Never Wake a Sleeping Baby

Mainly for my own benefit, I wanted to write a little bit about Claire's sleep habits over the last six months. Feel free to just scroll through and look for the cute sleeping baby pictures!

Nighttime Sleep

Thanks to her two weeks spent in the NICU, Claire was on a regular every-three-hours feeding schedule from birth. Entirely of her own accord, she started sleeping six hours per night at two months old. She worked up to eight hours by three months old and ten hours by four months old. We had the best intentions of maintaining a consistent bedtime routine, but that plan quickly flew out the window when she was six weeks old. We hosted visitors, did lots of traveling, and kept Claire out later so we could spend time with friends before we moved. Her bedtime routine consisted solely of nursing until she fell asleep.


When Claire was four months old and Adam started his job, we got to work establishing a consistent bedtime routine again. She hated baths as a newborn, so I showered or got in the tub with her for the first four months of her life. When we  finally tried bathing her alone again, she absolutely loved splashing around. While not completely necessary, baths became part of her daily routine. 


After her bath was when things got tricky. She would nurse for almost an hour before she fell asleep. Then Adam would try to transfer her to the pack-n-play and she would instantly wake up. He would sing and rock her for about another hour before she went back to sleep. He would transfer her into the pack-n-play again, arrange her pacifier just so, and then she would finally be out for the night. 


We kept up these shenanigans for two weeks before deciding that something had to change. Our Pittsburgh pediatrician's advice on sleep issues was "Well, they have to fall asleep eventually!" but our new Seattle pediatrician suggested the Ferber method. Along with the Ferber Method, we also changed some other aspects of her bedtime routine:

 - We moved her bedtime an hour earlier, to 7:00. Adam had been working later hours and I had been spending all day unpacking at our new place while we were still sleeping in our temporary housing, so Claire was getting to bed later than she should have. 

- We started giving her a bottle instead of nursing before bed. By her last feeding of the day, Claire was so tired while nursing that she wasn't getting enough to eat, contributing to her waking up as soon as she was transferred into bed. This was around the same time our doctor told us to supplement with formula to help Claire gain weight. Nursing for one feeding and then giving a bottle for the next feeding seemed to work best for us, so I arranged our schedule so Claire always gets a bottle before she goes to sleep and always nurses after she wakes up.


So, we would bathe Claire, feed her a bottle, sing to her for ten minutes and then say goodnight. Three minutes later, one of us would come back to burp her, soothe her and give her the pacifier again. We would "shush" her, but try not to actually say anything. Then, the other person would come back in five minutes to do the same thing. Then seven minutes, then nine minutes, etc. The first two or three nights, we had to keep coming back for an hour until she fell asleep.

Canada Road Trip

After those first few nights, she hasn't fussed for more than ten minutes before falling asleep for the night. Now, we usually start her bath at 6:00 and have her down for the night by 6:45 or 7:00. On days when she is more alert, we try to read some stories before feeding her a bottle. She is often awake when we put her down and talks to herself for ten minutes or so before settling down to sleep. She sleeps straight through the night until 6:00 or 7:00 the next morning. About once a week, though, she will wake up sometime during the night because of a diaper issue. Once she has a clean diaper on, she will go back to sleep right away. 

Daytime Sleep

Claire was great about napping in her pack-n-play or swing for the first six weeks. Since we were in the midst of transitioning to nursing exclusively, I had to put her down after each feeding so I could pump. But, around the same time as our attempts at a bedtime routine flew out the window because we started getting out more, she began to dislike napping in her pack-n-play. Maybe with all of our visitors, she got used to being held more of the day? Soon, she refused to nap in her swing as well. Then, her car seat and stroller got the stink eye. By the time we returned from our summer trip, she would only nap in our arms or in the baby carrier. The timing and length of her naps were not at all predictable.

Napping in her crib for the first time

When Adam started his job, I really tried to get Claire to nap on her own again. My plan was to get her used to napping on a schedule first and then get her used to sleeping in the pack-n-play. So, I would lay down with her on our bed and sneak away once she fell completely asleep. That worked well for about a week. After that, nothing we tried would consistently put her to sleep on her own for more than fifteen minutes. The closest we got to a routine is that she'd refuse to take a morning nap, eventually get extremely exhausted by mid-afternoon, and then nap for two hours in the baby carrier. That's how I got most of my unpacking done.


Right before my sister arrived for her two-week visit, we used the Ferber Method for bedtime. I planned to use it again for naps after Allie left. Well, toward the end of her visit, Claire had a particularly bad day. At four in the afternoon, she was so grumpy from refusing to nap all day and I still had yet to eat lunch. Claire has also developed a case of stranger anxiety {maybe from not seeing anyone besides her parents for a solid month?} and wouldn't let Allie hold her. So, I put her down in her pack-n-play while I ate my lunch. By the time I finished eating, ten minutes tops, she had cried herself to sleep and slept for the next hour.

Annivesary Getaway

Once I knew she could do it, I wasn't taking any more excuses. From then on, she has been taking two naps a day. I try to go by the clock and by her disposition. She often rubs her eyes when she gets sleepy. So cute! The first nap happens about two hours after she wakes up in the morning, usually between 8:00 and 9:00. Depending on how long her morning nap lasts, she usually goes down in the afternoon sometime between 12:00 and 1:30. I can predictably count on a forty-five minute nap in the morning and a ninety minute nap in the afternoon.  Just like at bedtime, she often talks to herself for ten minutes or so before falling asleep. Sometimes, especially if we're out close to her nap time and she gets really sleepy in the car, she has a harder time going down for a nap. If she is still fussing after fifteen minutes, I pick her up and rock her for a few minutes. I've never had to go back in after that.

A few more items of note about Claire's sleep habits:

- We moved her into her crib in her own room a few days after Allie's visit. She was consistently going to sleep easily at bedtime and taking regular naps. She was a little over five months and it really wasn't an issue at all. We were originally planning to keep her in our room for the full six months that is recommended for SIDS, but we were so ready to have our own space again and she just seemed ready too. Sometimes you have to bend the rules a little for your own sanity, right? We also let her sleep on our bed during the peak of her nap refusal {another no-no}, so I guess we're not strangers to rule breaking.

Annivesary Getaway

- She used to love falling asleep with her pacifier and it was a huge deal to make sure it was placed just so to get her to stay asleep. But, when we try to give her the pacifier before bed lately, she hasn't been the least bit interested. Now we only give it to her when she's fussing during church. She does suck on her thumb a lot, though.

- We use a white noise machine and don't plan on stopping anytime soon. It's actually an iPod dock that plays a track from this CD on a loop. Since we live in a small apartment, it's nice to have something in her room to drown out the noise we're making in the rest of the place.


- We found the book "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" really helpful. The author doesn't advocate the Ferber Method per say; he thinks it works fine but is unnecessarily complicated. He may have a point, but going into to check on her every so often was great for our sanity! Still, Dr. Weissbluth really stresses that consistency is key, gave us the idea of moving her bedtime earlier, and outlines what a baby's nap schedule should like at different stages of development.

Her Favorite Toy

This entire post could really be boiled down to this sentence: Claire started sleeping better when we added some bottle-feeding, made consistency our top priority, and she got a little older. Hopefully if/when we have another baby, we'll be more consistent from the beginning and that will help speed things along. Or maybe I'll just resign myself to lots and lots of baby-wearing?


  1. Amelia's schedule is pretty similar, as of the past two days at least :-). She was sleeping through the night at 10 weeks, but since we've been back here, she had been regressing and last week was waking up every 3 hours... womp womp womp. Last night I swaddled her though, after the midnight feeding, and she slept till 7am when she usually wakes up for the day! Hooray! We're still nursing or pacifier + swaddle blanket over the face rocking her to each nap and bedtime, but only for 2 minutes, so I don't mind it at all.. yet :-).


You are awesome.