How to Get Your Baby to Sleep Through the Night with Eva Klein
(Taken from The Birth Lounge Podcast with Eva Klein, Certified Sleep Consultant)
So I am a certified infant and child sleep consultant. I help exhausted moms get their little ones consistently sleeping through the night so that they can be functioning humans again. And I got into this business because of my middle child. So, um, I'm a wife and a mom of three. I live in Toronto, Canada and I, my kids are 10, almost eight and almost three. Um, and so it was my middle child that got me into this business because interestingly, I'm actually a lawyer by training. So my previous lifetime, um, which wasn't, which was you about 10 years ago now I was working as a lawyer. I basically finished law school, had my first baby. Um, that first baby was like this unicorn baby that made me look amazing and was just so easy and happy all the time and you know, slept amazingly. And then a couple of years later when I was done law school and got called to the bar and I was working, I had, I gave birth to my second daughter who unlike her older sister, you know, this baby was a very high needs, very difficult.
I could tell from the second that she was born. When I say the second, I literally mean maybe 20 minutes after she was born. I could just tell that this baby was different. That her temperament was different. She was, you know, fussier. She was crankier. I have this image of my husband. It was probably four o'clock in the morning and he's walking around the postpartum ward, holding this baby, trying to get her to calm down. And, uh, that was never the case with my older one. And so naturally she did not sleep. She was waking me every 90 minutes all night long. You know, when she was four or five minutes old, I was so exhausted. I literally felt like I was going to die. I was not functioning. I could barely cope with life. And I should just mention that I was on maternity leave.
I mean, I don't mean to rub this in the faces, any of your American listeners, but I mean, here in Canada, we get 12 months of maternity leave. Actually. Now it's technically you can take up to 18 months. Um, so I really, I hate mentioning this on an American broadcast because they feel so terrible. My sister lives in New York. I should just manage it. And she had her first baby about three months ago and she's going back to work soon and she's literally beside herself. So I, I know how hard it is, but it's relevant to the story here and that I was on maternity leave. I was dying from the exhaustion. I had no choice, but to open up the sleep books and figure out what to do. And I managed to make the situation a little bit better on my own, which gave me some clarity.
What does 'sleeping through the night' REALLY mean?
For my purposes, I do like to use one definition of sleeping through the night and that is baby sleeping 11 to 12 hours uninterrupted. Now, when is a healthy baby able to consistently do that? In my experience, definitely by eight months, but I've definitely seen babies younger than the eight month period be able to pull that off. However, there are just as many babies in that four to seven month mark that might still need that one feed around, let's say 3:00-4:00 AM. So it's definitely a little baby dependent, but I would say for the most part, if a mom comes to me with a five month old baby who is waking her up multiple times a night to eat, we can absolutely get that baby sleeping significantly better than the way that baby is right now. I can tell you for a fact that when you get a baby who is waking up four times a night down to one night waking, it is a game changer when it comes to mom's mental health and ability to function on a day to day basis.
The number one thing you want to make sure is that your little one is never over-tired. Over tiredness is a massive sleep stealer when it comes to babies of all ages, right? It's going to cause them to fight sleep, fight bedtime, wake up more unnecessarily at night, and give you short naps. It can also cause early rising as well. So from day one, I suggest making sure that your baby isn't up for too long throughout the day. That's really the key here is to be looking at their periods of wakefulness.
How long can your little one be up for before they need to go back to sleep for newborns? The answer is not very long. It is really important to stay on top of the appropriate wake windows for their age. Most importantly, understanding that what goes on during the day directly impacts what happens at night is really, really crucial.
As the day goes on, naps tend to get trickier and trickier for these babies because external homeostatic sleep pressure gets weaker. Basically there is this external force that basically just describes this buildup of sleep that helps babies fall asleep when they need to fall asleep. But as the day goes on, when that external sleep pressure gets weaker, that means that the baby is going to rely more and more on you to help them fall asleep. And that's okay because they're really little- and they may need your help here. That may mean your last nap of the day before bed time is on a parent, in a stroller, or in a carrier.
So let's chat about the four month regression...one tip that I have for parents starts back in the early newborn days: to try to get your little baby down sort of awake half awake, drowsy, but awake. In other words, not completely asleep, maybe once a day. The reason for that is because it's a very important skillset that your little one is going to take with them throughout the next months and years when they are learning how to sleep like a champ. When babies reach the 'regression' stage, what happens is that their sleep cycles undergo a permanent neurological change where they are now cycling in and out of deep and light sleep similar to the way that adults do.
Now, the reason why I don't like calling it a regression is because the term regression implies that it's this temporary phase, that baby is going through and that all you have to do is just wait it out. Your baby is not going back to being a newborn. Your baby's not going back to sleeping like a newborn. And they are now sleeping like an infant, which resembles that of an adult. So the solution at that age, if the baby relies very heavily on something like feeding or rocking to fall asleep, then we need to begin teaching that baby how to put themselves to sleep on their own without any help. By putting babies to bed drowsy but awake from day one you may be able to avoid being hit hard by this 'regression'.
It's definitely multi-faceted in that part of the solution needs to involve teaching that baby, how to sleep independently, right? Sleep, training, sleep, coaching, etc. There are many different approaches here. This doesn't just have to involve cry it out. If cry it out is outside your comfort zone, where you know you put the baby in the crib and you leave and you don't go back in- you don't have to do that. There are many other approaches that you can use, but part of the solution does need to involve teaching that baby to sleep so that they can connect their sleep cycles.
At the same time, the sleep training is not going to work if that baby is overtired or under-tired. The daytime has to have proper structure that is biologically appropriate. We have to make sure that we've got those puzzle pieces in place first. And so that's why in my signature method that I use to help these moms get their little one sleeping, it's a four stage process for sleep training. A lot of parents don't even know that there is stage one or stage two. These stage involves looking at the sleep environment, routines, schedule, the nap times the daytime, etc. That all has to be down pat first in order for stage three- the sleep training to work well. Check out my free masterclass for more information about these stages: