“How can I get my baby to sleep all night?” It’s the question that every mom would love to have the answer to. You’re in luck because I’m sharing the scoop with you! This method may not be for everyone but it is how I was able to get my baby to sleep through the night…and you can too!
As we waited to be called back at the pediatrician’s office for Dalton’s well-baby visit, a couple from church entered the waiting room. Their child is just a few months younger than Dalton and they had posted on social about a month earlier asking for advice on ways to get their baby to sleep all night.
Naturally I asked how their child had been sleeping. They told me that they ended up calling in a professional for help and their child was now sleeping through the night! I was so excited for them since I knew that meant they were sleeping all night too.
When I asked what the professional had done, they told me she had put their child on a strict routine.
Although they probably couldn’t tell it, I was shocked. I could have told them that their child needed to be on a routine because that’s exactly how I had gotten Dalton to sleep through the night (6-7 hours) when he was around 8 weeks old (and 9-10 hours a night by the time he was 4 months old).
There was another mother sitting across from us and she chimed in and told us that her 15 month old didn’t sleep all night either. The sadness in her eyes made my heart break for her because I knew how exhausted she must be!
After hearing both of their stories I knew I had to share so that you will know how to get your baby to sleep all night too.
How To Get Your Baby To Sleep All Night
I learned this sleep training method from my sisters who took it straight from the book Babywise. (This book has more than just sleep training tips and I highly recommend it. Feel free to grab your copy here.) This method not only worked for my son but also his 8 cousins. It’s not rocket science but it takes hard work and determination on your part. It is possible to have a baby that will sleep all night!
Note: If you don’t plan on letting your baby “cry it out” or plan to “demand feed” this method of sleep training is not for you.
So what’s the trick for learning how to get your baby to sleep all night? You guessed it, a routine!
Babywise says it best, “Your baby’s routine is a twenty-four-hour strategy designed to meet his or her needs, as well as those of the rest of the family.”
I love that word – strategy – because it makes me feel like I’m setting myself up for success. Well, that’s exactly what we’re doing with you and your baby’s new routine…setting your day (and night) up for success.
Call it simple, but your day will be filled with three basic activities that repeat themselves:
There’s a method to the madness so whatever you do, don’t change the order of activities.
Naptime and wake time are pretty cut and dry so we’re going to cover feeding time because it is an integral (and oftentimes tricky) part of learning how to get your baby to sleep through the night. (Learn my best tips for wake time and nap time here.)
Your new routine will be in 3 hour increments. This means that you will feed your baby 2 1/2 hours after the end of the previous feeding.
Example: You fed your baby at 6 a.m. and he nursed for 30 minutes. His next feeding will be at 9 a.m. which is 2 1/2 hours after his previous feeding.
It’s important to stay as close to your routine as possible. That being said, there will be times when your baby’s routine will change to fit your schedule and times when you will work around your baby’s needs. Do your best to stay as close to 2 1/2 – 3 1/2 hours in between feedings as often as possible. Consider the context of each situation and plan accordingly.
Birth through 8 Weeks
During the first 8 weeks both you and your baby will be adjusting to your new routine of sleep/wake cycles which will help establish your baby’s metabolism.
Especially during the first 4 weeks you will want to average 8 feedings (a minimum of 7) in a 24-hour period. This means that there may be times when you’ll need to wake up your baby during the day to be consistent with your routine. Trust me, I know how hard it is to wake your baby especially when you could be resting or getting your chores done around the house, but being consistent with your routine will help his metabolism adjust which in turn helps him sleep through the night.
You’ll quickly learn that your baby gets comfy in your arms when you’re feeding him. Inevitably he’ll want to fall asleep and it’s your job to keep him awake until he’s finished with his feeding. Learn my best tricks to keep him awake while feeding here.
Your baby will generally drop the nighttime feeding (see the sample schedule below) somewhere between 6-8 weeks.
Many babies sleep 7-8 hours per night by the end of 8 weeks. That being said, each baby is different and some take longer than others. Just continue to be consistent and he’ll get it. (That’s what my sisters told me when I thought he’d never get it. I promise that the hard work is worth it!)
9 through 15 Weeks
By the end of the 13th week your baby should be getting 5-6 feedings a day. Your routine will change from 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 hours between feedings and you will drop the late-evening feeding. (Learn how to drop a feeding below.)
If you are breastfeeding and are concerned about your milk supply you might not want to let your baby sleep longer than 10 hours. Every mother is different so you do what you feel is best.
Your baby should now be sleeping 9-11 hours a night. Again, each baby is different so continue to be consistent while he’s learning his new routine.
16 through 24 Weeks
By now your baby will only need 4-6 liquid feedings in a 24-hour period, three of which will be supplemented with food.
He should continue to be sleeping 9-11 hours a night.
Here is a sample routine of what your day might look like. Feel free to personalize the times to meet your family’s needs, but make sure you keep each cycle at 3 hour intervals.
Early Morning Feeding – 6:00 a.m.
Mid-Morning Feeding – 9 a.m.
Afternoon Feeding – 12 p.m.
Mid-Afternoon Feeding – 3 p.m.
Late-Afternoon Feeding – 6 p.m.
Early Evening Feeding – 9 p.m.
Late Evening Feeding – 12 p.m.
*This is your last scheduled feeding of the day and you don’t need to wake your baby until your early morning feeding. If he gets hungry in the middle of the night he will wake you up. (I promise!) Just let him wake up naturally.
Nighttime Feeding – (Varies) Baby will wake you up
Dropping/Eliminating A Feeding
Let’s set the record straight. Dropping a feeding doesn’t mean that your child will be getting less food. On the contrary, over time and as he grows he’ll actually begin to get more.
I get it! Knowing when to drop a feeding can be nerve wracking but don’t panic.
Moving to a 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 Hour Routine
When you start to consistently wake your baby up for his daytime feedings this is a great indicator that he can go longer in between feedings. It’s time to change his routine to 3 1/2 – 4 1/2 hour between feedings. (This generally happens around 3 months.) Start slowly and move from a 3 hour to 3 1/2 hour routine.
*There may be times when you attempt to drop a feeding and it just doesn’t work for your baby. You may have to go back to the routine you were on until your baby is ready. (Or at least that’s how it worked for me. Try to be patient and flexible during this time.)
Dropping the Nighttime Feeding
Most babies will drop this feeding on their own between 6-8 weeks. They’ll sleep through the night and, if you’re like me, when you wake up at 4 a.m. and realize that you haven’t fed him you’ll run to his room and find him sleeping peacefully.
If your baby doesn’t drop the nighttime feeding on his own when he’s two months old or older here’s a tip to help him out a bit.
When you hear your baby moving around or begin to cry in the middle of the night, wait 5-15 minutes before going in to feed him. He doesn’t necessarily need food – it’s more that his body is used to waking up every night. Most babies will fall back asleep after 15 minutes.
If the above doesn’t work and he consistently wakes you up at the same time every night it’s highly likely that his body is used to waking up at this time and you’ll need to give him a little nudge to help him sleep through the night.
Much like the first scenario, when he wakes up and begins to cry don’t go in to feed him but let him cry. Every child is different and this can last up from 5-45 minutes before he falls back asleep. (I know it’s so very hard to hear your baby cry but you’re teaching him how to sleep all night. I promise that he’s not hungry and will be able to make it until his morning feeding. If you feel the need to peek in and check on him do so, but whatever you do don’t let him see you!)
As difficult as this step is, keep in mind that it’s only temporary!
It generally takes 3 nights to establish a new routine so it’s best to wait and do this on a weekend when you can sleep in. You’ll also want to make sure that your spouse is on board and knows what you’ll be doing ahead of time. (One of my brother-in-laws had to wear ear plugs when they did this with their boys.)
Dropping the Late-Evening Feeding
You’re ready to drop the late-evening feeding when your baby is 2 months old or older. I understand the fear of dropping this feeding. You’ve been getting pretty good stretches of sleep and you don’t want your baby waking you up in the middle of the night starving. This is just another step in teaching your baby to sleep all night – he is not going to starve!
By now your baby is likely on a 4 hour schedule (6 a.m., 10 a.m., 2 pm., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m.). If you’re like me you don’t want your baby’s bedtime to be 10 p.m. every night. In this case it’s ok to change things up a bit while you’re eliminating that last evening feeding.
Instead of eliminating the last feeding back it up 15 minutes a day until you land on your desired time. (For me that was 8 p.m.) While you’re transitioning, your baby’s last two feedings will be less than three hours apart. That’s ok because you have a plan and are working toward it. This also means that you’ll need to adjust the rest of the day so that you’ll end up with a new four hour routine.
Is all of this worth the work?
I’m not going to lie. Keeping your baby on a routine is definitely hard work, but I promise it’s worth every bit of hard work. When your child is 4 months old and you are both sleeping through the night you’ll be so glad you stuck to your routine.
If you don’t believe me, think back to the mom with the 15 month old child who didn’t sleep all night. What do you think she would say?
What’s your best tip for getting your baby to sleep all night?
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