New parents with little support and on the clock counting down the days of family leave, become rightfully obsessed with Sleeping Through the Night. Because there are so many options and books and opinions, figuring out how to best help your baby sleep long stretches uninterrupted can be overwhelming. When your pediatrician agrees that baby is physically and developmentally able to sleep at least 6 hours without feeding and you feel that sleep training is right for your family here is a gentle way to help baby sleep through the night:
1. Encourage daytime feeding: Once baby is about 12 weeks old and we have the pediatrician’s okay, we can very slowly encourage more daytime intake by increasing bottle amounts by 1/4 ounce or increasing time spent at the breast for another minute or 2. This process will be helped at the same time by…
2. Gradually decreasing overnight feeding: When baby wakes overnight, try to decrease the usual amount of milk/ formula given. For breastfeeding moms, do your best to take baby off the breast 1 minute or 2 sooner than is typical. For bottle feeding parents, give baby 1/4 of an ounce less than s/he usually takes. You can try to give baby a pacifier at the end of the feeding session if baby still needs to suck to be soothed. This process should not be forced and should come with your pediatrician’s blessing but it’s important to note that we’re not taking away baby’s overnight calories, we’re just “repositioning” them to be consumed during the day. This gentle overnight weaning process can take 2-4 weeks.
3. Instill a Dreamfeed: A dreamfeed is just a small 2-3 ounce feed usually given around 10pm given while baby is asleep. Rather than feeding baby at 1am or 2am when she naturally wakes from hunger we are heading off this hunger by feeding earlier in the night so baby’s long stretch of sleep occurs when parents are asleep too. It may sound funny that you shouldn’t wake baby to dreamfeed but by simply holding breast/bottle to baby’s lips, s/he’ll instinctually take in what’s needed. Because baby is calm there’s no need to burp at this time, but a quick diaper change can be done.
When this gradual weaning is finished, the hope is that there won’t be a need for a formal sleep training method but if you do choose one, remember that consistency and knowing that your baby is healthy and ready to sleep through the night is the key to success. There are many, many good answers to the questions of feeding and sleep. For families who chose sleep training however, a gentle and gradual change from night to day only feeding might be the most simple plan.