Mastering Baby Sleep (like a boss)

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How to Master the Art of All Things Baby Sleep

EVERY parent cares about baby sleep. I realize I’m stating the obvious here, but you don’t get to sleep unless baby is sleeping! 

Being a parent is a beautiful thing, but it is also very difficult. Multiply that by 100 when you are sleep deprived. 

Sleep deprivation has many fun symptoms associated with it. Think of the simplest things ever that you do every day without thinking about it, like flushing the toilet. Well say goodbye to those better days until you start getting more sleep! 

You can put food in the microwave and forget to heat it up. You can think your water heater is broken because the water isn’t heating up only to realize you have the faucet on cold. (Yes, I did all of these things and more.)

My third trimester was pretty rough because I wasn’t sleeping. That’s when I became obsessed with baby sleep because I knew taking care of a baby while running on empty would be the equivalent of Armageddon. 

I did a ton of research on baby sleep, and talked to a lot of parents I knew about sleep training. There were so many “rules” that it was overwhelming. Especially because they all contradicted each other. 

In other words, everyone had different rules. But really, this makes sense. You and your baby are unique, and there is no ONE right solution for anything, including baby sleep. 

Disclaimer: This is meant as general information, and is not any type of professional advice. If you have any questions or concerns, you should contact a professional in the appropriate field based on your question or concern. Please see my Disclaimer for more information.

Mastering baby sleep tips you must try today

Simplify Baby Sleep

I can tell you this. I did every single thing I was told not to do. And just so you know, my baby started sleeping 7-11 hours through the night at 1.5-months-old. 

Here’s the thing. Your motherly instincts are the most important tool in your box. If your instincts are telling you to do something, don’t question yourself just because you heard you were never supposed to do something. 

Don’t worry! I’m still going to tell you how I got my baby to sleep through the night like a champ. But maybe the information in this post will be more like guidelines for you that you tweak. 

I’m just saying don’t overthink it. I’d be willing to bet that most of the time you will know the right answer yourself, but you’ll have so much background noise in your head in the form of research you did or things people told you, that your own instincts aren’t being transmitted very clearly. 

That doesn’t mean things you’ve read are wrong, or that people who have given you advice were wrong. Those things clearly worked for some babies. But I don’t believe there is ONE right method out there that works for ALL babies. 

Hence why your motherly instincts will be your most important tool. I know it can be scary. You don’t want to make a mistake because you NEED. YOUR. SLEEP! But I’m telling you… trust your instincts. 

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night

Help Your Baby with Day/Night Confusion

This probably goes without saying, but you need to do this for the sake of your sanity! My baby didn’t sleep for a SINGLE minute the first night we spent at our house. It was hell on earth, especially since I hadn’t sleep in three days. 

It made sense that she didn’t sleep at all. Newborns haven’t developed their circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle), and need a gentle nudge towards sleeping more at night.

So I came up with a way to help her with her internal clock that was rather simple, but worked the first night I tried it! 

During the day, I exposed her to as much sunlight as possible. I opened all of the curtains, and I turned on all of the lights. The house was like this ALL DAY. 

At night, I exposed my baby to as much darkness as possible. I closed the blinds to filter out lights outside, and turned off all of the lights in the room. I did turn on a night light so I could see what I was doing. 

That is when the bedtime routine began. This routine was instrumental in helping my baby to sleep at night, and eventually helping her to sleep THROUGH the night. 

Simple Sleep Routine for Baby

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So seriously… nothing fancy here! I will tell you the bedtime routine that I used, but the MOST important part of this bedtime routine was CONSISTENCY.  

  • As a newborn, I took her up to bed around the same time EVERY night. (This changed slightly as she got older). 
  • As I mentioned earlier, I went upstairs and turned off the lights, closed the blinds, and turned on a night light before bringing her into the room. I liked this night light because it wasn’t too bright, and I could manually turn it on and off. I didn’t want a night light with a sensor that I would have to unplug when my baby fell asleep.
  • I turned on a white noise machine to help create a soothing environment for her, and changed her diaper. This white noise machine is great because it has 8 independent sounds that can be independently controlled. If you want to turn a sound/sounds off, then you can. If you want to turn a sound/sounds up or down, you can.
  • I used a ✅ swaddler! I cannot emphasize enough how important this was to getting my baby to sleep. She didn’t love being swaddled, but she could NOT sleep without it. We tried, and she would startle herself awake within minutes because of the moro reflex.
  • I nursed my baby to sleep. Especially for newborns, this is probably a rather obvious step. Newborns eat frequently, so I knew she’d sleep longer with a full tummy. Breastmilk at night is also supposed to have a good amount of melatonin.

I did this routine EVERY. SINGLE. NIGHT. I never strayed from it in the slightest.

The consistency of her bedtime routine combined with her getting older and gaining weight led to her sleeping through the night at 1.5-months-old.

Seriously. She never woke up in the middle of the night again.

✅ I used the Delta Children Sweet Beginnings Bassinet, and I loved it. I just wanted something simple and inexpensive that would provide a safe place for my baby to sleep:

  • It was one of the least expensive bassinets that I looked at.
  • It was stable, and my baby slept in it until she hit the maximum weight limit, 15 lbs. This was around 4 months.
  • It included a machine washable sheet and a water-resistant mattress.
  • The canopy is removable, thankfully, because I didn’t want it.
  • It has a lot of storage underneath. I never used it, but I’m sure others do.
  • It has wheels, which makes it easy to move. Make sure to lock the wheels when baby is sleeping in it.
  • It has a nightlight and music module, which I’m sure appeals to lots of people. I didn’t use these features because I preferred the white noise machine.

Related: Best Baby Bassinet Guide

Baby sleep “rules” that can be broken

You will hear so many things you are “never supposed to do” in regards to baby sleep.

Trust your motherly instincts. There isn’t ONE right way to help your baby sleep, and every baby is different. Again, it is totally true that these rules work for some babies. My point is that they don’t work for EVERY baby.

Here are some baby sleep “rules” that I broke:

  • Do not nurse your baby to sleep.

According to some experts, if you nurse your baby to sleep, your baby will not sleep through the night.

I’m not quite sure how you would go about proving something like this. If a baby isn’t sleeping through the night, how do you know it’s solely because of nursing? Either way, I think I proved this to be false.

  • Put your baby down drowsy, but not asleep.

Supposedly if you put your baby to sleep BEFORE putting her in her bassinet/crib, then your baby will have a harder time learning to fall asleep on her own.

This may be the case with some babies, but definitely not with all babies. I put my baby down asleep for a long time, and today she puts herself to sleep regularly for naps and at night.

  • Do not change your baby’s diaper in the middle of the night.

When my baby was a newborn, I usually changed her diaper in the middle of the night. As I mentioned before, she started sleeping through the night at 1.5-months-old, so it didn’t matter anymore.

I imagine if she hadn’t done this, I probably would have stopped changing her diaper in the middle of the night for fear of waking her up too often.

How to Get Your Baby to Sleep in a Crib for Naps

When my baby was a newborn, she frequently took naps on me or in her ✅ portable infant sleeper.

The infant sleeper was a godsend because newborns sleep around 18 hours a day! I loved those baby snuggles, but there were times when I needed a break or wanted to do something else.

As she got older, a little over 2-months-old, I was ready for her to take naps in her crib. She was, too, but she didn’t know it yet.

I really needed breaks during the day. She also started melting down because she needed a real nap that wasn’t on me.

Just like her bedtime routine, a CONSISTENT nap routine was the key to my success.

Set Your Baby Up for Nap-time Success

It is important to set up an environment that will help your baby to sleep.

I ordered pleated, paper blackout curtains to keep her room darker for naps. This was SO important because her room has big windows and is very bright during the day. She needed the room to be darker in order to sleep.

These blackout curtains were a great choice because I wanted something EASY that would get the job done. They are temporary while she’s young and taking naps, so I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or actually have to install something.

  • You don’t have to install them. It has adhesive tape at the top, which is what I used. You can also use thumb tacks.
  • It comes in multiple sizes, and you can trim it down if need be.
  • There are clips that you can use to raise and lower the shade.
  • You can use it as a standalone solution, or you can install it in front of or behind existing window treatments. I placed mine in front of the window treatments.

I turned on a ✅ white-noise machine, just like at bedtime, to create a soothing environment for her.

Baby Nap-time Routine

I have a consistent nap-time routine that I use every single time. One important thing to note is that getting your baby to take naps in a crib may not happen right away.

It could happen right away for you, and I hope it does! But if it doesn’t, don’t get discouraged. It took weeks for my baby to really settle into taking long naps in her crib.

Her first nap in her crib lasted only 5 minutes! But that’s okay, it was still a win because we were PROGRESSING towards longer naps in her crib.

If this happens for you, don’t give up. It happened for me. It will happen for you, too, as long as it’s what you want, you keep trying, and don’t let it get you down.

Without further ado, here is my simple nap-time routine that I still use today:

  1. I set up her room as I mentioned in the previous section.
  2. I change my baby.
  3. I swaddle my baby. (Or I used to. Clearly I don’t do this anymore at 6-months-old. I’ll go more into transitioning baby from a swaddler later.)
  4. I feed her.
  5. If she doesn’t fall asleep, I rock her to sleep before placing her in her crib.

I should clarify that I USED to rock her to sleep. Now she either falls asleep while drinking her bottle, or she puts herself to sleep in her crib.

Transitioning Out of swaddle

The reason swaddling is so important for most babies is because of the moro reflex.

The moro reflex is an involuntary startle reflex that can cause your baby to jerk. It kind of looks like what I imagine we look like when we’ve had “falling” dreams, and startle awake.

The moro reflex typically goes away at around 4-6 months. I swaddled my baby until she was a little over 3-months-old, and then I knew it was time to transition her.

Some signs that it could potentially be time to transition your baby out of a swaddler include:

  • Your baby can get an arm/arms out of the swaddler.
  • When your baby can roll from back to tummy.
  • Your baby gets distressed during swaddling.

Please keep in mind that these are guidelines, not hard and fast rules. My baby showed some of these signs weeks before I knew it was time to transition her.

I stopped swaddling my baby when my intuition told me that it was time. I was able to do this when I wanted to thanks to ✅ Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit!

This was an absolute LIFESAVER. She was ready to be out of her swaddler, but she still had the moro reflex so she would NOT have been able to sleep without this sleepsuit.

She started using this sleepsuit when she was a little over 3-months-old. The sleepsuit is a swaddle transition product designed for back sleeping ONLY.

It has three layers of fabric, and it isn’t weighted, but the thickness of the fabric helped to tone down my baby’s startle reflex while giving her freedom of movement.

The suit has open hands and feet, which keeps my baby from getting too warm. I either put her in the sleepsuit wearing just a diaper, or wearing a light, cotton onesie.

4 month Sleep Regression

I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the dreaded sleep regression, that typically takes place around 4 months.

The name is kind of misleading because what your baby is going through is not a sleep regression. It’s more like a sleep PROgression.

Let me break it down so you can have a better understanding.

Here are the 4 stages of sleep in the order in which you experience them:

  1. NREM Stage 1: This is a fairly light stage of sleep, and is considered to be the transition period between being awake and being asleep.
  2. NREM Stage 2: In this stage, people start to become less aware of their surroundings and body temperature begins to drop.
  3. NREM Stage 3: This is a transitional period between light sleep and very deep sleep where people become less aware of their surroundings.
  4. REM Sleep: This is a stage of very deep sleep where most dreaming happens.

Newborns only experience stages 3 and 4 of sleep, which means they jump right into deep sleep.

When your baby is approximately 4-months-old, she will start experiencing ALL 4 stages of sleep! That means she will experience light stages of sleep for the first time.

Therefore, it makes sense that your baby may wake up more. This is just one more reason that the Magic Sleepsuit was such an amazing investment. My baby only woke up in the middle of the night once when she was going through her sleep progression.

Sleeping with…. Crib Bumpers

That’s right… crib bumpers! So here’s the deal. Your doctor will tell you that he/she cannot recommend crib bumpers due to the suffocation risk. You’ll read about it and hear about it from other moms.

However, I can tell you that my baby uses them and they’ve been a godsend for me.

I want to make it clear that I am NOT advocating for the use of crib bumpers or telling you what to do. Again, use your own motherly instincts.

My baby used to be the most aggressive sleeper on planet earth. She would kick, flop, and throw her head around with an amazing amount of force for such a tiny human. She would do a full 180 in her sleep almost every night.

The first night she was in her crib, she hit her head so hard that she woke up and started crying. It was a painful cry, so I knew she had to have hit it pretty hard.

Therefore I got ✅ crib bumpers, despite what everyone told me. She’s been sleeping peacefully ever since (for over 2 months), and it was a great decision.

Here’s the thing. She was sleeping in a bassinet before her crib, and there was no more of a suffocation risk in the bassinet than there was in her crib with bumpers. I also wasn’t swaddling her anymore, so her hands were free.

It would have been very difficult physically for her to get pressed up against a bumper in just the right way for that to even be a possibility. And in that very unlikely event, my baby was very strong at this point and more than capable of pushing herself away if need be.

Baby sleep… mastered!

You are now ready to go forth and conquer baby sleep!

I know I threw a lot of information at you, but remember… the most important tool you have is your intuition! I can’t stress this enough.

You know your baby better than anyone else. You have motherly instincts, I promise! You have to be able to tune into one station (Yours!), to filter out the rest of the noise. Otherwise your station will be staticky (yes, I promise that’s a word), and you won’t be able to hear it very clearly.

I sincerely hope this article was useful to you, and I wish you many nights of amazing and restorative sleep!

RELATED: Postpartum Recovery Essentials

How were you able to master the art of baby sleep? Please share in the comments below!

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2 thoughts on “Mastering Baby Sleep (like a boss)”

    • You’re welcome, Scarlet! I’m glad this article was useful for you. I agree, I always find it helpful to have a better understanding of what my baby is going through.

      Reply

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