A baby can sleep through the night solidly by at least eight weeks of age. With the right schedule in place, our little one did as well. By twelve weeks, she would sleep through the night on a consistent basis and now (at almost two years old) has slept overnight every single night since, except for the occasional sickness. You may think that this pattern MUST be innate; a baby just has to be born that way, right? You may be thinking: my baby would never be able to do that! Think again.
Our little one didn’t sleep through the night at eight weeks old because we were just “lucky”.
That little snuggle bug sleeps through the night because of the sound and solid techniques I am about to share with you. These sleep training tips SAVED my sanity.
I feel like EVERY SINGLE MOM in the whole known universe needs to know these secrets!
RELATED: I’m super passionate about helping other mommies stay home with their babies. Check out how I did this (and other REAL work from home jobs from other mommies) in order to make a great income and raise baby: How To Work From Home And Make Money On The Side As A Stay At Home Mom.
If you already raise your baby at home and feel frazzled or down (I’m totally here for you), make sure to check out: 25 Crucial Survival Tips For Stay At Home Moms
8 Baby Sleep Secrets You Must Know, The ULTIMATE Overnight Sleep Guide
1. Consider checking out Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child
Whenever we have a friend who is going to have their first child, I ALWAYS tell them about this book! This thing saved our lives. I often pick it up at the used book store, if I see it, and gift it to a first time expecting friend. It’s THAT amazing.
Read Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child if you are expecting so you know what to do the very night your baby comes home with you! And if you have an older child that does not sleep through the night, this book will help tremendously.
You might wonder how you could start teaching your child to sleep through the night.
No matter what age your child is, you can start teaching them. If you have an older child or a child with Colic, I would recommend buying Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child for sure. Dr. Weissbluth goes into extensive detail about how to successfully sleep train older children as well as extremely difficult children with Colic.
Much of this post gives key advice that we learned straight from the book. It seriously changed our lives. No joke!
2. Why is healthy sleep for your baby important?
If your child does not learn to sleep well, he may become an incurable adult insomniac, chronically disabled from sleepiness and dependent on sleeping pills. – Dr. Marc Weissbluth
Sleep is incredibly foundation for proper development. As parents, we are concerned about healthy eating, organic, breastfeeding etc. and yet one of the most vital things for our child’s lifelong development is quality sleep!
At each stage of life, a baby’s cognitive development determines the parameters of what sleep they need and what sleep is “successful.” In other words, a baby fundamentally needs different times and lengths of sleep at various times in their life. These times are scientifically based. You may be shocked how your child sleeps “by the book.”
Another key element is actually having a happy child.
We’ve all been there at the grocery store hearing a sad, screaming baby. Did you know that more than likely, they are screaming because of sleepiness? Once a child is “overtired” then it’s too late to sooth and it’s harder to get them to sleep. I can tell you from experience that our little one gets healthy sleep and almost NEVER cries or fusses. Again, this is not innate but is as simple as the recommended book’s title: “Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child“.
3. How to prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)
Before we move on, we need to make a quick note about sleep safety. Remember to ALWAYS have your baby sleep on their back and to NEVER have any loose blankets, pillows or stuffed animals in the bassinet or crib. A baby’s sleep space should be 100% clear of anything but baby and their swaddle (aden + anais is the BEST – only swaddle 3-pack you’ll ever need). Even bumpers are on the “no, no list” now.
Speaking of that swaddle, if your little one is breaking out of it, for safety, it’s time to upgrade to the Halo SleepSack (the “arms-free” version). Always have a good quality sleep monitor like this one from Infant Optics. It has over twenty-one THOUSAND reviews on Amazon and close to a solid five star rating. Also, consider the Owlet Safety Sock. It’s proven to help with SIDS and every parent deserves that comfort.
4. The one to two-hour window
Knowing WHEN to begin soothing your baby to sleep is very important, even more so than how your baby is soothed!
- Newborn babies become over tired after only one or two hours of being awake and some even cannot stay awake for more than one hour! Start taking note of when your baby wakes up and look for tired signs, then start soothing her consistently before those times.
- Babies less than six weeks old go to sleep at night very late and do not sleep during the day for very long. Try to avoid the overtired state and soothe your baby to sleep beforehand.
- After six weeks old, most babies (80%) start becoming more consistent at night. Yay! They will sleep longer at night and become tired earlier in the afternoon than before. Be aware of these signs, take note and start soothing her to bed earlier. Do not let your baby get so tired that she cries.
- After six weeks of age, (20%) of babies are not consistent sleepers. Even if your baby doesn’t seem to be settling at night, try to soothe him at an earlier hour anyway (this is best for their sleep development and biological clock). Take extra time to soothe your baby. Try long calming baths, long soothing car rides, a dark room with no noise while you quietly sing to your baby or a baby swing (stop the swinging when she does fall asleep to allow for optimal sleep).
5. Learn to recognize drowsy cues
When your baby is older than five weeks and shows signs of tire, you should begin soothing them according to your own sleep routine. You can start to begin sleep training. When you see those sleepiness signs, take note of how long she has been awake. Next time, begin your soothing routine about 20 minutes earlier and you’re headed for a perfect sleep training routine.
There’s not so great news for those who have colicky babies. Twenty percent of babies, unfortunately, are colicky and will NOT show signs of drowsiness, so you will have to watch the clock instead.
Drowsiness signs & sleep cues:
- Decreased activity
- Slower Motions
- Less vocal
- Sucking is weaker or slower
- Appears disinterested in surroundings
- Eyes are less focused
- Eyelids drooping
Fatigue Signs (entering the overtired state):
Cue the warning sirens!
- Rubbing eyes
6. Keep a sleep log!
At five weeks of age, start keeping a sleep log (before then your baby will not yet have developed her social awareness and will not fight sleep!). This will help in tremendous ways for you to quickly learn your baby’s sleep cues and his individual rhythm.
- When your baby is put down to sleep
- When she begins sleeping
- If she cries
- what type of cry (soft, loud)
- how long she cries
- The timing of her drowsy cues and what her drowsy cues are
- When she wakes up (or is woke up – depending on age)
- Take note of the length of time that your individual baby is comfortable being awake at certain times of the day before her drowsy cues begin
Once you have a sleep log and want to start sleep training your baby (like we did) try one of two sleep methods or a combination of both! Whatever works in YOUR situation.
7. Sleep solution #1: Soothing Your Baby To Sleep
What is soothing? Soothing is restoring a peaceful state and rendering your baby to a calm, quiet condition. Try to make the room dark and free of noise.
- Snuggle your baby close
- Swaddling (aden + anais silky soft swaddle 3 pack is everything you will need to swaddle your little one. Yes, these are more on the pricey end but I can’t communicate enough how amazing these are. We received and purchased piles and piles of swaddle blankets and those ALL gathered dust as we used these three over and over. They are the perfect size, softness, greatest quality and have the most amazing stretch. Buy just one of these three packs and you are set!
- Laying down next to your child in a cozy position (You may want to try a DockATot for sleep safety and comfort)
- Suckling motion (pacifier – Nuk was the absolute best brand we used. We introduced the pacifier after breastfeeding was well established at 4 weeks. It worked wonders!)
- Gentle rhythmic motions over time (Graco’s Swing worked wonders for us!!! We tried other gliders and seats that have motion and vibrate but the motion just wasn’t enough to soothe her to sleep. The Graco Swing has various levels that allowed us to mimic the motion of a rocking chair. It was a miracle.)
- Rhythmic sounds like a fan, hair dryer or vacuum (We used the Baby Shusher and it was AH-MAZING. Our baby photographer used it to keep Mae asleep as she took all of her photos. It was like magic! There’s a reason why it’s #1 in Amazon’s Baby Sleep Soothers category)
- Car rides or going for a walk in a stroller
Try one sensory category at a time, slowly. Try not to overwhelm your baby with various types of soothing all at once but if your baby remains fussy and awake after trying various sensory activities, then try combining them.
Additional soothing strategies (especially for fussy or colicky babies) in Dr. Weissbluth’s book “Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child” starting on page 63.
8. Sleep solution #2 – “No cry”, “Maybe cry” or “Let cry”
This method is most recommended in Dr. Weissbluth’s book for fussy or colicky babies. He also recommended it for mothers who have to go back to work (if your baby is still not sleeping through the night).
Always keep in mind the golden rule for babies five to six weeks and older: babies need to sleep within one to two hours of wakefulness.
When to try sleep solution #2
- At 6 – 8 weeks of age if you are unable to function (utterly exhausted) and must return to work.
- May work well for regularly fussy babies, especially if they seem to have an easy temperament.
- At 8 – 16 weeks of age to help your baby sleep better at night.
- Regularly fussy babies may have quick and easy success
- After 16 weeks of age for an extremely fussy/colicky baby. This is the most recommended method.
- But success may be slow and difficult!
The “No cry” Solution
- Always soothe your baby to sleep within one to two hours of wakefulness to prevent an overtired state
- Always hold your baby and soothe as long as the baby needs in order to induce sleep, sleep with your baby
- Always pay attention to drowsy signs so your baby never becomes overtired
- Always put your child to sleep drowsy but awake
- Establish a consistent practice with bedtime routines
- Stimulate your child between naps, try going for a walk or getting fresh air
- Motionless sleep
- Wake-up time is fixed and consistent
- Slowly give your child less and less attention while putting them to sleep, so that they learn to sleep themselves.
- White noise (The Marpac Dohm-DS All Natural Sound Machine is the best!!!)
- Darker room with window shades or blackout curtains.
- Relaxing environment
- Controlling of stimulus
The “Maybe cry” Solution
- Partner puts baby to sleep
- Bedtime is earlier
- Focus on morning nap
- Sleep rules
- Silent return to sleep
- Day correction of bedtime sleep problems
The “Let cry,” ignoring, extinction solution
- Ignoring all crying (at night) or the extinction method
- Ignoring some crying/controlled crying or graduated extinction
- Check and console
9. An In-depth look at “Let cry,” ignoring & extinction:
The “let cry” method:
Not responding to your baby at night can be so difficult for parents! It can also be hard because you don’t always know if the baby is hungry or not! Between 6/8 weeks – 4 months, babies might be hungry and need to be fed at night only once or twice and after nine months, not at all. Respond to your child if you think she is hungry but not at other times.
If you are breastfeeding, it may be particularly hard because breastfed babies seem to be hungry more often, you don’t know exactly how much they have consumed and you don’t know how your supply is. To determine your baby is hungry, try having your partner give a bottle of expressed milk or formula.
With this method, there is almost always a temporary increase in crying at night. While this may seem harsh, Dr. Weissbluth states that in his experience, the total amount of crying in the “let cry” method is far less than with “gradual extinction” because success occurs much faster. While comparing the two, he reports that parents are less stressed while using the “let cry” method.
Also, parents who use the “let cry” method are more willing to do so again after a change in routine (from a holiday trip, special event, illness etc.) than parents who try “gradual extinction” because it often takes much longer and parents are usually unwilling to try it again.
With older babies/children when parents are more certain regarding hunger, “let cry” is much easier to execute. “Gradual extinction” requires a detailed plan of action to be modified over time, with extreme consistently.
“Gradual extinction,” controlled crying, partial ignoring:
- Method 1 – Let your baby cry for five minutes, then return and soothe him back to the sleepy state or lie him back down after soothing. If loud crying recurs, let your baby cry for ten minutes and then repeat the soothing process. If loud crying begins again, leave your baby for fifteen minutes and then soothe. Repeat, if loud crying occurs, adding five additional minutes each time until your baby falls asleep while crying or after your soothing efforts.
- Method 2 – Increase the time of ignoring before checking on your baby but do so by increasing 5 minutes every 2 days. Dr. Weissbluth says that this method works well over a period of four to nine months. The success depends on your child’s fussiness, how well rested she is and how consistent you are.
Check and console:
This is where you go to your child at night when he cries, quietly entering the room and soothing him in the dark without picking him up. You do the least amount of soothing possible. A good example is rubbing his tummy, stroking his hair or gently rocking the bassinet. This method appeals to those who practice attachment parenting because most believe it provides emotional security.
However, there is no evidence that shows babies are harmed if allowed to cry for a certain period of time. Also, this method very well may begin to stimulate them and keep them awake rather than the soothing and reassuring that you think you may be doing!
This method did not work well in my experience. When our little one saw me, she cried even harder and longer than if she had not seen me and comforted herself to sleep!
Babies that have a normal fussy temperament may have success with this method starting at eight weeks of age. Be sure to have a quiet, dark room for your baby when sleeping. It’s best to not have a night light or music playing. Naps should be at least 45 minutes to an hour. If your baby gets up sooner, then leave him there until he gets the rest he needs. Put your baby down to sleep between 7 and 9 pm (for an 8 week old) and avoid stimulation like cars, strollers or swings where sleep will occur for a short period of time.
Let your baby cry at night, choosing either the “let cry”, “gradual extinction” or “check and console method”. The very first time, your little one may cry for up to 2 hours. This may be the hardest thing you’ve ever done! It was for me. It will get better! After three nights of a combination of “let cry” and a very consistent, timed “gradual extinction”, she slept soundly through the night. Wake your baby up at 7 am. Try to be consistent with these times and your baby will develop a healthy internal clock. After implementing these times, he will likely sleep like clockwork!
10. Choose a method that works for you and your baby!
Each way of sleep training is unique to the mother, father and child. Some people just can’t let their little one cry no matter what! Some can because they can rely on the fact that the baby is okay and that sleep training is biologically going to help them lead happier healthier lives. Other parents just do a combination of both. Do what is best for your child and your family.
Having a baby sleep through the night is no random act. It requires LOTS of patience (when exhausted beyond human comprehension), persistence and most of all, consistency. Choose a plan that works for both you AND your significant other. Decide before the middle of the night crying begins. Once you’ve landed on a method that works for your baby and your family, you will begin creating vital, lifelong healthy sleep patterns for your child. You will also have a MUCH happier baby!