I knew when I signed up for motherhood that there would be sleep loss. I tried to mentally prepare myself for this by sleeping more through pregnancy.
I figured that I could store up more sleep hours on the front end right?
Surprise surprise, the last trimester you will wake up many, many times a night to “tinkle.” I use this term because yes I woke up to pee, but nothing substantial came of it!
Related: How to sleep better when pregnant
Since this strategy didn’t work out, I decided I needed to go into the newborn period with a solid plan for a newborn sleep schedule.
I didn’t know what I was doing at first, but this schedule turned out to be our blueprint to get us from third trimester wake up calls, through night feeding, to the glorious feeling of once again sleeping through the night!
In this post I will share with you how I implemented a bedtime routine that helped our son sleep through the night by the time he was 5 months old.
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Newborn sleep schedule tips
From birth to 6 weeks, don’t worry too much about a newborn sleep schedule!
This time is supposed to be about bonding, snuggling, and surviving. So please don’t stress yourself out about getting on some kind of schedule.
Your baby is honestly just trying to figure out this whole new world, so keep your expectations low.
My best advice is to sleep when the baby sleeps. You are already rolling your eyes!
I know you have stuff to do but one day you will be willing to put your body through pregnancy hell just to have a moment of some newborn snuggles again.
Trust me on this one!
Related post: How to survive the first 6 weeks of breastfeeding
Here is me soaking up some sweet snuggles.
Eat plenty of rich and nutritious foods
When you are low on sleep, nutrition is key.
You need to eat CALORIES to fuel your body with energy to commit to the task at hand. Which of course is to help your precious new baby feel secure and grow healthy.
Related: Best foods for breastfeeding mamas
At this stage of human development, babies are not capable of circadian rhythms. They have no clue whether it’s day or night.
It is unreasonable to expect this of your baby so why try to implement some sort of intervention to assist in “normal” times of sleep.
I guess that is why they call this period the “fourth trimester.”
Human brains are not fully developed yet.
Our large human heads could not exit the small female hole and survive birth if we were born “fully developed” (Sometimes I still wonder if I am fully developed?)
When your baby is 6 weeks old, it’s time to start a newborn sleep schedule
The 6 week mark is an interesting time.
You have been doing the no-sleep thing for a while now, and are about ready for a change.
Simultaneously, your baby is starting to act a little bit more aware of what’s going on. It’s time to get this train moving towards the promise land….SLEEP!
The absolute best thing you can do to get your little one sleeping through the night is to start a bedtime routine.
I know the word ROUTINE tends to be met with a negative connotation.
But your job is to TEACH your baby what acceptable behavior is at night and guess what, that means to sleep.
Related post: How to get more personal time through a daily schedule
The best way to teach your children how to sleep is to start a bedtime routine as early as 6 weeks old.
You might be wondering what I mean by a bedtime routine?
It’s a series of events that you do every night in the exact same order. It doesn’t matter what steps you take at night as long as they are the exact same. You have to find what works for your family.
Here is our bedtime routine as a template:
👶🏻 Bath time around 6:30 pm
👶🏻 Lather up with some homemade lotion
👶🏻 Dress in PJs
👶🏻 Read a book (or 2 depending on mood)
👶🏻 Nurse or bottle if dad was doing bedtime
👶🏻 Brush teeth (when age appropriate)
👶🏻 Sing a song while placing our baby the crib
👶🏻 Walk away and allow our son to be alone
We repeated these same steps every single night from the time our son was 6 weeks old until this current day.
We do not use soap for every bath, but the warm water is soothing to him and this step seemed to prep him for bed.
If you want to help your baby relax even more, add 3 drops of lavender essential oil to the bath.
By the time we were reading the book, he was already yawning and half asleep.
Methods to help your baby learn to sleep
There is tons of information and resources about infant sleep.
There are proponents of cry it out for as long as it takes. There is the method of gradual extinction, letting baby cry for intervals that get longer and longer. Others cosleep. None of these are right or wrong.
You can read a dozen books and but it seems they all allude to one of these 3 methods.
This is my advice. You have to do what works for your personality and your baby’s personality, which you will learn through trial and error.
I highly recommend the book Brain Rules for Baby. There is an entire section devoted to the neuroscience about infant sleep patterns. We found it very helpful to have for the first year of life!
When our son was 6 weeks old I started the bedtime routine, and then laid him down by 7 pm.
I looked at my watch and waited 2 minutes after he started to cry before I went back in to soothe him. At this stage that was as long as I could bear to let him cry.
I did not pick him up. I just went back in, placed my hand on his chest and said, time to go night night little love. Then promptly walked back out.
When this didn’t work I waited another 2 minutes and went back in and did the same exact thing.
After trying this for a third time, I picked him up and rocked him until he calmed down.
Once he was calm I laid him down and strarted over again. This process went on again for another round.
After the second round failed, I would bring him into my own bedroom and hold him for a while.
This is the exact process I did after bedtime routine for a while. It got him used to the bedtime routine, but did not cause him too much emotional distress.
Some nights he would lay quietly in his bed for a while, but others he would just cry while I waited outside his room.
Around 3 months of age, I knew I needed to figure out something so I could have at least one long stretch of sleep each night.
I put my mental armor on and prepared for the task ahead.
This time after bedtime routine and laying him down, I called my mom.
While we were on the phone he was crying and it was very distressing. I kept trying to get off with my mom so I could soothe him. She continued to ask more questions in which I didn’t know the answer.
Maybe she was doing this on purpose but somewhere in the midst of me trying to get off the phone and get to my baby, he fell asleep! All on his own WITHOUT ME!
It took 35 minutes of crying but that night he slept for 8 hours straight and I woke up in a puddle of milk.
I learned a hard truth that night.
At a certain age and weight, babies are absolutely fine to be by themselves for longer periods.
2.5 years later…
I do realize there are studies that say not to allow your baby to cry it out.
To be honest, I don’t think my son would have slept through the night if I hadn’t at some point, allowed him to figure out how to self soothe to sleep.
I now have a 2.5 year old who is an excellent sleeper. He is a happy boy who is curious, smart, funny, and vibrant. He has a healthy immune system. He loves meeting new friends.
Overall he is extremely stable and that’s probably because he is very loved by all who know him.
And he sleeps for 12 hours straight each night!
I just wanted to add this in here for anyone who is afraid to let there baby cry a little bit.
I am also not talking about prolonged crying here. Just a few minutes or in my case, 35 accidental minutes transformed our sleeping arrangement.
I see no signs of emotional instability from this.
Do what you feel in your heart is right. But I do know moms who never let their babies cry at all and are STILL sleeping like crap because their kids need their parents to help them get back to sleep.
When do babies start sleeping through the night?
Every baby has a different personality to there isn’t one answer to this question.
After listening to many of my friends talk about their babies, it seems some are just better sleepers than others.
I pray that you will be blessed with a good sleeper!
My son started consistently sleeping for longer stretches (approx. 8 hours) after I figured out that he needs to be left to fall asleep on his own. This happened more consistently around 4 months of age.
It didn’t take long for him to not cry when I laid him down.
We started a consistent bedtime routine at 6 weeks old.
By 3 months, I was laying him down and not going back in to soothe his cries for at least 30 minutes.
It only took around a week for him to stop crying himself to sleep.
Looking back, I know there was a few things I did that helped make his environment more conducive to sleep.
One of the best new baby items I bought was the ergo baby swaddler.
We wrapped them around him tight for the first 3 months of his life.
It seemed to be comforting as he would push against the pressure.
Swaddlers are a safe way to keep your baby warm and snug at night because they will not come unwound and cover their little heads.
The next wonderful item we used was the DockAtot. This little cosleeper bed provided a consistent sleep environment for him no matter where we went. It also prevented him from rolling all over the place.
Check out my brutally honest review of the DockATot to figure out if it is worth the money. (It’s so dang expensive!)
Sleeping at last!
Around 5 months of age my little man was generally sleeping from 7 pm to 7 am, with only occasional wakefulness and night feeds.
There is a sleep regression around 4-5 months due to a big leap in development. This stage does not last long and sticking to the bedtime routine helped us immensely to get past it.
*I recommend downloading some of these pregnancy apps. They will tell you a lot about newborn development so you can understand your baby better.
If your baby starts sleeping consistently for a few weeks and then all of a sudden starts waking up again for feeds, he is probably going through a development leap.
You can learn more about these from a great book called The Wonder Weeks. You can also download the app to your phone!
Is Cosleeping right for your family?
I want to briefly talk about cosleeping.
There are many moms that find this is the golden ticket for getting more sleep at an earlier age.
I highly recommend using a cosleeping bed like the DockATot for this.
Cosleeping is great for breastfeeding and building a close bond with your child.
Some moms have even reported sleeping through the night the first week home because of cosleeping! It does seem more natural.
I was not able to cosleep because I am such a light sleeper. I ended up losing more sleep when we tried this method because I would wake to every little squeak. (Honestly I will probably try again with my second baby because I want to cosleep so bad!)
If you have tried a newborn sleep schedule and it really isn’t working, cosleeping may be a great option for your family!
People did this for years and many still do in other countries where it is not the norm for families to sleep in separate rooms.
I know this post was a bit long-winded and for that I apologize!
Lack of sleep is not a problem you want to wait too long to address.
Implementing a bedtime routine in the beginning is a great way to teach your baby how to prepare his mind for sleep.
It will take time for your baby to sleep through the night but it will happen so hang in there mama!