Probably the most common question new parents receive when they see you with a newborn or infant is, “is she sleeping?” of course, most people ask this to be relatable, to make you laugh, to strike up conversation, to add some light heartedness into a most-likely sleep deprived situation, but it often gives new parents anxiety. No, my baby isn’t sleeping. No, she’s only 2 months old, should she be? Why does it matter?
And I get it, sleep is precious, so everyone’s curious – they want to know you’re surviving, because it’s tough in the beginning. At the end of the day, we all need our sleep. Babies and adults!
If you’re a parent who gets their newborn/infant to sleep through the night before they’re 12 weeks old, you’re asked, “how?!” by a fellow tired (and most likely envious) mama. I’m here to share my sleep journey not to say, “oh look at me, my baby sleeps through the night!” but to share my journey, because so many of you have asked how it’s going. I want to share how both of my kids are different in their sleep journeys and how neither is better than the other.
luca vs. roma
I never wrote a post on Luca’s sleep journey, because it was too difficult to explain. I never, ever followed any sort of ‘program.’ Sure, I tried to listen to suggested “awake periods” (suggested amount of time your baby should be up/awake depending on their age) but Luca never seemed to follow those. He never seemed to want to nap and never seemed tired. He had zero sleepy cues, seriously. No itching of the eyes, barely any yawns, and he always just seemed thrilled to be awake.
He pretty much only napped in a moving stroller or car, or physically on me – just in my arms or in a carrier. Gosh, I loved that. I loved wearing him and feeling his little body on me all the time. There’s nothing better than feeling the sync of our heartbeats. However, his crib naps weren’t very long and I never monitored them, so in the early weeks, he’d nap sometimes late in the day for hours (like 5-10pm.) I just let him do it, because I didn’t know that there are ‘schedules.’ I was a self-proclaimed “anti schedule” person because I didn’t want the baby’s ‘schedule’ to run our lives.
There would literally be times where he’d be up until 11pm, because his last nap ended at 5pm. It was brutal, and took away from personal time with my husband. We love Luca and he’s the best, but we also need our time together to decompress and recharge for the next day, ya know?
With Luca, he was a tummy sleeper because I didn’t think he could be swaddled. Whatever swaddle we tried, he’d break free of. So, I always said, “Oh, he just can’t be swaddled, he gets so upset!” So, we slept him on his tummy around 6 weeks, using a pacifier to get him to sleep.
The only thing I did do is feed him on demand via breast (I didn’t give him a single bottle until he started sleeping through the night consistently for weeks.) I tried to stick to every 4 hours, but sometimes he’d go longer between feedings. I nursed him to bed every single night up until he was about 14 months old and we weaned him off the night nursing session. By 9 weeks, he miraculously went to bed around 8pm and woke up at 7am. And since that day, he’s always been an excellent nighttime sleeper (crossing my fingers and knocking on wood as I type this.)
Sure, we had a little period of co-sleeping (which I personally loved up until I got pregnant and didn’t want him our bed kicking my tummy anymore), and we hit all the major sleep regressions, but he’s made it through and he loves his crib.
Now, enter Roma. When I had her, I still didn’t know of any sleep programs or thought I’d need any ‘schedules.’ The one thing I told myself I’d do differently this time is put my baby down drowsy, not asleep. I wish I had done that sooner with Luca so someone else could put him to sleep other than me (via nursing.) I didn’t think it was possible, but Roma proved me wrong.
As for feedings, I did the same thing with Roma as I did with Luca and fed her completely on demand via breast (and I still do.) On her own, she started sleeping more and more at night. Longer stretches and then we hit a plateau – she just kept sleeping the same amount, around 9pm to 2/3am and couldn’t really make it farther than that around 5 weeks.
When she was born, she was SO easy. She LIKED to be swaddled and on her back. I was constantly pinching myself the first 5 weeks because I’d put her down drowsy and she’d just fall asleep on her own, eyes wide open! It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it. I was sending pictures to Lu of her in her bassinet HAPPILY IN A SWADDLE like, “She’s sleeping without a pacifier, on her own!”
Then, around that 5 week mark, she started not to sleep well at night and would grunt and squirm a lot, looking like she was very uncomfortable. We thought, “Okay, maybe she doesn’t like being swaddled anymore.” So, we started to sleep her on her tummy, like Luca liked. Then, BOOM, she started sleeping more hours at night up until 6 weeks. Then, it began.
With the tummy sleeping, it was impossible to put her down for naps during the day. While it worked at night, because she was so exhausted, it wasn’t working during the day. It was hard to put her on her tummy awake, she didn’t like it, and I just kept putting the pacifier in, hoping she’d suck on it and pass out, but even when she did, she didn’t sleep for more than 20-30 minutes. I started wearing her pretty much all day to get her to nap.
On the days that I couldn’t wear her as much, she would be so overtired that she would get purple faced hysterical at night time (5-8pm.) Now, if I didn’t have a toddler, I wouldn’t have cared, I would’ve probably just worked through it, but when you’re trying to get your toddler fed and entertained and loved and you have an infant shrieking and turning purple, it’s pretty difficult (and scary.) I didn’t know what was happening, I just kept telling my family when they’d visit, “Oh, it’s just her witching hour!” You couldn’t touch her, she’d scream bloody murder unless it was me. And, she’d still scream a bit with me, I couldn’t get her to settle down until she finally passed out after nursing her. I was pretty dejected, because I felt like I couldn’t soothe my own baby.
I hit a wall and I told Lu, almost in tears, “This isn’t sustainable.” Then, I remembered Taking Cara Babies. Someone had recommended it to me when I had Luca and I didn’t take it because he was such an excellent sleeper early on. I was DESPERATE but fearful of “sleep courses,” because again, I didn’t want to be the ‘schedule’ type. Let me just say this: how foolish I was.
One day, I decided to watch the Taking Cara Babies course (it’s online and video based.) I just watched the first couple of videos where she explains the ‘schedule’ and how to soothe a fussy baby (especially when the baby is getting swaddled.) That night, purple faced Roma was screaming in my ear and I said, “Alright, let’s try this!” I hadn’t swaddled her in a couple weeks and I swaddled her nice and tight and did the TCB signature C.R.I.E.S. soothing technique and I KID YOU NOT within 15 seconds, Roma was calm, quiet, and her eyes were starting to close. I placed her in her crib with her white noise on and walked out of the room. I watched her close her eyes and fall asleep. I was in absolute shock. I think I stared at the monitor for her entire nap.
That night, I poured myself a glass of wine and finished the online course. What I love about Taking Cara Babies is that it’s very flexible. It’s for the parent who wants their baby to sleep, but also be able to have that balance of yummy cuddle time and life flexibility. The TCB team doesn’t discourage you from letting your baby sleep on you sometimes and there’s no crying it out. She teaches you how to soothe your baby, how to coax your baby to sleep through sleep cycles, and most importantly – when to intervene when she’s’ crying. With Luca, he’d cry and I’d pick him right up or run into the nursery and try to get that pacifier in as quickly as possible so he wouldn’t wake up. What I realized, is that I wasn’t giving him a chance to fall back asleep on his own and he relied on me to do it for him. With Roma, I can now recognize her little whimpers from her “Get me out of this crib now I’m awake!” cries.
I’m so thankful I found the Taking Cara Babies program. I started practicing the principles and incorporated the schedule into my days and fed Roma every 3-4 hours (and sometimes every 5 hours if it’s an awkward nap day) and by 9 weeks, Roma was sleeping through the night! Most importantly, when she fussed, I knew how to soothe her and get her down for a nap.
After that first day I soothed her in the swaddle, we haven’t had a single witching hour (so clearly she was just overtired and couldn’t get herself to sleep) and she’s been sleeping swaddled. We still have a flexible lifestyle (she doesn’t take all of her naps in her crib) and I follow the recommended awake times so that I know when she’s due to nap, so I actually have MORE flexibility in my day, because she’s a bit more predictable.
While I wish I could just wear Roma all day long and have her sleep on me, with a toddler, that’s just impossible and it’s not sustainable. I have to do things for Luca during the day and once the nanny leaves at the end of the day, I need to make him dinner and be hands free. That’s why this sleep course was truly a lifesaver for me – it allows me to be present with Luca when we’re all together before Lu gets home from work, because I don’t have a shrieking baby.
4 month sleep regression
For about a week recently, Roma was waking up every hour starting at around 3:30am. I’d put the pacifier in and she’d wake up again after the next 50-minute sleep cycle. It was getting exhausting and with regressions, you never see the end in sight, haha! You’re always worried that it’s going to “stick” forever.
I watched the Taking Cara Babies course on “Navigating Months 3 & 4” and realized that I wasn’t using her principles for getting the baby properly back to sleep. I was simply putting that pacifier back in so that I could roll back over and sleep again. I was being lazy and using a short term fix that was jeopardizing all that we worked on these past 3.5 months. So, I started using her S.I.T.B.A.C.K. method which is another acronym designed to help you with wakings.
Without fail, Roma’s ‘regression’ stopped within a day. She’s only 3.5 months old, so it may creep back in, but I’m happy to report that with a little whimpering around 4am, I don’t intervene and within a minute, she gets herself back to sleep and stays asleep, since she doesn’t need me when she wakes up again.
If Roma slept in her own room, it would be even easier, because I wouldn’t probably be woken by these little whimpers, but, since we’re in a 2-bedroom apartment and her crib is in our bedroom, it’s a little challenging, but we’re making it work!
Our nighttime routine is the exact same as it is for Luca! When it’s time for bed (usually 90-120 minutes after she wakes up from her last nap), I feed her, give her a bath, give her a massage with baby oil, put her pajamas on, read her 2 books with a pacifier in (it helps calm her, I think), and then I put the white noise on, swaddle her, rub her head, kiss her cheeks, and then put her down in her crib. That’s it.
For naps, I don’t have a routine except that I put white noise on, swaddle, put in a pacifier (if she’s fussing only) and put her down in her crib. I’ll pet her head a little bit, because she likes that and she usually closes her eyes, which helps her get sleepy. But I leave the room and she falls asleep, it’s glorious.
Sleep products that we use
For a white noise machine, I’m obsessed with the HATCH Rest. I love that you can set ‘favorites’ for modes and that you can operate it via mobile app. I have one in Luca’s room now!
The Ollie swaddle keeps her arms snug – I wish I had known about it with Luca, maybe he would’ve been a back sleeper!
Honest Baby Oil – this is what I use to give her a massage at bedtime.
These are the pacifiers we used with Luca and that we use with Roma, too.
Babyletto Gelato Mini Crib – we love this crib, it’s sleek and has customizable feet so we got pink ones to match her pink nursery!