Getting Them to SLEEP! “LACK OF SLEEP” is probably every nonparent’s biggest fear. Certainly, your sleep schedule requires the biggest adjustment during the first few months of parenthood. Those first few weeks? It is what it is. Your baby needs to eat every few hours (maybe even every 90 minutes), and if you’re breastfeeding, that’s going to be your new around-the-clock alarm clock.
With Honor, I was just about at my breaking point (especially because I couldn’t drink coffee while nursing), when my girlfriend Kelly Sawyer said the magic word: “Schedule!” She had successfully transitioned both of her kids to a consistent 7:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. sleep schedule. It totally changed her life and then mine. Caveat: This is a (kinder, gentler) form of sleep training, and that’s not for everyone.
Definitely discuss this strategy with your partner and your pediatrician many experts have written about this subject and there is a wide variety of opinion. I’m simply sharing what worked for us in the hopes that it can help you and your little ones get a better night’s sleep. That being said, here’s what Kelly’s Genius Sleep Schedule looks like you can start it with a child as young as a few months old, then phase out the daytime naps when your baby stops needing to sleep as much. “It may take your baby a week or so to get used to the new routine, so be patient,” Kelly warns. “The key is to wake them up at the end of each naptime right on schedule as hard as that seems!
If they sleep too much during the day, they won’t sleep at night. It’s that simple.” Kelly says she implemented the schedule at four months with her first daughter, and “as soon as humanly possible” with number two. With Honor, we were able to get her on this schedule by about three months. By four weeks old, she was big enough to sleep for 6 hours at a stretch, and at that point, we started letting her be awake and fussing a bit before we’d go in to get her gradually, we were able to stretch this from 6 to 8 to 10 to 12 hours.
Amazing! With Haven, it took a little longer maybe four or five months before she had the full 12 hours down. But we got there, and I added my own twist to Kelly’s schedule: a midnight feeding (right before I went to bed) that would help her sleep through until 7:00 or 8:00 a.m. (The key was to make sure it was at least 4 hours since her last feeding of the day, so it didn’t make her sick and to keep it very low key; lights off, no talking, just feed, change, back to bed.)
Gradually, since she was sleeping less during the day, Haven started eating more and wanted to go for longer and longer stretches of sleep at night. Of course, we aren’t militant about this. Some nights, it’s closer to 7:30, and when we travel, all bets are off. But we do our best to be as consistent as possible, and it really does work most of the time. You might feel selfish at first, trying to get your baby on a schedule that lets you have 12 uninterrupted hours to yourself every night don’t.
That big chunk of “you time” is actually just a side benefit. Babies and little kids crave routine and stability plus all of the health benefits that come with eating at regular intervals and getting a good night’s sleep. Babies learn self-soothing more quickly this way, which I think translates to having more confidence and self-reliance as they grow.
Both of my girls are pretty independent, and I think a lot of that has to do with our strategy of letting them figure themselves out as much as possible. Plus, a happier, less-sleep-deprived mommy means happier kids, too! I had almost no baby blues with either of my kids, and I think the schedule was a big part of it; it helped me wrap my head around a day and a night. This is not to knock co-sleeping or less scheduled parenting whatsoever again, this is all about figuring out the best approach for you and your baby.