how i got oliver to sleep at night

by Ally- Life as I know it, 5:00 AM
From day 1 Oliver wasn't the best sleeper. I can't even tell you how many nights I spent with one hand rocking him in his Rock 'n Play and the other hand on my phone googling "why won't my baby sleep???" I've read quite a few books and read a lot online about baby sleep and I've come to the conclusion that some kids are born great sleepers and others need help. My mom says that by week 6 I was sleeping through the night but I guess my child didn't get that same trait! 

Up until he hit the 4 month sleep regression, Oliver would take anywhere from 1 hour-4 hours to fall asleep at night. It was like the minute we swaddled him and placed him in the RnP, he would get a burst of energy and refuse to sleep. So we would rock him, and rock him, and just when we thought he was finally asleep, he would wake up and cry. It was so frustrating for Theo and I. We didn't know what to do. But we did know that if we could just get him to fall asleep, he would be out for the most of the night. Until he woke up to feed again, but then he would fall right back asleep. Ok, so then the 4 month sleep regression hit and he would not only fight going to sleep, he would wake up every few hours! The only thing I knew to do was to give him milk to get him to go back to sleep but of course the pediatrician said that's creating bad habits. But I'm sorry, when your child is up for the third time in the middle of the night and and you have to wake up at 5 am, you give him a freakin bottle!

Ok so this went on till about 5.5 months, and got better. Just one day he started falling asleep in less than an hour all by himself and started waking up only one time at night. And literally the day he turned 6 months, he started sleeping 11-12 hours at night with no wakings. I think it was a combo of him learning how to self soothe and a great routine on my part. So here's how I got Oliver to sleep:

1. Transition to the crib

I made the mistake of keeping Oliver in the RnP too long. When I was still nursing him it was easy to keep it next to my bed but it also became a crutch. He started to need the rocking motion to fall asleep at night and I was worried he wouldn't be able to sleep without an incline. So around 3.5 months I started putting the RnP in his room so he would get used to it, and around month 4.5 we bought a Baby Merlin's Magic Sleepsuit and put him to sleep in his crib. I can't rave about the Sleepsuit enough. It made transitioning to the crib so easy. 

2. Have a bedtime routine

Kids love routine and thrive on it so around 3 weeks I started giving him a bath before bed, then turn on the white noise machine, nurse him, swaddle him and put him to sleep. Obviously it didn't do anything because he would cry as soon as I put him down but I kept doing the routine because I knew one day it would catch on. We've changed the routine a bit as he's gotten older but now it's, bath, turn on white noise, bottle, book, turn off the lamp, place him in his sleepsuit, then hand him his bunny lovey, kiss him goodnight, and leave the room. We also read the same book every night, Night Night Forest Friends, which may not be necessary but I like to think it helps. Now as soon as I hand him his bunny, he gives me a big smile and starts to suck on it and then falls sleep in about 30 minutes max. We had a babysitter recently watch him and I told her the exact routine before bed and she said he went to sleep with no issues. He knew what to expect so it didn't matter that mommy wasn't there. We're going out of town soon, so I'm hoping we won't have any problems with his sleep as long as we do his routine. But we'll see.

3. Fill 'em up

To help Oliver sleep through the night I always give him a big bottle of milk before bed. Normally I give him 6 oz with each feeding, but for his bedtime bottle he gets 8 oz. This never worked perfectly because up until the past few weeks he was still waking up once a night hungry but who knows, maybe he would have woken up more if he hadn't had his big bottle. Plus babies fall asleep pretty fast with a full tummy. 

4. Watch your wake times

Oliver is very sensitive with his wake times, the amount of time he's awake from one nap to the other. If he's awake too long he ends up being overtired and then fights sleep. I try not to look at the clock too much but instead watch him and see when he's starting to get tired. He'll start to stare, get fussy and rub his eyes. And once he yawns, I know we're about to reach overtiredness and I quickly put him down for a nap. I know this mostly pertains to naps but it's the same for bedtime. I always make sure he has a 30-45 minute nap around 4:30-5:30 pm that way he won't be awake for too long before bed. No more than 2 hours usually. Bedtime is anywhere from 6:45-7:30 pm. This is the time I place him in the crib, I start his bedtime routine about 30 minutes before when I want him to fall asleep. Every kid is different and some are fine with more time between bedtime/naps and others are sensitive like Oliver. It's all about figuring out your child.

5. Lovey

One book I read when I was desperately trying to get my baby to sleep was The Happiest Baby Guide to Great Sleep. In the book Dr. Harvey Karp talks about introducing a lovey to your baby around 6 months to help them learn to self soothe. At the time he was too young for it in his crib so I started giving Oliver his bunny lovey for him to hold in his carseat just so he would get used to it and form a bond with it.  At 5.5 months I gave him his bunny to sleep with and pretty much stared at the monitor all night worried he would suffocate! It was like it instantly helped him sleep. He plays with it when I place him down in his crib, sucks on it some, then falls asleep with it. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, instead of crying because he doesn't know how to put himself back to sleep, he reaches for his bunny and is able to go back to sleep. It's magical really and I'm so glad the book recommended it. Oliver never took a paci which is kind of what I relate it to. It's like they need an object to feel safe and secure with. But now he likes to sleep with the bunny over his face which freaks me out! I did ask the pediatrician if it was safe for him to have in his crib and she said yes because it's so small and he has enough head control to turn his head if it's in the way. This is the lovey he sleeps with:

6. Overnight diapers

These are the best. There is nothing worse than having your baby wake up because they have pee all over themselves from their diaper overflowing. I like The Honest Company overnight diapers a lot but they can be hard to find so lately I've been buying Target's brand and it works great.

So this is what works for Oliver. Being able to place him in his crib without a peep from him and have him fall asleep in 30 minutes on his own is a dream. I hope this post can help another poor soul who's up all night with a baby who won't sleep! 

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  1. All great advice!! Seriously all of these are what worked for me when my kids wouldn't sleep. Both my boys got loveys around 4 months and they still sleep with stuffed animals to this day. The awake times was so eye opening for me, I wish more pediatricians clued you in on that! I feel like mine never did.

  2. We followed Moms on Call and it was phenomenal! A momma with sleep is a much better momma.

  3. Totally agree with these points (as well as the awake time chart, as I still have Leo doing about 2/2.5 wake before naps as well). I credit the Merlin suit with such an easier transition - I don't know what I would have done without it.

  4. These are great tips. As a new mom, I am so ready for Caroline to get a good nights sleep!

  5. Thank you for this!! Just saved it and plan on reverting back to it plenty this summer! Glad he's sleeping for you now!

  6. So informative!! The chart and descriptions... So thorough! Thanks for sharing.

    Sara Kate Styling

  7. So glad you got Oliver to sleep better at night, routine is so important!

  8. I'm so glad you finally found something that will work! A sleep cycle/routine with our little one is one of the main things I'm the most nervous about when he is here - any day now!! Thank you for being open and honest with this!

  9. I am intrigued by the sleep suit!! I have heard so much about it.


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