It’s sort of a lie, this title, because I actually don’t know if one singular thing made my baby suddenly sleep through the night. It might not have even been the combination of the things I’ve outlined below. It could have been (and I think this is likely) that she was just ready to sleep through the night. All of my Mum-people I know who have employed various techniques – including following Gina Ford, reading a dozen other books about sleeping – none of them really got their baby to sleep before mine. And I did nothing. Apart from wait.
OK, I did stuff – I’ve listed it below. But I strongly believe that this stuff just set the tone. It created the right conditions. And even once I’d done all of the things below, it wasn’t an instant fix – I’m pretty sure that we moved the baby into her own room at the end February, so she was 8 months old, and she first slept through a week or so later.
Bear in mind, please, that before this glorious development I had spent a month getting up EVERY TWO HOURS THROUGH THE NIGHT to breastfeed and had almost lost my mind. So, for those losing their minds: there is light at the end of the tunnel. It’s all a phase. In fact “remember it’s all a phase” is one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever been given. I can’t even remember which friend said it, but it was definitely over wine. Never panic: it’s always just a phase.
Here are the things I think I did that helped the baby along with her sleeping – add your own in the comments, if you will. I think it’s important to remember (so that we don’t all get disheartened and want to put our heads in the oven) that every baby is completely different and there’s nothing “wrong” with them not sleeping through by a certain month. I know lucky sods who had sleeping-through babies by eight weeks, and poor sods who were still plugging away at almost three years old. Remember: there’s always gin. (For you. Not the baby.) So, things we (I) did:
- We moved the baby into her own room. I think that this was the singular most important scene-setting decision we made, even though I sobbed into my paperback book for most of our first night apart. I had always thought that babies were deep sleepers, but actually the weirdest noise can disturb them. Moving the baby into its own space cuts out any unnecessary interruptions. It also means that you don’t have to hold your wee-wee in all night because you don’t want to creak the mattress. And you can read in bed with the light on!
- Routine. Ugh. I wasn’t at all one for routine (I wrote about it somewhere) because it seemed so pointless when the baby was very small, but as she started to follow her own pattern, we began to tighten it up on her behalf and set little times for her to go for a nap, have a bath and so on. It did make it easier to put her to bed – she dropped off at exactly 7pm every night for ages before she even slept through… Though now it’s anyone’s guess as to what time she’ll deem it fit to close her eyes! (Chants: it’s all just a phase, it’s all just a phase…)
- I fed the baby more during the day – I mean, really made a conscious effort. She went through a phase at (I think) around seven months, when she fed very little in the daytime and loads at night. I think that the start of the weaning process messed about with her breastfeeding routine and everything just fell out of sync. She was feeding multiple times at night and only snacking at the breast (UGH! Sorry, what an image) during waking hours. Which was fun. I really tried hard to reverse it and turn it all on its head, which meant breastfeeding before I fed her any solids, which was probably “wrong”, but it got us back on track. Once the daytime feeds were re-established properly, it wasn’t long before she started to sleep through.
- The baby’s bedroom was a bit cooler than ours – about 18 degrees as opposed to 20, 21. Now I don’t know for sure whether this made a difference, but it’s worth thinking about… We still dressed her accordingly and had her in the little zip-up sleeping bag, but I wonder whether the cooler air temperature was more comfortable to sleep in?
- Persevere. Be patient. I tried not to panic-read a load of stuff on the internet and decided that if I set the right atmosphere, she’d eventually learn to sleep through. And she did. No drama, no controlled crying sessions (though each to their own – whatever works for you!) and no feeling of utter failure.
Things that absolutely DID NOT work with regards to making the baby sleep through: giving her a bottle of formula last thing to “fill her up” (sure this is a total myth, unless you’re not producing enough breastmilk in which case maybe it makes sense), reading her a bedtime story, letting her “cry it out”. Good God. My nerves just can’t take more than a few minutes of crying!
Own stories, anecdotes, tips and comments please – there must be things I’ve forgotten. I’m stupidly writing this months and months too late – I should have done it when, you know, it actually happened…
UPDATE: quite a few questions asking the same thing, so I’ll add a note here.. We put the baby to sleep when she’s very drowsy but not actually asleep. She doesn’t have a bedtime bottle of milk (has it at 4pm for some reason!) so the routine is a little 30 minute tv session before bed, where she lies on one of us, already in her sleeping bag, and just sort of unwinds and sucks her thumb. Then we carry her to bed and usually (with any luck!) she rolls right over and goes to sleep. God forbid, though, we take her in before she’s ready – there’s all kinds of trouble!