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How to Get Infants to Sleep...One that Works!

Updated on May 24, 2017

the New Parent

It was only yesterday, I remember having my first baby. All of the excitement, the preparation--finally this little person was on the outside. I could kiss his tiny face, count his fingers and toes, and snuggle his entire body next to mine. I remember the final advice from the pediatrician on call when I asked how often I should feed this new, precious life. He said, every time he cried, stick a breast in his mouth. OK. I believed him. Doctors must know best, right?

So I followed this sage advice...What a miserable first month!!! My sweet baby boy did nothing but cry! I couldn't even drive to my mom's house (30 minutes away) without having to pull over because he was screaming bloody murder. Ugh. Such a frustrating time in my life. Thankfully it was short-lived. I started going to a new church and met some moms. These weren't ordinary moms, but moms of large families. Every Sunday they would come to church all rested and matching. What was their secret?

Some babies never stop crying

the key is WHEN you feed your baby

The key to helping your child sleep through the night begins with HOW OFTEN you feed him/her. Read my story and find out why.

Remember I mentioned meeting some moms at the church I attended, many with large families? Week after week, I'd watch these mothers arrive early to church, beautifully dressed and looking well rested. I thought to myself how is that possible? I only had 1 child and they had 11! Our church was unsusal because we had a nursing mother's room. I frequented the room quite a bit. One Sunday, I summoned the courage to ask these mothers how they managed their babies as well as their other children. Their secret: a book called Baby Wise. Authors Gary and AnnMarie Ezzo developed this feed, play, sleep routine that works on so many levels. First, it regulates your milk (if you choose to breastfeed). Breast milk is produced as needed, a whole supply-demand thing. Second, it helps you distinguish your baby's cries whether it is a tired or hungry cry. And third, it puts the child on a schedule that is easy to follow, allows your baby to know what to expect next, and the best part, trains your child to sleep 6-8 hours a night!

It all centers around a schedule. I know, I hate schedules as much as you do. But trust me, it works. And one more thing about schedules, NICU (neonatal ICU) uses the same 2 1/2-3 hour time frame for babies in their unit. To begin with, it all centers around a 2 1/2 to 3 hour feeding schedule. Meaning, make your infant wait at least 2 1/2 hours between feedings. For some infants, it's hard. But if you make them wait, they'll be hungry and won't be tempted to fall asleep while eating. After the baby is full, it's play time for a few minutes (say 30-45). Then it's off to bed. Keep tabs on the time and recall what time you began feeding. When the time registers 3 hours (for infants) from when you last fed, wake your baby up. You read it right, wake the baby up and begin the cycle over again. For babies 6 months or older, they can wait 4 hours between feedings. When a baby gets older and is down to just 2 naps a day, the naps can be longer.

Here are some benefits:

  • After awhile of doing this, my milk would automatically let down on its own so I didn't have to remember the time.
  • Because I started this with my children as infants, it made for an easy transition into 2 naps a day--one mid morning and one around 2 p.m. My child learned how to self soothe and slept through the night at a young age (6-8 weeks).

Can I start this at any time? Yes. The older the infant, the longer he/she may cry before sleeping. Try waiting 10 minutes the first time, then 15. Famed physician Dr. Denmark used to say that when a baby cries, they are actually exercising their lungs!

What if my child won't fall asleep? It's OK. As long as they stay in their crib for that sleep period.

What if my child has his days and nights mixed up? My third child had this problem. He loved to sleep all day and woke up every 3 hours at night. My secret was in the evening (between 8-10 p.m.) I used to strip him down to his diaper and tickle his feet and sides--anything I could do to keep him awake. I remember it was a constant task because he liked to sleep! By 10:00, he was tired and ready to go to bed. Soon after, he grew out of his old schedule and into his new one.

Can I rock my baby to sleep? NO. While it's sweet to rock and hold your new baby, that rocking to sleep gets old after awhile. There are some nights that I need my time away from my baby. Start in the beginning to teach your baby to put herself to sleep. It can be painful in the beginning since many babies wail so try getting her to suck her thumb or a pacifier. You don't want to start any bad habits. For example, snuggling your newborn in your bed is sweet but sleeping with your toddler gets old.

Making it through the night. Do this three-hour cycle of eat, play, sleep until early evening (7 or so). Keep your baby awake as best you can. This is a great time for a bath. Put off the feeding until as close to 10:00 or 11:00 as you can and then it's off to bed. Because the baby's been awake for awhile and fell asleep with a full tummy, you will get several hours of uninterrupted sleep.

What if my baby wakes during the night? Let him cry it out for at least 10 minutes. If he won't stop, go get him, feed and/or change his diaper and put him back to his bed.

What is considered success? If your baby wakes up around 6 or 7 a.m. and has slept at least 6 consecutive hours. Pat yourselves on the back!

NICU nurses feed their babies every 2.5-3 hours. They know that is best for baby!
NICU nurses feed their babies every 2.5-3 hours. They know that is best for baby!

the Scientific Name

Later I found that this parenting style has a name. It's called the Ferber Method. It's named for a Dr. Richard Ferber who developed a system to teach infants how to self-soothe which includes putting themselves to sleep. Personally, I had never heard of this system until a few years ago. All I could Google is how to get my infant to sleep. But now you have it, the scientific term to go and impress all of your friends.

In his method, unlike the Ezzos, he only talks about the nighttime routine of making your infant wait longer and longer intervals before you go into the room. I like the Ezzo's way because it gives you the details during the day as well. By my fourth child, I had the whole system down with the feedings and naps. My family of 6 ran like a well-oiled machine!


On Becoming Toddlerwise: From First Steps to Potty Training
On Becoming Toddlerwise: From First Steps to Potty Training

I also highly recommend this book for raising toddlers.


What have you been told?

What is the advice you've been given to teach your child to sleep?

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    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 6 years ago from America

      Our first babies took no time sleeping through the night and going to bed without crying. I'm a schedule person our kids went to bed at a certain time from the day we brought them home. The three hour feedings were in our schedule. I looked at people who had children still running around at 10:00 pm like they were crazy. Our third baby was completely different. Nothing worked for him. We tried it all, didn't work. We talked with doctors. Doctors blamed me as if I were a new mother. One thing I was EXHAUSTED.

      When our daughter had babies my advice to her, (Something I'm sure she didn't want) keep the babies on a schedule. It would be easier on them. She did that and it worked out great for her.