How to Train Baby to Sleep Through the Night

This is one of my favorite topics because it has made a gigantic difference in our quality of life.  Being able to count on adequate sleep and time to myself to accomplish things during the day has given me my sanity back! I have heard a lot about the pros and cons of sleep training, and some of the different methods sounded too harsh and complicated for me. FINALLY I found the perfect resource. I gathered most of the information I’ve learned from the book Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old, by Suzy Giordano. This lady is absolutely brilliant and if I ever have the chance to meet her I will give her the biggest hug ever.  Using the strategy outlined in the book, I was able to painlessly train my baby to sleep twelve hours straight through the night by the time she was 11 weeks old. IT. WAS. AMAZING. Especially after the first couple of months with a newborn, which were incredible but so exhausting and stressful (new mamas- amirite?). The method works for both breastfed and bottle-fed babies, but because my baby is bottle-fed, I have more experience in that arena. I have included most of the author’s suggestions for breastfed babies, but if you want more details I would recommend getting a copy of the book. You can find it here.

I didn’t follow the program to a T so this post is a combination of tricks taught in the book and a couple variations I developed on my own. The book is far more detailed than this post, but I wanted to outline the basic steps we used that worked for us. My daughter has not woken up in the middle of the night since she was 11 weeks old (with the exception of the night we unexpectedly pulled the DockATot on her – more on that here). She cruised right through the four month sleep regression, and is still sleeping soundly even though we’ve started the dreaded teething phase. That said, I can confidently say that the book was one of the best investments I’ve ever made and I would HIGHLY suggest grabbing a copy. Here is a breakdown of the steps we used to train my baby to sleep 12 hours through the night by 11 weeks old.

1. Decide On Your Hours:

The book suggests breaking your day into two 12-hour chunks, depending on what time you’d like baby to go to sleep and wake up.  My husband and I decided on 9:00am-9:00pm, but it can really be any time that works for you. My husband gets home from work late, and we wanted to make sure that he had at least a few hours at night to spend with baby during the week. Also, I tend to wake up earlier so that I have a few hours in the morning to get stuff done before baby wakes up, which is SO NICE. Think about your schedule and decide on a window that will work best for you.

2. Make Sure Baby is Eating AT LEAST 24 oz/day:

This is important.  The book recommends keeping a log of how much baby is eating in the weeks leading up to the start of the program to make sure they’re eating enough. If you’re breastfeeding, you want to make sure baby is gaining at the right pace before you begin (if I were breastfeeding, I may have checked with my pediatrician just to be totally sure that baby was fit for this program). I am going to use ounces in my examples because we are bottle feeding, but again, there are lots of awesome reviews from breastfeeding moms as well.  When I talk about increasing and decreasing ounces, for breastfed babies the book suggests adding/subtracting time that baby is at breast

3. Begin Consolidating Feedings:

The goal is to get baby eating every four hours, four times a day in your 12 hour window. Because our schedule is 9:00am-9:00pm, my baby has a 6-8oz bottle at 9am, 1pm, 5pm, and 9pm every day. Now that we’ve established our routine, we can give or take 15 minutes or so. So for example, if your schedule is 6:30-6:30, baby would feed at 6:30am, 10:30am, 2:30pm and 6:30pm. By 8 weeks, most babies will be eating every 2.5-3 hours. Some will naturally stretch the time between feedings without any help.  At 8 weeks, providing baby is gaining properly, the book suggests beginning to stretch the time between feedings. This can be done gradually.  Don’t rush things, every baby will move at their own pace. Some babies master it by 9 weeks, others won’t get it down until 13+ weeks. Here is a basic synopsis of the steps outlined in the book:

    • Start by adding another half ounce/feeding (or couple minutes at breast if you’re breastfeeding) every few days, until baby is consistently eating 6-8oz/feeding.
    • Begin to stretch the time between feedings.  We added about 15 minutes every few days, until we reached the goal of every four hours.  This was the trickiest part, and you may need to work at it a bit in the beginning.  The author of 12-Hours-by-12-weeks suggests distraction tactics like holding and bouncing baby, using a pacifier, and seating them in a swing or bouncy seat.
    • If baby is inconsolably hungry (distractions aren’t working) an hour before target feeding time, you can give baby a “snack” of about one of two ounces.

4. Wean Off of Night Feedings:

Once you’re sure that baby is eating enough during the day, the book talks about weaning baby off of nighttime feedings. By the time my baby reached the goal of our 4 equally spaced daytime feedings, she only had one consistent nighttime feeding remaining so it was pretty easy to wean her off. The book recommends weaning one feeding at a time, and making sure that you have food ready to go for baby as to not give them time to get upset and become more awake. The goal is to feed them in a drowsy state. We gradually decreased the amount by about half an ounce/feeding every night or so.  She started with about 3 oz/night feeding, and it only took about a week to totally wean her off. After the week had passed, she just stopped waking up and slept all the way through! The first night she slept through, we were in disbelief. It was absolutely magical.

5. Create Good Habits:

  • Put baby in the crib drowsy, but not totally asleep. This helps teach them to put themselves to sleep
  • If baby wakes before “goal wakeup time,” do everything in your power not to pick them up. You can offer a pacifier, rub their back, turn on some white noise to lull them back to sleep, or sit in the nursery to comfort them. This is a self soothing tactic.
  • Try to stay consistent with your schedule, at least for the first six months.
  • Develop a nighttime routine.

The book also talks about naps, but for the purposes of this post I just wanted to cover the nighttime sleep method.  The author recommends an hour in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon (between the second and third feedings), but it takes a bit of time to master the nap schedule. Again, the book is totally amazing, so if you want more details on any of these steps you can find it here.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them below! Also check out our post on the BEST baby sleep tools for more on how to get your little bundle snoozing! Thank you so much for reading, and stay tuned for more mama adventures! <3 Lexi

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