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Monday, April 13, 2020

Sleeping baby

This isn't my usual running post, but having a baby sleeping through the night helped me get back to running so much, I thought I'd post about sleep training Audubon Baby.

Now, since I used a trigger word - sleep training! Crying! - let me explain that we didn't let a six-week-old cry it out. No way. He wouldn't understand. He was too little to comprehend naps and schedules and bedtime. So I guess what I should say is "sleep teaching", because I do think you need to teach a baby to sleep.

Baby had problems eating early on and had to go to physical therapy for that, so I didn't attempt anything about his night time sleep until he was eating well and a healthy weight. He HAD to wake up to eat. But otherwise, I did what I did with my brothers growing up, and followed some basic rules.

  1. Baby doesn't eat himself to sleep for naps or bedtime (it was ok for nighttime wake ups). He eats, then he's awake, then he goes to bed when he is tired. 
  2. Baby doesn't use sleep props TO SLEEP except a pacifier. No rocking, singing, holding to sleep; no darkened room or bottle. I am ok with pacifier because it's portable, it doesn't require my presence, and babies grow out of it - and this baby needed it to get drowsy, so he already had it. 
  3. Props are ok to grow drowsy/calm down. I swaddle baby because it calms him and lets him know, "It's bedtime". I give him a pacifier, too, because he needs to suck to grow sleepy. This is a bit of an issue, because a pacifier falling out requires replacement since he is too young to put it back himself (and he is swaddled!), but it was a concession I was willing to make since it soothes him so well. 
  4. Baby goes to bed drowsy but awake. I only put him in bed already fast asleep if it was a night waking or it he ended up napping in the car or stroller. The idea is that he eventually learns to put himself asleep all alone, although that is a goal we are still working toward. But the most important thing is that he learns to fall back asleep alone at night if he awakes!
So, how did it go? 

Well, like it does for an infant. Little babies wake up all the time, and take short, sporadic naps! But we worked out a routine and STUCK to it. Babies love consistency. 
  • The most important thing for me was nighttime. I lucked out that he started to sleep through the night at seven weeks exactly. The impetus was starting daycare! He had been improving a lot - down to one wake up per night - and I was sure he was ready to drop that wake up. But he needed a night when he was SO exhausted he simply couldn't wake up for it to happen. The first day of daycare did it for him! He was so tired out, he slept through the night - and then he just kept doing it. I maintained his feeding schedule, tweaking it so that he took four bottles at daycare (save me a feeding! Ha!), and got cluster feeds and a late-night feed in his sleep so his tummy was full for bedtime. He ate eight times a day. 
  • So yeah, that was great. BUT. I decided I wanted some of my evening back. I was feeding him at 7, 9, and 11, and I hated that I was interrupted every two hours, and had to stay up until 11:30. I tried going to bed at ten and setting an alarm for eleven, but that made me more tired than getting up with him at 3am! I decided I wanted to drop a feeding in the evening. I decided 7 and 10 was enough. So I started by simply feeding him at 7 and 10 one night. Oops, he woke up hungry at 3 am. So the next day I added a little more milk to his day bottles, and fed him on both sides at his 10pm feeding. He still woke up - at 3am. But I knew he'd gotten enough to eat, and the fact that he always wakes at 3am sounded like a bad habit to me! So I comforted him, gave him his pacifier, and put him back to sleep. No food. The next night he slept through the night, and has ever since. 
  • Audubonbaby turned three months this weekend, and decided he could stretch that little schedule out a bit more and eat every three hours during the day. This means I dropped a feeding and he eats just six times a day. I did it exactly like I did it before, only this time - no wake ups. He's a big boy now! The difference now is that, with a bottle every three hours, he has a little more time to be awake and then to nap. It's helping him get some longer naps before having to be wakened to eat. Sometimes he needs help to nap longer, though. His sleep cycle is 45 minutes, and then he wakes up. But if I go replace his pacifier and pat his back, he gladly goes back to sleep. He's still tired! He just hasn't learned to connect one sleep cycle to the next all the time. Hopefully this comes with time, but meanwhile, sacrificing five minutes to pat his back in order to earn 45 more minutes of nap is a fair trade off. And so far, he's only needed help once a day. 
Having a baby with a consistent schedule and good nighttime sleep has allowed me to get my runs in before work without being too exhausted to function. I get enough sleep, and I know when he will wake and need to eat because I'm the one who wakes him up and feeds him! We're super lucky that he's such a happy baby, and so willing to learn a schedule and routine. 


  1. I am so glad you have such a good sleeper! Paul was a good sleeper with just 1-2 wake-ups until about 3.5 months. He never slept through the night but his wake-ups were manageable. Then the regression hit and that was brutal. We ended up sleep training at 4 months. We followed a plan a friend got from a sleep person they hired. We took the pacifier away then which made it harder at first but it's something we are so happy we did in the long run. This is going to sound judgy but I kind of hate seeing toddlers walking around with a pacifier in their mouth! But we all have to do what we need to do to get through life with a baby or toddler! Paul actually did not sleep through the night until he was 1! We got him down to 2 wake ups with sleep training and then he started to get ear infections and was up 3-5 times/night due to pain from his ears. Drinking was the only thing that seemed to soothe him, so we let him eat to soothe the pain. Then after he got tubes at 9 months, we started to gradually drop feeds until he STTN. Now he sleeps about 12 hours a night which is glorious! The best part of sleep training was that he learned to put himself to sleep. So bedtime was no longer a struggle. We had our routine (bath some nights, lotion, jammies, books) and then we set him in the crib and that was it!

  2. Hooray. Sounds like it was a challenging start but ultimately everything fell into place with your approach.