How to get your baby to sleep through the night, Part II

Okay, okay. You may be thinking groggily...letting a baby "cry it out" is heartless and harmful. I agree.

BUT I'm totally and utterly weary to the bone. What do I do about that? (Yawn...)


That's a completely legitimate concern. After all, it's hard to be a good parent when you are sleep-deprived.

Here are my top three tips to help you and your family get more sleep...

  1. Start by cutting yourself some slack. Relax your expectations. There's a lot of pressure in our culture to get your baby to sleep through the night as fast as possible. People started asking us if our baby was sleeping through the night pretty much the day after we got home from the hospital. Silly, people. Don't they know that..."…waking up once or twice a night is really normal during the first two years of life…and until about age three, a great percentage of children wake up during the night needing a parent’s attention”? In fact, “it is perfectly natural, absolutely normal, and totally expected for your toddler or preschooler to wake up in the night and need your help to fall back asleep” (Elizabeth Pantley, The No-Cry Sleep Solution).
  2. Take into account that your baby is a unique human being. You know how some adults can totally live off of 6 hours of sleep per night, while others need 9+ to avoid becoming a Grump Monster? Well, babies are like that too. Some babies need less sleep than others. Some babies need more nighttime nourishment. Some babies want to be right by your side; others like to have their own special space. Our two daughters are definitely different from each other when it comes to their sleeping habits...and that's okay. All this to say, don't compare your baby to your friends' babies or watch "sleep charts" too closely. Just because your neighbor's 6-month-old baby is sleeping through the night doesn't mean that your baby should be too...or that her baby is a "good baby" and your baby is not. Actually, maybe your baby will grow up to be one of those hugely productive individuals who can operate brilliantly on minimal amounts of sleep. Likewise, just because Dr. SmartyPants says that most babies sleep X number of hours per day or that toddlers still need naps at age 2 doesn't mean your baby will fit neatly in those categories. Babies are people, too, after all.
  3. Question the current "sleep advice." We, for example, co-sleep with our babies or have them sleep in our room through about age one (gasp!). And we don't own a crib (gasp!). And we let our baby sleep on her stomach (triple gasp!). Oh, and I nurse my babies to sleep and, supposedly, that's a big no-no. But now that my older one is two years old, I can tell you with confidence that it was not at all hard to "transition" her from our room to her room. And she sleeps all through the night now - calmly, peacefully - in her own room, in her own bed. She knows with 100% confidence that we will come to her if she calls.
  4. Do what works best for your family. You can read more about this in my previous post - How to Get a Good Night's Sleep, but - essentially - I think it's best to talk to your spouse, come up with a plan, and follow your heart. Babies do eventually grow up and sleep through the night. I can assure you of that. I know that it's super hard to imagine right now, but that day will come eventually. And when that day arrives, you will probably miss these nursing sessions and little cries for "Mama" in the middle of the night. You'll look back with a wistful sigh and remember everything through rose-colored glasses. You'll realize it was a brief "season" of life - a beautiful, chaotic, crazy time - full of little sleep...but lots and lots of love.

Best wishes to you and your family!

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13 comments on “How to get your baby to sleep through the night, Part II”

  1. You sound just like me. I nurse my little to sleep and I have them in my room till at lease one year old. My oldest sleeps through the night and so does my next one. My almost 3 year old has a little trouble falling asleep without mom, but if I go lie down beside her for a little while then she falls asleep just fine. She still comes in our room in the very early AM but I like snuggling with my babies! :-)

  2. Hi, My kids are 10 & 8 now but still wake in the night and need a cuddle because of a bad dream - dont we all I guess? I recall as a dad in the early days waking up when my wife was breastfeeding and I admit to feeling hard done by as I had to go to work in the morning. But looking at it from her side, I was the lucky one because I could 'escape' for a while when she had no peace! Our second, Ella, was the screamer and we really struggled with her. Funny how life works as I am now working for a company called Okidokie and our Pediatrician has developed a baby settling program that soothes over 50% of babies in less than a minute. I wish we had this wehn Ella was a baby. Swing by and check it out if you like Dr Harry also has a blog here on new topics, his latest is on Poo! Thanks, & Cheers, Steve

  3. Elizabeth sleeps on her stomach now too at just shy of 4 months. She's been sleeping on her side since about 3 weeks old - with the blessing of our midwives - she kept flipping there on her own and unless we wanted to pin her down that's where she was going to sleep. Now that she can roll over every which way the tummy is the favourite sleep position. The advice I've read says that if she goes that way on her own, then it's not going to be a problem.

    Have you read "Health Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr Weissbluth? I really like his advice. He isn't against co-sleeping and backs up all of his advice against various sleep studies at different ages (and with different temperaments). Throughout the book he points out over and over that different kids may need different strategies to help them learn to sleep on their own. The child's temperament and the resources of the parents will make a real difference to whether the child takes longer naps or shorter ones, sleep through the night etc etc. His comment on cry versus no cry is that the "let cry" sleep solutions work best for babies that had severe colic (at highest risk for developing sleep problems after 4 months). He also says that this is hardest for the parents, and "you should always first consider trying other sleep solutions that involve less crying".

    Elizabeth definitely has an easy temperament when it comes to sleep, so we haven't had to resort to letting cry for an hour or anything like that, but after reading this book I'd hesitate to say that letting a child cry is a sign of poor parenting. I believe that in some cases it may actually be necessary, particularly as the child gets older (which is when so called let cry methods are recommended).

  4. We let our daughter sleep on her stomach too and I'm always afraid to tell people that! She's been able to hold her neck up really well since the day she was born. When I lie her on her stomach she will often switch her head from side to side until she finds a comfortable position so seeing her be able to do that gave me confidence that she wouldn't get stuck face down or up against a blankie.

    At 2 months she either sleeps on her side or her stomach but never on her back. She hates that.

  5. And remember, you will sleep again. Sleep when you can, and remember you'll get your 8 hours back soon.


  6. My little guy is a great sleeper. I worry about him sleeping too much. But I sleep a lot too. On normal days he goes to bed somewhere between 10 and midnight, then sleeps until 11:30. He got to bed late last night, around 1am, so he's just now waking up at 1:pm. Then he lays in bed and plays for a bit. Once he starts crying, I get him. And he usually takes one or two naps a day which range anywhere from a half hour to three hours.

    I'm glad to here you say those things about going against what the experts say. I rushed get Dawson sleeping in his own room when they told me to, and I really wasn't ready for it. I don't think he cares. He's pretty easy going. But I would have liked more baby cuddle time.

    One area where I kind of go against your theories is that if I need some time to myself, I will let him cry. I had really bad postpartum depression, and sometimes, I just couldn't deal. Sometimes I called my mom to come over and help. Or sometimes I would just take a quick shower and feel fine. Either way, it was better for him and me if I let him cry for a bit, then took care of him well rather than not letting him cry and me being out of sorts and distant with him.

  7. i especially like number 3. i think the more you give your child security and closeness the more confident they are about trying new things and becoming independent. our doors are always open to our children, it doesn't mean when they come in they always stay but they know they can crawl in with us and tell us what's wrong and we'll do our best to make things better.

  8. I think I woke my parents up with some regularity until I was about 10. They were always sweet about it, and that's how I want to be with my son. It's important to recognize that babies and children aren't robots. They don't follow a certain prescribed sleep situation, and that is totally okay.

  9. So nice that you have have such great sleepers right now. We had it for a while but have been getting up with a lot of nightmares lately (so sad). I'm determined to really think through my sleep strategy with baby #3. But I'll definitely not give up cosleeping. it saved me.

  10. Jasper is finally sleeping through the night but he's waking up crazy early, usually around 5am. Today it was just about 4am. Any ideas on how to stop an early riser?!

  11. Have you read the science fiction trilogy about the "Sleepless" - humans that have been genetically altered not to need sleep? I enjoyed it. Let me know if you want to borrow it! The first book is called Beggars in Spain.

  12. My favorite part about Pantley's book was how she called parents' motives into question. Why do you want to sleep train your child? Because it's what you want??? Or because there really is a problem (like her 12 month onld waking almost every hour all night long)??? I really have enjoyed your posts on sleeping. Thanks. And now... I am going to bed :)

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