12 Hours’ Sleep by 12 Weeks Old

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  1. This how-to guide will help you train and transition your baby to sleeping through the night, giving you a break and allowing baby to grow and be healthy. You can do this by yourself, but it does take consistency, time, and perseverance

Key Takeaways

  1. Baby boot camp (sleep training) begins around 8 weeks old (if it is a single baby, weighs at least 9 lbs, and is healthy) and you must follow these chronological stepping stones or the training may not work
    1. Eat 4 times per day (within the 12 hour day-time window), be 4 hours apart, with no night feeds, and each feed should take around half an hour
      1. Divide your day into 12 hour blocks (7am-7pm, 8am-8pm, etc.). This helps you get your 4 day feedings in per day, with baby going to sleep after the last feed of the day
      2. What you do during the day is as important as what happens at night
      3. 6-8oz per meal starting around 12 weeks old is the goal. Include an extra ounce or two in the bottle in case baby wants more. They may spit up but this is ok. They will make up for it in the next feed
    2. Remove all feedings during the night (this will be a gradual decrease from ~3 to 2, to 1, to none
    3. Sleeping through the night 
      1. 30 minutes before the fourth and final feeding, take the baby to the nursery to signal that it is time to wind down. You need to do five or six things consistently over a couple weeks in order to train baby. Lower the lights, put on some nice music, give baby a bath, change diaper, put into pajamas, read to baby, feed baby, and finally put an awake baby into their crib. This is the linchpin or else baby will never be able to fall asleep on their own and sleep through the night
      2. If baby is calm, keep some soothing music playing, turn off all lights, give baby a lovey or something with your scent that they can’t choke on, leave the room, and close the door. Yes, close the door
      3. Babies often cry just to talk to you and you should help them, but not solve it for them. The mantra is, “I can’t fix it for you, but I’ll be right by your side.”
      4. Let baby cry for 3-5 minutes before you go into the nursery. If they calm down for even a little, the clock starts over. If baby is still crying after 5 minutes, go into the room to help soothe the baby but do not pick them up, do not make eye contact, do not talk too much (short, direct, authoritative sentences). From the moment the baby is calm, you want to walk away slowly and leave the room. You might have to do this over and over again, but the duration and frequency will decrease over time, allowing both you and baby to sleep well and be healthy. Baby must be able to fall asleep and soothe themselves
      5. If baby doesn’t sleep the whole 12 hours, they should be kept in the crib. Treat them as if they were trying to fall asleep at night
      6. If baby is restless, help them change positions in order to try to get comfortable. Move them from side to side, move head from facing one to the other direction, think of how you and your spouse like to sleep and try copying that
      7. The first night of training is by far the hardest – don’t give up. Be prepared to go in every 3-5 minutes the whole night if necessary. It takes 3 days to make a good habit and 7 days to break it
    4. Sleeping during the day – an hour in the morning and two hours in the afternoon
      1. Daytime sleep training should begin about 2 weeks after a night sleep. Aim to get an hour in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon
      2. Should do a short version of the bed time routine and all naps should occur in the crib. Make sure you do a feed and have some time to play between the feed and nap time. For example, if the first feeding is at 7am, first nap is around 9am-10am and second nap around 1pm-3pm. Try not to have a nap between the 3rd and 4th feedings 
      3. Having a pretty strict schedule for the first six months is important. The life revolves around feeding and naps, but the trade-offs are worth it
  2. Other
    1. This is a “limited crying” approach where the baby shouldn’t cry more than 5 minutes without you consoling them. Crying it out can be faster, but it might lead to emotional damage for you and baby and, in fact, the baby often is conditioned to cry as long as they need to in order to get your attention. They learn than rather than crying for 5 minutes, they need to cry for 20, and they do exactly that. 
    2. A pacifier can be a good tool but you should only use it during naps and to start the 12 hour sleep at night. Thumbsucking is ok for the first year but you will need to wean them off of it around that point. I am not a fan of vibration because it doesn’t require the baby to self sooth. If you’re desperate, some of these tools can be used, but it should not be the norm
    3. You want to create an environment and habits so that baby can self-sooth and be ok by themselves. This is the ultimate goal. You want to teach them life skills such as self-sufficiency. The world will eventually teach them and the world will not be as kind as you are. 
    4. I do not recommend baby to sleep in the parent’s bed. In fact, it is best for baby to sleep in its own crib in its own room and this step is necessary during sleep training. Baby needs different spaces to know where and when it is alright to play and when it is time for bed
    5. The best time to cuddle is when baby is in a good mood and relaxed. If you only cuddle when they’re frustrated and crying, you are conditioning them that this type of behavior is what is required to get your love and affection 
    6. Older babies are more easily stimulated so try black out lights, white noise machines

What I got out of it

  1. Some helpful tips and routines for how to establish good sleeping habits for baby before allowing any bad ones to form.