Day 11 :: Thriving with a Newborn: Sleeping through the Night

“Oh, what a precious baby!  How is she sleeping?”  Sound familiar?  For anyone who’s ever had a newborn in their life, this is often the first question people ask.  Why?  I’m not really sure, except that it’s fairly common knowledge for newborns to have erratic sleep patterns and for parents to be tired. all. the. time.

When people would ask about how my first child was sleeping at night and I would tell them she slept through the night, they would say, “Oh, just wait till the next one comes.  You won’t get that lucky twice!” Now that all four of my children have slept through the night at an early age, I’m always hesitant to answer the question.  Most people respond with an upset face and say, “That’s not fair!”  or “How did you get that to happen?”

I do know that God has been very gracious to me in this area, but there are also some things that I have done consistently with each of my children to help facilitate sleeping through the night.

How do I get my babies to sleep through the night?

1. Choose a 12-hour day period.  For all of my babies the day has been 8AM-8PM.  What does that mean?  The first feeding of the day is at 8AM, and the final feeding is at 8PM.  By keeping these times consistent, my babies have learned to have the same bedtime each day and they generally wake up happy a little bit before time for the first feeding of the day.

2. Feedings during the day should be every 3 hours during the first few weeks, and will eventually stretch to every 4 hours.  Even with little babies who sleep a lot, by keeping the feedings consistent during the day, babies establish their metabolism and learn to expect food at certain times.  This has enabled me to have mostly predictable days, from the very beginning.   My first feeding for my babies would be at 8AM, so I knew that during the day they would eat at 11AM, 2PM, 5PM, 8PM.  This was a rough estimate during those first few weeks, sometimes feedings would be 2.5 hours apart, but never more than 3 or less than 2.

This enabled me to be able to predict my day.  I could run errands, make dinner, and nap when the baby napped {this only happened with my first two children}.

The four-hour feeding schedule will vary from baby to baby.  My three oldest children didn’t do this until about 3.5 months old.  Jennavieve, my fourth, started a four-hour schedule at 5 weeks old.  You’ll know when they’re ready.

3.  Naps during the day are necessary.  My napping schedule for my babies would be like this:  eat {8AM}, nap from 9:30-11AM, eat, nap from 12:30-2PM, eat, nap from 3:30-5PM, eat, short nap in the evening sometime, eat at 8PM.  People might tell you that keeping your baby awake as much as possible will get them to sleep well at night, but it’s not true.  Babies that are over tired sometimes have more difficulty getting to sleep at all.

Now that Jennavieve is eating every four hours, her schedule is like this:  8AM-eat, 10AM-12PM – nap, 12PM – eat, 2PM-4PM – nap, 4PM – eat, she takes a little nap in the evenings for about a half hour, 8PM – eat and then bed.

4. Naps during the day should never be longer than 3 hours.  This one is sometimes hard to stick to, especially if the baby had a rough night and you’re tired.  But it really is so important.  This helps babies to understand the difference between night and day, and again, helps with establishing their metabolism.

5. As much as possible allow baby to nap in the crib.  I love to hold my babies, no doubt, but I don’t want to be holding them forever in order for them to sleep.  So, from the very beginning, I tried to always have them nap in their bed.  Sometimes this meant they cried a little bit, but in the end this is the desire, so I wanted to start out that way.  Now, my kids put themselves to sleep in their beds and it’s glorious.

6. Have a consistent bedtime.  If you’ve chosen  your 12-hour day period, that last feeding will take place right before bed.  Feed your baby, burp and then put right to bed.  This is where my little ‘secret’ takes place.  I put my babies to bed at this time, and then I wake them up right before I go to bed for another feeding.

For me, this started at 11PM.  Usually the baby wouldn’t even be all the way awake {some call it a dream feed}, but they would get a good feeding.  I would then put them right back to bed, and wouldn’t wake them up again to eat.  If they woke up, I would feed and put right back to bed, continuing that until the first feeding the following morning.

Eventually, my babies started stretching out their sleep from that 11PM feeding on through the entire night, waking up in time to eat at 8AM the next day.

Once they had stretched out that entire time with sleep, I would back up the 11PM feeding by 15 minutes each day, until they were going a full 12 hours between the last feeding of the day and the first feeding of the day.

Jennavieve is three months old today and she’s been sleeping 12 hours at night for the past three weeks.

All of my babies were sleeping 7-8 hours at night by six weeks old.  All of them were sleeping 12 hours at night by 3 months old.  

By being consistent and having a bit of delayed gratification, I really believe babies can have predictable routines and sleep well.

And, this means you can sleep well!  I know that I thrive better on good sleep and probably most of us do.

I do realize that this is a debatable topic, so I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do.  People have asked me how I do it, and others have been exasperated when I tell them about my baby’s sleep habits.  If you are frustrated with what you’re doing, then I suggest giving this a try.  If you are happy with what you’re doing, then keep at it!  You have to find what works for you!    Sometimes babies need to eat more frequently due to health reasons, so I understand that you might not be able to follow all of these steps due to Doctor’s orders.

For a list of all posts in this series go here.

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  • Reply Jilayne

    I am trying not to be jealous! My girls were great sleeping through the night by six weeks, but my boys have not been so kind – mainly my current baby boy. He is seven months old now and still gets up at least once a night – no matter how much I feed him during the day, etc. I have tried to put him on a schedule, and then teething will mess things up. How do you push through teething and growth spurts? My boy eats and eats and eats – and I can’t get him to accept eating from a spoon, so giving him baby food to help fill him up has been very challenging. Would appreciate some suggestions!

    October 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      One of the things I’ve heard is that babies can get stuck in a habit of waking up and they’re not really hungry, it’s just routine. As hard as it might be, you could try making him cry out during that time in the night to see if he’ll go back on his own. I’d recommend trying this on a night when no one has to go to work the next day! It might take a few days, but I’ve heard that can work. My kids struggled with teething in the night, don’t get me wrong–we still have nights when kids wake up! But, they’re not waking up because they are hungry. Try to stick to a schedule during the day, maybe increasing amount of milk at each feeding, and see how that goes. I’m sorry about the not eating from a spoon–I know how frustrating it is when babies aren’t smooth with transitioning to solids. I don’t know if any of this helps, so if anyone else has suggestions, please, chime in!

      October 12, 2013 at 11:01 am
    • Reply Jilayne

      I have tried letting him cry it out and it has been very difficult, as he doesn’t just cry – he SCREAMS. Ethan was easy to figure out between just fussing and actually hungry. Alan, not so much. Please pray I will have the endurance in the middle of the night to let him cry it out, and the strength to stick to a day-time routine. Thank you!

      October 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm
  • Reply Amy

    I appreciate you sharing what has worked for you and your babies! I’m always interested in what other mom’s do for scheduling. I have a question. You said you start the day at 8am. Does that mean you would wake your baby by 8am if they were still sleeping or wait to feed them until 8am if they woke up early?

    October 11, 2013 at 6:49 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      Good question! If they were still sleeping at 8, yes I would wake them up and feed them. During the phase of getting them to sleep from the 11PM feeding to the 8AM feeding, if they woke up at any point before 8AM, I would feed and then put back to bed. Even if they got up at 6:30 or 7:15. Then, I would still get them up at 8, so their bodies would be regulated to that routine. Hope that helps!

      October 12, 2013 at 10:57 am
  • Reply Emily

    Great post!! So glad your little ones are good sleepers. I was just actually working on writing something about the same thing, although from a different perspective. I had two great sleepers and then our 3rd just didn’t get it, no matter what I did. He loved having a schedule but did not have settled nighttime sleep until about 9 months. I have truly learned that every baby is different.

    October 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      Thanks! When you write that post, please share the link with us! My sister had a similar experience with her kiddos. You’re right, every baby is different. My method has worked for all of mine, but I can’t guarantee that it would work with any more that we might have or that it would be perfect for others. Thanks for the reminder!

      October 12, 2013 at 11:03 am
  • Reply Kristy Green Hernandez

    Thanks for sharing!! I am trying to figure out what I need to do to get Ashleigh on a schedule once she is born. I have a couple of questions for you. Are you breast feeding and if so, how did you know that your baby was getting enough to make it 3 hours? Did you start the 3 hour schedule as soon as you brought her home? Daniel was extremely premature (28 weeks 5 days) and he was eating every two hours while in the hospital and I did the same thing when he came home so I’m not sure if that is just standard or if I can actually start her off at feeding every 3 hours. I would really appreciate any and all advice that you can give me. Getting Ashleigh on a schedule will be my #1 priority because I am also homeschooling my 3 year old so I need to have time to work with him and SLEEP. 🙂

    October 12, 2013 at 1:24 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      Yes, I am currently breastfeeding. When my now 3-month old was in the NICU right after birth, they were feeding her every 3 hours, pumped breast milk, so I just stuck with the 3-hour from the beginning. With my others, at the very beginning they would occasionally need to eat at 2.5 hours instead of 3; I could just tell when it was a hunger cry; I wouldn’t make them scream if they were truly hungry early. If a baby is sucking well and gaining weight, I think starting on a 3-hour schedule is fine. If your DR advises 2 hours, then obviously go with the professional 🙂

      October 21, 2013 at 7:44 pm
  • Reply Steph

    What do you do when they wake up from a nap early? Do you wait for the next scheduled feeding or feed early? I struggle with this bc if I wait for the next feeding then the sleep schedule is off for the rest of the day. Just curious how you handle this?

    October 12, 2013 at 2:58 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      I’ve been waiting for the next scheduled feeding, or making it as close to possible to the next feeding. If they’re waking up hungry (you’ll know a hunger cry with a baby fed on a schedule), then I would definitely feed early. If it’s just an off-nap day, then they are probably able to wait. Jennavieve sometimes doesn’t get a full 2 hour nap in the morning, but I keep the noon feeding the same. Then, she goes down earlier for a nap in the afternoon and sleeps sometimes 2.5 hours. The biggest thing I try to keep really strict with is the first feeding and the last feeding of the 12-hour day period. Hope that helps!

      October 21, 2013 at 7:47 pm
  • Reply kate.slate

    Hey Lauren,

    Now that Wade is sleeping about 6-7 hours at night, he is no longer going down for his mid-morning nap. Up until now, our daytime schedule has looked very much like your #3 above. So after I feed him, we play for an hour to an hour-and-a-half, and I put him down. He used to go to sleep at this point, but now he just hangs out in his crib for forever. By the time he does fall asleep, it’s almost time for me to wake him up to feed him again. Any ideas about what’s going on? Do I need to change his napping schedule?


    October 17, 2013 at 2:59 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      He might be ready for a 3.5 – 4 hour feeding schedule. By going longer between feedings, their awake times are also longer, which means naps are a little bit longer too. Again, try to keep that 12- hour day period the same and work on adjusting the kinks in between.

      October 21, 2013 at 7:48 pm
  • Reply Jessica MADSEN

    How did you get them back to sleep right away after a night feeding?

    November 27, 2013 at 11:55 pm
    • Reply Lauren Washer

      Mine never had trouble. I would nurse the normal amount of time, about 10 minutes on one side, then change diaper, then nurse second side for 10 minutes. They were usually asleep by the end of that second side, so I would just lay right back down. For whatever reason, I never dealt with a baby that was awake in the middle of the night after a feeding.

      November 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    I know this post is old but I have some questions. At what age did you begin this schedule? My son is 3 weeks and has had a pretty consistent 3 hour schedule but is not a fan of napping during the day. I’m just wondering how long it might take him to adjust.Also, when you feed at 11pm is it a coincidence that it is 3 hours from the last feeding or did you purposely do it that way? Thanks!

    July 14, 2014 at 12:19 pm
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