Both of my girls are really good sleepers (Hazel started sleeping through the night at 5 months old, and Iris at 2 months old, Hazel takes a 2-3 hour nap in the afternoon, and Iris takes 1 or 2 short naps in the morning and a 3-4 hour nap in the afternoon), and whenever I mention how long they sleep for, I get asked what my secret is. Truthfully, every child is different so there really is no magical sleep secret. Some babies are just better sleepers than others. But I do think there are some things we’ve done that have helped to encourage our girls to be good sleepers, so I thought I’d share since it’s been requested.
I want to start by saying this is OUR approach to sleep. It’s what works best for our babies/our family. I am in no way saying that this is the way everyone should do it. You do what you feel is best for your family.
- We don’t follow a sleep schedule. Instead, I listened to their cues to know when they were tired, and they naturally put themselves on a schedule. With Iris being the second born and us already having scheduled outings and a routine, I wasn’t able to cater to Iris’ schedule as much, so her morning naps are usually in the car or in the wrap, and sometimes they get cut short. But I follow Iris’ lead for her afternoon nap, and luckily she takes her afternoon nap at the same time Hazel does.
- At the hospital, we kept blinds/window curtains open during the day and closed at night to help our girls start to learn their days and nights. //-While at the hospital, when we wanted to nap/sleep, we put our girls in the hospital crib next to my bed. Our hospital is very adamant about not holding your baby while you sleep (they’ve had a few parents accidentally drop their babies while sleeping). With a c-section, I was in the hospital for a few days, so I think having to put the girls in the hospital crib to sleep, got them used to not always being held.
- At home, we almost always put our girls in their bassinet or crib to sleep. Don’t get me wrong, we definitely enjoyed a lot of sleepy newborn snuggles and we took several naps with the girls laying on our chests, but once they were about a week old, we started making a conscious effort to put them in their cribs for a least 2 of their naps each day.
- We don’t co-sleep or sleep in the same room as the girls. Both girls slept in the bassinet next to our bed for the first few days at home, but I’d wake up every time they made any noise (even if they were still asleep) and they’d wake up any time we rolled over in bed, so by the time they were a week old, they were in their own rooms and we all slept so much better. Our nurse said that when a baby is in the same room as their mom and can smell their mom, they will cry because they know Mom is near and they want Mom to hold them, but if they’re in another room and can’t smell Mom, they’ll sleep on their own better.
- We use white noise to drown out sounds: Both girls are light sleepers, so we use white noise to help drown out sounds and keep them from waking up due to noise.
- I put them in their cribs drowsy yet awake. Babies have to learn how to put themselves to sleep and this is an easy way to teach them. I wasn’t always great about doing this with Hazel in the first few months but once I did, she started sleeping through the night. With Iris, I started doing it when she was still a newborn and she started sleeping through the night at 9 weeks old, and she’s always been really good at getting herself back to sleep when she wakes up in the middle of the night too (unless, of course, she’s hungry).
- When they were newborns and struggling to stay asleep in their cribs, I’d hold them for the remainder of their nap, but I’d stay in their bedrooms. I wanted them to associate their own bedroom with sleep, and not just associate me with sleep.
- Nightlight vs No Nightlight. When they were newborns, we had a nightlight in their room, but as they got older we turned the nightlight off to make is completely dark in their rooms. When Hazel still has a nightlight in her room, she’d wake up in the middle of the night and want to play in her crib for an hour (she wasn’t hungry, she’d just play until she’d put herself back to sleep). Then one night her nightlight broke, and she slept through the entire night, so we never replaced the nightlight. As soon as Iris started having middle of the night play time, I turned her nightlight off and she quit waking up to play at night. My sisters kids are the opposite. They need a nightlight to sleep or they’ll wake up screaming and crying. It just takes figuring out which will help your kids sleep better.
- We have a bedtime routine and started doing a bedtime routine when they were newborns. I think having a bedtime routine is key no matter what your approach to sleep is. It should be a series of 3-4 things (bath, lotion, books, etc), and it signals to your child that it’s time to go to sleep. You can read our full bedtime routine here.
- I didn’t/don’t pick the girls up as soon as they start crying. Of course, when they were newborns I would go in to them as soon as they started crying because I knew they were hungry (I had to start supplementing when they were just weeks old so even then they had to wait a little bit for me to make a bottle), but I learned which was a hungry cry and which was just a fussy cry. If it was just a fussy cry, I’d wait a little bit (5-10 minutes depending on the cry) before I’d go in to rock them back to sleep. It gave them the opportunity to be able to put themselves back to sleep. The majority of the time, they were able to get themselves back to sleep.
- Even on rough nights, whether it be from teething, being sick, or just having a bad night, we stay in their room. I sit in the chair in their room and hold them, or I lay on the floor next to the crib where I can reach through their crib to rub their head. Honestly, I’ve tried bringing Hazel in bed with us, but she will not sleep when she’s in our bed. She thinks it’s too much fun. Which I guess is ok because it can be easy to fall into a pattern of co-sleeping pretty easily, but since nobody actually gets any sleep when we co-sleep, it never lasts long enough for it to become a pattern. We haven’t had any super rough nights with Iris yet, so we’ll see how we handle it with her when those nights happen…
- Once the girls were old enough to safely sleep with a stuffed animal, we gave them one to sleep with.
- Basically we try not to start sleep habits that we don’t want to become the everyday thing.
Also, I have another post on sleep sharing 6 sleep mistakes to avoid.