As I glanced at my clock this morning, 6:55 stared right back at me. I did a double take. I felt so amazingly refreshed and awake, ready to practically jump out of bed and take on the world. Was I dreaming? Did I over sleep? Was it really 6:55 a.m., or was I looking at the clock the wrong way? Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. My not-so-newborn, 11 month-old baby had actually slept through the night, and my other children were still sleeping in their own beds. Wow! This was totally unexpected, and boy did it feel good! Do I dear hope for a baby sleep schedule?
I can still remember clearly when my oldest son, now 11 years old, was about a week old. I was at a family get together and my older cousin, who, at the time, had a house full of little kids said, “I have not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep in the last 10 years, at least.” I gasped and nearly choked on the food that I was enjoying until then! Ten years with little to no sleep. He had to be exaggerating, big time! With my oldest, getting out of bed in middle of the night was definitely torture. I remember the feeling of being up during the wee hours of the night/morning with my newborn. I felt so alone and wondered how other Moms do this, and how I would ever make it through. Eleven years later, my baby is about to turn 1 year old, and I have to say that it has not been easy. Yet, as an experienced mom, I have come to know what to expect from my babies’ sleeping schedules at each stage. Knowing this at this point really eases my stress and I’m better prepared to set my baby’s sleep schedule. I understand which parts of her sleep routine are in my hands, and which aren't.
From day one until my newborn is about two months old, his need to eat, overrides his need to sleep. Your baby, as all my babies have done, will most likely wake up to feed almost every two hours, especially if you re breastfeeding. Don’t expect those 3-4 hours stretches. I was always the “nurse on demand” type and just nursed my babies when they were hungry, without looking at my watch. If your baby is bottle-fed, you can expect a little bit of a longer stretch, although it’s not a given.
Made it to 3 month mark! At this stage I begin to expect a bit (not a whole lot!) more of a routine. By six months, my babies are able to take a stretch of sleep for as many as 6 hours, hopefully at night. One way of teaching your baby to recognize when bedtime is approaching is by bathing your baby right before bed. This helps your baby associate the differences between night and day.
With my first baby, I tried putting a lamp near his crib, so he would think it was day (that was when he slept the most). But, I have news for you. That did nothing. It was just a matter of time, I discovered. Eventually, every baby will learn the difference between night and day. But just as you think you’re getting to know your baby’s schedule and are about to finally settle into your bed, your baby may throw you a curve ball (between 6 and 9 months). I know mine do.
During this period of time, when a baby is developing by leaps and bounds, your baby may be getting hungrier and may need to be introduced to some other foods like baby cereal. Around dinner time is when I like to give them a little extra calories. It usually will get me that longer sleeping stretch. Also, your baby may begin to realize that bedtime is associated with being left alone and he/she may start crying just to keep you around.
At this stage of the game my babies finally begin to have a routine. Introducing more foods translates to babies being more satisfied at night and waking up less. Bottle-fed babies will usually sleep through the night by now. Yet, if you are breastfeeding, your baby may still want you and nobody else, and nothing else (not even Dad or a bottle!) at some point during the night.
And, there will always be those nights when your baby will wake up from teething, an ear infection, or whatever else it may be. Feel free to pat yourself on the back, though, because let’s just say, you’ve made it.
The first year with a baby is definitely not an easy one. Yes, with every newborn, until they sleep through the night consistently, I have, and continue to, crave a night with uninterrupted sleep. Or better yet, I’d love to sleep in until noon. However, those midnight wake-up calls have become a part of me and I even cherish these moments (sometimes). I know one day, really soon, it will be gone and then I will surely be sorely missing those moments of Mommy–Baby bonding.