How I got my newborn to sleep 5+ hours a night

How I got my newborn to sleep 5+ hours a night

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The story of my journey to parenthood is a long one. I became a first-time mom in late October to the world’s squishiest, most anticipated baby who was born via gestational carrier. That means that 1) I was not pregnant before this non-sleeping baby plopped into my life and 2) I was very anxious to over-compensate for that fact. I told myself that the best way to do it was to be as prepared as possible for all her physical, emotional, and social needs. That manifested in months of frantic searching for The Answers to Baby Sleep, which, as you might imagine, was extremely overwhelming. Also, like all new parents, I found myself extremely sleep-deprived.

So when BabyCenter reached out to me a few weeks after our girl came home and offered me the opportunity to review their baby sleep courseOpens a new window, I jumped at it. While I was given complimentary access to this course as part of the review process, the opinions reflected in this piece are entirely my own.

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Spoiler alert: I started using the tips from the course right away, and I noticed that my newborn began sleeping for longer stretches at night shortly afterward. Her naps improved, too. To this day, some of the advice I’ve learned continues to be a game-changer.

Baby sleep 101 virtual course

I turned to this course for help with everything.

From those earliest moments of chaos to the 3-month-old aftermath, I was desperate to learn definitively what my baby was capable of developmentally and if the home I’d spent so much time prepping for her was the best and safest place for her to sleep. I also truthfully just wanted a calm presence to deliver all of this information to me. Calmness felt critical!

This courseOpens a new window is hosted by Olufunke Afolabi-Brown, M.D., a pediatric sleep doctor. She is calm, reassuring, and full of useful information. BabyCenter parent contributor Anna Jimenez Lyle co-hosts the course, asking many of the same questions that I would have asked Dr. Brown myself if given the opportunity. It was helpful to have the two paired up to talk through all of the information.

The lessons are broken up into different sections, focused mainly on your baby’s age:

  • Advice you’ll use throughout baby’s first year
  • Stage one: 0-12 weeks
  • Stage two: 3-5 months
  • Stage three: 6+ months
  • Finding support

I zeroed in on the first two sections because my daughter’s still in the newborn stage.

I began implementing tips from the course right away.

This may sound silly, but I really latched on to the nursery prep and organization tips because I hadn’t seen them elsewhere before. As Dr. Brown points out in the courseOpens a new window, people become so fixated on the aesthetics of a home that it becomes difficult to glean how conducive for sleep a nursery actually is. That particular lesson taught me about how much light is recommended in baby’s room (see: none!) and white noise machine positioning (3 feet from crib! No louder than 50 decibels!).

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Turns out, the noise machine in my daughter’s nursery had been about 10 feet from the crib, and the curtains weren’t providing complete coverage. I made changes almost immediately after finishing that lesson. We began having her nap at least once a day in a different room in her bassinet, where it was easier to position the noise machine closer. We arelady had blackout curtains on every window in that room, too…and wouldn’t you know it? That same week, the kid started giving us a 1 1/2- to 2-hour nap each day and five- to six-hour stretches at night.

You can bet that I moved that noise machine in her nursery 7 feet closer to her crib and that I priced out new blackout shade solutions ASAP! Several weeks later, the blackout tip continues to be a lifesaver. If there’s any semblance of light in our room when our baby goes down, I notice a difference in how easy it is to put her to sleep and how likely she is to stay asleep for a longer period of time.

Recently, when my baby started regressing hard, I began using another tip from Dr. Brown: counting to 60 before intervening when she woke up throughout the night. Dr. Brown recommends doing this to ensure that your baby is really, truly awake, and not just making noises in her sleep – which, as it turns out, is very common! Dr. Brown also reassures parents and caregivers that it doesn’t hurt babies in any way to wait this small amount of time before picking them up. For my own sanity (as well as a few instances of, “Oh, OK. Yeah, she’s good!!!”), this advice has been really, really helpful. 

Since I had my baby via a gestational carrier, I was worried that I’d feel excluded by the material. The opposite was true.

At the beginning of the lesson called “Understanding your newborn’s sleep schedule,” Dr. Brown explains that, “If you carried your baby,” you rocked her to sleep in utero during the day with constant motion. The power of that phrasing — ’”If you carried your baby” — made me tear up. It’s so rare that I come across literature or videos that explicitly address the parenthood of women who were never pregnant.

That casual lack of assumption alone makes me want to sing from the rooftops to all of my adoption and surrogacy friends: This courseOpens a new window will validate, uplift, and empower anyone who didn’t carry their baby. That said, it feels important to note that I feel confident anyone reaching this course, including those who had a baby in a more “conventional” way, will feel supported by the information provided. The hosts acknowledge frequently that none of this baby stuff is easy, whether it be physically, emotionally, and/or every other -ally you could possibly be experiencing at this stage. And they also make a point to mention single parents, parents who use daycare, and a variety of other circumstances throughout the course.

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Another thing I’d be remiss if I didn’t note, though: Dr. Brown mentions that this course should be shared with grandparents and any caregivers who might frequently be involved in the baby’s sleep processes. I think that my parents might struggle with the amount of safe sleep information presented to them here because it is so drastically different from what they were told to do when they raised me and my brother. Instead of sitting them down with the course, I think I’ll show them the accompanying “Key takeaways” and ask if they have questions.

There’s a lot of information packed into each lesson. And I do mean a lot.

I’m a writer and editor by trade, so it is in my blood to take notes as I ingest information. I spent a lot of my first pass through the first lesson taking down Dr. Brown’s words pretttttty much verbatim, only to be pleasantly surprised by the concluding “Key takeways” slide and the corresponding downloadable PDF. As it turns out, every single lessonOpens a new window summarizes the main points at the end of the video, and also comes with a handy PDF that is basically a CliffsNotes version of what the lesson went through.

I’m going to chalk my continued note-taking through the next lessons up to how desperately I wanted to internalize all the gems presented, but I ultimately ended up with pages of notes that I really didn’t have to take. TL;DR? Save your precious energy. Take screenshots of those “Key takeaways” at the end of each lesson! And download the dang PDFs.

I’d ultimately recommend this course to almost any parent looking for sleep help.

This courseOpens a new window is extremely low-risk, high-reward – a way of living I’ve generally leaned into much more over these past few months since I became a parent. It spoon-feeds you verifiable, evidence-based strategies in a way that isn’t overwhelming, condescending, or vague. It’s easy to navigate and quick to get through. Put all of those things together, and you’ve got a baby-sleeping course of any parents’ dreams! (Like, right!? I’m still so new to this that I don’t want to speak for all of us, but…right!?!)

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