This post is all about sleep, particularly, how much or how little we are getting with a just shy of six month old baby. So many of you have asked to share Grayson’s sleep routine and I’ve promised a detailed post. Just as our sleep journey has been quite lengthy and involved, so is this post, so if this is not your thing, I’m totally not offended if you don’t care at all and skip over this one. If this is your life right now, grab a cup of coffee and settle in because here we go….
I think when you are pregnant, the number one piece of advice given to new moms-to-be is most commonly, “make sure you get your sleep now!” I can’t tell you how many times I was told this, and my reaction always stayed the same. I would politely nod my head to acknowledge their thoughtful suggestion, and think to myself, “yeah ok, I’ll just hibernate until this baby comes out of me.” I mean it wasn’t like I was going on all-night benders or even staying out past 8pm when I was incredibly pregnant, so sleep wasn’t an issue.
Needless to say, I was a bit anxious about the thought of bringing home a newborn and had no idea how the whole sleep thing would go. All I could do was expect the worst and hope for the best.
Well here is the thing about babies and sleep….or at least in our case.
Newborns sleep! They actually sleep a lot. In fact, all they do is sleep and eat and then sleep some more. Sure their sleep is broken and they have no concept of night and day, but Grayson had long stretches in the nighttime hours early on. We often would get 4-5 hours, before he would wake up in the night, sometimes even 6. Let me tell you, 6 solid hours of sleep for a new mom is like winning the lottery.
So for most of Grayson’s early life, we chalked him up to a good sleeper. I actually said out loud many times, “this is easy! I’m not sure what the big fuss about loosing sleep is!”
Well, turn’s out, the joke was on me, because as soon as the little one turned four months, it all went downhill. I had read and heard a lot about the dreaded four month sleep regression, but, like most mom’s I believe, I tried to ignore it and think, “maybe my child will be the exception.”
It first started when Grayson refused to go down at night. We had never had a problem with putting him down for bed at night before, but all of a sudden, laying him in his crib was a tantrum waiting to happen. After endless nights and failed attempts of trying to console him, we eventually started to let him cry it out when he first went down. It took two nights of crying for almost an hour, but after that, he completely stopped and started putting himself down. Whew, dodged that one, we thought.
So now that we had the initial putting him to bed solved, he then began waking up so frequently throughout the night. We were lucky if we got 2 hours out of him. Some nights, he would be up every hour it seemed.
We were two sleep deprived parents and did what worked in the moment. I would get up every time he cried to nurse him and rock him back to sleep. By 4am, when I simply could not fathom the thought of standing and walking, John would get him and bring him in our bed so I could nurse him laying down. We all would end up falling asleep in our bed until the morning, but it was not a good sleep for any of us.
Now I know what you may be thinking. “You shouldn’t use sleep crutches like nursing.” “You shouldn’t co-sleep with your baby.” Well at 12am, 1am, 3am, and 4:30am, you honestly say, “to hell with everyone, I just need this baby to sleep!”
Everything I read about the 4 month regression made sense. At four months, babies were growing out of their newborn deep sleep patterns and entering the adult sleep patterns. So basically, they constantly wake up, like adults, but don’t know how to put themselves back to sleep. It makes complete sense, Grayson needed to be taught how to sleep. Right, so how in the world do you teach a baby how to sleep?
Well, here are some things that we did. Now, before I share these, I have to of course state that every baby is different and nothing is a 100% proven method. We also didn’t see great success until he was closer to six months in age. Four months is still pretty small and they still may need you throughout the night, whether it be to eat, to be held, or to be rocked. We did this with Grayson up until a few weeks ago when we started a more structured sleep training practice.
1. We began doing structured naps
Up until a few weeks ago, G was sleeping and eating on demand. He napped whenever he fell asleep and for however long he wanted to. Most of the time, he probably wasn’t getting nearly enough naps as he should have been. It’s very true when they say sleep begets sleep. So the better he slept during the day, the better he would sleep at night. The rule of thumb is usually 2 hour of wake time before the next sleep occurs. So if Grayson woke up at 6:30am, we put him down for his first nap at 8:30am. Grayson usually naps 30-45 minutes, so he’s not the best napper, but he has gotten SO much better at napping on a good schedule. We aim for 3 45-minute naps a day with maybe one little cat nap in the evening. Now I totally understand and have become one of those parents that must stop whatever they are doing to make sure they get home for their kid’s nap. I never thought I’d be one of them, but yep, I definitely am and I own it!
2. We started paying attention for sleep cues
Oh gosh, sleep cues are so very important. There are a bunch but G’s big ones are yawning, rubbing his eyes, and dazing. As soon as we spot one of these, we immediately go into nap prep mode. They say you have seven minutes or so to get your baby down once you recognize a sleep cue and if you miss it, your baby may get a sudden rush of energy and refuse the nap altogether.
3. We did consoling from the crib
This was the hardest by far, but we’ve come a long way! When Grayson woke up in the middle of the night, instead of rushing in to swoop him up, we left him in the crib and consoled him from outside the crib. I would put my face directly in front of his, rub his head, and talk to him in his ear telling him things like, “it’s okay baby, I’m right here. I love you!” I would do this for about a minute, leave the room and let him cry for 10 minutes. I would then go back in his room and do the same thing for another minute, leave and let him cry for another 10 minutes. We did this pattern until he eventually fell asleep. The first night it took a full hour, but he eventually went down. I honestly couldn’t blame him because up until now, he knew that if he cried, mommy would come in, pick him up, nurse him and he would fall back to sleep. This was all he knew and suddenly, his whole world changed. Of course he was ticked off! Each night got a little better until eventually, he only cried for a few minutes and then put himself back to sleep on his own. Let me tell you that felt like one big victory!
4. We ordered Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit
Okay, this is a big one for us. From day one, Grayson hated the swaddle….HATED! I’ve tried sleep sacks and just about every swaddle blanket under the sun, but he breaks out of them all or freaks out until we break him out of it. Grayson sleeps like a starfish, so it really is no surprise that he didn’t want his arms and legs confined. I know there are so many great benefits to swaddling though, but it just never worked for us. Well I was told by a few people to look into Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit as it worked wonders for them. Something about this suit really was just magical, they said, and many admitted their babies instantly fell asleep after putting it on.
The sleep suit was made by a mom who also happened to be a physical therapist. She created the suit after experiencing her own sleep issues with her baby.
It is created for the in-between stages for when babies are too big for the swaddle, but still too young to understand how to sleep and need the security of the swaddle. It comes in two sizes, small and large. The small is for babies 12-18 pounds and the large goes up to 21 pounds. The fabric is a soft micro fleece on the outside and has a breathable cotton inner layer. It’s also designed to provide the perfect amount of insulation so there are openings at the hands and feet.
Now let me tell you a little story. I reached out to the company telling them about my situation and asking if I could have more information. One of their kind salespeople got back to me right away and schedule a time to speak with me on the phone to get a full analysis of my baby and our exact needs. They were so nice and offered some great advice on using the suit for the best results. They also claimed to have a 98% success rate, so in my mind, that is 100% worth trying!
The woman told me she would put my suit in the mail that day and we waited patiently until it arrived. The day it came, Grayson had refused his second nap and was a screaming mess. He was overtired, cranky and just flat out miserable all afternoon. After hours of crying, I went to the mail and saw that my suit had arrived. I immediately ripped it open, put him in it and laid him down in his crib. I am not even joking one bit when I tell you the kid fell asleep within 3 minutes! I timed him. He slept for 20 minutes, but he slept!
That night, we used the suit for the first time and he slept from 7pm-4am!!!! I remember waking up at 3:45am, looking at the clock and crying. Serious tears of joy that we had a successful night, after weeks and weeks of such crap sleep. I nursed him at 4am (still in the suit) and he went right back down until 7am.
This is how he woke up in the morning.
It’s been about 2 weeks now and we’ve been using the suit for naps and at night. Although G still does wake up every 4 hours most nights, he has done huge leaps towards better sleep since we started using the suit. We have a routine bedtime schedule that includes bath, bottle (I give him 2 ounces of formula at night to help him sleep), singing while putting him in the suit, and then I nurse him. We lay him down in his crib when he’s still awake but tired. The first few nights, he cried for 2 or 3 minutes and then went right to sleep. Now, he barely cries at all.
Here is Grayson’s typical night.
6:00pm – We start bath. Grayson plays in his room while I get his bath ready.
6:15pm- Once we are out of the bath, we do massage, PJ’s, read a book, and then come downstairs.
6:30pm- G gets his bottle, that he now holds by himself.
6:45 pm – We go upstairs. I sing, “You Are My Sunshine,” and we get in the sleep suit. I nurse him for a few minutes and G gets very drowsy.
7:00pm – Grayson goes in his crib and is out within 5 minutes.
10:00pm – I do a dream feed before I go to bed. Grayson barely wakes up and goes right back to sleep.
1am – He’s been waking up most nights around 1am and we think it’s for a diaper change. John has been getting up with him at this time and changing his diaper, but doing so while G is still in his crib. We don’t want to pick him up to signify it’s time to get up. That would only confuse him. After John changes his diaper, he cries for a few minutes and then goes back to sleep.
4am- G is up and crying and ready to eat. I still think he’s a little too young to go a full 12 hours without eating so I am still nursing him once. The 4am hour is when he always wakes up and he is always hungry then. I nurse him and he goes right back to sleep.
6:30am- G is up for the day!
So this is definitely so much better than it was before! We are still trying to figure out how to avoid that 1am wake-up and it might be a matter of switching to overnight diapers. I’m definitely open to your suggestions.
A few things about this current sleep schedule. One. It’s really working for us all. I’m getting way more sleep than before, Grayson is much more rested and just overall happier. I honestly cannot get over how joyful he has become since we started the sleep training and sleep suit. He is like a different baby! It’s amazing what a little more sleep can actually do for your baby’s overall mood. And John is sleeping better as well, which is great considering he works late hours and doesn’t always get the most sleep going into long shifts.
Two. It kinda stinks that we cannot leave the house after 5:00pm. We have found that if we don’t stick to the routine, it all goes array! I know it’s not forever and right now, getting a good nights sleep and a happy baby is way more fun than going out at night.
I am a believer in sleep training and I’m also a believer in the sleep suit. It just worked for us and is continuing to work. I think we may eventually try and ween him out of the suit starting with naps, but for now, we use it every time he goes down.
I wanted to share this post because I know there are many of you out there that are dealing with the same situation we were, or maybe you are a mom-to-be and about to embark on the wonderful and challenging journey of parenthood. Well, if that is you, allow me to say this….
There will be restless nights but there will also be nights of good rest. Your body will adjust and in some incredible way that we women are able to grow and birth life, we also are able to function on very little sleep. As much as it may suck sometimes, know that it does get better. It is such a short phase of your life as a parent and there will be so many more milestones to come. So you don’t necessarily have to shut your computer down and sleep until birth just yet. Just enjoy the rest you have now and know that soon, you’ll be putting aside your own sleep desires in order to teach your offspring a skill you want them to adapt. You’ll be doing a lot of that.
I know our sleepless nights are not over and I’m sure we will run into some hiccups here and there, but for now, we are on a good path and one that I hope will only get better.