Our Baby Sleep Journey (First Year)

It would happen eventually, right? I was waiting to write about our experience with baby sleep once Hannah was sleeping through the night (and I mean all night). So I waited and waited and after 7 months of being up every single night, without fail, I decided to do something about it. Here’s our sleep journey (so far).

Newborn: Most pictures I have of my newborn are of her sleeping. You always hear how newborns sleep so much. While that may be true, sleeping patterns are irregular and unpredictable. And the picture thing, think about it: you’re not going around snapping pictures while you’re learning how to breastfeed, change diapers, and comfort a screaming, tiny human. Night or day, it’s all unpredictable.  

Our pediatrician advised me to feed Hannah every 2-2.5 hours, no more than 3. This meant waking her up at night, if necessary, for the first two weeks. At this point, she slept in a bassinet beside the bed. I would set my phone timer for 3 hours, but she would always wake up before it went off. After two weeks it was recommended to see how long she can go at night. This was sometimes 3-4 hours (and one time 6), but she would typically wake up between 11-12 PM, 2-3 AM, and 4-5 AM. During the day Hannah would nap on me (sometimes while babywearing using the Baby K’tan) or in the Pak n Play. In the evenings, we became accustomed to 2 hours straight of crying (the witching hour). Most nights, nothing working to relieve this (5 S’s from Happiest Baby on the Block) and she would eventually fall asleep. The things that did work (swaddling, vacuum cleaner, baby-wearing) usually only worked once.  

Bedtime (or when she finally fell asleep): between 9-10 PM and wake times were around 7-8 AM.

Naps: Intermittent and unpredictable. Sometimes in the pack n play, sometimes in my lap on the Boppy pillow, sometimes baby-wearing.

Feeding: On demand, attempted bottle at 3 weeks old and was unsuccessful.

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2 months: At our 2-month pediatrician visit I learned that Hannah can begin to transition out of our room to the crib if we so choose. I took this time to get Hannah used to napping in the crib instead of in the Baby K’tan (on me) for every nap. It took about 4 days of hunkering down and not leaving the house to get her used to napping in the crib consistently. I used Dr. Ferber’s sleep training chart (see below). Her wake times then were about 1 hour at a time, and she would sleep for 1-1.5 hours in between. That was a very rough week but I gained more freedom and time to myself. Hannah mastered self-soothing and the ability to fall asleep on her own (note: she was already showing signs of self-soothing with her hands before this). I introduced a lovey at this point, which she still uses today. She still slept in our room at night with 2-3 wakings per night.  

ferber chart.jpeg

Bedtime: moving earlier, between 7:30 PM-8:30 PM. Wake time was about 7:00 AM.

Naps: 4-5 naps during the day. Moving from exclusively baby-wearing to crib naps (see details above).Feeding: On demand, moving toward the eat-wake-sleep cycle as laid out in On Becoming Babywise.

lovey

12 weeks: The end of the 4th trimester was when I decided to move Hannah into her own room at night. At first, this was a scary transition, but it was also nice not to have to tiptoe around our room. I still got up 2-3 times a night and walked across the house for diaper changes and feedings.  

Bedtime: around 7 PM, and wake times were around 7 AM.

Naps: 4-5 naps in the crib after 1 hour of wake time. At this time we invested in blackout curtains to keep the room dark during the day. 

Feeding: Stretching feedings to 3 hours apart for the eat-wake-sleep cycle. Feedings were upon waking from naps, bedtime/morning waking, and night wakings.

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3-4 months: Okay, this is when the night wakings are starting to get old. I remember going to bed each night hoping tonight would be the night she’d sleep through, only to be disappointed every time.  

I read Dr. Ferber’s book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, which gave me a lot of useful insight to sleep itself. For example, I learned about sleep cycles and that babies at Hannah’s age tend to wake up during naps after about 45 minutes (one sleep cycle) and need to learn how to fall asleep again. This is also associated with the 4-month sleep regression. This knowledge allowed me to recognize when Hannah was between sleep cycles and caused me to be more patient in letting her fall back asleep.  

I used Taking Cara BabiesNavigating Months 3 & 4 to get Hannah down to one night-feeding. It worked really well and was worth the price tag. I had also read through Cara’s ABC’s of Sleep for 5+ months. This was at the point where Hannah’s weight was starting to level off, causing concern for the doctor and scaring the crap out of me. I felt that waking up once a night was fine, especially if Hannah needed the extra calories.  

Bedtime: around 6 PM (thank you, time change), and wake times were around 6 AM.

Naps: Staying awake 1-2 hours at a time, naps decreased to 3-4 per day. The last nap of the day was unsuccessful in the crib. I achieved it by baby-wearing, portable white noise machine, and rocking chair.

Feeding: Returned to on-demand feeding to help weight gain.

5-6 months: Hannah’s weight was back on track thanks to more frequent feedings and the introduction of solids. In turn, her night wakings became more frequent, and I was so tired at this point that I gave in to feeding her (usually 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM). Before you know it, we were back to two night-feedings.  

Bedtime: shifted to 6:45-7:15 PM, while wake times were between 6-7 AM.

Naps: 3 naps/day (8:00 AM, 1:0 PM0, 4:30ish PM), last nap on me in rocking chair with a white noise machine.

Feedings: Adjusted feeding to be before and after naps, so more of an eat-wake-eat-sleep cycle. Introduced solids.

6.5 months: The night wakings continued getting worse. Finally one night, at 1:00 AM, I was sitting alone in the dark listening to Hannah cry. It’s too early, I thought. I knew she wasn’t hungry, she was waking out of habit. Right then and there I decided that the night feedings were a thing of the past. I quickly reread the ABC’s of Sleep on my phone in the dark and implemented the pop-in method. It was a rough night, but the sun rose the next morning. The following night was also rough but way better. By night three Hannah slept all night, waking around 5:00 am, but able to wait in her crib until 6.  

Bedtime: 7 PM, wake time is 6 AM.

Naps: 2-3 naps/day. Last nap sometimes didn’t happen. I made an effort to make them happen with baby-wearing in a darkened room with a white noise machine.

Feedings: same as above, but with two solid food meals per day.

7 months: We moved her bedtime to 6:30-6:45 PM in an effort to close the gap between her last nap to bedtime. The third naps became hit or miss. This seemed to help her sleep longer in the mornings. Also, she got sick during this month, which interrupted sleep. Two nights I got up with her for feedings and comfort. Getting up again at night meant I had to sleep train her again once she was well (this took 1-2 nights). This is also when we transitioned from 3 to 2 naps. It took at least a week or so to complete this transition by encouraging her to stay up a little longer between naps. I was so glad to drop the third nap struggle.  

Bedtime: 6:30-6:45 PM, wake time is 6 AM.

Naps: Dropped third nap, which affected bedtime.

8 months: We moved bedtimes yet again (despite the time change) to 6:15-6:30 PM. This earlier bedtime was to help with the early morning wake-ups and afternoon naps not ending late enough. This article was helpful in trying to diagnose the early morning wakings. Moving the bedtime earlier seemed to help a bit, counterintuitive as it may be. We went on our road trip to Hilton Head around this time and Hannah was able to sleep in the car to and from SC because I timed her naps with the drive. Let’s be real, I plan every day around naps!  

Bedtime: 6:15-6:30 PM, wake times between 5:00-6:00 AM.

Naps: At this point, Hannah’s naps were around 8:30 AM and 1:00-1:30 PM. She usually slept until about 2:30-3:00 PM from her second nap. It was a stretch to get her to bedtime, hence moving the time earlier.

Feeding: still breastfeeding 6 times a day, increasing solid foods to 3 meals a day.

car ride

9/10 months: Moving bedtimes again. We’re now getting in the crib around 7:00 PM since naps have shifted later. Wake up times are closer to 6:00 AM and sometimes a few minutes past. Naps are normalizing into a schedule where she sleeps 1.5 hours each, most of the time. I’m finding if we have a busy morning, Hannah’s naps are shorter in the afternoon due to overstimulation.  

Bedtime: 7:00-7:30 PM, waking around 6:00 AM.

Naps: Two naps (9:00-10:30 AM and 2:00-3:30 PM).

Feedings: Cut pre-nap breastfeedings, but offering sippy cup. Breastfeeding only after naps and before/after bed (4x/day total). Hannah is eating and drinking quite a bit more at the table.

That brings us to today. Starting to build good sleep habits at 2 months and continuing to build from there has been a huge personal success on this baby adventure so far. This may be why she was able to sleep through the night after 2 nights of intense sleep training at 7 months. We’re still dealing with early morning wakings and short naps here and there, but I am so grateful that we are able to sleep all night. The only constant, when it comes to sleep with babies, is change. I’ll enjoy this stasis now before we encounter all sorts of new and exciting sleep problems!  

Soothing techniques are from Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp.

Eat-wake-sleep cycle and nap/feed schedules are from On Becoming Babywise.

Insight to sleep in babies, kids, and adults (and sleep chart) are from Solving Your Child’s Sleep Problems.

Additional nap schedules are from Taking Cara Babies.

Sleep training I implemented at 6.5 months is from Taking Cara Babies.

Books I’ve read and reviewed on pregnancy and parenting.

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