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Sleeping Through the Night: A Tale of Four Children

Sleeping through the night. It can seem like such a pipe dream at times. This unattainable goal somewhere off in the distance that we pine for. Perhaps it is even so seemingly far off that it is more like the fantastical unicorn. A fun thing to pretend exists, but is in reality a figment of our youthful past.

When we are not sleeping through the night, sleep can desperately seem like it will never again return to us.

How to get your baby sleeping through the night | baby sleep | sleeping through the night | babywise success | #babysleep


But it does come! This post discusses how I attained sleeping through the night (STTN) for all four of my children. Let me start by saying that I largely just followed the outline of On Becoming Babywise (affiliate link) and had faith that when my baby was ready, STTN would happen. I believed that if I did my part in the day, things would work out at night. This is by and large true. There are, however, extenuating factors that can delay that magical day when STTN becomes the norm. Here are my stories and what I learned from each child.

Brayden--now age 12
STTN age: 6 months
With Brayden, we didn't start following Babywise at all until around four weeks and not fully until around 9 weeks. Because of our 9 week late start, I fully prepared myself to be 9 weeks behind the promises of what can happen with Babywise.

Brayden started sleeping through the night right around 6 months old (just before). Here is the crazy thing: he did it while on vacation several states away (and we live in the West, so several states away is a long way). This is counter-intuitive, right? A baby shouldn't be improving sleep while on vacation; he should be having some sleep setbacks while on vacation. Everyone knows that. So I decided I needed to take some hard looks at what was different between our home and my great-aunt's home where we were staying. The secret to the sleeping through the night mystery had to be in those differences.

The number one difference between our homes was that it was much warmer in my great-aunt's home. The second main difference was that Brayden had more privacy--we weren't quite in different rooms, but he wasn't right by us while on vacation. In our home, he was right by us (our "room" in my great-aunts house was literally more square feet than our first apartment). We were remodeling a house at the time while living in it and none of us had a bedroom--we were sleeping in the main family room area. It was an open floor plan and the entire main floor was open, which meant drafty. It also meant we could all hear each other. 

When we got home from that trip,  I decided the best way to duplicate the environment at my aunt's house was to move Brayden into the bathroom. Yep, the bathroom. We could close the door, which would mean it would be warmer. It also meant he wouldn't hear every peep we made and we wouldn't hear every peep he made.

It worked! For the next six months until we moved, he slept in the bathroom. And through the night. Happiness all around.

Something to note, I didn't really notice the concept of a "dreamfeed" or "late evening feed" with Brayden, so this STTN was from bedtime to morning waketime. 

Key things I learned:
  • If your baby is older than "should" be for STTN and isn't, really consider factors that might be preventing your baby from STTN. It is good to be patient, some babies do take longer than you would expect, but you don't want to ignore some simple fix that could improve the situation. I have a post with common reasons for a baby not sleeping through the night: Nighttime Sleep Issues.
  • If your baby is cold at night, he will not sleep well.
  • As I look in retrospect, he was sleeping from bedtime to morning waketime at a younger age than both Kaitlyn and McKenna--he just had no dreamfeed. So realize that if you have no dreamfeed, your baby will likely wake during your night longer than a baby who has a dreamfeed.
  • Don't be afraid to think outside the box and have your child sleep in an unconventional space. 
Kaitlyn--now age 10
STTN age: 4 months
When Kaitlyn came along, I was a huge believer in the ways of Babywise, so I intended to start from the beginning. She came with a challenge, however. Kaitlyn was diagnosed with reflux. Oh how reflux changes the game. 

Kaitlyn slept through the night right around the end of 3 months old/beginning of 4 months old. Kaitlyn loved to sleep. She was a great sleeper who was a natural at it. There were many times she woke in pain because of reflux, but her love of sleep really helped her sleep through the night earlier than most babies with reflux do (along with, of course, our adherence to Babywise principles). I stuck to our day routine and she naturally slept through the night on her own right around 3/4 months. 

At the time, Kaitlyn had a dreamfeed, so her STTN was from dreamfeed until morning wakeup time. I kept the dreamfeed until 7 months old.
How to get your baby sleeping through the night | baby sleep | sleeping through the night | babywise success | #babysleep

Key things I learned with Kaitlyn:
  • Babies with reflux (and I transfer that to a baby in pain for any reason) will very likely take longer to STTN than they would otherwise. More patience is needed. For more on reflux, see Babywise and Reflux.
  • Some babies are more natural sleepers than others. Brayden fought sleep from birth while Kaitlyn embraced it. You will have to work harder with babies who love to sleep than you will have to work with babies who do not love to sleep.
McKenna--now age 8
STTN age: 9 weeks
When McKenna was born, I quickly recognized that I had another baby who loved to sleep on my hands. She was a very natural sleeper who didn't need cry it out ever to learn to sleep. I could put her in her bed awake from the first day and she would go right to sleep (I used the 4 S's wit her).

McKenna started STTN when she was 9 weeks old. I was so excited! Then the next week, she woke a couple of nights in the night again. My determination was that it was due to colder nights and her being cold. She went back and forth a few times, but for the most part was STTN at 9 weeks. At the time, we did cluster feeding and we also did a dreamfeed, so this STTN was with a dreamfeed. We dropped the dreamfeed at 29 weeks (around 7 months--she was ready sooner, but we moved right around when she was ready and I didn't want to change things up at the same time as a move). You can go here to read my newborn summaries to get full details of how the roller coaster went. 

McKenna was pretty textbook. Even so, I learned some things:
  • Cluster feeding can really help facilitate STTN. 
  • McKenna was a very small baby at birth--a low 6 pounder. Small babies often take longer to STTN. Babies are often around 12 pounds or so when they start STTN (not always, but often). 
Brinley--now age 5
STTN age: 8 weeks
Brinley wasn't here long before I realized that she is very similar to Brayden in the sleep department. She doesn't love sleep like Kaitlyn and McKenna love sleep. Even so, I started Babywise from day one like I had my other girls. And like McKenna, she never had to cry it out to learn to sleep on her own. We stuck with the 4 S's. 

Brinley, like McKenna before her, was also a small baby at birth. She slept through the night at 8 weeks old. This was with a dreamfeed and no cluster feeding. She was the type who started sleeping through the night and never really looked back. She just did it. When Brinley was 18 weeks old (right around 4 months), we dropped the dreamfeed. I like having the dreamfeed longer than that, but it started to disrupt her sleep so that she started waking early in the morning, so I dropped the dreamfeed and that fixed the early waking. 

Key things I learned with Brinley:
  • Even if a baby doesn't love to sleep, she can still be an amazing sleeper. I did know that with Brayden, but I had to work hard to get him there. With Brinley, I also worked hard but worked hard from the beginning and never had to fight her at all. "Start as you mean to go on" will make your life easier, and your baby's life easier!
  • Making sacrifices to establish good sleep patterns is worth it. It isn't popular among a lot of family members who have high expectations. But let me say this. Unless you have a young baby at the moment, you do not remember how sensitive they are to being overly tired. Unless you are a mother of said baby, you do not know what it is like to have to try to help baby through the disruptions. People forget. They aren't up with the crying baby in the middle of the night because sleep was so disrupted. We had family members who couldn't remember our policies between babies, much less what it was truly like for them to have babies. Your first priority is to your baby's needs. Some babies are more flexible than others. Some can handle disruptions better than others. Do what you feel is best for your baby. Explain it. Explain that the baby won't be a baby forever. Explain that you don't love having to miss things sometimes. Even with those explanations, family members aren't always nice and understanding (even if they acknowledge that they were the same way as you when they had young babies). See my post Dealing with Difficult Family Members for more. You can also see  Balancing Baby's Needs With Family's NeedsBaby Joins a Family {AND} Family Adds a Baby, and Welcoming Baby to the Family.
Good luck as you move toward sleeping through the night. Remember that consistency in your days will immensely help your nights to be smoother. Remember to be patient, but also mindful of things you can change. Your baby will get there! And your fantasies and dreams will all come true!

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