How to get your baby back on schedule and sleeping through the night

There is almost nothing better or more uncommon than feeling well rested when you have a newborn, especially after you've been up with your baby throughout the night for days, weeks and months after delivery. Having used the Calmmother feeding and sleep program with both of my babies, I was sleeping 8 hours through the night when they were each 8 weeks old and 10+ hours when they were 12 weeks. 

Once in a while my babies would wake up in the middle of the night, sometimes for a few minutes and other times for longer periods of time, especially if we were travelling, they had colds, were teething, or if they experienced a growth spurt and woke up for an extra feeding. Each time I worried they would get off track of the schedule we had worked so hard to put them on, but they would always transition back on schedule without much of a fuss. Other parents we've received feedback from about the Calmmother feeding and sleep program have reported similar experiences.

Below are our top tips for getting your baby back on track if they get off of the schedule you've put them on.

Figure out why your baby is waking up at night! 

This is probably the most important factor in determining how to get back on schedule especially if you'd like to avoid tears. There are a number of reasons why your baby could get off schedule including growth spurts, teething, health concerns and new habits. Examples of habits are if they skip naps during the day or stay up too late (and become overtired), if they become accustomed to being held more or rocked to sleep when family or friends are visiting – these types of habits can develop fast, in as little as a day or two, and can be difficult to break especially if they become well-established. Parents should be comfortable with the habits they are creating in their home.
Keep consistent with the schedule but always feed your baby when they're hungry. 

Many parents who have used the Calmmother feeding and sleep program have said they got off track at least once before transitioning back on to the schedule again. If you get off schedule, don't get discouraged. Absent health concerns, there is no reason you won't be able to get back on track as long as you don't wait too long to try again!

There may be times when a feeding in the middle of the night is necessary because your baby actually is hungry. This could be because they are going through a growth spurt or simply didn't have enough to drink (or eat, if at the solids stage) during the day! Consult your healthcare provider if you think your baby is waking up because they are ready to start eating solids.

Sometimes you can get away with giving a smaller feeding than usual to your baby if they wake up hungry in the middle of the night, especially if it's within a 3-4 hours of breakfast because a full feeding for breakfast is important. Starting when your baby is about six months old you should be able to adjust their feeding and sleep times by about an hour each way without worrying about meltdowns (i.e., so if they need a night feeding you can push breakfast back by an hour more easily compared to when they are a newborn and are establishing their schedule).

Ensure your baby is having full feedings during the day. 

It is completely normal for a baby to have a full feeding in 20 minutes at each feeding by the time they are three months or older. But until then we recommend 1.5 hour feedings (including the top up) followed by nap or bedtime unless you are sure that their tummy is full in less time.

Don't forget top up before bedtime – this feeding should be distinguished from your baby's dinner feeding. 

We suggest continuing to give your child a top up before bed until you know for sure that they do not need it, or until your baby is a toddler and has transitioned to a bedtime snack (i.e., sometime around the one year mark when your healthcare provider suggests transitioning from breastmilk/formula to milk). 

Although we wholeheartedly promote breastfeeding, some parents we've talked to have observed that formula seems to be a bit more substantial than breastmilk, especially at night. That said, some of the mothers who have successfully used the Calmmother feeding and sleep program have exclusively fed their babies breastmilk for the first six months. If you are bottle feeding at bedtime around the 4-6 month mark and your baby begins to wake up regularly at night, ask your healthcare provider about adding a spoonful or two of cereal to the breastmilk/formula to make the feeding more substantial. If you do this, don’t forget to change the nipple on the bottle to account for the thicker consistency.

When your baby is around a year old, you may prefer to trade the bedtime bottle for a sippy cup to distinguish it as a bedtime snack rather than an actual meal. Depending on your preferences, you may decide to transition to something like yogurt or cereal before bed at this point – jumping ahead to the 18 month or 2 year mark, fewer liquids before bed can be very helpful for purposes of potty training.

Illnesses, teething and travel can throw a baby off their sleep schedule. 

The Calmmother feeding and sleep program Q&A provides tips for sticking with the program when your baby is sick, teething and if you are planning to travel with your baby. Also check out our aStore for products we like.

Short term crying can mean long-term benefits. 

Sorry but sometimes you may have to listen to a bit of crying, especially if your baby is simply waking up out of habit for an extra hug each night. Our program indicates the maximum number of minutes we would recommend letting your baby cry for provided you're not concerned about their wellbeing. For example, you may need to pick up your crying baby for a quick hug before putting them down again, firmly letting them know it’s sleep time, and then let them cry for a few minutes; repeat this until your baby gets the hang of it.

Be patient and don't be too hard on yourself or your baby. 

You and your baby are doing the best you can, enjoy every minute of it!