Creating a Bedtime Routine
You guys. If I am being honest, sleep has been the biggest struggle as a new mom. You never truly realize how wonderful a full night of uninterrupted sleep is until you have a baby. Am I right?
I just don’t think there is anything that can prepare you for the feeling of sleep deprivation. But I do think it’s possible to teach your baby to learn to sleep on their own and to love sleep. This has been one of my biggest goals with Ford and I am finally ready to share what has worked for us, so far! To give you some background, let’s…
Flashback to the newborn days
I was tired, yes. But I was soaking in the newborn snuggles and didn’t have much else to worry about those first few weeks. As a newborn, Ford slept pretty much on and off throughout the day. There was no schedule! He ate, was awake and then snoozed on repeat. He was never a terrible sleeper… some nights he did a 6-hour stretch and some nights he was up every 3-4 hours. It typically was somewhere between 4-6 hours being his longest stretch followed by another short 1-2 hour “nap” between 4am - 7am. We didn’t know what we were going to get when it was time for bed.
I really didn’t follow any strict schedule at the beginning. In all honesty, I broke all the rules. When he was up at 3am and couldn’t fall back asleep, I let him snuggle next to me. When he couldn’t self-soothe, I rocked him for as long as it took. I nursed him when he was hungry (or fussy) and sometimes let him fall asleep on me. I basically did whatever I could to keep him happy and calm when he woke up at night. And spoiled him. I wanted to enjoy those days and keep him happy.
But once Ford hit (almost) two months, things started to change. It’s like he suddenly “woke up” and realized he was in a whole new world. That world probably was super overwhelming because those sweet snuggly days seemed to diminish quickly... and he stopped progressing with his sleep.
Ford was still sleeping in the bassinet in our room for easy soothing and feedings. His sleep wasn’t getting better like I was told by everyone, it was actually getting worse! And I was tired. SO. Tired. We needed to make a change. At 10-weeks, I was waking up every 3-4 hours (even though he should’ve been doing at least 7+ hour stretches) based on his weight and development. And one of the biggest reasons why he was waking up was because he kept trying to get his hands free from the ‘arms down’ swaddle. We would re-swaddle him several times at night and he kept sneaking out his hands to self-soothe and it would wake him up. So, we decided we needed to make some big changes to help get a sleep schedule on track.
So we created a bedtime routine and decided it was time to stick to it.
First of all, we moved Ford from our bedroom to his nursery at 11-weeks. I just couldn’t room share anymore. I was exhausted and constantly tip-toeing to bed - afraid to move or breath once in our room at night. Once in his nursery, we kept him in his bassinet for one full week before transitioning him to the crib. At the same time, we knew he needed a new sleep option since he had grown out of his newborn swaddles. And after doing some research, we switched to the Love to Dream Swaddle UP. You guys, this was a game changer for us! Immediately, we noticed a HUGE difference. I think the first night in it he slept 7-hours without waking!
I think these two transitions helped us the most because:
He could no longer hear me, smell me, see me at night. Meaning, less nighttime wakings and more undistributed sleep. He went from waking every 3-4 hours to 2x and eventually 1x per night. And I also slept better not having him right there.
Having his arms up in the Love to Dream Swaddle UP swaddle was much more comfortable for him to move at night (especially when he had gas - he could lift his legs - ha!) and readjust to a comfortable sleeping position.
Self-soothing became possible with the new Swaddle UP swaddle because he could suck on his hands at night and rest his head against his hands when needing comfort. This truly helped us SO much. He no longer needed to nurse to go back to sleep because he was able to soothe with this swaddle. Plus, having his hands still covered meant he wasn’t scratching his face or getting distracted by his little fingers. A win-win.
On top of that, I started to be more strict about daytime feedings and making sure he was eating a full feed, so he didn’t need to eat as much at night. We went from longer nighttime feedings to only needing to feed for 15-minutes 1x per night. Amazing!
Our current bedtime routine…
At present, Ford is almost 4-months-old and his sleep is only getting better. He now goes to bed around 7:30pm and wakes up around 7:00 am. Our nighttime schedule (we are super strict and do this EVERY night for consistency) is: bath, breastfeed or bottle, swaddle, book, bed. We put him down drowsy, but awake and with a full belly. This is key!
He now puts himself to sleep and will only wake up 1x to nurse around 4:30am. When he is up, it’s only for 15 - 20 minutes or so to eat and then he goes immediately back to sleep until 7am or so.
When he is up, we are 'business only.’ No eye contact, no talking - just feed and then back to the crib. After his nighttime feeding, we do not get him out of bed until 7am. Sometimes he will wake up early and we will just let him calmly relax in bed. He no longer cries or fusses and the BIG smiles he gives us once it’s time to wake up are the absolute best.
The next steps…
We are now working on transitioning Ford’s arms out of the Love to Dream SWADDLE UP 50/50 so his arms will no longer be covered. I love that the 50/50 swaddle has zippers on the arms so that we can make the transition slowly in his favorite swaddle (without having to switch to another one). I feel confident that his sleep will only get better and am so thankful that we were able to find a bedtime routine that works for our family and gives everyone the sleep that they need.