Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Sanity-Saving Newborn Nighttime Routine

Not a creature was stirring...
There is often not much more precious to new moms and dads in the early days of parenthood (and beyond) than a little bit of uninterrupted sleep.  Sadly for me (and even more so, Bran), I am complete psycho hose beast when I don't get enough of it.  Necessity is the mother of invention and I quickly learned that simply being a mom did not mean that I could subsist on naps and good intentions.  It grew painfully clear that I needed to figure out some sort of routine so I could string together several solid hours of sleep in order to remain human.  Through some trial and error, we found a routine that worked for my kid AND my family, both in his newborn stage and a little later on.  It does require a little work upfront and a partner to lend a hand.  However, if you're anything like me, you are willing to go to great lengths in order to get a good, solid chunk of shut eye.

I would recommend waiting until after the first month to implement this strategy if you are breastfeeding so your supply is a little more established before you skip a feeding like I am suggesting below, but it's totally up to you.  This plan will not work for everyone, but it's worth considering and/or modifying to fit your needs and child, even if you only do it a couple times a week so you can recharge.

Months 2-3

Step 1:  PUMP - This is where you're paying your dues.  This bottle of liquid gold will be used later in the evening, either that night or later depending on your storage method.  I have found that pumping after the first nursing session in the morning works well because that's when most women are the fullest and have the most extra milk.  This pumping session is also good for supply - the more you pump, the more you'll make.  I know it's annoying to pump, trust me I do.  But is the sacrifice worth it for the payoff at night?  That is the question.  You will skip this step if you are formula feeding, obviously!  And if you want, you can skip this step altogether if your supply is abundant and established and you want to just go with a bottle of formula later in the evening.

Step 2:  Go to Bed -  As soon as your baby is done eating his last meal of the evening, you must Go to bed.  Go directly to bed.  Do not pass go, do not collect $200.  It is a big bummer to miss your favorite show or lose out on evening time with your partner, but sleep, at least in my world, makes everything so much better.  Keep this phrase on repeat:  This phase does not last forever.

Step 3:  Dream while your SO takes the first night-  Now that you have an extra bottle in the fridge, and you're in dreamland (possibly dreaming that you're going to sleep through the night), your partner should be manning the baby monitor.  He will likely have 2-3 hours until the baby wakes for the bottle, so then you'll have another 2-3 until baby wakes again.  Another advantage to feeding baby with an expressed bottle at this last feeding of consciousness in the home is that you KNOW baby is getting a good amount of milk to hopefully allow for a few more minutes of zzz's.  Then, after these 4-6 hours (*crosses fingers*), you will be able to take the middle of the night feeding(s) while your partner, who already has paid his dues, rests peacefully.

This is a sample schedule of how things went down (when they went well) during months 2-3 when we implemented this plan.

8-9pm - Everett eats and crashes, as do I
12pm - Everett stirs and needs to eat, DH feeds him while I continue to sleep
3am - Everett wakes up to eat, but I am refreshed after 6-7 hours of solid sleep and DH now reaps his sleep reward
6am- Wakes to eat again, mom or dad on duty
8am- up for the day

If your little angel cooperates, this means that both partners get 5-7 hours of solid sleep with an extra couple hours on each end if you so choose, possibly with 1 or 2 wake ups.  To me, that is A-OK.  Pretty great, actually.

Months 4+
As your baby gets older, he will likely be able to sleep for longer and longer stretches of time.  Some babies don't need any help at this point sleeping through the night.  Most babes do, though, so if your kiddo is not there yet, this method will hopefully give you some reprieve.  The main difference here is that you are doing a dream feed.  We fill Everett up with the dream feed so that when both DH and I sail off into dreamland, Everett's tank is full and he will not wake up due to hunger.  This also will allow you to relish in a little adult time in the evenings.  This is what a sample of what our current schedule looks like.

8pm - Everett crashes (last feed at 7:30)
8-10pm - Bran and I get a little alone time, eat dinner, have a glass of wine, watch TV, chat, etc...
10pm - I go to bed.
11:30pm - Dream feed by DH, then he'll go to bed.
6am - Everett wakes to nurse, I get up and pump, walk the dog, start my day.
7:30-8am - DH and Everett wake up.

It works for us, but you may need to tweak it to work for you.  And maybe it won't work at all.   If I learned one thing about babies by having one, it's that no two are the same and there is no one size fits all method for anything that works for every kid. This works for mine and I hope if you are not one of the lucky ones with a kid who can sleep through the night, this will work for you, too!


  1. You lucky bastard. Dream feeds never worked for us! :-) I think I might have had a chance if I'd been pumping prior to 6 weeks. I didn't actually get a real pump until then. Next time, I'm trying this, fo sho.

  2. The downside to dreamfeed, trying to figure out when to stop without throwing your whole sleeping into downward spiral -- we are just coming off this.

  3. TLGW - I was wondering if/when to do this! It is such a godsend for my family. Is there any down side to keeping it going until sending them off to college? More research!

  4. downside keeping them on dream feed until college - you will have to figure out how to get pop tarts into the bottle

    I figured with the time change I was going to throw his schedule into a clusterf*ck anyways so why not try to stop now -- he wakes a bit sometime between 10:30-11:30 and is like, hey guys, did you really mean not to feed me now because you know I used to get fed at this time; but then he goes back down in about 5 minutes.