Sleep is so important, for both our little ones and for us. Not only does sleep make focusing on important tasks easier, but it’s also necessary for our wellbeing. So many parents talk about how being sleep deprived affects their relationship with each other, friends, family, and especially with their new baby.
Not everyone has a large support base around them to help. This is why it was important for myself and my husband to adopt a good schedule early on with our son.
If you’re reading my blog for the first time, my husband and I were living on the other side of the country from our families when our son was born. So now you know!
Not all circumstances are the same
We only have one child at the moment, so creating a schedule wasn’t difficult for us. If you have more than one this advice may or may not work for you. Just know that I am speaking from the circumstance of one busy little guy in the house, and what worked for us. Also, I started out pumping, but that quickly changed to formula feeding, you can read more about that in a previous post. The reason why I mention that is because breastfed babies schedules are different.
Another factor that may or may not affect your sleep training journey and schedule is co-sleeping. Some people do it, some people don’t. When our son was a newborn we would from time to time co-nap. This, however, was not something we did for every one of his or our own naps, just those occasional times when we both needed to mellow out together. We stopped this all together around 2 months. Probably younger if I think back on it now.
For the first few months, even though we were without family close by, our family came to visit for awhile. When Peyton was three weeks old, my mother-in-law came for a week, my best friend for a weekend, my mom for 3 weeks and then my sister-in-law with her kids for just shy of a week.
Starting to talk schedules
The first schedule that we made was feeding. Since Peyton was having weight gain problems after birth this was established within a week of him being born. I know that typically we are told as new first-time parents that our babies will eat every 1.5-2.5 hours. Since our little guy wasn’t chubbing up fast enough we were on a strict 1.5hr feeding schedule. With a maximum time of 2 hours between feedings. Luckily I have an incredible hubby who was a massive help. He did the majority of night feedings, and I was on day duty. Was it hard, hell yes. But once he started gaining weight, it got easier.
I kept on track with feeding times by using a Pocket Nanny, something I spoke about in this post. It’s worth checking out! There are a lot of apps out there, but since my hubby was so hands-on, the Pocket Nanny made it easy for both of us to know when Peyton last ate, had a diaper change, his nap length and more. Another tip, make alarms for every couple of hours on your phone if you are on a weight gain schedule, probably a no brainer but worth the mention!
The most important part of a schedule is communicating it to your spouse and agreeing on it.
During the time that my mom was in town staying with us, I was able to finally start a realistic schedule. This schedule consisted of a 2.5-3 hour time between bottles, and awake time was 1.5-2hrs. Don’t worry, you can refer to the below image to make things easier!
Now, let’s get to the real schedule. The schedule I am going to share is the one that we have followed since our little guy was just shy of 3 months old. As time went on and he got older, the feeding sizes grew, time between naps lengthened and guess what else happened. He was sleeping through the night. Occasionally he would wake up at about 3am, but then he would have a bottle and go right back to sleep for a few more hours.
Why is a schedule important?
- If you want to have a date night and need a sitter, when you already have a schedule established, it’s easier to pass the information over of how your child operates.
- Regardless of what anyone will tell you, babies will get used to a schedule. There are countless studies available out there for you to refer to.
- When naps are predictable, rest for you, housework, getting a shower, eating and cooking are easier to keep up with.
- Sanity. You will know what to roughly expect day to day.
- If your significant other is working and you are at home, it’s easier on them, they will know how things run during the day, which will create less stress.
Why won’t you just sleep?
One thing I found hilarious when Peyton was really young was how angry he’d get when he was tired. Call me a bad mom, but it always made me laugh that rather than going to sleep he’d just get an attitude. I’m sure you’ve been there, and if you are expecting, you will be there. It’s that moment when you remove yourself from the insanity of the situation and you just watch, almost from the outside looking in. You think to yourself, and probably say to them “if you’re that tired just go to sleep”.
We just have to keep in mind that while sleep is natural, babies are learning to human. I’m not saying that to be comical, but really. From the moment they come into the world, either naturally or through c-section, they are learning to human. For 9 or so months, they were fed through a tube in their stomach, didn’t have a night or day time, or stimulus. So just keep that in mind. It’s our job as parents to teach them how to human, and as they grow up, be good humans.
Factors that will work against you
When you eventually get to the teething phase, things may start changing. Some babies nap more, some will nap less. They will be drooling a ton and gumming on everything with their little baby gums. Don’t worry, the schedule you’ve worked so hard on will come back. Similarly to teething, growth spurts. These buggers are another thing that can make for a cranky baby. The first couple of growth spurts were by far the worst.
So, when will I get to the sleep training part? Glad you asked.
Remember how I mentioned co-sleeping above? Well that may have a significant difference on whether your sleep training will be successful or not. Some families make the transition easily, another, not so much. So just something to keep in mind.
In our circumstance, by the time we started sleep training Peyton had been napping in his crib and sleeping in his crib already. We only used the bassinet for the first couple of months while family was in town visiting.
The sample schedule below is roughly a day in the life of our one year old. We’ve been using this since he was about 8 months. It can change depending on when he wakes up in the morning, how long his naps are, etc. A short-average nap for him is 1.5 hours, and he is typically awake for 3-3.5 hours between naps.
The five sleep training methods
There are a number of sleep training techniques. I’ll break down the five most popular simply.
Ferber – The Ferber method is what some people consider the cry it out method, but that isn’t necessarily the case. There is crying involved however you will be checking in on them.
The goal with the Ferber method isn’t to coax your baby to sleep, but to teach them to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. In theory, if they wake through the night, once they have been trained on this method, they can get themselves back to sleep without your help. You would be checking on your baby in intervals if they continue to cry when you put them down.
The intervals go as follows: first-night check at 10 minutes, second night at 15, third night at 20, and so on. You would increase each night interval by 5 minutes each night. During each check, you would not pick up your little one, rather, just lovingly soothe them with your voice. You should only soothe for 3 minutes or less and then leave the room.
Cry-it-out – Not for the faint of heart. This method will have a lot of crying on your baby’s behalf, and probably some on your own as well. You would do your bedtime routine, put the baby in their crib and let them cry until they fall asleep with no checks. If you live in an apartment building I’d like to add that this wouldn’t exactly be ideal, and you may get complaints.
Chair Method – Okay, I know, this sounds odd. Less tears would be involved by your baby in this one, however, it may be difficult on you. You would do your normal bedtime routine, and sit in a chair by your baby’s crib while they fall asleep. Helping them fall asleep or picking them up will not be done in this method. Your reassurance to your baby is your presence in the room. Each night you would move the chair further and further out of the room until you eventually aren’t in the room at all.
There is no timing involved in this one, and if your child is one who is used to being cuddled to sleep this could be a very long road. If they are not, it may be the right choice for you. Patience is key, and remember, babies can feel your stress so if you are unable to give them the time they need to fall asleep you may want to re-think this choice.
Pick-up-put-down (PUPD) – The name pretty much describes what this method is. You will need a lot of patience for this one as you would pick your child up to comfort them once they start fussing and calm them until they are drowsy. This won’t work for every baby. Some will feel overstimulated, making them crankier which will obviously not relax them.
No-cry, or Fading Method – With this method you would rock your baby off to dreamland, for however long it takes to do so. Over time you would cut down the cuddles and eventually be able to put them down with no rocking or snuggling at all. For example, if you normally rock your baby for 30 minutes, you would gradually go down to 25 or 27, and lower and lower as the nights and weeks go on. For parents who want to minimize crying as much as possible, maybe parents with more than one child especially, this is a fairly common method. It is also one that is often used in conjunction with PUPD.
Making a decision
If you are going to try any of the above methods I highly suggest sticking with one method for at least a week at a time. Ideally giving it two weeks. Yes, I know in sleep deprivation time that is an eternity but remember, it’s training. Rome wasn’t built in a day and unfortunately, neither are our baby’s sleep patterns.
The first thing you need to ask yourself is what method will best suit our family.
Now, after all of that. I’m sure you want to know which method we use and which ones didn’t work for us.
My answer is a few mixed together. Yes, it is possible. You can intertwine them.
You may need to mix a few
When we started sleep training, Peyton was colicky, so it often felt like all we were ever doing was the cry-it-out method. However, I did notice that my pattern was more of a mix of Ferber with a bit of PUPD. The mix would come into play during times when he was teething for the first time, or when he was going through a growth spurt. However, for the most part, I would say, about 80% of our sleep routine came from the Ferber method.
Was it hard to listen to him cry? Yes. But you know what. The crying didn’t last long. Honestly, once I stuck to Ferber and really gave it a shot, his temperament improved, he was able to better show us tired cries over hungry cries and our schedule started working. Did I want to sometimes rip my hair out? Absolutely. But honestly mama, it got better.
I know, you’re sick of hearing “it will get better”. But it does. It really does. You are learning your baby, and your baby is learning about themselves as well. Patience isn’t easy for everyone, and I’m certainly not the queen of it. But guess what, our little guy has been sleeping through the night for most of his first year of life, and this gives not only me but my relationship the time it needs in the evenings to relax.
It will get better
There are the occasional times that Peyton has a night terror. They are scary. Scary as hell. You have a baby sleeping so beautify and then all of a sudden there is a shrill scream that comes over the monitor. Your heart will sink into your ass and it will be terrifying. My typical rule with him is to give him 5 minutes, if he is still screaming, my husband or I will go in with a bottle. This doesn’t happen very often but usually, when it does, he’s back to sleep fairly quickly. The last one he had, we didn’t have to intervene at all. He went right back to sleep.
It’s going to be a road with bumps, hiccups, and mishaps but you will learn what method works best for you, your family, and your baby. Just hang in there.
Remember how this post started off talking about a schedule, and then we got into sleep? In my opinion, these things go hand in hand. If you have a sleep/nap schedule, it’s easier to make appointments, run errands and such. Why? Because you will roughly know when your baby will be sleeping and when they will be awake. Make sense?
If you have any advice not mentioned here, please leave it in the comments below!
Did you enjoy this read? Would you like helpful tips in your inbox once a week? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter below, no spam I promise!
Please share the love and share this post with any of the social media buttons provided.