Adding a new baby to your family is a time of great excitement… and great fatigue, of course.
While it’s inevitable that the baby’s parents are exhausted, everyone will be much happier if the big sibling is well-rested.
Here are some tips to help make that happen.
Last but not least, if you are struggling to get your older child’s sleep on track with the disruption that a new baby brings to the family, you are not alone. Life with a newborn is tough. Try to be kind to everyone, most especially yourself, and remember that while those exhausting days feel endless, in reality they (usually) pass quickly.
PS If you'd like help getting your family's sleep on track, schedule a free consult and discover how you can have a much easier family life with a well- rested older child, even with a new baby in your home.
Never before released: Meet Abby and get advice on how to prevent and treat the 4-month sleep regression.
And if your baby is like many babies and has a serious case of FOMO, don't panic. Set up a free consult to get some advice and see if coaching is right for your family.
When trying to stretch your baby from every 3 hours or less to every 3 hours or more (ideally every 4 hours) in order to improve your baby's nighttime and daytime sleep, scheduling your baby’s feeding times can be tricky.
Parents often ask about this and it’s top of mind for me right now becauseI am currently dealing with this with my own baby! In a nutshell, prioritize sleep schedules over feeding schedules.
That may mean that you need to feed your baby right before she goes down for a nap. In that case, it’s recommended to move it a few minutes earlier to (hopefully) prevent your baby from falling asleep while eating.
Continue to move the feeds a few minutes further apart each day until you have arrived at your ideal schedule. Once you are there, you can more carefully schedule your baby’s feeding times around her naps.
The most common feeding schedule is 7-11-3-7ish but it doesn’t need to be exact. In the case of this schedule, I would actually recommend that your baby’s final feeding be at 6:30 so that she is in the crib at 7 pm. She’ll then wake up a few minutes before 7, most likely, in order to be ready to eat at about 7.
I generally recommend that babies start their days between 6 and 7 am, but if your family’s schedule would do better with a slightly different schedule for your baby, that’s fine as long as it’s not too different. For example, I would never recommend a 10 am to 10 pm schedule, because that is too different than when daylight and darkness happen (unless you live close to the Arctic Circle, in which case all bets are off).
But for my family, it works best if the baby wakes up at 5:30 am and eats then so that I can work out immediately afterwards, before I am occupied with the other children. This seems to work fine for her for the time being but I may have to adjust it as she grows older. Time will tell.
As they say, the only constant with babies is change!
If you can’t quite believe that your baby could sleep through the night and be on a more predictable daytime schedule… there’s hope for you! Schedule a free consult and let me show you how we can make it happen. Results are guaranteed or your money back.
I don't know about your four-month-old, but mine is still a little shaky in her ability to hold onto toys. But she's ever so pleased when she's able to get things to her mouth.
This "silicone teething mitten" is great because there's a silicone bar inside that she somewhat reflexively grabs onto, plus the "mitt" shape of the toy also helps it stay on her hand.
It's not perfectly easy yet but she has a much higher success rate at getting it to her mouth. And it has some fun nubby things to suck or chew on. So far she can't get the top ones to her mouth but hopefully she'll be able to soon.
And the whole thing is made of silicone so there's no danger of plastic toxicity.
I don't receive anything for my recommendation. Just sharing because I like the product.
What's your favorite baby or child product? Please send a mention my way!
PS If you'd like to get your baby sleeping through the night and generally looking happier, set up a free consult and we can have your family sleeping peacefully through the night in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
If you are feeling ready to sleep through the night again, you aren’t alone! I am working towards that goal myself. Here’s how to night wean.
Gradually, gently lengthen out the interval between feeds during the day. Start with a goal of feedings every 3 hours, then work towards every four hours. There is no rush.
Try distraction as a tool for increasing the time between feeds. My favorite distraction is going outside for a walk. It’s amazingly effective.
Once your baby is comfortably feeding four times a day plus any night feeds, proceed to step two. Don’t be surprised if you already see an improvement in night sleep just from completing step one!
You may also find that your baby is much less likely to cry to eat once you are on a regular schedule, and that they are happy to wait until the scheduled time.
Gradually, gently, reduce one night feeding at a time. If your baby only feeds once per night, start with that one. If your baby feeds two or more times per night, pick one of those feedings. I usually suggest the second feed, then the first feed, then the third feed, if there are three.
Every other night, reduce that one feeding only by either 30 seconds (if you are breastfeeding) or ½ ounce (if you are bottle feeding). If your baby takes both bottle and breast, experiment and see which is easier to reduce. I have done it both ways.
Your baby may fuss when you reduce the feed, but in my experience, they rarely cry for long.
Rest assured, you are only reducing the feed by roughly 15 calories every other night, so your baby really won’t be starving. It’s normal to be anxious about this but they really will be fine!
Once that first feeding is eliminated, start reducing the next feed, if there is one, until all feedings are successfully eliminated.
And voila, you have a baby who sleeps through the night!
Most sources say to wait until 12 pounds but none of my three babies were that big and none of them had issues with weight gain despite night weaning. Check with your pediatrician if you are concerned.
Tribeca Pediatrics, a huge practice with offices all over New York City as well as in LA and Chicago says that you can night wean at 2 months old. Other pediatricians are much more conservative.
Another thing: if you are breastfeeding, you want to make sure that your supply is well established before reducing the number of nursing sessions… but you can use a breast pump to make up for one or more missed sessions. Using a high quality pump and pumping on both sides will increase your output. I suggest a hands free pumping bra to make this a lot more convenient. Not to worry, you can use the same bra all day long. It's worth the investment!
That said, some women’s supply never gets beyond a certain limited volume and if that is you, you may need to nurse more frequently and/or supplement.
I have had very good luck with Mother’s Milk Tea for boosting supply.
Another caution, if your baby has reflux, you may not be able to increase the duration of time between feeds. (The general rule of thumb with reflux is “half as much (volume), twice a frequent.”
That being said, my baby is a heavy spitter (though does not have pain nor difficulty gaining weight and therefore does not have a diagnosis of reflux) and I manage this with a LOT of spit up cloths and offering a dream feed in the evening before I go to bed, in order to boost her total daily intake without overloading her stomach at any given feeding.
Night weaning really isn’t that complicated, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy, for emotional reasons, of course.
If you’d like help getting your little one sleeping through the night, whatever their age, set up a free consult and we will make your dreams a reality.
Wake windows are all the rage nowadays, but the concept is actually a fairly recent invention.
They are basically a way to predict sleepy cues, and also to help parents whose babies don’t reliably show sleepy cues. Even if your baby does show sleepy cues, wake windows can help you plan your day.
For example, if you know your baby is typically awake for 75 minutes after she wakes up in the morning and before she shows sleepy cues and is therefore ready to go down for her first nap, that means her wake window is roughly 75 minutes.
You can use this to plan your day. For instance, after I feed and diaper the baby, I know I can reliably put her in her baby gym to play for 30 minutes while I get her sister ready for school. But if I try to shower too, I’ll be dealing with an overtired baby who will be hard to get down for her nap. It'll be better to put her down in her crib first and then shower. She'll nap longer and I'll enjoy my shower more without a wailing baby.
Always go by sleepy cues first if your baby shows signs of being tired BEFORE the wake window is up.
But if your baby doesn’t show sleepy cues, use wake windows instead.
Wake windows generally start out shorter and get longer throughout the day.
For a baby in the three-month-range, for example, her wake windows might be 60-75-75-90 minutes. That is, 60 minutes from her morning wake time until the first nap, 75 minutes of awake time (including feeding and diapering!) between the first and second nap and again between second and third naps, and 90 minutes between the final nap of the day and bedtime.
Every baby is different in terms of sleep needs and wake windows so again, use your own baby's sleepy cues to predict her wake windows.
When should you NOT use wake windows?
I generally advise stopping them by 5-6 months. At this age, your baby should be ready to settle into a predictable clock-based schedule. That might look like:
7 am wake up
9 am nap
12 pm nap
7 pm bedtime
With older children it can be helpful to know, for example, that your child needs to be awake 4-6 hours after naptime and before bedtime, but since this is such a wide range of times, it’s not terribly useful. I find it easier to say, “don’t let your child nap past 3 pm” than to focus on the wake window.
If you'd like help getting your child's sleep schedule optimized so that the whole family sleeps well, set up a free consultation and we'll get your family well-rested in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
The best way to know if your baby is tired is to use sleepy cues. They can be tricky to spot at first but with practice, you’ll get better and better at them. Here are some examples. Not all babies have all of these cues, but all babies will have some of them.
And they start from the earliest newborn days so it's never too soon to start looking for them. They include:
Fussiness is a sign of overtiredness. Do not wait for fussing to put your baby to bed because once she’s overtired, it’s a LOT harder for her to fall asleep.
Caveat: chronically overtired babies often don’t show sleepy cues. If that’s the case with your little one, go by wake windows. I’ll be explaining them in tomorrow’s post.
Sleepy cues also work for older kids!
In toddlers, preschoolers, and beyond, yawns may be followed by a burst of energy, called the “second wind.” If your child starts to bounce off the walls before bedtime each night, he doesn’t need more exercise, he needs an earlier bedtime.
The goal is always to get your child while they are still calm and collected, just a little quiet and dazed.
Even adults have sleepy cues. If you find yourself yawning, get yourself to bed stat, dirty dishes be damned. Missing that magic window, just like with children, makes falling asleep much more difficult.
PS If you’d like help deciphering your baby’s sleepy cues, or you’re worried your baby doesn’t have them, schedule a free consultation and get your family’s sleep on track in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
With Valentina on the way, I ordered some new swaddles to try them out. I was particularly excited to try out one of the arms up swaddles because I had heard folks rave about them.
Well, to my disappointment, it was a huge disappointment for us. Having her arms up near her head meant she kept swatting herself in the face. She barely slept in it at all – her arms kept waking her.
Ultimately I went back to my favorite from my older girls, the Miracle Blanket.
What I like about the Miracle blanket is:
The newborn months pass quickly but when it’s needed, a swaddle is really needed.
Soon we’ll be moving to the Magic Merlin Suit and then the Woolino sleep sack. I’ll post reviews as we do!
Want help getting your new baby sleeping longer stretches, even without sleep training? Set up a free consult and find out how we can get your whole family sleeping better in two weeks or less, guaranteed! (I also work with families of older children.)
Does your infant wake up every time the pacifier falls out? Some babies really struggle with this. (Others don't have any problems so it's not a guaranteed issue.)
Pacifiers can be an amazing sleep tool but if falling out wakes them… not so much! And if you have to keep running to the bassinet to put it back… that’s definitely not a win.
I recently learned a technique to help with this. Just before your infant is fully asleep with the pacifier… pull it out. If she is nearly asleep, she should fall asleep anyway… and falling asleep without the pacifier in her mouth will help her put herself back to sleep without it.
As your baby gets better at this skill, try removing the pacifier earlier in the routine. You can still use is to soothe your baby and get her very relaxed, just not to the point of asleep.
This skill takes time to develop so don’t despair if it doesn’t work the first few times. Just keep trying!
If your baby doesn’t struggle with this problem, no need to adjust your routine. Using a pacifier to fall asleep at bedtime has been shown to reduce the risk of SIDS, and some babies sleep really well with them.
Thank you, Mia, for introducing me to this technique!
Here’s a video from TCB to demonstrate how to do this.
If you are having trouble sending your little one off to dreamland, schedule a free consult and see how we can help your entire family get the sleep you deserve. Even with a young baby.
I was really excited to have another baby now, as an experienced sleep coach, to see if having that experience would change my parenting. (Rest assured, no pun intended, I was also excited for other reasons.) I was not yet a sleep coach with the first two; I just read and researched a lot about sleep with them.
I also thought that I would post short daily updates about my newborn and that was lesson one: do not overestimate what you can get done with a newborn! I had forgotten how fast and simultaneously slow the days can go by when you are in an endless cycle of feeding, diapering, and rocking a baby. I did get a shower in every days but some days, not much more.
Lesson number two was that I always advise parents to “anchor” the day with a reliable wake up time, generally between 6-7 am although it could be as late as 7:30 with a baby under 5 months.
Now, having a newly 4-month old of my own, and not needing to get her out of the house for daycare, I prefer not to have a set wake time for her. If she was up at 5:30 to eat, I’d prefer that she sleep until 8:30, if she wants to. Waking her at 7:30 seems ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking.
I do like having a predictable bedtime for her, around 7 but… sometimes she goes to bed earlier or later. Last night she went to bed right on time but started waking up 1.5 hours later, something she hasn’t done in ages… after the fourth pacifier re-insertion, I got her up and as soon as I unwrapped her swaddle and laid her on the bed, she happily kicked and cooed. After a few minutes she ate a rather large meal and then went back to sleep until 5:30 this morning.
So I’m more flexible than I used to be.
And the third thing I’ve learned and that has changed my practice is a subtle shift about the earliest age a baby can be sleep trained. Valentina needed to be rocked to sleep every time she slept until one day, when she was 3 months old, I laid her down on the bed, swaddled, while I stepped out of the room for a moment. When I came back, she was asleep.
I was stunned. And the very next night, I couldn’t get her to sleep, despite rocking, burping, feeding… and she was wailing miserably despite all my efforts. So I put her in her bed and let her cry it out. At 3 months. An age I would have previously suggested was too young.
It took two nights but now she puts herself to sleep independently most of the time. And usually sleeps 9-10 hours now.
My partner still likes to rock her to sleep and that’s another thing I’ve learned – you don’t have to be absolute about rules when you start sleep training young.
If you'd like to get your baby sleeping beautifully through the night, or napping independently, set up a free consult and let's chat about making your dreams a reality.
Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.