Let me warn you before reading on that I’m not a sleep expert and while you might want to experiment a little bit with some of the things that worked for me don’t take it as gospel. If there’s anything I’ve learned is that every baby is different so something that works here, might not work there!
There’s not much that is will be so varied, besides your baby’s eating habits, as your developing baby’s sleep habits. Your baby will go from being totally random, sleeping whenever he feels like it to sleeping throughout the day and being up at night, to finally having some normalcy, but never quite getting on an adult schedule. At some point, your baby is going to join you on some sort of regular sleep routine, but not before you’re completely exhausted. Count yourself lucky if your baby went straight to sleeping through the night – you’ve been blessed. When it came to our son’s sleep routine, we had mixed results.
It all began when we decided to give the soother a try after Holden had become accustomed to falling asleep on the breast – something we knew wouldn’t help but was hard to prevent. The soother worked to help calm and put him to bed, but at one point it became more of a nuisance. We found that it would pop out in the middle of the night and since our son’s fine motor skills weren’t developed enough, he wasn’t able to help put it back in on his own. The inevitable result was crying so we would come and help making for a very sporadic schedule for us. At one point, we collectively had enough so we gave the soother cold turkey up on his morning nap. It took almost 2 hours of crying in fits and starts before he calmed enough to fall asleep. That was the end of the soother – he would never need it again.
You’ll find that your baby might go from 6 hours at night to well over 12 hours at night. Every baby is going to be different. Your task is to try to settle on something that you can live with. Our son went from two naps, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, to just one afternoon nap. He also had a much longer nighttime sleep as he aged too. We found that making his room really dark helped him sleep throughout the night and also stay sleeping longer in the morning. The light cycle also plays a factor. For example, you might find that your baby sleeps in later in the winter when the days are shorter and earlier in the summer when the sun rises much earlier. We found that with only a bit of variation that the cycle would remain fairly predictable by just an 1 or so either way. I think it’s a bit much to make the room completely pitch black (it’s disorienting to a baby to wake up in the dark) so the early summer sun does tend to wake him up earlier.
My advice on setting sleep routines is to be flexible and find something that works for you and your baby. If you aren’t happy with how early your baby wakes, try putting him to bed later – say around 8:30-9:00 p.m. Then you can more or less predict that he’ll wake up 10-12 hours later or thereabouts. Don’t do it all in one shot. If your baby goes to sleep at 6 p.m. now, stretching their day out will make your baby overtired and they’ll actually sleep less. Second, remove any nightlights or other artificial lights and make the room as dark as possible but still let some daylight penetrate. Ideally, you’ll only want to be able to see your moving hand at arms length, when it’s light outside, but not otherwise. Next set a solid bed-time routine and carry it out to the letter. We started from play, bath, dress/diaper, yogurt, brush teeth, play on mom and dad’s bed and watch a bit of cartoons, go to baby room and read several books, night time in crib. Doing this is important to make life predictable to a baby who can otherwise feel that things are out of their control.
I don’t pretend to be any sort of sleep expert, but hopefully some of these tips can help you get your baby back on track.