The morning of our hospital discharge, our nurse brought San into my hospital room after a night in the nursery. “How did he do?” I asked. “He did great,” replied the nurse, “….but he likes to be held.”
As a brand new mom of three, already worried about how to manage everything, this was not exactly what I wanted to hear. Suddenly I felt super stressed that my child would never sleep unless he was constantly held.
The first two nights at home were rough and of course included the zombie apocalypse feelings I mentioned here, but after a few days we settled into a schedule and a routine and within a few days San was only waking up once in the night, and by the time he was seven or eight weeks old he was sleeping through the night several times a week. And I attribute pretty much all of this to these five tips below.
I’ve had tons of questions about this, so today I’m excited to team up with HALO Bassinest and share my top five tips for getting your baby on a good schedule and helping them sleep through the night.
Of course I recognize that every baby is different, and that some babies won’t sleep regardless of your every effort, but these are five things I’ve learned over the last six years and three children, and are all things I swear by to help our babies get on a good schedule and sleep well. I’ve learned more with each baby, and all of these things really do make a huge difference.
Stick to a three time block schedule. The three-block schedule comes from the baby sleep book, On Becoming Babywise. Philip and I both read it when B was born and although there’s a lot of information in that book (both helpful and not), the most life-changing part is the three-block schedule. It’s basically that your baby’s daily schedule should be separated into three chunks of time — eating, wake time, and sleeping — and that they should go in this order and then be repeated over and over throughout the day.
The book suggests that each of these time chunks should be one hour long, but after three children I’ve come to realize that’s unrealistic. Eating shouldn’t take a full hour, your newborn probably can’t stay awake for a full hour, and they often nap for longer than an hour. But the idea is that they eat, then they play and wear themselves out during wake time, and then have a good nap. If they fall asleep when they eat, they won’t get a full feed, and probably won’t get a full nap. So the order is important! Also when your baby gets fussy at the end of wake time, you know it’s time to sleep and not time to eat.
Sometimes San has a long wake time and I can tell he is getting hungry because it’s been longer than usual since he nursed, but because of this three-block schedule I know he has to sleep before he eats or else he’ll fall asleep while nursing. When your baby is a newborn it’s easy to feel like you’re feeding them around the clock (which really you are), but having this schedule makes you able to anticipate those feedings and will save your sanity.
*BONUS TIP: Be flexible! When San was three or four weeks old, he started screaming his head off one evening. According to the three-block schedule he was supposed to be going to sleep, but something was bugging him and he just screamed and screamed. I was getting frustrated until Philip suggested I just nurse him. A quick five minute feed and he burped and fell right asleep. So although I really recommend you stick to the schedule and stay firm, there are also moments when breaking the schedule is necessary!
Learn your baby’s language. This one goes hand in hand with the three-block schedule. I read a book when Fos was born about baby language, and it talked about how baby’s have different cries based on what they need. And figuring out these different cries allows you to help fulfill their needs. I think there were five or six different cries, but I only remember and regularly use two of them — the tired cry and the hungry cry. The book explained that the tired cry has an “ahhh” sound which comes from the shape of their mouth that’s imitating a yawn. The hungry cry is more of a “neh” sound because their tongue moves to the top of their mouth as they try to suck. Being able to identify each cry allows you to know when they’re hungry and when they’re tired and takes a lot of the guesswork out of caring for a newborn.
Keep your baby close. Most babies sleep so much better when they’re close to their mama. And most parents sleep better when their baby is close to them — I definitely do. Each of our babies has slept in our room for the first few months of their lives and not only does it give you peace of mind to have your baby close, but it also makes it easier and more convenient when you’re getting up to feed your baby during the night.
HALO sent us one of their Luxe Bassinest’s and it’s a complete game changer for those first few months when it’s so important to keep your baby close. There are so many bassinets out there, but this one has such a unique and genius design. The bassinet is designed to come right up on your bed so the baby can be safely in his own sleeping space, but also be right next to you. The height can be adjusted depending on the height of your bed, and the bassinet swivels and rotates so it’s easy to bring them closer, or move them so you can get out of bed. Our small bedroom doesn’t allow for the Bassinest to be on my side of the bed so we have him a few feet away, but having him on the same level as us makes it easy to get him in and out and check on him from my bed. And if you had a c-section, this height will be your best friend!
The Bassinest Luxe is the newest version, and has tons of great features including a floor light which illuminates the floor so you don’t trip over the legs in the night, a built in sound and song machine, bed vibration, a larger side pocket for more storage, and even a nursing timer so you can keep track of how long you’ve been feeding on each side. Did I tell you it was genius design or what?? This is the perfect piece of furniture that you can use for your baby to keep them happily and safely in your room until they’re sleeping through the night and you’re ready to put them in their own room. You can find them at BuyBuyBaby.com and other retailers!
Use a sound machine. Sound machines are my best friend. They’re a great way to get your baby to sleep through anything and everything, namely noisy older brothers. We have a sound machine in the nursery and a sound machine app on each of our phones so there are sound machines wherever we go, but the HALO Bassinest Luxe also has a built in sound machine with several sounds to choose from. After using a sound machine or a fan for each of our boys, I can’t even sleep without white noise anymore and even turn on my white noise app when I’m in a hotel room by myself cause it’s just too dang quiet and every little sound bothers me. If you want your baby to take great naps during the day and sleep well at night the sound machine will be such a huge help in drowning out all the little bumps and squeaks that could easily wake them from their nap.
I’ve also read that sound machines and fans are a good tool to prevent SIDS because the sound keeps them from reaching a really, really deep sleep which can be dangerous in those first few months.
Let your baby be independent. One of the best skills you can teach your baby is how to fall asleep on their own. Rocking your baby to sleep for every nap can be so detrimental to long term sleeping habits. With the three-block schedule, your baby should be pretty tired by the time wake time is over, and as long as they’re not overly exhausted (which can lead to them getting really upset), they should be able to put themselves to sleep. We use the HALO Sleep Sack, which is the best swaddle sack I’ve seen. You can swaddle one of three different ways (arms in, arms out or hands-to-face) depending on your baby’s preference, but having your baby wrapped up will help them feel secure and make their body more likely to relax and fall asleep without your assistance. We also use a pacifier which helps them soothe themselves as they fall asleep (we like these Avent ones because they curve to his face so they don’t fall out quite as easily).
Also as your baby learns to fall asleep on their own and develop that bit of independence, they’re more likely to learn to soothe themselves during their wake time.