Meet Baby Penny. This little baby girl is eight weeks old, and sleeping eight hours at night.
But let’s back up…I wasn’t always THIS good at helping babies sleep 8 hours straight at night. Without further ado, here is: Getting your Overtired Baby Sleeping 8 hours by 8 weeks: Proven Tips from a Sleep Consultant!
I started Sleep and the City nearly 5 years ago because I was so compelled to help other new Moms, specifically with their sleep deprived overtired babies, when I was realized there was a huge lack of resources out there. I wanted to help other Moms learn how I was able to teach my own baby to sleep 8 hours by 8 weeks with easy routines and a little patience. I didn’t want to be that “Mombie” dragging around Target or the office with a 6-shot Starbucks, and I knew there was an answer that I could share that could potentially help 1000s of Moms not experience what I did: a complete overwhelmed & exhausted breakdown on my maternity leave.
With my first baby, the first four weeks were ROUGH, and I had a Complete Mommy Breakdown. With no family support, living in a new town with no friends, and a husband constantly traveling, I felt completely alone in messy world of First Time Motherhood. My baby was up every 2-3 hours, and then screaming or staring at me for another hour or so until he would finally fall asleep in my arms (only to be up 60-90 minutes later). His naps weren’t any better; it would take me nearly 30 minutes to rock him to sleep, and he would then only nap for 20 minutes. My house was a disaster, I hadn’t showered in days, I could never sleep while the baby slept, and I was majorly struggling with breastfeeding a baby that couldn’t seem to latch correctly (which felt like a complete Mom fail). At my baby’s one-week checkup, I remember almost passing out in the waiting room due to exhaustion. The nurses had to help me stand up and I had to call my husband to pick us up. I remember thinking to myself, “I can’t do this; I suck at being a Mom”.
I was overwhelmed, exhausted, and feeling like I had failed my son (and my husband) at breastfeeding. After completely losing my sh*t to my husband that night after the scary doctor’s office visit, we decided *something had to change.* But WHAT? The next three steps we made after that night were MAJOR game changers, which I’m talking about today on the blog- and FINALLY after a few changes and some patience, my formally overtired baby was sleeping through the night for 8 hours by 8 weeks!
I. felt. Like. a. new. person.
I started to enjoy Motherhood. I stopped worrying so much about being the perfect breastfeeding mom. We even scheduled a vacation to Palm Springs now that my baby was sleeping through the night! I was so excited that I could go out with my girlfriends for Happy Hour again without looking or feeling like a mess, but they had questions for me: How did I do it, and how could they do it too??
When working with a newborn client, I like to encourage sleep shaping or sleep training early on. It seems a little unsettling for me to teach a baby to fall asleep in a certain way (like nursing or rocking to sleep), only to then turn around a few weeks or months later and take all those beloved sleep associations away and make baby figure it out on their own. The reasoning behind why I recommend sleep training early on is this quote: “start as you mean to go on”, meaning however you want baby to fall asleep (independently or in the crib) is where you should begin on Day 1. For my family, the sacrifice of sleep training and having a consistent routine created a much happier and predictable lifestyle for everyone. Some babies will adjust slower than others, and that’s ok- have patience and give lots of reassuring snuggles!
Even with the perfect routines and consistent schedule, babies will throw us curveballs, leaving us frustrated as to why something “worked yesterday that wasn’t working today”. Newborn sleep is extremely inconsistent in the first few months, especially with baby growth spurts or “Wonder Weeks” that occur every 3-4 weeks. These “leaps” last about 5-7 days, and can cause short naps, frequent feeds, and an overall fussier overtired baby. My best advice during these growth spurts is to buckle down, ride it out, and return to your normal routines once the leap has passed; it won’t last forever!
That night after my brush with nearly passing out at the pediatrician’s office, we began to focus on four main things. The first was implementing a consistent Eat-Play-Sleep schedule. The second was encouraging one nap per day in the crib. The third was keeping my baby up for full feedings, and not allowing him to exceed his napping minimums.
Eat-Play-Sleep-Repeat. I started here first! This step was by far the most difficult for me at first, especially with my son waking up from a short nap. “Eat-Play-Sleep” (EPS) begins with your infant waking from night or a nap, and the child will “Eat” (and take a full feed), then “Play” (tummy time, errands, walks, etc.), followed then by “Sleep” (a nap or bedtime). This routine then repeats, and allows you to keep baby’s tummy full without having to be a slave to the clock non-stop, and weakens the association with “needing food to fall asleep”. EPS also reduces the chance of baby developing the need to “suck” a breast/bottle in order for baby to fall asleep in the first place. To begin, try picking a wake time for your baby and stick to it, within 30 minutes at least. I picked 7am, since that’s when ideally I wanted to get up, and never turned on the lights or got out of bed with baby prior to 6:30am. When he woke around 7am, I would feed him (about 30 minutes), change his diaper (great trick mid-feed if he was falling back asleep), and spent some time walking around the house or in the swing/bouncer. Once an hour had passed, I swaddled him back up and laid him back in the co-sleeper next to me for a morning nap. Then this entire process repeated again around 10am, and lasted until bedtime. These first few weeks can make you feel a bit crazy, but it does get easier after you’re in a routine yourself around baby’s nap times!
For the eat portion, I made sure that my baby had a full feed, which could last up to 45 minutes those first few weeks (yes, feeding a brand new baby takes SO LONG!). For the play portion, you can try diaper changes, changing of clothes, tummy time, the swing/bouncer positioned in front of a sliding glass door (natural light source), Mommy playdates or short errands outside of the home.
One nap per day in the crib. My baby slept beside me for the first four months of his life, however I knew that ultimately I wanted to him to sleep independently in his nursery. I’d been working on the first nap for a week by now (also the easiest nap to attempt the infamous “drowsy but awake” put down) in my room for about a week now, but I was feeling confident. He wasn’t yet used to falling asleep in his room, so I started by rocking him completely to sleep all swaddled up, and laid him down once was completely out. After about a week, I was able to lay him down in the crib only 45-60 minutes after he woke up for the day and fed, and he’d end up falling asleep on his own. I made sure he was completely swaddled up, still somewhat awake, and stayed in the room and I folded laundry or cleaned up his room. I was absolutely shocked, I couldn’t believe it. I kept the room dimly lit with white noise running the entire time. For all other naps, I ended up wearing him, or he would fall asleep in the stroller on our walks, or with my husband rocking him to sleep in the rocker for his last catnap that evening. This not only made the entire room/crib transition easier at night once we were ready, but over time lengthened at least one nap per day once he continuously was napping here for about 3-4 weeks. Naps take time to develop, don’t stress if you aren’t seeing day to day consistency in time and length.
Full Feedings and Limit Snacking. For the first 6 weeks, feeding times can be 20-40 minutes long. Breastfeeding a Newborn can feel like an eternity! Breastfed babies especially get sleepy after 10 minutes of feeding while snuggling in Mom’s arms, and this is the point that you either create a snacker by allowing these quickie/short feeds or you can keep the baby awake enough to finish a full feeding. Trust me, it’s SO easy to fall asleep with the baby or want to let them go back to sleep so you can catch a break; the first 8 weeks are completely exhausting! I recommend spending only 10-15 minutes trying to re-wake the baby to finish the feed. If baby refuses to take a full feed or wake up, that’s ok, as long as you don’t let more than 3 feedings go by that aren’t full feedings. This will cause your baby to get used to snacking and will wake up due to hunger within another hour or so, and cause baby to wake more frequently at night to take in those calories that they missed during the day (reverse cycling). If the baby won’t even latch/start the feed, let them sleep for another 30-45 minutes and then try again. If your baby is “passively feeding” (not swallowing and only sucking for comfort) then it means they are beginning to fall asleep again which means it’s time to abruptly unlatch/remove the bottle, burp and/or switch sides. Feeding a newborn is extremely time consuming but the pay-off is HUGE! By keeping the majority of my baby’s feeds full during the day, my baby began dropping his night feeds naturally: first the 10pm one, followed by the 1am one, followed by the 4am one by the time he was 12 weeks old!
Not Exceeding Napping Minimums. Yes, sleep begets sleep. Meaning that during the day, if your baby isn’t napping well, this can lead them to become overtired, fussier, and they will have a much harder time falling asleep and staying asleep at night as a result. However, if you allow baby to nap TOO much during the day, they can have trouble falling asleep at bedtime (I recommend 10-11pm as a bedtime for babies only sleeping in 4-6 hour chunks the first 1-2 months), be awake for long periods at night, or wake up extremely early for the day (before 6am.) Naps should be no longer than 1.5 hours each for optimal growth, but last at least 30-45 minutes each. Wake baby quietly & calmly after 1.5 hours, and offer a feed to stay on your Eat-Play-Sleep schedule.
And that’s it! I would love to hear what type of sleep training method worked for your family, or which you’ve heard about and want to try, or if you’ve tried almost everything out there and nothing has worked. I love a sleep challenge, so please drop me a note here if you’d like to set up some one-on-one time, or visit my Sleep Survival Guides to download a guide specifically to address your top concerns.
Sleep tight! xo LO
Thank you for reading Getting your Overtired Baby Sleep 8 hours by 8 weeks: Proven Tips from a Sleep Consultant!
Swaddle and Sleep Sack photos via LouLou and Company