Written by: Alexandra Lotzgeselle
Whenever someone asks if my nearly 5 month old sleeps through the night, I tell them the truth: my son has been sleeping through the night since he was 7 weeks old. They are even more surprised when they probe further and find out that by “sleeping through the night” I mean he goes to bed around 630 or 7 at night, and wakes up around 7 or 730 the next morning. Normally people’s reaction is to just say how lucky we got. Now, that may be true. We may have just gotten really lucky. Or, Hudson sleeps through the night because we follow a strict schedule, sleeps in a crib in his own room, and worked hard to make sure he started sleeping through the night as early as his body would allow.
As any new parent will surely know, there are a million different ways to raise kids nowadays. There’s so many different options on how you want your child to be brought up. There’s co-sleeping, free-range parenting, attachment parenting, and crying it out, just to name a few. I strongly believe that whatever avenue you decide on for bringing up your children, it’s the right one. Schedules, rules, and discipline may not work for your family, whereas attachment parenting and co-sleeping may not work for another. As long as you make a concerted effort to do what you believe is best, you’re already in the clear.
My only caveat to that statement is that I do think it is extremely important that you and your spouse are on the same page. If you want to try crying it out, you better make sure the hubby is on-board. Want to try to cry it out- make sure your spouse agrees, because crying can permeate all the walls in your home. If you are signed up for co-sleeping, your significant other better agree with you or things are going to get rough with 3 humans in one bed. Being on the same page is the cornerstone of raising children. You don’t always have to agree completely, and you don’t have to do everything the same way, you just need to make sure you both understand why something is important to the other person and agree on the best actions to take. Luckily for my marriage, both my husband and I were wholeheartedly on board with attempting whatever method we could to try to get our son to sleep through the night early on.
Sleeping was a HUGE concern of ours before our son was born. I am someone who could sleep 10 hours at night, then take a 2 hour nap before lunch. I have never been able to function on 6 hours of sleep or less. And when you’re pregnant, everyone likes to say “get your sleep now because you won’t get a good night’s sleep for years”. And if you tell them you aren’t sleeping well, you get “It’s good practice for when the baby comes”. Statements like that always sort of bothered us. All babies aren’t the same, and my husband and I both slept through the night very early, so why couldn’t our kid be the same way? We were also extra nervous because you hear very often that babies (that’s right, the statement is always making the assumption that all babies are exactly the same) can’t be sleep trained, taught to self-soothe, or sleep through the night until at least 6 months of age.
Throughout my pregnancy I had one awesome, amazing resource that I always turned to. My very good friend Brittany, who I have known for nearly 15 years and who also happens to be a nurse, had a son in January of 2015, so I came to her daily with questions. Her son was sleeping through the night at a very early age, so I told her I had to know exactly how she did it! This was when I learned of the glorious program called ‘Baby Wise’. It is a book that focuses on a parent-lead schedule to “give your child the gift of a good night’s sleep”.
Unfortunately, we did not read the book prior to our son being born, so we were a little behind the ball in terms of the way they suggest doing things. They recommend starting from day one with parent-led scheduled eatings, sleeping, etc. Since we didn’t do that (the first 2 weeks Hudson did nothing other than sleep anyway), we did a modified version of Baby Wise, and I took a lot of advice and direction from Brittany. While Hudson was on formula (which normally allows for babies to go longer without eating), Brittany’s son was breastfed and she followed Baby Wise closely while having the same successful outcome we did.
At 4 weeks old we moved Hudson from a cradle in our room to his crib in his own room. This immediately allowed for us to get a lot more sleep, as we were not being woken up by every little noise or grunt he made. We were putting him down to bed after eating around 7, and then we would do a dream feed when we went to bed around 10. Hudson would then wake up for another feeding around 3am and would finally be up for the day around 6 or 7. Sure, this is not sleeping through the night truly, but it was a good start.
So what is this, “dream feed” you ask? It is a genius and incredibly helpful tool created by the doctors behind Baby Wise in which you go in and feed your baby a bottle, without waking them up, approximately 3 or 4 hours after you put them down for bed. The point of the dream feed is so that you can get a longer block of sleep without your baby waking up. Before we started doing this, Hudson was waking up around midnight, so we were getting only a couple of hours before being woken up, then only a few more hours before he was up for the day. The dream feed allows for you to give your baby enough food to allow them to sleep for a longer block, and therefore extending your first sleep from only 2 hours or so, to around 5. There’s people in the world without kids who only get 5 hours of sleep a night, so getting a solid 5 hour block of sleep before having to wake up and then going back to sleep for a few more hours was incredibly helpful. It allowed me to feel exponentially more well-rested than I was before, and made it so I didn’t even need to nap during the day!
Finally a few days before he turned 7 weeks old, Hudson dropped his 3 am feeding on his own, and we woke up one morning in disbelief that we had just gotten a solid 8 hours of sleep. Over the next couple of months, he started going to sleep better and quicker, and it now is difficult to even keep him up until 7pm. He now at nearly 5 months old sleeps for a solid 12-13 hours at night. Naps are also pretty strict. I put him down 1 hour after he wakes up, and he sleeps for about 2-3 hours. He then takes his second 2-3 hour nap 1-1.5 hours after he wakes up from his first nap, and often times gets fussy and naps for another hour or so about 90 minutes after he wakes up from his second nap. I was hesitant about dropping the dream feed, as I worried it would throw him off, but when he was only eating about 2 ounces for the dream feed around 4 months, I finally cut it without any backlash. He still has not woken up throughout the night nor does he wake up earlier. Yes…he sleeps A LOT.
The hardest part of Baby Wise was having to make Hudson “cry it out”. The first night we put him down without rocking him to sleep (which had previously taken up to 30 minutes before ever-so-gently placing him in his crib) he cried on and off for over an hour. He didn’t scream the whole time- he would stop for 10 minutes, then fuss or cry for a few minutes, then stop again. It wasn’t fun. I broke down and got him before breaking down and crying myself. Baby Wise sets you up to know it’s going to be hard, and I took advice from Brittany whose son cut his crying time in half nightly before dropping it completely after just a few days. Hudson was not that good. For the next few weeks he would fuss and cry a little for about 15 minutes every night. He never screamed though, and there were never tears. It was hard, but I think one of the reasons parents disagree with the crying it out method isn’t necessarily because they really believe it’s bad for their kids, but rather because its so uncomfortable for the parents. We often times convince ourselves that what is actually hard for us, is really hard or bad for our kids, and we let that misconception guide our choices. Of course a baby would rather be held and rocked before being put to bed. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. I would rather take a swig of Zzquil before going to bed instead of having to clear my mind and fall asleep on my own, but it doesn’t mean it’s what I should do.
So after a few nights of discomfort, Hudson now goes to sleep, on his own, every single time he is put in his crib. If he wakes up, he puts himself back to sleep. He is a master at self-soothing. Brittany had told me before that sometimes she’ll hear her son Maverick wake up in the night, but if she knows he isn’t teething, sick, or something is wrong, she’ll let him fuss for a few minutes and he just put himself back to sleep. Hudson has woken up maybe 2 or 3 times since he started sleeping through the night, but he’s never cried, and anytime I’ve gotten out of bed because I was worried something was wrong, he’s put himself back to sleep before I could even make it to his door just a few steps away.
While this type of strict schedule and putting our son down to put himself to sleep may seem harsh to some, it actually offers us a lot more freedom. We can be at any of our friends homes, and if there is a crib or a pack n’ play, we can just put him down at his normal nap or bedtime and then go back to our friends. It’s not a difficult process to get him to sleep. He’ll fuss when he’s tired, and we just put him down and within 2-3 minutes he’s asleep. He never cries, he never cries or requires us to rock him to go down.
I think it’s important to note a few things. At Hudson’s 2 week checkup the doctor told us not to wake him up anymore throughout the night for feedings. She told us he was gaining weight appropriately, and that he would wake up throughout the night when he was hungry and needed to eat. So I swear, we aren’t monsters for allowing our baby to sleep as much as he wants. Now, this may be a coincidence, but every single couple we know who had their baby cry it out, went through only a couple rough nights before their kids were sleeping through the night at a young age. They not only have happier kids, but they’re happier adults.
Following Baby Wise will not work for everyone. If you co-sleep, this is going to be incredibly difficult for you, as it’s going to be hard to keep your baby asleep with 2 other people in the bed and you going to bed at different times. However, this worked for us, and it was a true gift. Thanks to the general concepts of Baby Wise and the help and guidance from Brittany (my mommy savior), we have been getting at least 8 hours a night since my son was 4 weeks old, and have a child that has been sleeping for 12-13 hours straight every night since he was 7 weeks old. I work from home, so my son gets plenty of love, attention, and physical contact throughout the day. According to his doctor, he is very healthy and, according to anyone who knows him, he is incredibly happy and easygoing. In fact, he’s only cried with tears baby 5 times since he was born. The benefits this sleep program has had on our marriage are also measurable. My husband and I get AT LEAST 3 hours alone together every single night. We spend every night talking and hanging out just like we did before we had a baby. Almost weekly we tell each other how people have it wrong, because having a baby is pretty easy! Baby Wise helped us to give our son (and ourselves) “the gift of a good night sleep” and I am so incredibly thankful for it. Being so well rested, us and our son, has made us such a happy family. We enjoy every loving, joyful, well-rested moment we all have together, and if you are a parent-to-be who is concerned about sleep, or a new parent struggling to stay awake and happy, I highly recommend you give this book a read!