For First-Time Parents: Sleeping Through the Night

[Every parent has things they’d like to share with other parents, especially those just starting out on the journey. We have been through the trenches and have success and failures that we believe can help others. I do know, however, that no matter how wise or useful advice may be, sometimes it can only truly be appreciated standing on the other side. So, if you’re a first-time parent, I completely understand if you choose to ignore what others (including myself) are trying to tell you. However, perhaps this will help you to remember that you’re not alone in your struggle.]
LB, swaddled and sleeping
Once you become a parent, you truly appreciate (and miss) all of that good sleep you got before your beautiful newest member of the family arrived. You are now willing to do just about anything it takes to get some more precious slumber. There are mountains of books you could read about helping your child sleep. I think having a consistent routine and schedule could help, but I also think that it also depends on your child.
Our first child “slept through the night” at eight weeks. To me, this means sleeping for a decent stretch of time without needing milk. In our house, this meant that she nursed at 10 pm and then slept until 6 am when she wanted to nurse again. She probably didn’t get put down into her crib until closer to 11 and I think she still woke up a couple of times, but I didn’t have to feed her, just soothe her to sleep. The time interval slowly increased until it was 7:30 p.m. for the last feeding and then sleeping until about 7 a.m.
We would still get up once or twice per night to soothe BB when she’d wake up. I hated hearing her cry so we tended to rock her until she fell asleep again and then lay her back down. One night, sometime in the ninth or tenth month, my husband and I had both taken turns in the middle of the night trying to soothe our daughter. Nothing worked. Finally we were both so tired that we just let her cry and laid in our bed listening to her. The only other thing I remember is waking up the next morning and realizing that she had finally soothed herself to sleep and we had gotten some sleep as well. After that, she became proficient at soothing herself back to sleep when she woke up at night and we finally got real, unbroken sleep.
With our second child I had high hopes of him following in his sister’s footsteps and “sleeping” early on. This time around, I decided that I wanted to put him down for bed at the same time as his sister and risk waking up for an early morning feeding so that my husband and I could get some down time in the evening. [Otherwise we’d be dealing with kids until our bedtime and then as soon as we got up and that sounded too overwhelming for me.]
For a while LB would wake up as we were heading to bed so I thought that perhaps we could kind of do the same schedule we had with BB. Not quite. The overnight pattern with LB was soooo unpredictable. He’d have several weeks with two feedings and then a night with only one feeding followed by a night with three. There were a couple of sporadic no-feeding nights which were awesome (followed by complete disappointment when he went back to multiple feedings the following night).
As we stumbled through his fifth and six months of life, the schedule slowly improved and leveled out to one or two feedings at night. Shortly before his half-birthday, he started sleeping from his 7:30 p.m. feeding until about 6:30 a.m. Praise the Lord! We’ve only had a handful of rough nights since then that I can recall and they were due to pain from cutting teeth and/or being in a new sleeping place on vacation. While it took longer to cut out the night feedings, LB was almost six months ahead of his sister on length of night sleep. And we don’t go into his room to soothe him like we did BB as we have laid him down awake and allowed him to soothe himself to sleep from the beginning.
I share my experiences to let you know that it is possible to do many of the same things and still get different results. Both kids were breastfed on set intervals throughout the day. Both kids were swaddled to sleep for at least the first couple of months. Neither child started solids until six months. I think LB has gotten more and better naps than BB did (which may have helped some), but that is out of experience and necessity and is probably a topic for a different day.
How long until your kids slept through the night without feeding? Did you put them down awake? Do you have any tips that worked for your family that might help others?

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