I have two good sleepers. I believe that the incredible amount of work and patience I had early on in their newborn baby lives contributed to my babies sleeping through the night by the time they were a few months old.
While I may never know for sure, and I have nothing to compare it to I do know this: When you give some serious fucks about something, like a helping your baby sleep through the night early and often, you may just end up reaping the rewards.
As a DGAF mom, there are three things I give a fuck about when it comes to prioritizing my parenting struggle: Sleep, my kids being healthy, and my mom life balance (aka my sanity).
Let’s tackle the first one: Getting a baby to sleep through the night.
Because everything else in your life is nothing without good sleep (for you and baby).
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Table of Contents
How to Give a Fuck About Baby Sleep (A Primer To Becoming a DGAF Mom)
As the DGAF mom, my whole thing is about picking and choosing the fucks that are important enough for me to spend time dealing with, spend time learning about and working out a plan to figure out how to best deal with it so that I can live a less stressed life as a mom.
Helping my newborn babies to sleep more was one of the most serious fucks I gave in the fourth trimester.
I chose to dive into thinking only about sleep for weeks on end with both my babies. Call me crazy. If sleep isn’t your priority (um. Okay) then this may not be the post for you. But if it is…let’s first set the scene:
I’d scroll through Pinterest and Google during the middle of the night searching for the answers to the mystery of when baby’s sleep through the night and how to get them to be miracle sleepers.
The truth is all babies are different and what works for one baby’s sleep may not work for another.
(Ugh. Sorry. I hated receiving that advice so much and here I am rolling it out.)
I have since learned, however, that the sleep training tips I used early on likely impacted how quickly and how often my baby’s learned to sleep through the night.
Which is why I’m sharing them with you:
Set the Stage for The Best Case Scenario for Baby Sleep
If you haven’t, the Cliff’s notes version is your baby has been in your womb for nine months. It’s time to recreate that environment outside of it, so as to mimic the sounds and feelings that are associated with good sleep.
I love this White Noise machine from Dohm.
We were lucky to have plantation shutters on the windows which made the room pretty dark, but if we hadn’t, we would have used these curtains.
And we invested in the best swaddles (velcro ones for the win!) although both my boys were little Houdini's and would manage to at least get one arm out of the sac.
I also invested in this little mobile/radio (that my 3 and 4-year-old still use nearly every night to fall asleep to this day!) it has a “channel” that is a heart beat sound and I think the boys found it soothing in those early months. My 3 year old still loves that channel the most in fact.
The routine of the music almost lulled them to sleep instantly. A quality newborn sleep routine is a big part of how to get good sleepers and we’re gonna get to that in a hot sec.
This is all super important.
But, beyond what you need to buy and have on hand, you need to get your mindset right about sleep and what you need to do to get your baby to sleep and to set the stage for an ideal no-cry sleep scenario.
Having the Right Mindset About Sleep
Before you can tackle your baby’s sleep you need to get the right mindset about what you need to do to accomplish this.
Mindset is defined as the beliefs you hold about a certain topic.
The terms fixed mindset and growth mindset, however, come from Carol Dweck and her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. (Please read this when you’re done dealing with getting your baby to sleep because it will change your whole life in so many ways I promise).
In the book, Dweck explains that a fixed mindset will lead you to believe that your personality, intelligence, and creative talents are static or fixed. That they cannot be changed. You are simply born with them and that’s the end of the story.
To achieve any success means that you must avoid failure at all cost.
Alternatively, a growth mindset lives and breathes where there is an opportunity for a challenge. A person with a growth mindset sees failure as an opportunity to learn, grow, and try something new to achieve the desired results.
While the book, and the term tend to appeal to professionals and students, I believe that your mindset and whether or not you’re fixed or growth mindset about sleep can make a huge impact.
Mindset can impact your ability to lose weight, be in a healthy relationship, and in the case of parenthood, affect your choices and decisions about parenting your children.
While there are many reasons that baby’s do not sleep through the night, I challenge you to explore the possibility that your baby is just WAITING for you to help him figure it out.
If you say things like “I have a bad sleeper” you are living in a fixed mindset.
Alternatively, if you said “My baby hasn’t figured out sleeping, yet” then you’re open to the possibility that your baby will soon find their nights (as the French say) and you will help them get there.
But how the fuck do you help your baby find their nights?
I’m going to recommend that you read another book about sleep now.
Sorry. Not sorry.
The answer to your exact problem, arguably to all of your problems when it comes to baby sleep, is probably in this book.
“Beth! I have no time to read this super fucking game changer of a helpful book that has all the answers about sleep!”
Honey, if you are awake in the middle of the night with a baby who will not sleep you have time to read.
This isn’t leisure reading.
If you’re reading this blog post looking for help, you’re reading. If you are scrolling through instagram you have time to read!
The First Step to Getting Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
The Book is “Good Night Sleep Tight,” by the “Sleep Lady,” Kim West and it is hands down one of the most essential books I owned as a new mom.
She breaks down everything you need to do to maximize your baby’s potential for good sleep week by week.
The Sleep lady has spent decades studying different newborn babies and their sleep patterns and found that there are some universal truths that apply to all babies. Yes all of them. Even the “bad sleepers.”
Here’s an interview she did for Parents Magazine with some of the highlights of her book.
Highlights from the Sleep Lady About How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night
Because I know you’re scrolling through this looking for immediate answers I’m going to give you some of the major highlights (but please don’t let that stop you from getting the full book).
West recommends four main tips to find success with sleep (and all four were ones we used).
West’s entire philosophy centers around the ability to get your baby to fall asleep on their own without using the “cry it out” method (or extinction method - where you leave the room and let your child cry until they pass out, basically).
She calls it the sleep lady shuffle and suggests that most babies can fall asleep on their own, and sleep through the night (about 8 - 10 hour stretches) by the age of 6 months old. Some rare (read extremely rare) unicorn babies can do it at around 4 months old but it’s not suggested to try any sooner.
Prior to the sleep lady shuffle, West recommends setting the stage for a good sleep in a number of important ways.
Do Not Fuck With Naps:
(This is my language, obvi). An overtired baby will not sleep through the night.
Unlike adults, babies who stay up later actually become overtired and have a hard time winding down and if they do miraculously fall asleep, they don’t stay that way for long.
Encourage naps by setting the stage for sleep via the tips I mentioned above.
Don’t do naps on the go and don’t rock your baby to sleep if you can avoid it by putting them down drowsy but awake.
Here’s a bit about how to help your baby be drowsy but awake:
Have a Consistent Routine and Time for Bed Based on the Age of Your Baby.
Consult with her sleep charts for optimal times but generally speaking most babies younger than 6 months old should be sleeping three to four times a day and go to “bed” by somewhere around 7 or 8 PM.
West details the following questions in the article linked above:
-Does your child fall asleep almost every time he/she is in the car?
-Do you have to wake your child almost every morning?
-Does your child seem cranky, irritable or overtired during the day?
-On some nights, does your child seem to crash much earlier than his usual bedtime?
-Does your child often wake for the day before 6:00a.m.?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions your child may not be getting enough sleep.
Hot tip - if they don’t seem tired at bed time, laughing and being silly (and making weird animalistic sounds of laughter or giggling) your baby is more likely overtired. The same goes for toddlers.
Trust your mom gut and stick with your planned routine as much as possible for as long as possible.
West believes the fastest way to derail sleep success is to give up before the good habits have been established. (Hello, fixed mindset?)
Focus On the Long Term Goal of Good Sleepers
This is when choosing the fucks that are important to you as a parent plays heavily into your future parenting life.
If you want to have a child who sleeps through the night, then going out to dinner when your baby usually goes to bed is not in line with that goal.
Don’t worry, in a few months they will be able to stay up later, and you can and will go out to dinner as a family at a “normal” hour again.
But for now, if you want to have good sleepers, you need to prioritize good sleep above all else.
The same goes for naps.
If your baby usually naps at 10 AM but there’s a birthday party to go to? Sorry, you’re gonna be late (or cannot attend).
Don’t fuck with your kid's sleep.
This is a long game, and the work you put into establishing good routines early on will pay off. I promise.
The Benefits of Helping Your Baby Learn to Sleep Now Are Long Lasting
When you commit to teaching your baby proper sleep habits now, you can benefit from the lasting results.
I’m talking about actually hanging out with your partner and having you know. Adult time.
I’m talking about going to bed at say 9 or 10 PM and waking up with your kids around 6 or 7 AM.
Yes, there are some naturally early riser babies. West has tips for this as well.
You need to commit to the experience of training your baby to sleep and to sleep well for at least a weekend. But plan for longer.
So that means: Do not make plans to go on vacation and sleep train at the same time.
Your baby needs to learn that the crib is where she sleeps. Not the car.
DGAF Mom, I’m too Fucking Tired to Read A Book Can’t You Just Tell Me Everything?
I told you quite a bit already.
And also, I get it.
Here’s the thing, you’re not reading a whole book.
You’re reading an introduction, and then maybe two, three pages that pertain to your baby’s age.
As your baby gets older, dive back into the book for the next age appropriate step.
Honestly, I read the book in chunks on my kindle ap on my phone during every feeding to prepare myself and my husband for our strategy for how to tackle sleep. And it paid off in the form of two really good sleepers who still sleep through the night.
I tend to give new moms at their baby shower (Or at least recommend it).
If you sign up for my mailing list you’re going to get an email about it.
I’m hammering this point because I believe so strongly that the methods I learned via her book helped my babies become some of the best sleepers.
I find that often as moms living in a social media society, we search for the information we need and expect it to be in 240 or 120 characters.
When in reality, we need to suck it up and read what the experts say because they’ve taken the time to write it up expertly.
Understand Disrupted Sleep and What To Look For
Sleep apnea is disrupted sleep, and interrupted sleep is all different ways of saying basically the same thing.
If your child snores every single night, this is a sign of sleep apnea.
Unlike adults, young children and babies demonstrate a lack of sleep not by being more tired.
Quite the contrary, actually, they seem even more energized and that extra boost of energy can manifest itself as behavior issues.
You can read more about this phenomenon here, and what to look for (and what to do) if you suspect your baby may have sleep apnea.
The bottom line? If your child is having a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep no matter what you do (I.e. read the Sleep Lady’s book and make sure you’ve done all of those tips first).
It may be worth investigating other reasons for your baby’s inability to sleep.
Practice the Pause to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night
I have another book recommendation for you, and it’s called Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.
In the book, Pamela recounts her story of living as a new mom and an American in Paris and that once her baby hit the age of about 3 months old, other parents and even some strangers would ask, “has your baby found her nights.”
In fact, babies sleeping through the night by three months old is so common in France that it’s expected that you’ve “helped” your baby find their nights. There is no talk of “bad sleepers. There are even ore rare incidents of this.
I loved this terminology.
I loved thinking about the idea of my baby “finding” his sleep and that I would help him do that. Rather than fighting against a “bad sleeper.”
Something about the mindset it takes to frame sleep in this way made it easier for me to tackle it.
Ultimately, and this is a bit of a spoiler for you if you’re going to read the book, what Druckerman discovered is that French parents practice pausing before rushing to their baby’s aid.
If your baby cries or stirs they suggest that you wait.
The Sleep lady discusses this a bit as well, explaining that many newborn babies wake briefly as they are connecting sleep cycles.
This is evolutions way of protecting them.
Newborn babies spend most of their sleep time in a lighter phase of sleep, performing REM sleep first, and then waking every 45 minutes to 1.5 hours to assess any danger to them.
But today, as a modern parent, this frequent waking seems like our baby is not sleeping and is up EVERY 45 MINUTES!
Instead, when we practice “pausing” to see if our baby will simply go back to sleep, we give them a better chance of learning how to connect their sleep cycles.
And once they connect one sleep cycle, they’ll start to connect more.
And that, ultimately, is the goal. If you’re able to get in on this trick early - you’re helping your baby to learn how to be a “good sleeper” too.
You can read more about how to practice the pause and other newborn baby survival tips in this post here.
If your baby is significantly older and is not sleeping through the night, the pause can still work for you, but it does end up sounding a bit more like a more “traditional” cry it out.
Sarah at Busy Blooming Joy also has some additional tips to help you practice the pause.
The Sleep Lady’s book has excellent tips for different ages of sleepers and if you’ve been co-sleeping and your baby is well past the age of her recommended 6 months old to sleep through the night, she’s got an entire section for that.
How’s your sleep momma? Get out there, read some more about your specific baby’s challenges with sleep and you too can finally get some rest.