Sleeping Through the Night

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Little Man is 4 months old now. He sleeps anywhere from 9 to 12 hours at night, every night, in cloth diapers, almost never requiring a feed or a change in the middle of the night. This has been true for the past solid month.

I feel pretty blessed. I’ve read so much information that has me convinced that this is a pretty rare thing at his age. I had also read a fair bit of internet parenting opinions that helped me encourage his behavior to get us up to this point. So, amid the hundreds of other things I thought about writing while my little darling is sound asleep tonight – I’ve decided to share a bit about how we centered in on his nightly routine, just in case it might help some other sleepy parents out there.

– There is NO need for CIY (Cry It Out)! This is not a requirement to get your little one used to sleeping alone. They might cry at first, and that’s okay, and you should totally feel like it’s helpful and encouraged to go comfort them. A child will sleep soundly knowing that help is there if something goes wrong.

– Notice when a routine develops. The first couple months are pretty haphazard. I suppose some people actually get their newborns into strict to-the-minute timing, but personally the first 10 weeks were a blur. He slept on my lap or chest when he was sleepy. He nursed when he was hungry. I caught snippets of rest when I could. We really didn’t time anything – we barely kept track of how often the changings and feedings happened, and only because the pediatrician needed to know. But after 8 weeks, I started to notice a faint pattern in his nap times. He took one slightly longer nap every day – that tended to be in the night hours – and this is what I had to start working with. If your baby has a slightly longer but consistently taken nap, then you’re ready to start encouraging overnight sleep.

– Start placing baby in bed when this long nap happens. At first you probably want to do this while baby’s sound asleep. You’ll want baby to wake up in the place you want associated with overnight sleeping (ie: the crib, cradle, etc.). They’ll wake up, and feel strange and lost, and that’s okay – comfort them and let them know it’s a safe place.

– White noise. There’s all kinds of good white noise out there, but our baby’s favorite one at first was called “Baby Got Colic” – which is basically a bunch of womb-esque rhythmic noise meant to sound like mother’s heartbeat and blood circulation and whatnot. It reminded him of the womb and thus calmed him down – so we played that softly in the nursery. When he woke up, he heard comforting noises, and that helped a lot. Sometimes it calmed him enough to go back to sleep.

– Make it dark. So this sounds pretty obvious, but it was something I hadn’t thought of doing until I read it on-line. If you want baby to sleep at night, make sleeping time dark. A little night-light is fine, but as soon as little one gets tired, start killing off the big room lights.

– Wardrobe change. This is a pretty big key in teaching your baby that sleep time is a different part of the day. This might be when you swaddle – or place them in a wearable blanket. I take this opportunity to give my little man a lotion massage (some folks do bath time, but baths do NOT calm him down). We use lavender J&J bedtime lotion. I put him in his comfiest, softest outfits – either fleece feeted pjs, or a soft shirt and wearable blanket combo. The goal is comfy and warm (and safe! If baby can roll onto side, don’t swaddle – and *never* lose blankets).

– Night-time diaper. If you’re using disposables, just change them right before bedtime, even if they don’t need it – consistent routine is important. We use cloth, however. There are TONS of posts and opinions out there about overnight cloth diapering. I’ll summarize with a couple of points:

1) Don’t be afraid of layers. Yep, baby’s diaper at night is going to be bulky and untrim. Put baby in larger clothes to accommodate the bulk, if you have to (or just shirt + sleepsack). Layers are what is going to keep baby asleep. Keep adding until you reach the limits of what your gussets can handle – basically, until adding one more layer would create a gap at the leg elastic. (My husband says that little one looks like a garlic bulb in the mornings… but since he’s a DRY garlic bulb, I’m happy with that.)

2) Use your best fitting diapers. The ones you love during the day because they never leak – that anti-leak ability will help a lot more at night.

3) Microfleece liners. Buy some microfleece, cut it into squares, lay it on top of the diaper (and all those extra layers) – in-between diaper and baby’s skin. It will wick the moisture away from the skin down onto the soaking layers below. Most diapers have a microfleece layer, but you might have to get creative with your stuffing process (ie lay things on top and not inside a pocket), so extra fleece is good to have. It’ll keep baby feeling dry, thus reduce the chance they’ll wake up crying from the moisture.

4) Layers/soakers/inserts – material doesn’t matter too terribly much, but the general idea is that you want the fastest-absorbing materials up at the top. For example, you might have a pocket with a microfiber insert. You could put an additional insert of hemp below/under the microfiber.. or trifold a cotton prefold diaper and put that above/on top of the microfiber. Never put microfiber directly on baby’s skin – otherwise be creative – even t-shirts or baby washcloths can be used to add layers.

5) Baby powder (cornstarch). It’s cloth safe, and we’ve found it to be really useful in helping to dry up the moisture before it can wake him up or cause a rash.

– A full belly! Pretty simple, keep baby very well fed approaching sleepy time.

So, I started to implement all of these things during the course of two weeks, once I noticed his habitual evening nap. Soon his nap lengthened and became a full sleep. Now it’s clockwork. Somewhere between 9:30pm and 10pm he’ll need a diaper change, and we start our routine: Turn the lights off in the nursery (except for a dim closet light so I can see the changing table), Turn on the white noise, Night-time diaper, Lotion massage, Wearable blanket or feety pj’s. Then we do a long nursing session until he passes out from milk coma. I carefully move him into the crib, and he sleeps for 9-12 hours. Once in a great while, it doesn’t work immediately. Sometimes it takes an hour or two longer. But just keep cycling through diaper changes and feedings until it works. Keep calm and patient. Eventually they say to put the baby in bed/crib while they’re still awake (but very sleepy) – but we usually have terrible luck with that so far. Once in a while he’ll manage to fall asleep if I stroke his hair.. but it usually leads to a crying fit that requires more feedings.

At the end of the day, he decided he would sleep at night, and I merely encouraged and shaped his inclinations.

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