5 things that helped my babies sleep through the night.
How did I get my boys to sleep through the night? I get this question a lot. Here's the thing: it happened pretty naturally with consistency over time of teaching good sleep habits. If you missed that post, you can read it here. We just kept at it. And let me say, it is worth every ounce of lost sleep. Hind sight is always 20/20 and it's so much easier to say that now that I am not completely sleep deprived. On average, the boys sleep from about 7PM to between 6AM-7AM. Yes, we have bad nights. Yes, we've had regressions. But on average, they have been giving me 10-12 hour stretches since about 4 months old (14 weeks for Eli and 16 for Stisher). And both boys have been exclusively on breast milk since birth.
So, how did I know they were ready? I am sharing 5 things that helped the boys drop the middle of the night feeding and sleep through the night.
1. We did bottles only at night. No exceptions. As we approached the 12 pound mark (it happened at different times for my boys), we got really consistent with this. It was how I kept up with how many ounces they were drinking in the night. The closer they got to 12 pounds and the more they drank during the day, the less they drank at night. I slowly started decreasing what I was giving them. And then it happened. One at a time. I got them up, made their bottle and they refused it. I tried and tried and tried and they wouldn't take it. So back to bed they went. I did this for a few nights just to ensure this wasn't some sort of fluke. Every night they refused the bottle, so I knew they were ready.
2. Oh magic suit, oh magic suit. We transitioned out of the swaddle and into the magic suit. Why? I read a lot online that babies can't learn to self soothe without access to their hands. Moms on Call recommends dropping the swaddle at 12 weeks or 12 pounds and going straight to footed pjs. My boys were still startling themselves awake a good bit so I just didn't feel like they were ready for that. We decided to move them out of the Dockatot and into the magic suit, but still in their cribs. This allowed them access to their hands to learn to self soothe, but also kept them feeling secure enough and decreased that startle reflex. I highly recommend this product because I think it was a huge component of this process. Grab your magic suit here.
3. We took the pacis away. I know, I know. It sounds terrible. But we were playing paci pong A LOT. Stisher has never been much of a paci sucker. In fact, the second we transitioned him into the magic suit, he found his fingers and has been hooked ever since. It's the best thing ever and has made him an expert sleeper and self soother. Eli on the other hand..... is a paci addict. It was causing all sorts of issues because the paci would fall out and he couldn't put it back in. So, we decided that until he could find it and put it back in himself, we were going to take it away cold turkey for naps and bedtime.
4. The boys finally started drinking about 6 ounces - 5 times a day. This was a huge milestone for us and was when they started refusing their middle of the night bottle. They were getting 30 ish ounces during the day and were plenty full to make it all night. It's hard to monitor their intake when you are nursing, so for a few weeks we did a lot of bottles so that we could keep up with it. Yes, I know. So much pumping and so much work. But 10-12 hours of consistent sleep was worth it to me.
5. We let them cry a little bit. This is such a hot topic, so I am not going to share a whole lot. It's a very personal decision that every couple has to make for themselves. No judgement on either side. I see pros and cons to doing it both ways. I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of how I feel about letting babies cry. For a while, I didn't let them cry AT ALL. Like, I would break my leg to get in there. Partly because I had just worked so hard to get them both down and if they dare woke the other sleeping child, I would have had a full fledged melt down. Also partly because I wasn't ready and I didn't feel like they were ready. Still, we don't have a hard and fast rule about crying because if I think my baby needs me, I will always go get him. Once we knew that they weren't hungry at night anymore, we did let them cry a little bit. We decided what we were comfortable with and the good thing is that it didn't take much crying at all. I had heard horror stories of parents having to do cry it out and listen to their babies cry for hours. That wasn't our experience at all, thankfully. I think all of the work leading up to this time helped a lot. My thing with crying now is that if I know they are ok (fed, healthy, etc) and there is a purpose, I can do it (with a limit). I always have a limit. But we do not let them cry out of laziness. Ever. For example, if we are giving them the space to learn to self soothe or explore tummy time, I know there is a skill that they have to master themselves. A greater purpose. And I can't do it for them. Again, every couple has to decide what they are comfortable with. Make sure you are on the same page with your spouse because whatever you decide, you will need support, emotionally and physically.
That is all for now! I hope this is helpful. It's easy to say now, but I look back on all of our sleepless nights and know that it was just a season. People used to tell me that when I was in the thick of it and it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But this too shall pass and one day you will sleep again. And when you do, you will never take a minute of good sleep for granted again.
Lots of love,