Weaning off the swaddle can be an intimidating thought.
I admit I was nervous to make the switch, too! But Valentina is now 5 months old and although she still shows no interest in rolling onto her stomach, lately she's been waking up more at night in need of a pacifier reinsertion. I thought that moving towards sleeping in a sleep sack might help because she could access her hands for soothing without needing adult assistance.
Using the Magic Merlin sleep suit really helped the transition for my middle child and someone gifted us a used one for Valentina so that made my decision easy.
We started using the Merlin for her first nap on Sunday. Not surprisingly, she was very confused to be put in her crib without her swaddle for the first time, and needed some assistance falling asleep. I ended up rocking and singing for a bit but laid her down not fully asleep. She woke up every 30 minutes during that first nap but was able to fall back to sleep again multiple times with some chest patting and shushing.
For the second nap, I was able to lie her down with minimal rocking and she had fewer wakings. Yay!
And by bedtime, after napping in the Merlin for every nap that day, she was able to put herself to sleep independently. She woke up 4 times that night for pacifier reinsertions.
But last night, night two, she didn't wake up once!!!
And this morning, she (accidentally) fell asleep on my bed while I was pumping without any help or even a pacifier. So she's definitely getting the hang of unassisted sleep.
I don't have a firm date in mind but plan to move her to a standard sleep sack soon. I ordered two Woolino merino wool sleep sacks that should help her stay warm because it can get very cold in our uninsulated, unheated house in December and January. They are pricey but fit up until age 2 so hopefully it was a wise investment.
I thought I would share our experience in case you are feeling intimidated by the transition as well.
My tips, based on our experience:
1. Start with the first nap of the day, because that is typically the easiest nap for your baby to fall asleep.
2. Start the transition on a day where you can be home to assist with naps. A quiet weekend day was ideal for us.
3. Don't hesitate to assist with falling asleep if your baby is struggling. Just try to offer a little less assistance with each nap.
***I didn't need to do this but it's fine to skip the Magic Merlin and do a nap in whatever fashion you like for the final nap of the day.
4. After a full day of naps in the Magic Merlin, your baby should be ready to sleep in it at bedtime!
***I didn't need to do this but if nighttime sleep is a struggle, it's fine to just use the Merlin for the first part of the night and then revert back to the swaddle. Just keep trying and your baby will soon adjust.
****The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends stopping the use of the swaddle once your baby begins to try to roll, which typically occurs, they say, at ages 3-4 months but could be earlier.
PS If you'd like help getting your own baby (or older child!) sleeping peacefully through the night, schedule a free consult and find out how your family can be beautifully well-rested in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
I thought it would be interesting for other parents to read my story of night weaning while I was doing it so that you can know the good, the bad, and the ugly and not just my romanticized version months or years later. Not because I would lie but because it's easy to forget the details once you're out of the experience.
So here it is, in (excruciating?) detail, logging as frequently as I could remember despite the sleep deprivation.
September 18, 2023
V is 4 months now and those 10+ hour stretches at night haven’t been seen for a while.
Meanwhile, despite her low birth weight, just 5 pounds even, she looks chubbier than ever. Her doctor is pleased with her growth. And I’m back to work and exercise and ready for better sleep.
Night one, Sunday, September 18: I asked my partner to feed her a bottle of exactly 3 oz during the night, planning to decrease a half ounce every other night. I figure she’ll protest less with him than if I nurse her.
He feeds her at 1:30 am (earlier than usual) and she spits up everything, requiring an outfit change and not one but two trips to the kitchen, all the lights on, with a wailing hungry baby.
Total time awake: 2+ hours.
Night two, Monday, September 19th. New plan. I scrap the bottle idea and decide I’ll nurse her instead and decrease the time by 1/2 minute every other night. I figure not having to turn lights on to heat a bottle and wait for said bottle to warm is worthwhile in terms of keeping the baby sleepy and thus, getting her back down again. Less ideal for my sleep but a win for my partner!
She wakes up at 1:30 am, earlier than usual again, after eating every 2 hours all day, more frequent than usual AND downing a huge bottle of pumped milk before bed.
I nervously nurse her for just 4 min 30 seconds and to my amazement, she doesn’t protest at all being put back in the crib.
HOWEVER, she then wakes up again at 5, a first. Darn.
So I give her a full feeding, then drink some Mother’s Milk Tea while I pump. This is to try to bump up my supply, because prolactin, the hormone that leads to breast milk production, is highest in the early morning.
I’ll be tired later but I’ll exercise when I’m done and who knows, maybe I can grab a nap later? Unlikely but one can dream, right?
I remind myself the end of night feeds is hopefully in sight. This lost sleep is an investment in the long term good.
New plan: try to feed no more frequently than every 3 hours during the day. This helped night sleep with her older sisters. Of course, it was when we went to every 4 hours during the day that I saw the really dramatic gains in night sleep. But I’m not sure if I’m emotionally ready for that with this formerly tiny 5 pounder, plus I’m not sure if my milk supply can handle it.
So we’ll try for every 3 hour feeds today and hopefully a 4:30 am feed during the "night" tonight today and cross our fingers she sleeps later than 1 am.
In my experience, reducing the size of night feeds makes that gradually shift later. Let’s hope that’s true for V!
Wed 9/20, Day 3
Yesterday I tried feeding V on a schedule, every 3 hours, instead of when she felt like it, which was more like every 2 hours the previous day (but which is not typical for her).
To my surprise, today she has not cried to eat even once.
To be clear, I still feed her, but I do it based on the clock. It’s amazing to me that in just one day, she’s already crying a lot less! Just like I remember with her sisters. I fed them on a schedule and they never cried.
I also tried a new tactic last night. I skipped her 5:30 pm feed because it would have only been two hours since her previous feed. At the bedtime feed, she was sufficiently full after nursing that topping her up with a bottle would have likely led to massive spit up.
So I put her to bed without that extra meal and then, instead of pumping at bedtime, I nursed her again, a Dream Feed (which I don’t usually recommend for 4 month olds but given her propensity for massive spit up, seemed like a good idea, rather than trying to pack in the calories before bed).
She woke up at 1:30 am, as she had the two previous nights, but when I offered her her pacifier, she went back to sleep until 4 am! That was a win compared to the two previous nights, anyway.
I was nervous to only nurse her for 4 and a half minutes (again) at 4 am, but to my surprise, she only cried for a minute or two once I put her back in the crib.
Of course, she woke up at 6 am, only 2 hours later, but that’s a much more acceptable feeding time so I gave a full feed then and did not wait for the 3 hour mark.
Tonight I will reduce the feed to 4 minutes flat. Fingers crossed it isn’t a disaster! Sometimes I wonder if it would be easier to just go cold turkey on night feeds, but that feels unfair, so I’ll continue on with the gradual night wean.
Mon Sep 25, day 5?
The gradual night wean continues. Last night I reduced to 3:30. Once again, same as the night before, she only cried for a few seconds. I patted her gently on the chest until she quieted, then left.
(I missed reporting about a night where she cried for two hours after a short feed. I can't remember now which night it was, maybe the 4th night. It was excruciating but it hasn't happened again since. It seems she got the memo about short night feeds!)
She once again slept without a peep until 5:30 am. It’s interesting: her room is a little alcove off my room that we walled off to make a nursery. The door has slats in it, lower down, since there is no other ventilation source. And every morning when my sunrise alarm clock lights up – even before there’s noise – she wakes up. So I guess she’s very light sensitive in the morning, as light through the door doesn’t usually wake her.
Anyway, although I normally advise a wake time between 6 and 7 am, a wake time at 5:30 am works very well for me as I can then feed her before I work out. After that, I pop her in her baby gym next to me while I work out. And when she’s tired, I just hit pause on my workout and put her in her crib. Then I’m free to finish my workout, shower, and get the big kids off to school.
An interesting observation: since I’ve switched her to every 4 hour feeds, she’s napping much more during the day. And seems generally happier.
Tues 9/26, night 6
Guys, I’m tired. So, so, so tired. The weaning schedule + workout schedule is wearing me out.
Last night, I didn’t have it in me to do a dream feed. So when she woke up at 3 am, I did a full feed. I’m feeling discouraged. I think my milk supply is down, probably because i haven’t pumped in a few days.
On the plus side, she took 2 2-3 hour naps yesterday! But then the afternoon naps were kind of a sh*t show. Possibly because she was hungry from me not having enough milk.
So after her evening bath, I nursed her briefly and then my partner gave her a 4 ounce bottle. We hadn’t done many bottles recently because I felt like they were making her impatient with breastfeeding. .
But obviously I didn’t want her hungry during the night. And I needed sleep so badly.
Fingers crossed we have a better night tonight. I am feeling a bit broken from the sleep deprivation.
Wednesday 9/27 Night 7
Guys, SHE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT!!!! Well, 8 pm to 5:15 am. A little shorter than I typically aim for but a freaking miracle for me. I went to sleep at 8:30 pm and actually woke up before her, at 5 am. I think my body was confused by all the sleep!
I drank Mother’s Milk Tea yesterday to combat the supply issues so I’m a veritable fountain this morning. She nursed on one side only and went straight back in the crib. I pumped briefly, so that I’ll have enough for tonight’s dream feed PLUS hopefully bolster the daytime supply, and am ready to workout at 6 am. And feeling very, very grateful!
I am not sure if this was just a fluke or if the night weaning process was successful… fingers crossed it was the former. I will keep you posted!
I will try for a dream feed tonight with the bottle, although until a couple of nights ago, she was full enough from the breast that she didn’t want it. I am not quite sure how to duplicate yesterday’s poor afternoon naps, and will assume that wasn’t related anyway. Fingers crossed!!!
Thursday, Sept 28, night 8
Well, darn. She was up early, at like 2 am, but went back to sleep with the pacifier. Then up again at 3 am. We tried letting her cry but after 15 minutes, it wasn’t letting up (it didn’t start out intense but gradually ramped up). So I fed her but reduced the feeding time again, this time to 3 minutes, and then good news is that she didn’t cry at all afterwards and immediately went back to sleep.
The less good news is that she didn’t then make it to 5:30 am – she starting squawking around 5:15.
So, being my own coach here and trying to diagnose what went wrong… I think it all started with the morning feed at 5:30 am yesterday being too small because she was sleepy. I patted her back to sleep instead of making sure she really filled up. As a result, she was hungry again at 7:30 am, 2.5 hours later, and needed to eat then. Although then she waited 4 hours for the next feed, and even slightly over 4 hours for the one after that… but then only 2 hours before the final feed of the day. And then 2 hours again before the Dream Feed. Where she barely ate at all, despite plenty of milk.
So maybe needing an extra morning feed threw things off? (Thank goodness for the Baby Tracker app so that I can go back and see what happened.)
So today I will try to be really strict on her every 4 hour schedule. 5:30, 9:30, 1:30, 5:30… and then the Dream Feed no earlier than 8:30, and if I have the energy to stay up longer, ideally at 9 or 9:30. That way she will hopefully take a much larger feed at the Dream Feed. I doubt she took even 2 ounces last night (1 from me and 1 from the bottle… she wasn’t interested in more).
Fingers tightly crossed for better luck tonight!
Saturday September 30, night 10
Forgot to log yesterday. I think she was up early, around 2 or 3 am, and I nursed her for 3 min and then she went down without a peep and slept until morning.
Then last night we went out and my 12 yo daughter babysat (!) and that messed up bedtime a bit — the baby had a hard time settling down and had two small bedtime bottles.
I fed her again before I went to bed, around 9:30 pm, and she SLEPT UNTIL 5:05 am!!! I went ahead with a full feed bc we were so close to the 5:30 goal. Then I put her back to bed and ME back to bed and we each slept two glorious hours more. Hallelujah.
I accidentally let her go 5h without a feed today, by miscounting. She was asleep and I had to wake her to eat. Otherwise she’s eating approximately every four hours and is very content, much more so than when she was eating more frequently.
She had a lot of trouble settling tonight so got to sleep late, around 7:30. I hope the dream feed will go ok. I’m trying to wait to do it but it’s 8:50 and I’m already tired.
Sunday October 1, night 11
After a slightly inauspicious start, guys, she slept until 5:47 am!!!! Since my goal is 5:30 on weekdays, this was another win, even bigger than the previous night bc a) she slept later, 5:47 versus 5:05 but also b) there were zero wakings where I had to go replace the paci! This makes for a much more restful sleep, hooray!
Today was a weird day bc recently she’s only been taking short afternoon naps after two long naps, but today she took a long late nap and not surprisingly, went to bed much later but also was harder to settle. She also seems to be much hungrier than usual. Maybe a growth spurt? So I gave a couple of bottles of pumped milk and drank some mothers milk tea.
She woke up after only an hour at 8:40 so I fed her then. Fingers crossed for another successful night! If we can get 3 in q row, I can (nervously) call her night weaned. Eek!
Monday Oct 2, night 11
She did it!!! She slept until 5:24!!!!
That’s 3 nights in a row so I am declaring her night weaned!!!
I am sure it won’t be 100% smooth sailing forever but now I know she can go 3 nights in a row without eating, I feel (mostly) confident that if she wakes up at night, I’ll be able to hold strong on not feeding. That doesn’t mean I’ll never do it again, but I’ll try not to.
I remember with my middle daughter that at 9 months old, I experimented with giving water instead of milk for the occasional night waking and was shocked to find that she accepted it readily. She was just thirsty!!!
Of course, Valentina is still too young to drink water but once she’s past the 6 month mark, I’ll try that.
Thanks for following along with our night weaning story! I hope it gives you confidence to know that it is doable and also that it’s stressful, even for sleep coaches!
Tues Oct 3
Of course I jinxed myself!
She was up at 3:45 and I finally gave in and fed her at 4:45 bc my partner couldn’t get her back to sleep without. Would’ve been even harder if I had gone in.
But I only did 2 min and put her back and she didn't cry at all and slept until my alarm lit up at 5:45.
Wed a Oct 4
Was soooo tired i had my partner so the dream feed so I could go to bed earlier but then I only dozed while he fed her so maybe it was not worth it.
But she slept until 5:05! And then was quiet until 5:30 after a paci re insertion.
Sat Oct 6
Valentina slept until 6:20 am yesterday!
And 5:47 today despite a 1:30 am waking! My partner changed her and reswaddled her, for reasons that are unclear to me, admist howls, then patted her and put her back down. It took two attempts but he was able to put her back down and leave! Despite her practically skipping her late morning feed yesterday — we were out to brunch and she was uninterested or too distracted.
I’m having more confidence now! If she could skip a feed yesterday and still be fine last night, and still be very obviously gaining weight… we've arrived! For sure.
Sun Oct 7
Well, I jinxed myself again! She was up 3-4:30 am and just would not settle, even with my partner walking her and patting her and giving her the paci.
Finally I nursed her for 2 minutes at 4:30 and she STILL wouldn’t settle – a first since the first night of night weaning – so I gave in and nursed her for 5+ minutes and then she passed out and slept for 5 hours!
I think she didn’t eat enough the previous day because we were on the go much of the day with family in town. She was too distracted to eat well. And in the evening, we were on a windy rooftop and I think she was too uncomfortable with all the blankets and breeze to eat.
It’s obviously not ideal to have a baby out all day and also… sometimes your family comes to visit from another country and you decide to prioritize that. This is real life.
Monday October 9
Valentina's feedings went better yesterday in that she seemed to eat every hour in the afternoon, so it seemed like she was trying to make up for the previous day. Finally she accepted a bottle in the late afternoon and chugged 5 ounces of pumped milk. (What with eating every hour, I don’t think I had all that much milk to give in any one sitting.)
Then she slept 5:30-9:30 pm and I woke her for a Dream Feed. After nursing so frequently all afternoon plus chugging tons of water, I had LOTS of milk.
She was up at 3:45, 4:30, 5, 5:17 and finally I woke her at 5:30 BUT she settled each time with the pacifier. Still not ideal, obviously, but she didn’t eat all night so I am taking that as a win and now the cousins are all gone and we’ll get back to our good schedule today. I’m about to wake her from a 3 hour nap! (6:30-9:30 am, her first morning nap is always her longest, which is really a continuation of night sleep.)
Tuesday, October 10
Valentina went to bed at 6:45 pm, had a dream feed at 8:50 (breastfeeding plus 2 ounces of a bottle) and then we had to wake her up at 5:45 am! Zero night wakings!
I'm going to stop logging now but I wanted to share all the details so you all could get a sense of what it feels like to night wean. Lots of ups and downs but clear progress! And now, even with her night weaned at newly 5 months, I am sure there will be occasional exceptions.
It definitely felt harder with this baby than my other two but maybe I have amnesia about the other two? You can clearly see that progress isn’t linear and yet, it still worked! And she’ll probably not be 100% for a while yet but the rare exception is still a TON better than nightly feedings!
I’m very grateful to have had support this time around from my partner. Having the mental fortitutde to do this alone is TOUGH. That said, I did do it alone with my first two kids and it can be done. And the sleep deprivation if you don’t do it and you’re solo parenting is also tough so… choose your hard. I choose the one that leads to sleeping all night sooner rather than later!
PS If you'd like your baby -- or older child -- to sleep through the night, there is hope for you! My other two were sleeping through the night at 10 weeks old. Schedule a free consult and have a well-rested family in two weeks or less, guaranteed.
Are you on the fence about sleep training? Worried it could be harmful to your child?
You are not alone. Many parents feel the same.
To address your concern, Emily Oster, professor of economics at Brown University and the author of Expecting Better. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting meets Freakonomics: an award-winning economist disproves standard recommendations about pregnancy to empower women while they’re expecting" lays out the data on sleep training.
First off, she says, without a doubt, it's effective. She looks at three different meta-analyses -- one based on extinction (aka CIO), one based on timed checks (such as Ferber), and one based on the chair method (parent stays in the room) and all showed significant progress in children's sleep. Best of all, the progress persisted 6-12 months after the end of sleep training.
Next, she looked at studies that claimed that sleep training is dangerous. And what she found -- similar to my own research -- is that none of the studies that state that sleep training is dangerous are actually based on children being sleep trained.
Instead, they are based on children in long-term stressful situations. The most common was children in Romanian orphanages. These children were left in cribs for years with virtually no adult contact. They were also subjected to years of emotional and physical abuse.
Data gleaned from these studies is then extrapolated to be applied to children in loving homes who are being sleep trained.
I think we can all agree that that is hardly a fair comparison.
Looking at studies of children being sleep trained in healthy homes, she found that children's attachment to their parents actually increased after sleep training. Five years later, there was no difference in attachment between children who were sleep trained and children who were not. And as above, sleep training was shown to be effective in improving sleep.
Finally, she says that we may never be able to prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that sleep training isn't harmful BUT we have also not proved that sleep deprivation isn't harmful. Oster says, "Among other things, you could easily argue the opposite: maybe sleep training is very good for some kids -- they really need the uninterrupted sleep -- and there is a risk of damaging your child by not sleep training."
There is no research yet on this compelling point, but the research would be fascinating. Anectdotally, hundreds of parents have reported to me that their children are noticeably happier -- not just more secure but also more calm, more focused on their play, less likely to have meltdowns, and more eager to go to sleep -- after sleep training. Take it from them that sleep training is beneficial and consider: what are the costs to your child to not sleep training?
If you are considering sleep training, schedule a free chat and find out more information about what it would look like for your family. You'll get some free tips and there's no obligation to buy.
"Before working with Abby, my three-year-old nursed. All. Night Long.
It was affecting both of our sleep, and also negatively impacting his teeth.
I worked with Abby to create a really clear plan to wean my son off nursing at night.
She took the time to really hear my goals and understand our relationship. She understood my priorities.
She gave me guidance on how to gently prepare him for the transition so that he felt like a participant in the transition. He understood the change that was coming so that he could get on board and be excited.
I had been dreading the transition for months and months, and had been wanting to make the change for a year... but avoiding it because I just didn't know how.
Within one night, we made the transition and it changed everything for us.
I'm getting better sleep, Jude's getting better sleep, and his teeth are healthier.
Abby's way of working with people is incredibly nurturing, customized, and effective."
My own single mom family back in 2015. At eight weeks postpartum, I still felt plenty tired!
All new (and not-so-new) parents are tired. Parenting is hard work.
But single parents take it the extra mile. They do every daycare drop-off and pick-up. They are the ones who go to work every single day, because there's no one else to bring in an income. They handle every night waking, every dirty diaper, every middle of the night vomiting session.
All parents deserve great sleep, but single parents, my hat is off to you. (I am in a relationship now so I can no longer truly call myself a single parent, though my first eight years were absolutely solo and I will always identify with SMCs.)
Single parents, you have an extra layer of responsibility. If you don't sleep, there's no one to cover for you. Ever. You can't be the parent you want to be, never mind the employee, friend, or just human being you want to be. You have to put your oxygen mask on before helping others.
When I was a single mother working full-time as a healthcare provider, I was terrified of being exhausted because what if I made a mistake that cost a patient's life? I couldn't accept that level of responsibility, so I sleep trained each of my babies before I went back to work after maternity leave.
I'm not going to lie. It was scary. I was so worried about emotionally damaging my older daughter, back before I knew about the safety of sleep training, that I actually hired my postpartum doula to come and sit with me while I sleep trained.
Much to my amazement, the process was much easier than I expected. Both of my children were fully night weaned (and no, they were not big babies) and sleeping through the night by the time I went back to work at four months postpartum. Best of all, they were contented little things, engaged with their world, eating on a schedule and almost never crying -- they had no need to. They knew exactly what to expect of the world. Their schedule assured them that their biological needs would always be met.
I can't come to your house to change diapers in the middle of the night, single parent. But I can make you a plan that gets you and your children the sleep you deserve. I'll reassure you when you worry. And I'll celebrate with you when you achieve your goal and witness your children being the happy, healthy selves they were born to be.
As my former client, Verena, says in her powerful testimonial video, "Your children will thank you for sleep training."
Set up a free consult and get ready to change your life.
Single parents, I got you.
(And coupled parents, I'd love to work with you, too!)
"I fantasized about getting in a car accident just so I could go to the hospital to get some sleep."
Verena courageously shares her story here of how she was so miserable and exhausted because her baby didn't sleep. She was crying every night along with him. She even fantastized about getting in a car accident, just so she could get some sleep in the hospital.
She says, "Of course as a mother, I felt guilty. Why isn't he happy? What am I doing wrong?"
"I felt very alone. I felt like no one really understood what I was going through."
Worst of all, she felt guilty that she wasn't enjoying her baby.
Not knowing anything about sleep coaches but on the recommendation of a friend, she decided to sleep train with the help of Peaceful Parent Sleep Coaching.
"It completed changed my life. He's so happy now, always laughing. The times when he is awake are so magical. I'm so in love with him."
If you are ready to change your life, schedule a free consult and find out about the Better Sleep Guarantee.
Here is a dad's perspective on the amazing changes he saw in his 4-month-old son. Lucas previously only took 15-minute naps and slept 1-2 hours at a stretch at night.
(Kent and Verena did not want to night wean yet so are thrilled with 3-4 hour stretches at night and 1-2 hour naps during the day. Other parents are ready to night wean and are looking for 12-hour stretches at night. The choice is up to the family.)
Life with my first newborn, almost nine years ago now, was often miserable.
She was generally pleasant during the day but by late afternoon, all hell broke loose. She cried for hours. I felt like the worst mother in the world. And I used to be a neonatal ICU nurse! How could it be this hard to comfort my own child?
I sat at my mother’s dining room table with a breastfeeding pillow around my waist and my shirt bunched above Calliope’s bald head, doing my best to wolf down food one-handed.
My mom would take Calliope from time to time and bounce her repeatedly, which calmed Calliope momentarily but then she would cry even harder a few minutes later.
About the time that I was nearing my breaking point with the crying, having not left the house all day, my mother would hand the baby over and chirp cheerfully, “well, I’m getting tired, I think I’m going to go get ready for bed now.”
I frantically swaddled and swayed and nursed and rocked Calliope in her little swing. Nothing seemed to help. I was exhausted. And as a single mother by choice, I didn’t have a partner to turn to. My mother changed diapers and burped Calliope after feedings when she could, but she was a full-time attorney and busy with her own life.
My blog from 2011 says,
Calliope doesn’t seem to have any comfort mechanisms besides nursing. I know they say you can’t overfeed a breastfed baby... but I don’t believe that. If she is eating for reasons other than hunger, to my mind, that’s not necessarily healthy, just like it wouldn’t be healthy at any other age.
However, I still let her nurse whenever she wants to... but when she cries and roots while the nipple is still in her mouth, I feel beyond frustrated and helpless. Clearly she isn’t hungry. But I just don’t know how to help her.
Finally she fell asleep and II left her swinging in the den. I gathered my strength to climb the stairs to my bathroom. And cried in the shower.
I don't know how I can keep going like this. I love her but I can't bear the exhaustion."
Then my friend Catherine, another Brooklyn single mom, told me about a book called The Sleep Whisperer, by Tracy Hogg. She said it helped with her newborn son, Jack, just a few weeks older than Calliope.
I was desperate. And so tired I couldn’t imagine staying awake long enough to read a book. Desperation won out. I didn’t love the author’s tone. It was a bit too colloquial for me -- she addresses her clients as “luv.” But I forgave her for that because the information she shared changed our lives.
I finally understood that I was keeping Calliope awake too long. At just a few weeks old, she should have been awake for only an hour at a time. She should go to bed before she even looked tired, at the first sign of a yawn. And those too-late naps were thus too-short naps... which were absolutely causing the late afternoon witching hour(s).
I promptly put Calliope on Hogg’s EASY routine. EASY stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You.
Eat. Rather than letting her eat all the time, and especially before sleep, I only fed her when she first woke up from a nap. I aimed for feeding every three hours. I stopped feeding her to sleep.
Activity. For a newborn, activity was simple. Mostly it was a few minutes lying on her activity mat but other times, it was even less. It turns out that newborns don't need all that much in the way of stimulation. As she got older, this period gradually lengthened out.
Rest. I aimed to put her back to sleep after only an hour awake. If I saw a yawn after only forty-five minutes, I would put her down even sooner. I used four of Harvey Karp’s 5 S’s: swaddling, sucking (a pacifier), swinging and shushing (white noise). Back then, it was acceptable to let babies sleep inclined in swings. Now we know this is a risk factor for SIDS, unfortunately. All babies must be put down to sleep on their backs.
You. The part I lived for. This was time for me. To shower, exercise, call a friend, check email or (less fun) pursue the disability insurance folks. Getting a guaranteed break for myself made all the difference in the world to my emotional health. I never managed to nap but getting time off during the day meant I didn't stay up too late at night, trying to soak up some personal time.
Within a few days of putting Calliope on this schedule, she was a different child. She literally never cried. I could figure out her needs just by glancing at the clock.
It was hard, sometimes, to be so ruled by a schedule... but it was worlds better than hours of crying every afternoon. And I found I could compromise let her nap in the stroller occasionally without suffering the consequences at night.
And with just this routine, including the feeding schedule, Calliope was naturally sleeping 8 hours at a stretch at night without any formal sleep training by 6 weeks old. (The swing might have been an unfair advantage, though!)
I am not exagerating when I say that this schedule saved my sanity. I know I was lucky that she was a good sleeper... but I know it wasn't all luck, since she wasnt' a good sleeper before this schedule changed everything for us.
Moreover, it saved me from having to do any hard sleep training. This method didn't involve any crying at all. (In another post, I'll talk about the sleep training method that got me to 10 hours by 10 weeks. That was even better.)
It's never too soon to instill great sleep habits in your child. I started this schedule on our first day home from the hospital with my younger daughter. I never did any sleep training with her at all. She slept ten hours by ten weeks, too.
If you would like to get your little one on track and aren't sure where to start, schedule a free consult with me and get your life back on track.
Three beautiful, well-rested little ones.
I was privileged to work with C and her husband, parents of three children under three years of age (a two-year-old toddler and infant twins). They are total rock stars when it comes to sleep!
C & J changed their lives by making a few small changes in their daughters' sleep routines.
Watch C's story (it's less than 4 minutes, and is totally inspiring).
And if you are ready to change your life through better sleep, set up a free consult and get ready for stronger family bonds, better health, and a happier outlook.
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.