Most go-to sleep training books (especially the ones we recommend like On Becoming Babywise and Moms on Call) explicitly recommend feeding on demand every 2-3 hours for the first 2 weeks. This makes it difficult to really focus on getting baby on a schedule in any capacity because the only thing we’re to do is feed when cued. It can make for a pretty bumpy transition too once week 3 hits. So we decided to put a list together of a few things you can do in those first 2 weeks to set your baby up for successful sleep training and routine scheduling.
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1. Full Feedings.
This is by far the best tip we can give you when preparing for successful sleep training. Do whatever you can do to make each feeding with baby a full feeding. Once baby is used to “snack feeding” it can be a very difficult habit to break. If you’re new to this terminology, here is the basic breakdown.
- Snack Feeding: Enough of a feed to satiate the baby, but doesn’t constitute a full meal. This can lead to all kinds of issues with scheduling including shorter nap durations, too many feeds throughout the day and, eventually, difficulty sleeping through the night. If you don’t regulate your baby’s feeds, they will tend towards snack feeding in those first few weeks, especially if you’re breastfeeding. This is because breastfeeding is hard work and sleepy newborns will do just enough to get what they want to satisfy themselves, but not enough for a full meal.
- Full Feeding: There are many different qualifications that constitute a full feed, depending on who you ask. For a formula-fed baby, it’s much easier to measure and is generally considered 2-3 ounces every 2-4 hours. For a breastfed baby, you’re looking at around 10-20 minutes on each breast, every feed. This can vary depending on a couple factors – your own letdown, how fast your baby eats, size of your baby, etc. Regardless, if you aim for 10-20 minutes on each breast every feed – you’re putting you and your LO in a great target range.
The greatest difficulty new and seasoned moms alike experience with getting that full feeding in is baby exhaustion. Whether your LO simply gets tired from working so hard or just wants to go back to sleep, keeping baby awake is the #1 issue. So here are some tricks you try:
- Sit them upright
- Tickle baby’s feet and sides
- Undress baby down to the diaper (warm, cozy newborns will always fall asleep)
- Use a cold washcloth and touch their feet, hands, sides, neck, etc.
And remember, you’re working UP to full feeds. It’s not going to happen right away and if you try everything above to no avail – let ‘em sleep and try, try, try again the next time around.
If you’re really struggling with full feedings, check out this post – My Baby Wouldn’t Latch For A Full Feed Until I Tried This.
Getting baby on an eat-wake-sleep schedule (AKA the Babywise Schedule) is key. Subscribe to the Newlymoms and get a FREE Printable Babywise Schedule HERE!
2. As Much Crib Time As Possible
The second best thing you can do is get baby used to the crib right off the bat. Many parents get into the habit of only co-sleeping or creating addiction to props for baby to fall asleep. In other words, baby will only sleeps in mommy’s arms, in the car seat or in the swing. And aside from snack feeding, this can be one of the more difficult habits to break. Try to get at least 2 naps per day in the crib. Even if baby wakes up a half hour into the nap, getting baby familiar with being in the crib little by little early on will make the transition to successful sleep training much easier.
3. Master the Swaddle
A successful swaddle can be the difference between 4 and 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep for baby. This has to do with baby’s startle reflex. When their arms jerk as a result of this reflex, it wakes them up and babies have difficulty putting themselves back to sleep after this. A well-swaddled baby also feels hugged in all the right places and thus, secure – even in the unfamiliar crib setting. So work on the swaddle in those early days. And in case you were misinformed, not all swaddles are created the same. We highly recommend that you read the Swaddle Section of “Moms on Call,” get very familiar with their swaddle technique and pick up a few large flannel swaddles – those muslin swaddles are just too stretchy and babies break free of those way too easily.
4. Set Up Your Night Time Breastfeeding Stations and/or Your Bottle Routine
Knowing where you’ll breastfeed at night and having a proper setup can help you and baby fall back to sleep easily after those middle of the night feeds. Bringing baby to another room, turning on bright lights and clunkily changing baby’s diaper can make a huge difference in how long it takes baby to fall back to sleep and thus, how much sleep mommy gets. As swiftly as you can, get baby out of the crib, feed, change diaper and go right back to sleep. If you can do this all in the light of a nightlight, with the white noise machine on – you’re golden. Keep baby in sleep mode and bedtime setting as much as possible.
5. Establish Baby’s Bedtime Routine
Babies (& kids in general) love routines. It helps them anticipate what’s coming next and thus, feel more secure in a life they largely can’t control. Establishing a bedtime routine is a huge win in the sleep training department. It eventually helps them distinguish between night and day, naps & bedtime, etc. The routine doesn’t have to be elaborate or crazy long. Short, sweet and simple is the name of the game. This is what we do as a variation of the Moms on Call bedtime routine. Before one of your last feeds of the day do the following:
- Relaxing 5-10 minute bath (remember, only sponge baths are acceptable until baby’s cord falls off)
- Quick bedtime story (even though baby can’t yet understand, he still LOVES to hear your voice)
- Sing a few songs (even if you’re tone deaf)
- White noise machine on
- Few more sucks on the breast or bottle
- In the crib for the night (until the next feed)
6. Decide Your Start & End Times
Figuring out your daily start and end times will get this task out of the way early. The importance of this is discussed at length in the On Becoming Babywise book, Chapter Four – Managing Your Baby’s Day. This is referred to as the “first-last feeding principle.” Having a consistent first and last feeding determined will set you up for a consistent routine each day. Even if the feedings in between the first and last get all muddled and screwey (which happens very often), your first and last feeding are still there as your anchor points to maintain the overall structure of the day. Babywise recommends these feedings be kept constant (within 20 minutes) every day. So as you’re demand-feeding your newborn these first 2 weeks, be conscience of what you want your daily routine to look like come week 3.
Don’t forget to subscribe for your FREE Printable Babywise Schedule!
7. Discuss Baby’s Schedule with Anyone Who Needs to Get on Board
This is usually your spouse, other children and any caregivers who will be helping you out. Successful sleep training is just as much about the schedule of the rest of the family as it is about the baby. So discussing your anticipated schedule with everyone who’s involved will put you in a great position. This includes scheduling appointments, having visitors, taking trips, using bath tubs, etc. All of these things can be impacted by getting baby on a schedule – but the extra sleep you get is well worth it.
8. Read Babywise & Moms on Call
If you haven’t figured out by now, our 2 favorite resources when it comes to sleep training (and caring for a newborn in general) are Babywise & Moms on Call. The best way to prepare for successful sleep training is to understand these 2 methods (which are very similar) and figure out how to fit them into your unique lifestyle.
Also – be sure to check out our other posts on Sleep Training below:
- Should I Try to Get My Newborn on a Schedule Right Away?
- These 3 Things Got My Baby on a Schedule in 48 Hours
Don’t forget to subscribe to the Newlymoms and get your FREE Babywise Printable Schedule HERE
What other questions or concerns do you have about setting baby up for successful sleep training?
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