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I have to say, we were one of the lucky ones – Mia has been sleeping through the night since she was 4 weeks old and I am SO extremely grateful for that. She first started sleeping 5-6 hours then worked her way all the way up to 10 hours which was absolutely AMAZING. I try to never take it for granted that she started sleeping through the nights, because that first month when she was waking every 3 hours like clockwork were the *hardest* 4 weeks of my entire life. I was mentally and physically drained, and if I’m being honest it took an impact on my relationship with Shawn as well because we were both so irritable from a lack of sleep. Needless to say, her sleeping through the night has been a HUGE blessing for us. I always tend to say that we got lucky that Mia sleeps through the night, but the reality is that we have been SO strategic and intentional in developing a bedtime routine that works for us and helps her to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep each night. In today’s post I want to share some tips on how we got our baby to sleep through the night, what we do for our baby bedtime routine, how it’s changed over the past few months (Mia is 5 months old now), AND how we knew it was time to actually implement a bedtime routine.
Follow your baby’s cues.
During our first month with Mia we were very intentional about following her cues for everything – when she was hungry, when she was sleepy, when she needed to be cuddled, etc. A quick side note about feeding because this was important for us in establishing a routine – during the first two weeks we fed her on schedule every 3 hours, but when she passed her initial birth weight at 2 weeks we started to feed on demand and follow her cues for hunger. In the 3rd and 4th weeks she was still waking up every 3 hours throughout the night for a bottle but would fall right back asleep afterwards. At the end of that 4th week we noticed that she was starting to do a few longer stretches during the night of 4-5 hours, and THAT is when we knew that we were ready to start a bedtime routine and work towards sleeping through the night. We knew that she would wake up if she was hungry, so we just followed her lead and let her sleep as long as she wanted.
Start off with a simple routine and work your way up.
When we first started Mia’s bedtime routine at 4 weeks, we kept it super simple and short – a warm bath using Young Living’s Seedlings Baby Wash (it has lavender oil in it and is so calming and relaxing), followed by a short book and a bottle. We slowly worked our way up to including more things. Now at 5 months, her routine looks like this: bath, bottle, book, 3 songs, prayer, kisses from mommy & daddy, rock to sleep. I have to say I am SO grateful that we started a routine when we did, because now when we do it she KNOWS it’s bedtime. When we first started I would rock her for almost 20 minutes before she fell asleep and now she’s out within 5 minutes of me rocking her.
Consistency is key!
One of the main reasons why our bedtime routine works so well is because of our consistency with it. We start at the same time every single day (at 9pm) and follow the same order of events so she knows what’s coming next. We read a different book each night, but we sing the same songs and I sing the same song as I rock her to sleep each night so that she associates it with sleep time. Occasionally we have nights where she is super tired and passes out while she’s drinking her bottle, and in those cases I let her sleep and don’t force her to wake up just to finish the rest of the routine (remember, follow their cues!). Also, if we do go out to family events or to visit friends, we leave early so that we’re home in time to start her routine. It’s a sacrifice, but as a parent it’s one that I’m more than willing to make for my baby girl’s sake.
Set up a sleep-friendly environment.
This is kind of a no-brainer, but babies (just like us adults) will sleep better in a dark room with no loud noises. Set the environment so that it promotes a restful sleep. During her nighttime routine, we dim the lights so it’s bright enough to see the book we read, but not bright enough to stimulate her. We also diffuse essential oils that promote calming and relaxation at a safe dilution for babies (my faves for her are Lavender & the Seedlings Calm blend). While she sleeps (post bedtime routine) we play background lullaby music and use the nightlight on our Hatch Baby Rest. We also use the Baby Shusher for the first half hour of putting her into the bassinet because we’ve noticed it helps her get into a stronger sleep a lot quicker.
Remember, having a routine isn’t a perfect solution. There are nights where Mia passes out in my arms but wakes up as soon as she feels me rest her down in the bassinet. Other nights she stays asleep when I put her down but may wake up half an hour later because she hears a noise or has gas pains. In those situations, I NEVER turn on the lights or bring her out to the living room where I am because that would just stimulate her senses and wake her up even more. Instead, I pick her up *in the dark* and just sit on the bed rocking her for a few minutes until she falls back asleep. The key is to not assume that they’re fully awake and expose them to stimulants that will further wake them up.
I’m a first-time mom and I by NO means have this whole parenting gig figured out. BUT, I do think that we did a pretty good job in following Mia’s cues and establishing a routine that supported her sleeping through the night. Running on no more than 3 hours of sleep at a time when your baby is waking up throughout the night is freaking HARD and takes a huge toll on your ability to be alert, present, and interactive with them during the day. I am so grateful every day for Mia sleeping through the night because it has truly made ME a better parent. Developing a bedtime routine has been such a game changer for us and makes a huge difference, so I hope these tips are just as helpful to you as they have been for us.