I got my children to sleep through the night by four months
Much to the envy of many parents, my children slept through the night by four months. Babies and sleep can be quite a contentious issue, with battles being fought in many corners of the internet over the best method, whether you should sleep train or not, etc. So here is the short of it; my babies loved sleep and I set boundaries that worked with their natural sleep patterns. Now for the longer version.
Know your boundaries
My parental philosophy is generally to start as I mean to go on. When I had my first I knew co-sleeping wasn't for me. My ultimate goal was to get my child to sleep in their own room comfortably and for them to be able to settle themselves as soon as possible.
I followed the guidelines and room shared with both my children for six months but after that I had moved them into the nursery. I was able to do this by creating two separate routines around naps and night sleeps. I set myself some guidelines, but these were not strictly followed if my children were teething, or sick.
Nap time rules
- Babies must be fed, cleaned, and settled before trying to put them down
- Naps were not to be taken in the crib (any other safe spot is fine)
- I did not contact nap or feed to sleep unless I needed to. If they were very young, teething, or sick for example, I was not so strict
- Sleep and feeds were on demand until we had a loose routine established; this was done on their terms. This was about three months for my children
- Naps were taken in natural light with no curtains
- Daily noise was fine. I would sometimes watch tv, clean, or vacuum for example whilst my children were napping in the next room
- Whining or fussing was not attended to, but crying was
Naps were when we practiced sleep unaided and I did not swaddle them during the day once they got to a month.
Night sleep rules
- Babies were put in their side cot (up to six months), or cot, fed cleaned and settled.
- Babies up to four months were swaddled
- A sound machine (played a heartbeat sound) was used at night
- Noise was kept to a minimum (except for the sound machine)
- Again, whining or fussing was not attended to, but crying was
- Have a little routine; by creating clear cues they will learn to associate them with sleep. Overtime you can develop a full bedtime routine.
During the night I used all the sleep aids (swaddle, dark room, sound machine, rocking if necessary).
I did use a swaddle to stop them waking themselves up, however this was only done at night so that they could learn to control their moro reflex during the day. This also meant that they had a chance to learn how to self-soothe.
My children have naturally fell into a routine that I could work with. I did not force them, I simply worked with what they did. By three and a half months both my children slept "through the night" and I stopped swaddling by four months.
It seems counter-intuitive to not cuddle your children until they sleep, especially at such a young age. But I gave them room to learn to self-soothe, and made up for cuddles later.
I transitioned my eldest out of a cot into a toddler bed at 14 months and into a "big boy" bed at 24 months. Other than the odd regression, I had no trouble at all. Now both go to bed at 7:30pm after a bath/bedtime routine and wake up around 6.30am.
I will admit that I was very blessed, however my experience is personal with my own children, and being a humble designer I found the approach I took very helpful in teaching my children to sleep safely.
- Plan ahead. What would be your ideal sleeping situation?
- Follow safe sleep guidelines
- Have two separate routines around naps and night sleeps
- Create routines and have cues
- Be patient. It takes time