Remember a couple of months ago when I said I was working on a post on
I sat down a couple more times to work on the post, but it seemed like every time that I felt like I had a handle on things, or had a revelation about Finn's sleeping habits that I wanted to share, he'd change up the plan. Just recently I realized something. We're never going to find "the answer". Babies change practically daily, and all you can do is have flexibility and patience and a bag full of tricks to deal with whatever they throw at you.
I read one sleep book before Finn was born: The Happiest Baby on the Block. What was super helpful about it was that it has lots of soothing techniques for those of us who didn't really have any infant experience before popping out one of our own. We were huge proponents of swaddling in the early days, and the other techniques were pretty useful too. I'd definitely recommend it, and also because it gives a good explanation of the concept of the fourth trimester. If you're not sure what I mean by that, or are surprised by the fact that your baby is going to come out of the womb just a bit undercooked even if they are full term, get yourself this book. It's a great one for husbands to read too (and I hear the video version is even better).
We swaddled Finn at bedtime from the time he came home from the hospital until he was about two and a half months old. Once he outgrew the hospital blankets, the aden + anais muslin blankets became quick favorites.
For those first couple months, Finn was eating about every two hours around the clock. Once in awhile he would give us a four or five hour stretch overnight, and that seemed wonderful in comparison. I had no problem with this schedule. Everyone is different, but it worked for us for a couple of months. At three months we made the move from Finn spending the night next to our bed in his pack'n'play or bassinet to being in his room in his crib. It was also the point where I decided our up every two to four hours overnight schedule wasn't really working anymore. I knew that he didn't need to eat that often, and it was starting to really wear on me. So I picked up another book. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.
I had high hopes for this book, because some of my friends really liked it. It had some good information about the science behind sleep, and how babies cycles are different that adults. I thought all of that was pretty interesting, and it was great general information. But I finished the book without any specific plan on how to get Finn to sleep any better, just convinced that it was super important that I do so.
Next I moved onto The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. While I was reading this book I loved it. It's basically a feel-good guide for the sleep-deprived. If you've decided that the cry-it-out method isn't for you, this book will be your cheerleader. It does have a few more specific techniques on ways to get your child to fall and stay asleep, which I appreciated. But the underlying message in this book seemed to me to be, "It's okay to get up one million times per night with your baby! Don't let anyone make you feel bad about it!". But I didn't want to get up one million times per night, and I really didn't think it was doing Finn any good either.
After reading that book, we briefly dabbled in some co-sleeping. I've never been opposed to it, and we'd spent some nights with Finn in our bed when he was super fussy in the past. I am a huge fan of side-lying nursing, which we do almost every morning so that I can get a few extra minutes of snoozing. So we tried spending the whole night that way. The first few nights were great. No more getting out of bed and trying to stay awake while nursing Finn in his room. I was able to soothe him so quickly, before he even fully woke up, that my husband was able to sleep right through the night most of the time. But then I started to realize that the sleep that I was getting was crappy sleep. I spent the whole night locked into one position so that I wouldn't crowd Finn, and I slept super-lightly with him there. The result was a sore neck and a new level of exhaustion. And the open-all-night boobie buffet was increasing the number of times that Finn woke up... not helpful.
At 4.5 months we finally decided to give in to a bit of cry-it-out. We followed the popular FerberMethod. I really believe that it was perfect timing that made this a huge success for us. It took us two nights to teach Finn to fall asleep by himself. I know that this method is NOT right for all babies, but it was definitely right for us. If I had had to let Finn cry for more than ten minutes in order to reach this success, I probably couldn't have done it. I had a huge revelation while reading this book... all this time I thought that I was going to find some magical way for Finn to stay asleep all night long. The perfect sound machine, the perfect swaddle, the perfect bedtime routine... but no, every human naturally cycles through different kinds of sleep, and that includes NORMAL brief wake-ups throughout the night. The key is teaching your baby how to be able to go right back to sleep on his own after those wakeups. After going through the Ferber process, Finn can do just that, and it is a LIFE-CHANGER for his tired momma. We quickly worked our way up to stretches of nine or ten hours of sleep every night. I think teaching him how to fall asleep was just as good of a thing for him as it has been for us. Now I know that I can nurse him to sleep if I want to, or I can lay him down in his crib sleepy but awake and he can fall asleep on his own. I'd say we do about half of each.
Right now, at 8 months, Finn sleeps from about 7:30 pm to 5:30 am. Then his dad goes to get him, change his diaper, and bring him to me in bed. He nurses (thank you God for the side-lying nurse), and falls back asleep for 2-2.5 hours. Right now this is working for us, but I'm sure things will change like they always do.
If I had one piece of sleep advice to give to new Moms, it would be that everything is a phase. Your baby sleeps 30 minutes at a time and you're pulling your hair out? It will pass. You can't get past that stubborn 3 am wakeup? It will pass. And unfortunately: you've got it all figured out and your baby sleeps all night long every single night? That will probably pass too (and if it doesn't, sorry, I can't be your friend). Be flexible, be positive, and for God's sake, make your husband help.
Sweet Dreams :)