Scott Hanselman

Babies sleeping through the night

January 26, '06 Comments [17] Posted in Parenting | Z
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CIMG4435Z is 8 weeks, 2 days old. Yeah, yeah, I know, we still count days. We've, of course, been trying to get him to sleep "through the night." Many folks, myself included, think that "through the night" is kind of a mythical goal and I've said it when asked. A few days back he slept from 9pm to 3am and that was "through the night" as far as I was concerned. We have continued our quest for a few more hours sleep, though.

Now, I know all babies are different and this all may be a fluke and there will be times when he's 8 years old and won't sleep through the night, but for the most part, I think our general technique is working. I'm sure you've got similar tips.

Z slept from 11pm until past 8am last night freeing us (and particularly my wife) up to sleep 9 hours. Here's what my extensive () eight weeks of parenting has taught me.

  • Routine - Babies love routine. We put him down, plus or minus an hour, at around 9pm ever night. This will likely head more towards 8pm.
  • Food - We are breast feeding exclusively (no formula) and pumping with a breast pump. We give him one bottle of pumped milk a day, so he's used to it in case of emergency.
    • We give him a bottle just before bed to really fill him up. Babies seem to get comforted by the boob more than the bottle, so he'll drink as much as 4oz with the bottle, eyes open while he'll go into "buffet mode" on the boob and pass out. When he's that full, and keeps it down, he'll sleep for hours, not being awoke by hunger.
    • We'll also sometimes "top him off" just before he's put into the crib (which is next to our bed)
    • Another technique that is well thought of that we haven't tried is to give a breast-fed baby one formula bottle a night. Formula is harder to digest and says in the tummy longer, letting babies sleep longer as a result.
  • Warm Bath - After he eats and gives us the obligatory and nearly immediate gift of poo, he takes a bath(picture above) in water that's warm (100 degrees F). We'd been using lukewarm water and he used to freak out. When we switched to using rubber-ducky thermometer that checks for temperature safety we make it hotter. He loves the tub at only eight weeks. Totally relaxes him.
  • Set the Stage - We've also started lowering the lights and turning on the radio around this time. Too much light seems to freak babies (at least this one) out. We slow down, talk quiet and generally prep him for a quiet time.
  • Swaddling - Don't use a receiving blanket to swaddle, it'll never work, too small. We use this blanket because it's huge - 42"x42". When he's on lockdown he can't wake himself up with spastic arms.
  • Down is down - Now that he's put down he'll cry here and there, but we believe he's to young for us to Ferber him (in the hardcore way). However, we do avoid picking him up when he's down as it just starts the whole process over. We stoke his face and comb his hair and generally watch for the difference between "sobbing" and "crying." He sobs when he's tired, he cries when something's wrong.

CIMG4437None of this is rocket science and I assume it's all up for debate and variability. However, it's working better each night and knock wood, it'll continue to work for the most part.

All of this means a happier baby when he's awake and gives the wife and I time together before we collapse from exhaustion, wake up, rinse and repeat the process for the next eighteen years.

It's also easier to write posts like this when he's happily asleep :)

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006 7:21:49 PM UTC
With Ben, we (well *I*) have taken to swaddling him in a blanket and wrapping it with packing tape. This low-tech technique definitely helps him sleep longer, but even then he's sometimes able to wriggle an arm out of it if I haven't done it just right.

Non-parents are horrified by my "duct-taping" the baby technique, but it means more sleep for everyone!
Thursday, January 26, 2006 7:56:38 PM UTC
My parents hired a baby sitter when I was a few weeks old, and she ended up feeding me some sort of rice cereal...Babysitter put me to bed around 7:00 that evening, and my parents told me that I slept through until like 8:00-9:00 the next morning...
A Strutzenberg
Thursday, January 26, 2006 7:57:52 PM UTC
Congratulations, but a warning: The rules of the game may change on you over time. My son was a good sleeper his first year, only to become a human torture chamber between the hours of 11pm and 5am for the last 2.5 years. We thought we tried all manner of Best Practices but we lost. May you be more successful!
David Ball
Thursday, January 26, 2006 8:32:55 PM UTC
Scott,

Three months ago, my eyes would have rolled when I saw this kind of baby stuff but now we are expecting our first (July / August). I enjoy this stuff every bit as much as your traditional postings. Also enjoying Hanselminutes.

-Andrew
Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:04:55 PM UTC
Scott. My son is 10 months old now so I'm accutely aware of what you're going through. 9 to 3 is excellent and a big step. He always slept better in bed between mom and dad than in his crib. In fact the crib didn't even get put into use until he was 4 or 5 months old.

I think the ferber technique is crap, babies are meant to be held. =)
Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:09:23 PM UTC
Getting a little one to sleep through the night is not impossible at all. With each of our 3 kids, we followed similar techniques to what you're doing and by about 3 to 4 months old they were sleeping through the night...like 9 or 10pm until 8am the next morning. It can be done.
Thursday, January 26, 2006 9:20:26 PM UTC
My $.02:

The more children sleep, the more they sleep. It's counter-intuitive, but the earlier you put a child down, the longer he or she will sleep. It has something to do with hormones waking them up overnight b/c they got overtired by going down too late. We put our daughter down at 7, and pretty quickly she would sleep until 6:30 or 7am. That started happening at around 4 months.

Of course, YMMV.

Our book of choice: "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child"
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0449004023/002-0049725-6847262?v=glance&n=283155
davep
Thursday, January 26, 2006 10:42:11 PM UTC
Scott,

Check out this book. My wife and I use this book to schedule our baby. She slept thru the night (9 pm to 7 am) at 7 weeks...

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0971453209/002-2302398-2228843?v=glance&n=283155
Dan
Thursday, January 26, 2006 11:54:59 PM UTC
We used the basic principles in the book Dan links to, BabyWise. There are some people who are violently opposed to scheduling sleep times for children, but it worked very well for our two kids (5 and 2 now, both slept through the night at 2 months or earlier), and it worked well for several friends as well.

Maybe some kids (and adults) don't react well to imposed schedules, but in general I think parents are better equipped to determine the sleep needs of the child than the child is. The approach looks similar to the Ferber info you linked to in principle - tired babies often cry for a few minutes when they're first put down, and if you pick them up and feed or rock them to sleep, they learn that pattern. If you let them cry themselves to sleep a (suprisingly) few times, they learn to go right to sleep when you put them down. Well rested babies are happier, as are well rested parents.

We've got mixed results on dealing with 2 year olds waking up in the middle of the night, though. Where's the book on that? ;-)
Friday, January 27, 2006 1:09:57 AM UTC
Man Scott, you could be in for one of your highest commented posts ;) (if it gets around to the right circles). Its amazing the religious battles that occur over this content - makes windows vs. linux pale. Formula for a breast-fed baby? Ferber? Babywise? Lookout...
Sounds like you've got a good thing going though - congrats.
Friday, January 27, 2006 4:30:34 AM UTC
At that age he should be nursing about every 4 hrs, so how can he sleep through the night? BTW, Ferber is evil. Definitely don't do that.
harold
Friday, January 27, 2006 5:57:15 AM UTC
Joshua's definitely right. All parents believe their system is the best and others are - what did "harold" say - evil. And who's to say until the kids are grown up and it's too late to change, anyways? Plus, the "experts" constantly disagree with eachother, and yet somehow the kids survive it all.

Steven Levitt does some interesting analysis of the non-efficacy of parenting methods in Freakanomics. His conclusion is that most of the policies we take with regard to our children don't really matter, but the character and intention behind the policies does have an impact. For instance, children who apply to charter schools perform better in school, regardless of whether they are actually accepted in the charter schools. The point is that the type of parents and kids who care enough to try to get in a charter school will perform better in school because they actually care about it. He concludes that a lot of the things parents do don't actually matter.

What does this have to do with the topic of kids sleeping through the night? If mine weren't asleep right now, I wouldn't be writing this.
Friday, January 27, 2006 4:35:31 PM UTC
My theory is that the entire foundation of religion, ritual, and superstition in the human race is based around trying to get our babies to sleep. We try random things until the baby falls asleep, then proclaim that "that's what worked so that's the magic key to getting babies to sleep.". Then, ancient man applied this to everything else he and she were doing. "oog ugh ak aka ak oog ak", Translated, "I must have rubbed those sticks together for 3 hours and nothing, then I used this special branch and coughed right before I started and poof. Fire everywhere. So you need to cough before you can make fire."

I'm telling ya, more ritual and superstition is applied towards child rearing than any other activity. Except maybe for sporting events.
Friday, January 27, 2006 5:21:51 PM UTC
9-3 is pretty good for his age.

On a side note and to be careful, don't forget those side pillows (I don't know what they call them) to protect the baby against SIDS.
Friday, January 27, 2006 10:10:43 PM UTC
No, back to sleep is preferred, not side.

See http://www.sidscenter.org/Downloads/S07.htm for example.
davep
Saturday, January 28, 2006 1:34:26 AM UTC
The schedule is your friend. Demand feeding and lack of structure is not good. Our son couldn't stand to be swaddled so we never could do that. But we never gave in and had him sleep in our bed and we are SO grateful. We know some many people who are miserable now with their old kids not sleeping well unless they are with them in bed.

As for Ferber... or as we refer to it -- the Nelson treatment (named after a friend's baby who had serious trouble going to sleep). We found during the first year or two, we had to allow our son to cry it out a bit going to bed. But it got shorter each night... usually fixing things after just a couple of nights. Like you mentioned about age, we didn't use that technique though until he was a little older (9 months - 1 year).

Just keep up those routines... you are definitely on the right track. Carry on...

-ScW
Friday, February 03, 2006 12:11:25 PM UTC
Z is such a beautiful name for such a beautiful baby. I seriously need to find myself a wife soon, I also want a little Z too!
Nookie Nel
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.