For Mommies Who Don’t Like to Be Zombies

Once again, I am offering take it or leave it advice on motherhood. This one is about getting your baby to sleep through the night. A friend recently asked me about sleep training and I gave her tips that worked for my kids. So far, she is enjoying better sleep and her baby is doing just fine.

If you are like me and miss your uninterrupted sleep, and you feel like being a zombie is not your speed, then I hope this will help. However, if you are the type of mom who can’t stand to let your baby cry (even if it is done very purposefully), then you may have vehement objections to this article. In case you are neither of the above and just curious, read on…

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I have four kids and I am pregnant with a fifth. Sleep training is a matter of survival. If I don’t sleep train, I won’t be able to fulfill some very important duties…like prioritizing my husband and caring for my other kids. Too many people need me at this point so I can’t kill myself by neglecting a good night’s rest.

When I was a rookie mom, I had no idea about sleep training so I suffered for almost 2 years and aged, oh, a good 10 years! My son, Elijah, woke up to breastfeed every night and I gave in because I thought, well, that’s what good mothers do. Looking back, I was right and wrong.

Good mothers do make sacrifices. But they don’t have to be martyrs. A really good mother loves her children unconditionally and purposefully addresses their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs. Having said that, sleep training is a purposeful way to meet a child’s physical needs. And there is a way to do it without neglecting their emotional needs either.

By the time a breastfed baby is between three and six months old, they have put on a significant amount of weight, their stomachs can take in more milk, they have had many hours and days of bonding with you, and they don’t spend the entire day asleep (unlike newborns). Therefore, it is an opportune time to regulate their sleeping and feeding patterns, especially at night.

During each feeding, they will probably take in 4 to 6 ounces of milk. Depending on their weight, they will be drinking between 24 to 36 ounces per day. They still need to sleep about 15 hours a day.

Here is what worked for a 3-hours-in-between-feeding schedule for my last baby, Tiana:
6 AM – Feed / Play
9 AM – Feed / (2 hour nap)
12 PM – Feed / Play
3 PM – Feed / (2 hour nap)
6 PM – Night time routine / Feed (3 hour sleep)
1O PM – Last Feed / Sleep through the night (8 hours)

Please don’t feel like your baby has to have the same schedule. Every infant is different. Some feed every 1.5 to two hours. Tiana happened to do fine with 3 hours in between feeds. So I worked with this.

I let her take two significant naps during the day and by evening, we had a night time routine. She would be given a nice warm bath, we would read a story, or I would sing her a lullaby. The lights would be turned down low and no one was allowed to make loud noises or barge into the room during this time. After feeding her, I would put her down even before she dosed off and she would put herself to sleep.

She learned to do this because during her day time naps, I would let her soothe herself to sleep as well. So she didn’t have to be pat or held to fall asleep.

To train her to sleep through the night, I let her cry out the 2 or 3 AM feed that she got used to in the first few months. She would cry for about 15 to 20 minutes then fall asleep again. This happened for a couple of nights (not more than a week) until her body regulated itself and she took in more milk during her other feeding times. The same process happened with my boys, too.

Of course it is always unpleasant to hear an infant crying. You feel like you might be damaging or hurting your baby somehow. So here is a good checklist to put your conscience at ease before you try sleep training:

Do I spend a lot of time with my baby during the day?
Is my baby alert, active, and healthy?
Is my baby gaining the appropriate amount of weight and growing just fine?
Am I still feeding her at least 6 to 8 times per day?
Is she wetting her diapers regularly?
Do my husband and I have the same conviction about sleep training?

If you can answer yes to the above questions, then rest assured that a few nights of letting them cry is not going to have long-term, negative impact. You have lots of time during the day to bond with your baby and assure her that you are present, available and that you love her. Remember, you aren’t depriving your baby of breast milk, sleep or attention. Babies will adjust to their feeding and sleeping schedules so they get enough milk and sleep. You are simply helping her develop a rhythm that allows both of you to enjoy each other more.

In the long run, training my babies to soothe themselves to sleep and sleep through the night made it easier to transition them into napping and sleeping on their own as toddlers, too. I didn’t have to stay in the room with them and they didn’t need bottles at night either. When it was time to sleep, I could put them down awake or tell them to go to bed. Then I would leave them alone to fall sleep.

Personally, I feel that sleep training before my babies turn 4 months is the easier route. But remember, every mom is different. All moms have an instinct for what is best for their baby. What is comfortable for me may not be comfortable for you. Or, you may have qualms that have not been addressed here, so do your research on sleep training and decide for yourself. Sleep Training Options

Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    this is great tip, joy, i wish i knew about this w my 3 boys. sharing it now w my mommy friends who are still nursing.

  2. Hi Joy ill share it to my dgroup mates who’s going to be new mothers in a month, how I’d wish you were able to write this earlier, thanks for sharing your journey!!!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Im going to try this time Joy. My son cries with his entire voice box reaching my neighbor’s. He lost his voice when i tried it last month and he got sick. Im going to flood him with prayers this time and see how it goes. I really want him to sleep through the night. Do you still co-sleep at the age of 4 months? I think co-sleeping is comforting but at the same time it tempts them to cry for momma’s milk because mommy is just so close. What do you suggest?

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Sounds like he has a very strong personality! Ha ha ha. If he was sick, you really do have to wait til he is okay so you did the right thing. The best cure for a sick baby is lots of breast milk and attention from mommy! But if he is okay now, you can try again.

      Personally, I didn’t co-sleep. It makes them used to my smell at night, the feel of our bed, and it’s harder to transition them to the crib. It’s another adjustment that they will have to make. But for the first three months, when I was breast feeding all the time, the reality is I would sometimes fall asleep with my baby beside me on the bed. However, as much as possible, I avoided that at night. It can be dangerous, too, especially when you are super tired or your spouse is. The baby can be crushed or suffocate on bedding and pillows that get flung about unintentionally while you sleep.

      However, if you have already been co-sleeping and you want to sleep train, you will have to put him in a crib. It’s just too tempting to offer the breast when he is wailing beside you and he knows you are right there. Or, to resist picking him up and patting him.

      If you think that doing the transition to the crib and sleep training is just too much of a jump from what he is used to, maybe you can try the crib sleeping first and then do sleep training a few weeks after so he doesn’t get overwhelmed by all the changes. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I hope this helps somehow. If it still doesn’t work, don’t worry. My mom always says, this too shall pass. The baby stage passes so quickly. If you are willing to forgo your personal sleep knowing that it is just for a season, well, it won’t be forever. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the article ๐Ÿ™‚ just want to ask, when you said your baby soothed herself, what does she do? My baby is 2.5 months old and he soothes himself by sucking on his fingers. I tried giving him a pacifier but he just spits it out. He doesn’t know how to suck on artificial nipples since he’s been breastfeeding directly since birth. I have to carry, sing and sway him to sleep so that I can keep him from sucking his fingers. Now I’m torn whether to let him just sooth himself to sleep and possibly worsen his habit or carry him to sleep which would impede his sleep training. May I ask for your thoughts on this? Thank you very much!

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      It’s interesting that all babies revert to some form of self-soothing technique on their own. My second and third sons did not suck their fingers. They would simply fall asleep provided the environment was quiet enough and the lights were dim, and we had the same routine right before their bedtime. However, with Tiana, she sucked her fingers. I let it go because I figured it was a trade off. Just like you were saying. It’s either you let him keep sucking or you distract him by swaying and rocking him. So you need to make the call. Eventually, you can wean them from finger sucking but it isn’t always that easy. Check out this article from Baby Center. Maybe it will give you some ideas ๐Ÿ˜‰ http://www.babycenter.com/404_how-do-i-teach-my-baby-to-soothe-himself-to-sleep_1272921.bc

  5. Dotty Cu says:

    Hi Joy! Do you let them sleep in your room even if they are sleeping on their crib? If they are sleeping in the next room, is there a yaya with them or do they sleep on their own? I’d love to try this technique for our next baby but i just have a question – if we let them sleep through the night, i am worried about clogged ducts and mastitis. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ Did this happen to you when you were sleep training them? This is my main concern since i get clogged ducts easily especially when my baby skips a feeding. What did you do to avoid this from happening? Thanks and hope to hear from you soon ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Ah! How I wish I did the same with my youngest! However, I think we did pretty well with Alexa since she started sleeping through the night when she was 2 months old. No feeding at night, too.

  7. Hi Joy!

    May i know what particular sleep training method you used on your children? My son is almost 5 weeks old and we’re using Babywise. Currently he has one middle of the night feeding and i cant wait till he is ready to drop that so i can get more sleep. Sleep is good, makes me a better mother.

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      I didn’t really follow a particular method. It probably was a mix of several. But I was more particular about when to start. I waited until about 3 months so they are stronger and “fatter.” Also, if they aren’t healthy or if they get sick a lot then I would wait. My last baby was sickly so I waited until she was about 11 months! But it still worked to let her cry it out for the first three nights. And then her body adjusted. She sleeps very well now. From 8 PM to 6 AM. Sometimes I dream feed her at 10 PM before I sleep just to sneak in a feed. But she won’t wake up which is great!

      • Thank you for the reply. Do you train them to nap on their own as well or do you pat/rock/dance them to sleep? My 15lbs 12 week old is doing 10-11 hour stretches at night now without feedings (hoping for 12 hours). He is now more active thus making him more difficult to settle at night. I have establised a bedtime routine (bath,jammies,breast then pat/burp) he used to be very drowsy when i put him down in his crib but now he seems to have a hard time settling. I pat him till he sleeps now. How to you put your kids to sleep when they were younger?

  8. Hi Joy, do they also take naps at 6am and 12nn after their feeding. My son is 2 1/2 months old. Thanks

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Before my kids turn three, they usually take 2 naps a day. One at 10 AM and then another at about 2 PM. When they are past 3, they just nap once in the afternoon ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Joy T Mendoza says:

      Hi Divine! It depends ๐Ÿ™‚ But usually, when they are that little, I would wait until they are stronger to sleep train…like after 3 months. ๐Ÿ™‚ When they do sleep train, they will still take naps ๐Ÿ™‚ At least 2 or 3 a day. And it really depends because some kids are light sleepers so they take shorter naps in greater numbers interspersed throughout the day. But I would avoid letting them take a late nap before their night time sleep. If they are awake between 5 PM and 8 PM it will help prepare them for bedtime. Otherwise they won’t be tired.

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