5 Things I Learned About Baby’s Sleep

baby sleep

The one thing I heard most while I was pregnant with my first son was this: “Enjoy your sleep now, because you're not going to be getting any when the baby is here.” I would nod my head politely and secretly think to myself, my child will be a good sleeper.

My first son was NOT a good sleeper. It was so bad, I actually paid an online sleep consultant to tell me how to get my little guy to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep in his own bed. At 18 months, he finally moved successfully into his own bed, in his own room and slept through the night. He is 3 now, and still sleeping through the night. There have been a few episodes of regression, but those were minor and things went back to normal quickly.

You'd think that I would have absolutely zero sleep problems with my second son, seeing as I have more experience.

You'd be wrong.

My little guy has a sleep schedule of sorts, though flexible. At eight months old, he has two naps of 90 minutes to two hours each, and he goes to bed by 6.30 or 7.00 PM. However, he is still not sleeping through the night, and more often than not, needs to be nursed back to sleep.

To say I'm tired is an understatement.

What have I learned then, from two fairly different children and their sleep patterns? These 5 things.

1. Every child is different, even if they're both yours. What works with one, may not necessarily work with the other. However, don't let that stop you from trying what comes naturally to you. If you like rocking your babies to sleep, then rock them to sleep. They're not going to be small forever.

2. Don't stress about “sleeping through the night” in the first year. Many parents I've talked to don't actually have children who sleep through the night by 6 weeks, or 3 months old. They will sleep through the night eventually, just hang on in there.

3. Be flexible with sleeping arrangements. If co-sleeping works best for you, so that everyone gets sleep, then do it (but remember all safety precautions). If having the baby in another room helps, then go with that. Do what is best for YOUR baby and your family.

4. Do learn about the various sleep “training” techniques. Try what you feel comfortable with, and stick with it, but don't be afraid to be flexible. For example, if you try the Cry It Out (CIO) training technique and it breaks your heart to listen to your child cry, then by all means, try something different. The important thing is that you and your partner are comfortable, and in agreement with whatever technique you choose.

5. Remember, this too, shall pass. Your baby won't be a bad sleeper forever. Instill a bedtime routine early on, do what feels right for your baby and family, and breathe! Good luck!

How did you get your baby to sleep?

Photo via Alison Lee

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5 Things I Learned About Baby’s Sleep

Alison Lee is a former PR and marketing professional turned work-at-home mother. After a 10-year career in various PR agencies, and of the world’s biggest sports brands, she traded in product launches and world travel, for sippy cups, diapers, and breastfeeding. Alison is a former blogger (Writing, Wishing), and her writing has been featured on Mamalode,On Parenting at The Washington Post,The Huffington Post, Everyday Family, Scary Mommy, Club Mid, andDrGreene.com. She is one of 35 essayists ... More

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32 comments

  1. Profile photo of Courtney Courtney says:

    I got extremely lucky with my first (and so far only) son. At about 6 weeks (just in time for me going back to work) my little man was sleeping through the night, of course he had his nights of waking up in the middle of the night, but those got fewer and fewer as time went on. Being 8 months old, he only wakes up from what I could only assume are bad dreams and is very easily rocked back to sleep. He was sleeping in his crib (and own room) since he was about 4 weeks, that is really early in my opinion, but my husband didnt want to start any bad habits and was terrified of co sleeping. I also found I got better sleep when my son wasnt sleeping with me. Everyone tells me my next one will just be a little terror and that I’m lucky how good and “easy” my son is. My son is a blessing to me, and so will all my other children no matter how good or not so good babies they are.

  2. Every baby is different it took me a while to figure out how my son can sleep the most comfortable throughout the whole night it was a challenge for sure!!

  3. Profile photo of Zaiynab Zaiynab says:

    I’m expecting my first, and I am NOT expecting to get any sleep at all lol. Never did expect to sleep, it’s very rare that I hear of a baby who actually sleeps at night so I’m not expecting my child to be special in that aspect lol.

  4. Profile photo of babytoes30 babytoes30 says:

    I would also like to ad in here a link… Failure to Thrive is a major problem for babies that are put on the babywise schedule. Please… Do not do this to your babies!

    http://ezzo.info/primary/babywise-feeding/doctors-on-babywise

  5. Profile photo of babytoes30 babytoes30 says:

    Baby wise is the single worst baby book on the market! It has even been pulled from the shelves of many book stores. Gary Ezzo is NOT a doctor of any kind, he is actually a minister of GKGW, a religious sect, and has absolutely no child rearing training of any kind. Please, do not subject your baby to the horrors that this book promotes. Do some research on what pediatricians across the country say about this man and his baby "training".

  6. I have two boys, age 17 yrs and 19 yrs. They both were very good sleepers. They did sleep with me and I did breast feed. I had a little girl almost 14 months ago and when people told me to get ready for the sleepless nights, I just said yeah, been there and done that. My boys slept through the night so I’m sure she will too. WRONG! She still doesn’t. I’m still breast feeding and she still sleeps with us (we don’t have any other place for her to sleep), but we won’t get into that. Anyway, I was dead wrong. All babies are different. What happens with one, does not mean it will happen with the other. This baby won’t even take a bottle or pacifier. My first son did. My second son wouldn’t take a pacifier but would take a bottle at 8 months. As the article says, this too shall pass. I wouldn’t trade being a mom and going through all the trials and tribulations for anything in the world.

  7. Profile photo of babytoes30 babytoes30 says:

    I am a mom of three, and due to have my fourth in 4 weeks. I am not an expert, but have been there done that with my kids. Here is my advice… Nurse her, rock her, whatever it is that you do to get her to sleep every night, do those things. Than put her to bed in her own bed (I would personally move her crib now, so that she doesn’t know when you go to bed), if she wakes in the middle of the night to nurse or have a bottle, or even just wants to know where you are, go to her. I never, ever let my kids CIO, and do not think it’s a productive way to "train" babies (they are babies after all, not puppies!). In all of my experience, at her age, even though I would still be bringing my kids into bed at 3am, they would, eventually, stop waking in the night And then they won’t be coming into your bed any more. The key is to put her to bed in her own bed, so if she doesn’t wake, then she is in her bed in her room, all night. I know it seems crazy, but they are only little for a very short amount of time. My kids are ages 20, 12, and 9, and guess what? they sleep all night and I do not have any cuddle time with any of them, those days are long gone and I am glad I didn’t push them to sleep in their own room and all night at 12 months like people would tell me I needed to do. I am so looking forward to this new baby coming, and you can bet I will be letting her come into bed at 3am when she is 18 months old if that is what she wants. Because above all things, she is only little for a tiny amount of time!

  8. Profile photo of Laura Laura says:

    A million AMENS to the All Babies Are Different part and the Do What Comes Naturally part. Once I got one baby sleeping I was like "I KNOW ALL THE THINGS! DO THIS AND YOUR BABY WILL SLEEP!". But my second baby is completely different. He doesn’t like to co-sleep. He doesn’t have any trouble going to sleep on his own. He doesn’t need a pacifier to help him sleep but instead a stuffie. This new round of "sleep training" is entirely different from when I "sleep trained" Cameron (I put it in quotes because we don’t follow one method but really try to find the right thing for the child).

  9. Profile photo of Ashley Ashley says:

    I NEED HELP! My daughter will not sleep all night unless she is wrapped around my hand or arm. She is going on 15 months old, and will have her good nights, where she sleeps in her crib (connected to our bed) almost all night, but she still has to see me and wrap around my arm or she cries. Is there anything I can do with her that will get her to sleep in crib without me touching her, then eventually I can put the side on the crib, and then move the crib into her own bedroom? I am afraid she is too old to learn now.

  10. Profile photo of Mfonobong Mfonobong says:

    My son started to sleep through the night at 8 weeks and I started to put him in his room alone at 8 months; now 13 months, he started to sleep 12 hours with no breaks in between since 6 months and still naps 2-3 hrs in the day(thanks to his pediatrician’s advice on sleep training). Before he started to sleep thru the night, he once stayed up thru the night until 7am the next day, then I knew I would be in trouble if I didn’t do something (I’m a full time student). These little tips helped me and I hope it helps someone else too:
    1. Teach your baby the difference between day and night by keeping the house bright and noisy in the day, and dim and quiet at night.
    2. Do not let your baby nap more than 1hr 30 mins in one nap stretch in the day time; ie, wake baby after 1hr 30 minutes nap and feed her and talk to her, even if she goes back to sleep 15mins later, wake her after another 1 hr 30 minutes. The result will be a gradual change to longer night sleep – 4hrs, 5hrs, 8hrs, and eventually through the night. This transition only takes about a week or two at the most.
    3. Keep baby well fed in the day and feed her well just before she goes to sleep; a baby not well fed in the day will stay up at night to fill up on the nutrients her body missed for growth. Remember they grow rapidly.
    Good luck, and I hope this helps.

  11. Profile photo of Tiffany Tiffany says:

    That is great advice. When my son was an infant I used to put him in the car late at night and drive him around. When my daughter was that small, I used to turn on the radio and sing to her as I danced around the room. It is truly whatever works!!!!!

  12. Profile photo of Francesca Francesca says:

    Excellent advice from a mom who knows! I too have a poor sleeper who didn’t sleep through the night until he was 18 months. I’m pregnant again and hoping this one will be easier!

  13. Question. how is a parent to keep a rountine/sleep schedule in place if the other parent deliberately goes against it? i’ve tried having a discussion it but the parent continues to not care. i’d like to try to break my daughter from co-sleeping with me but i’m afraid its going to be much harder than i anticipate not only bc of the other parent bt also due to her still waking up during the night (waking up, sleep sitting up/talking). help please, any suggestions are greatly appreciated! πŸ˜€

  14. Profile photo of Christie Christie says:

    I’ve been very fortunate as well, however, I attribute it to lots of research and reading "On Becoming Babywise". My 14 months old has been sleeping in her own room in her own crib throughout the night since she was about 4 months old. For the first 3 months, I had her in a bassinett next to my bed. I resigned myself to knowing I wouldn’t be getting much sleep for the first couple of months, so that I wouldn’t be irritable and cranky. Of course there were some days I was going off of 2 hours sleep, but hey! That’s what being a new parent is all about! I highly suggest researching, reading, and being stress free as much as you can. Your baby feeds off you, so if you’re relaxed, your baby will be too. We still have occassional nights where she wakes up, but it doesnt last long at all. Mostly a pat on the back, putting the binky back in her mouth works great for her to fall back asleep. I recommend STICKING to a routine and a schedule. My LO’s bed time varies, but it’s always between 7:30 and 10 and she NEVER wakes up earlier than 9:30am. Good luck!

  15. Profile photo of Kate Kate says:

    I am not so lucky. My 10 month old still wakes 3-4 times a night even if it is only to be comforted to go back to sleep. He likes to nurse himself back to sleep so we are going to try using a binky. Hopefully this works. But I have talked to lots of mothers whos children satrted at diferetn ages sleeping through the night. No child is 15 still waking up so I am not so worried about it.

  16. Profile photo of Michele Michele says:

    I have been one of the fortunate few. My 7-month-old son is a very good sleeper and has been for quite awhile. He goes to bed at around 8 pm and gets up around 6 am.

  17. My first baby is due July 1 – nervous to see how they sleep as I work nights and my hubby works days. I am a nurse on a labor and delivery unit so I am up with moms all night helping them breastfeed, or up with crying babies in the nursery. They do fall asleep, eventually, either by feeding them, rocking them, or just cuddling with them while they are wrapped up tightly – they like that feeling.

  18. My first baby is due July 1 – nervous to see how they sleep as I work nights and my hubby works days. I am a nurse on a labor and delivery unit so I am up with moms all night helping them breastfeed, or up with crying babies in the nursery. They do fall asleep, eventually, either by feeding them, rocking them, or just cuddling with them while they are wrapped up tightly – they like that feeling.

  19. Profile photo of Alison LeeAuthor Alison Lee says:

    Oh it’s so hard when they’re 3, talking, walking and have their own minds. πŸ™‚ This too, shall pass, yes?

  20. Profile photo of Leigh Leigh says:

    We worked hard to get the twins on a strict schedule eventually, and it was great, but it was still 8 months for 1 and a year for the other before they slept through the night. But once they did, we had NO problems. Zoe on the other hand, is almost 3 and still wakes up like clockwork a) when I’m going to bed; and b) at least once during the night where she complains that she doesn’t want to take a nap. I was disappointed, but not surprised, that we couldn’t get her to be a good sleeper too.

  21. Profile photo of Alison LeeAuthor Alison Lee says:

    Good luck to you!

  22. Profile photo of Alison LeeAuthor Alison Lee says:

    You’ll be surprised at how well your body will adapt to less sleep. It becomes more efficient! πŸ™‚

    Yes, do what feels natural, what is right for your child. If you don’t want to put the baby in your bed, don’t. Babies are very adaptable when they’re very young. If you start them off in a crib, they will be just fine.

    Good luck!

  23. Profile photo of Alison LeeAuthor Alison Lee says:

    It sounds counterintuitive, but try putting him to sleep earlier. If he’s going to bed at 9pm, try 8.30. If 8, try 7.30pm. Just push it back half an hour, and you’ll be surprised at the results. It’s actually true that the earlier they go to bed, the longer the sleep.

    Also, look at what you do when he wakes at 1am. Do you play with him, talk to him, turn on the light? Do none of those things. Instead, pat him on the back, tell him to go back to sleep, and keep the room dim. Do make sure he doesn’t have a wet diaper, isn’t too hot or too cold.

    Good luck!

  24. Profile photo of Braxton Mace Braxton Mace says:

    With my first son, I breast fed and I let my son sleep with me, it was easy for use to get 5 hours of sleep within the first month, I tried to keep him awake for at least three hours before going to bed, and he slept for 5 fours

  25. Profile photo of thinkobu thinkobu says:

    Will keep the advice in my mind when LO arrives

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