Firstly, I am no sleep therapist I have no professional background in sleep routines BUT what I do have is 2 children that have been incredibly settled babies and VERY long sleepers, luck? Maybe.. Routine? Possibly… either way Im going to share what I’ve done from birth with both my children and maybe, just maybe it might help another mama out who is desperate for more rest.
My first born Ambria was a baby that was to good to be true, I kept being told.. “oh she won’t do that forever” meaning, the long hours of sleep and almost non existent crying wouldn’t last, but THEY DID, only those closest to me believed me as they saw it with their own eyes, Ambria never cried, never needed settling and the kid LOVED her sleep and still does, if she ever did need to be rocked to sleep or cried heavily it was only minimal times and generally from sickness, which again was a rarity for her, Arlo now 10 weeks to my huge surprise is EXACTLY the same, However, nothing prepares you for the tiredness and fatigue you feel in those first few months of motherhood, good sleeper or not! Even with 4 hourly feeds you still have unbroken sleep which takes a lot of adjusting. Now as a toddler, Ambria (2.1/2) can throw a massive tantrum so tears are inevitable lol, motherhood certainly hasn’t come without its challenges for me but that’s another story, this is about my saving grace, having babies that sleep so i can recharge for whatever is thrown at me, sometimes literally, the next day, but for our first glorious year with her she was literally a dream, she still is but just a little more of a sassy, opinionated, bossy but beautiful dream.
There were certain things I decided to do from day one with Ambria that I now believe laid the foundation for her being a solid sleeper, she even transitioned into a queen bed from her cot without any fuss, she literally just started sleeping in her new bed, with her normal hours and that was that.
Up until I had Arlo I was uncertain whether its just “how she was” and it was not part of my doing or only partially what I had done, but now that Arlo is 10 weeks old and again a settled baby, little to no crying and doing long hours I feel it must be a combination of what I am doing, luck, genes and routines! It could just be pure DUMB LUCK so please don’t by any means feel any guilt or blame yourselves for not having a good sleep routine with your little ones, I have no doubt you are all doing everything you can in the best way you now how and feel comfortable with!
Before I begin the break down of each aspect I believe helps settle your babes let me make it known that I have used dummies and formula for my babies VERY early on, I understand and respect the use of these are not for everyone so if they are not for you, thats ok, but maybe there are other tips in this blog that may suit your parenting style, each to their own, take and leave whatever you wish this blog is simply what I have done and whats worked for me, I was confident in my choices and just wanted to make the transition into motherhood as easy as possible, so I was willing to try anything and take any advice I got from women who had been there before, they will be your best friends and your best guides, so trust them! 🙂 I hope you can take something away from this and fingers crossed it works, lets start from the very beginning.
THE EARLY DAYS. This section covers hours, when I feed, dream feeding, breast and bottle feeding, whilst this section is long there are MANY other factors to follow that when all used together I believe help in settling bub, so continue to read on.
I breast fed my first born Ambria for 3 months, without going into detail, it wasn’t for me, it was frustrating, I had low supply, I hated not knowing how much she was getting and we couldn’t seem to get into sync with each other which caused an angry mum and Bub. My milk didn’t come in until day 5 with Ambria so by this time the nurses had already recommended doing formula top ups. Once I started he bottles Ambria was very settled so I felt comfortable to continue to do breast and formula from the very beginning with her as she was SO Content and I feared disrupting that so continued the formula, I gave her as much breast milk as I could but after 3 months I weaned completely as she was mainly on formula feeds and I didn’t see the point in continuing BF when it was a struggle with every feed. After a formula feed she would sleep for hours, after a breast feed I was lucky to get her to sleep for 1 hour. I truly believe that other than factors like colic or sickness the only reason a baby will cry and be unsettled during these early days is because they are hungry or have wind and usually it’s easy to tell the difference. Keep in mind all things take getting used to for babies tummy, so whilst formula might not agree straight away Bub will get used to it, a brand or formula type may be the only thing you need to change, if its still not agreeing with Bub after 2 weeks. For me this was easier than trying to figure out what was making her unsettled from my breast milk! I didn’t want to get into a habit of Ambria cluster or comfort feeding, as in my opinion this sets a routine for small feeds and small feeds = small sleeps, once this cycle starts I thought it would be hard to break, instead of Ambria doing a long full feed to get the hind milk she would feed for a short amount of time not getting the thicker milk she needed to last longer between feeds, she would then wake and be hungry again, I tried EVERYTHING to get her to do a proper breast feed but literally from day one she would just fall asleep during a feed and would not get the hind milk, i undressed her, ticked her and persisted for sometimes an hour trying to wake her to drain my breast properly, but she wouldn’t she just slept. Older generation midwives would tell me to ” feed as much as the baby wants and feed on demand” younger generation midwifes said “Don’t get in the habit of cluster feeding, happy mum happy Bub so if formula top ups help to push out those hours, then do that” so thats what I did, agree or don’t agree, it worked for me. I was still trying to breast feed, at that point I still wanted to, so in order to prevent comfort/cluster feeding I would express the milk to keep trying to build my supply but bottle feeding so that I knew how much Ambria was getting and could routinely do 3-4 hourly feeds. I would give her expressed milk and breast feed her during the day but I would always do a formula feed for her last two feeds of the day so she was nice and full for bed. Given the fact that the formula feeds were giving her much longer sleeps (over 3-4 hours), as mentioned before I eventually made the switch all together. So to summarise this section I break it down like this, in the early days aim for FULL feeds 3-4 hourly, I never did 2 hourly and NEVER woke baby to feed, at no point did my babies loose weight, they were always full, fed and content. Once I made the switch to 100% formula at 2-3 months old Ambria would sleep from approximately 10pm for 6-7 hours ( which 6 hours is considered sleeping through so don’t be discouraged if your baby isn’t a 10-12 hour sleeper in the first few months 5-6 hours is great for newborn to 3-4 months) she would have an early morning dream feed around 4-5am then I’d put her straight back down and with age she dropped that morning feed and from 6 months old she was a 10-12 hour sleeper from 9-10pm to around 8-9am. Because of my history with Ambria I formula fed Arlo from day one, and breast fed for the first few weeks. He is now 10 weeks old and has always been fed 3-4 hourly and from 10pm sleeps till around 5am has a dream feed then sleeps for another two hours, so if history repeats he will eventually push out that morning feed until its dropped all together for a regular nights sleep. I don’t monitor his day sleeps, I have no routine for the day other than keeping him awake and trying to tire him out before his last feed of a night time. For the dream feed, no matter when that feed is for you, I highly recommended keeping Bub wrapped and do not change their nappy unless there is a poo! Nappies are so well made these days they will last all night, a nurse told me that having bub get used to their nappy being a little wet is fine because it means they won’t get used to having a consistently dry nappy needing you to change it all the time. Cover their bottom in a good butt balm like sudo cream, put a fresh nappy on and this will last from 10.00 till morning. During night time you want to keep it dark and quiet with minimal fuss to stop Bub from fully waking. As soon as I hear him start grunting and waking for a feed ill pop the dummy in, usually this will push him out a little longer to try and “train” him to sleep for longer, however I never let him get to the point where he is crying for a feed because I want to keep him settled and calm during the night, if you have a bub that wakes and immediately cries to alert for you for a feed, set an alarm to do a dream feed before they wake so they never get to the point of waking and crying. when he wakes up again (if the dummy was enough to get him back to sleep again) ill keep him wrapped, lights still off, I use my phone torch lol and gently feed and burp him putting him straight back down to bed. So lets move on to EVERYTHING ELSE I do other than formula feeding!
DUMMIES. Yep I whipped out the dummy at the hospital, if you are pro dummy, don’t wait just start using it! The longer you wait the more likely they will reject it when trying to introduce it after a few weeks old and lets face it dummies are a lifesaver! Don’t be afraid to force (for lack of a better word) the dummy if they initially seem to spit it out. They just need to get used to the sensation and “latch” it. This can be encouraged by rubbing the dummy on the roof of bubs mouth and holding it in there until they recognise it and start to suck. Ill also stroke bubs cheek to encourage the sucking reflex when trying to get them to latch the dummy. If you know they are not hungry, or if you need to try and settle them to push out time between feeds, offer it to them whenever they are unsettled, sometimes they will take it, sometimes they won’t, Don’t give up because having it work enough to settle them at least sometimes is better than not having it all. It might just save you from half of the meltdowns. If Bub is really worked up they may not take it right away, allow a minute or two of crying then reintroduce the dummy by wriggling it around in the mouth, hopefully they recognise, latch and allow it to soothe them. Research has also shown that dummies can help prevent sids from the sucking reflex, so I always give my babies the dummy at night and it just drops out when they fall asleep. Again, agree or disagree with me, I respect your opinion, this is just mine and what works for me.
WRAPPING. I won’t believe anyone that tells me their baby doesn’t like to be wrapped, particularly during the first few months! If you think they don’t like it I can almost guarantee this is because you are simply not doing it right or tight enough. A baby is used to be curled up as tight as can be in the womb, so wrapping makes them feel secure and will also stop them from waking from startling them selves. Sometimes during the wrapping process a baby will fight against it. This isn’t because they don’t like being wrapped its no different from nappy changing, they don’t like being fussed with or exposed, so persist with the wrapping even if they appear to dislike it at first, wrap tight, if they are still pushing against the wrap, keep them wrapped but hold them tight and pat until they settle then pop them back down, it will help baby sleep longer as they will feel secure and won’t wake from the startle reflex. Bub won’t like being wrapped if it’s loose enough for them to get out of, this makes them feel exposed or irritated knowing they have half escaped so will continue to fight against it until they are out of the wrap. The way I wrap my babies is so tight that not even Houdini could get out of it, they never so much as get a finger out, if your babies are getting out of your wraps your need to do them tighter and learn a different style of wrapping, go on you tube or get a midwife to show you. Ive even considered throwing up a you tube video of the way I wrap as anyone I’ve taught my wrap to hasn’t seen it before and now swears by it! I highly recommended only getting 120×120 sized wraps, Aden and Anais make lovely ones. I switched to love to dream swaddles when Ambria had started to roll and sleep on her belly, I think this was around 6 months old, but until then the love to dream swaddles didn’t keep Bub feeling tight enough however they are a great option to keep them settled once good sleep has been established after a few months and she went on to use the love to dream until she was 1.
TEMPERATURE. If Bub is the slightest bit cold, they will wake. Baby photographers purposely have heaters going during shoots to keep babies settled, now I’m not saying over cook your baby, I hope you know the difference however you want to make sure they are nice and warm. Other than when the weather is of extreme heat, ill always have Bub in a suit, then swaddled tight, then have a wrap or blanket firmly tucked over the top to keep them in place and nice and secure in the bassinet, it stops them from rolling and kicking and again helps them feel secure for restful sleep.
NIGHT & DAY ENVIRONMENT From day one with both of my babies I’ve done the following to get baby in sync with day and night, its fairly simple really, keep it bright and noisy during the day and dark and quiet during the night. I NEVER put Bub down to sleep in the bassinet or cot during the day, why? because thats for bedtime, just like adults go to bed at night. Ive always had my babies out in the lounge area, with the curtains up, tv or radio on and let them sleep either in their rocker, a play mat or a Bub nest. Once Ambria was older, around 1, and good night time sleep was established I would put her down for sleeps in her cot as she was to big for the rocker and Bub nest, but by this time her routine was already in sync with night and day. To me, I don’t really have a routine through the day, they can feed and nap whenever, what matters is that we all get our sleep of a night time. I honestly believe that by doing this both of my babies from early on associated their bassinet/cot, darkness and a silent house to night time and will sleep until the environment changes back to bright and noisy. Don’t use music or background noise to try and help Bub sleep through the night, why? because you need sleep to! and unless you want to listen to white noise or music for the next year or until they break the habit, don’t start one, you want to make your babies routine as close to your normal routine, which brings me to ” choosing a bedtime”.
CHOOSING A BEDTIME TO SUIT YOU or “THE 10.00 BEDTIME! For some reason a lot of new mums think that you should be putting baby down to bed at 6 or 7pm, which is fine if thats the time that YOU go to bed, if thats way earlier than you go to bed then keep baby out with you as stated in the last section, keep them in the rocker, on a play mat or just with you until you are ready to go to bed but whatever time that is keep it the same each night. I Swear by “The 10.00 bedtime” I’ve done this with both of my babies, I usually go to bed around 10-10.30 so I always give Bub a long bath at around 9.30, let them have a good kick around and try to tire them out, followed by a full bottle then we all go to bed at the same time allowing more unbroken sleep for me, and a good way to start a routine with a goal of “sleeping through” by timing the hours from when they go down at that same time each night. Instead of putting Bub to sleep earlier and having to get up to feed when ive only been in bed for 2 hours, going to bed at around the 10.00 mark usually means that you only need to get up for one feed during the night and one early morning, until eventually its pushed out to 10.00 bedtime and one early morning feed. In the early weeks putting Arlo to bed at 10.00 meant a feed at around 2-3am then another at 6am, now at 10 weeks old he wakes for a feed around, 5.30-6 so in another few months he should start doing 10pm till 7.30-8am ish the same as Ambria did and then we all have the same bed time routine and don’t worry they won’t be going to bed at 10.00 forever, eventually as toddlers they will need more sleep, Ambria’s bedtimes naturally got earlier and earlier from having bigger more tiring days once she was around 15 months old. The only feed I try to time is the feed leading up to 10.00, so at around 7.pm ill feed so that bub is due again by 10.00, ill try to keep him awake or wake him around 8-9 if he naps after that 7pm feed (the only time ill wake a sleeping baby so that I can entertain and tire him out until that final feed using bath time to tire out and be calm, full and ready for a good long sleep. I used 10.00 as my starting point so that we all had the same bedtime then with age and the more active Ambria got the more she needed to go to bed earlier but she would sleep through until her usual morning time.
So to wrap all of this up…
• Im a strong believer that formula feeding aids longer and better sleeps ONLY if you don’t have sufficient milk supply or quality or able to get your baby to feed properly getting the hind milk
• Use a dummy to settle instead of comfort feeding
• Dream feed during the night and try to not do a nappy change unless needed, feed re wrap tight and put Bub straight back down.
• Tight, secure, Houdini proof wrapping for the first few months
• Make sure Bub is warm and firmly tucked in to prevent rolling
• Keeping night time and day time environment different and only use bassinet or cot for night time and another sleeping arrangement for day time
• Wake up, tire out, bath and feed at a bedtime that suits you and do this same routine at the same time every night.
I hope this has made sense and I haven’t rambled! Much harder to write than I expected and much easier to explain in person, I should have just done a video lol
I ask people respect that I made choices that suit me, my situation and my family and ultimately I just had to do whatever worked and when it worked I stuck with it! Everyone has an opinion of whats right and wrong or best for your baby, I believe that whats best for your baby is a happy mum, after all the one thing a baby needs to survive, is a mother or in some cases a doting dad or care giver. For the baby to be loved, nurtured and cared for in the best way possible, the person/persons caring for them, need to be happy too.
If none of this works for you, or if you have tried all of the above and your little ones are still little night owls, HANG IN THERE mama, it won’t last forever and if it makes you feel ANY better, regardless on the fact that my children sleep long hours through the night, I, ironically have INSOMNIA so most of the time I don’t even get to enjoy the fact that my children sleep well!!! Usually I lay there missing them while they all snore they night away! Maybe someone could write an adult blog on how to get me to sleep! lol
Lots of love to you all,