Baby Sleep Tips From A Regular Mom

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked about Kennedy’s sleep and schedule over the last several months. I have to start by saying that 1) she is such a good baby! We are so blessed by her and honestly, she’s just been easy breezy so far… and 2) I’m not an expert!! (did you read the title of this post?!) I’m just a regular first-time mom trying to figure all this stuff out, too. I don’t know it all and I’m clearly not a medical professional or sleep specialist in any sense.

All that being said, we have definitely fallen into a really amazing routine with Kennedy and since I get asked about it so much, I’m finally going to share some tips with yall. You must know that I’ve gathered these ideas and practices by following/reading a lot of ACTUAL experts’ thoughts, seeking advice from Kennedy’s pediatrician, and talking to lots of my nurse/mama friends.

I’ll tell you a little bit about the foundations we laid, when we moved Kennedy into her crib, and then finish off with your actual questions for a little Q&A. It’s a lengthy post, so buckle up…

First, let’s talk about the newborn stage. It’s completely different than where we are today! Looking back, some of the best advice I got was from my dearest friend who is a NICU nurse. She recommended being very diligent about feeding Kennedy every TWO HOURS during the daytime, so that she would be more likely to sleep a few hour stretches at night. The goal was making sure Kennedy was fed well during the day and was nice and full before going to bed at night. From the very first night we were home from the hospital she was sleeping three hours stretches overnight. If you don’t have kids, that might sound horrible, but if you’ve been a first-time parent, three hours of uninterrupted sleep with a brand new baby is pure bliss!

In addition to making sure I was feeding her consistently (and often) during the day, the other big puzzle piece for newborns is a great swaddle. If you check out any sleep expert’s advice, one of the very first things they’ll talk about is swaddling and its benefits for your baby. Our favorite swaddle, hands down, is the Ollie Swaddle. It ain’t cheap but it is 100% worth every penny!! It gets major bonus points for being SO easy to use, which is not the case for all swaddles haha.

Aside from feeding diligently and swaddling, we weren’t really on a set schedule when Kennedy was a newborn (1-3 months old). Due to my job flexibility and getting to be at home with her, I was far less concerned about getting her into a rigid sleep routine or worrying about naps. Truth be told, naps don’t actually begin to consolidate until around five months of age. For the first few months, we just focused on practicing good sleep habits, laying a strong foundation, and snuggling A LOT!! :) The newborn days are long and tiring but boy do they fly by…

Room Sharing and Moving to the Crib

Kennedy shared a room with us until she was a little over five months old. There are lots of reasons for room sharing but every parent has their own take on the matter. When she was in our room, she slept in a bassinet next to my side of the bed (very convenient if you’re nursing!) and went to bed for the night when we did. An earlier bedtime can be complicated when room sharing, so we found this to make the most sense for us and it worked great. Again, to each their own.

Our nightly routine consisted of keeping her up for a certain amount of time ahead of bedtime (talking more about this below) and then the following:

bath (not every night) —> diaper/jammies —> nurse —> read —> swaddle —> bed

We used the Ollie swaddle as I mentioned, turned on a sound machine, laid her on her back and offered a pacifier. *Important note that I learned from many experts: DO NOT nurse/feed your baby to sleep. One of the biggest things you can practice from the very beginning with baby is allowing them to learn how to put themselves to sleep. Are there times when Kennedy would fall asleep on the boob? Absolutely haha. But it was just a goal and now something I’m even more careful of making sure of!

Around five months, Kennedy was starting to be a little more restless at night and I could tell that it was time for her to move into her own room and start sleeping in her crib. I will be completely transparent and tell yall that I had a lot of fear about moving her out of our room and not having her just inches away from me at night. I think part of that is because of my personality (and being a first-time parent) and another part comes from our history and the trauma I have from that. Either way, we decided to purchase the Owlet Smart Sock. I won’t go into all the details about it here but I will tell you that it gave (and continues to give) me SO much peace of mind. So grateful for amazing technology and advancements that generations before us didn’t have access to!

The first night we put Kennedy in her crib, Michael and I had discussed what sort of approach we wanted to take in terms of bedtime routine, how long we were going to let her cry before intervening, etc. I had researched a few different methods and truthfully, sort of picked and chose what things I liked and wanted to try and came up with my own plan. If you’re looking for good sleep training advice, check out these resources. They’re all slightly different and a lot of moms I know prefer one over the other, but I found taking bits and pieces of advice from each to be extremely helpful for us.

The Baby Sleep Solution

Moms On Call

Little Z’s

Taking Cara Babies

Every step of the way with sleeping and creating our routine has been a total experiment. I feel like most things as a new parent are “trial by error” and it’s important to remember that what works for one baby/family doesn’t necessarily work for another. Try different things, be patient, give yourself LOTS of grace (especially in the newborn stage), and figure out what works for YOU.

Q&A

Favorite sleep products?

The two best things you can have, in my opinion, to help your baby sleep well right off the bat are a good swaddle (talked about the Ollie above) and a sound machine. We purchased this portable sound machine to be able to take out and about with us when Kennedy was a newborn and loved it so much that we got another. We would keep one in our room by the bassinet, to use at night, and the other would stay in her diaper bag so we could use in the car/out and about.

We have this sound machine in Kennedy’s room now, which also functions as a nightlight which will be great when she’s a little older. I love that we can control it from our phones, too! This is turned on every single time she naps during the day in her crib and for sleeping at night.

My other favorite tip is having good black out curtains or some way of making the room pitch black. You can read about it on your own, but babies sleep WAY better in complete darkness. It helps their melatonin and helps them fall back asleep more easily as they wake between sleep cycles. We have these blackout curtains which do a fairly good job but we also have these paper black out blinds on her window underneath the curtains, which block everything out!

Once Kennedy transitioned out of the swaddle (which happens when they can roll or start showing signs of rolling) we moved to a sleep sack. She uses this sleep sack and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. It’s basically a wearable blanket but also keeps her legs a little more contained, so helps to discourage climbing around in the crib and whatnot.

**PS if you follow me on Instagram, be sure to check out my stories today, as I’m going to share ALL of the products I’m talking about in this post so you can see them in action!!

How did you survive the newborn days? Do they eventually sleep longer?

Oh mama, YES! They will sleep longer, I promise! The newborn stage is a wild ride for sure. Between feeding around the clock and you and baby both being sleepy, the days can feel long and tiring but there is hope. Start laying good foundations for baby right now like practicing one nap a day in the bassinet or crib and learning how to self soothe.

As the main caregiver of a new little one, remember that it’s okay to ask for help! You are such a good mommy and needing a break is totally okay. Sometimes I just needed to take a hot shower or go to Target by myself, even if you can find someone to watch your baby for one hour. Self care is so important as any human, but especially as a mom of littles, I think (and have learned). You have to take care of yourself in order to be the best you can be for your family! Be selfish at times!

What kind of swaddles and do you swaddle during nap time?

I’ve preached about the Ollie swaddle this entire post, so it’s pretty clear that was our favorite swaddle for Kennedy when she was younger. She was swaddled in the Ollie whenever we’d practice a nap in her crib or bassinet during the day and then of course at night.

Once she moved to the crib, the same thing was true - swaddled anytime she was sleeping in there basically. And then we transitioned out of a swaddle to a sleep sack, which she also wears during each nap in the crib plus at night.

Did you purchase a sleep training course?

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve likely heard me talking about Cara from Taking Cara Babies. I discovered her Instagram and then her blog while I was still pregnant with Kennedy last summer. I watched every single one of her story highlights and I’m pretty sure I’ve read all of her blog posts (aside from ones about toddlers).

Most people assume that I purchased her sleep training class because I’ve mentioned many of her tips before but I’m actually just a fan girl haha. All kidding aside, I didn’t purchase her sleep training course but did use the newborn class, which was extremely helpful for us in the early days. As I said at the beginning of this post, I have read and looked into many different approaches when it comes to baby sleep and all the things. Cara is just one of many great resources out there but I am truly a huge fan of hers and have implemented much of what I do with Kennedy based off of her recommendations.

Nap schedule and what do you do (where, how long, how)?

As I said above, we didn’t have a strict schedule before about five months or so. Around that time, she started taking three pretty predictable naps during the day - one in the morning, one in the early afternoon, and then a “cat nap” that would help get her to bedtime.

I never allow any nap to last longer than two hours. Her cat nap was usually only 30-45 minutes with the reasoning being that it would help her make it to the planned bedtime we had for her. She dropped that third (cat nap) around 7-7.5 months old.

She now naps once in the morning (around 9-9:30 and then in the afternoon around 2ish). Bedtime is anywhere between 7-8 depending on when she wakes up from her last nap.

In terms of the nap time routine, it’s very similar to bedtime sans a bath of course! I change her diaper, get her sleep sack on, maybe read a book or two, sing a song and then it’s lights out, sound machine on, baby in crib and I’m out the door!

How do you get her to self soothe and fall asleep on her own?

One of the main things we did was to set her down for sleep while she was drowsy but still awake. This goes hand in hand with the concept of not feeding your baby to sleep. I wanted her to learn from a very young age how to fall asleep on her own without needing to be fed, rocked, etc. This is still something we practice now that she’s nearly nine months old!

We did offer her a pacifier when she was about two weeks old and she took that, especially for naps and bedtime, but was never dependent on it. We were lucky on that! Around five-and-a-half to six months she started sucking on her fingers and completely weaned herself off the paci.

How long is she awake in between naps?

This has drastically changed based on her age but right now it’s about 3-4 hours of awake time. I have learned a lot about “wake windows” and their importance, so that is a major practice we hold to. Read more about that idea and see recommended wake windows on this blog post from Taking Cara Babies.

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Thanks so much for reading today. This post has been a long time coming and I hope it was enjoyable to read and will be of help to you or someone you know! I also had a few questions about daily schedules and feeding times/routines, stay tuned as I share a full day’s schedule and routine with yall next week.

I also wanted to share that I’ve added a brand new shop feature under my shopping tab up above… it’s for ALL the baby stuff. I will continue to add to it, but it’s for sure a great place to start if you’re curious about what products we love and would recommend!

What other questions do you have about this topic? What other kinds of baby-related posts do you want to see next or more of? Please share with me. It’s SO SO helpful hearing from you!!

xx Alex