the lights, singing him a lullaby, giving him a kiss, setting him down in his crib, and leaving the room worked best. The times we went in to try to soothe him when crying, he would get really worked up, so we stopped doing this pretty early. He has never cried that long and, on average, falls asleep in 5-15 minutes of being set down in his crib.
At night, the goal is the least amount of disruption for the baby. So, very little light on if you need to change the diaper or feed. You want to encourage long stretches of sleep so offer the pacifier if the baby is fussy. According to Krista, the long sleep stretches correspond with their age, so in these early weeks, a goal of a 4 hr stretch and then 3-hour stretches until it is morning wake-up time would be ideal.
Here is an example of what a day for Bruno in these early months looked like:
4 weeks to 3 months schedule
Daytime 5:30 am – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed 6:00 am – Hang out with us until the other kids get up 6:30 am – Nap 8:30 am – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed 9:00 am – Activity (walk in the stroller, tummy-time, etc) 9:30am – Nap 11:30 am – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed 12:00 pm – Activity (walk in the stroller, tummy-time, etc) 12:30 pm – Nap 2:15 pm – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed 2:35 pm – Leave with me to do carpool 3:25 pm – Nap 4:15 pm – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed 5:00 pm – Bathtime 5:30 pm – Start the bedtime routine
Nighttime 10:30 pm – Wake up for diaper change and feed 11:00 pm – Back down to bed 2:00am – Feed 2:30 am – Back down to bed 5:30 am – Wake, unswaddle, change diaper, bottle or breastfeed
Not every day or night was like the above. There were times when Bruno would sleep until 11 pm and then wake up every hour and a half until 5:30 am, especially when he was gassy or not feeling well. So, know it fluctuates and constantly changes because of so many factors. And then it changes again around four months, but that will come soon in another post! x