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Making Baby 3 – Sleeping Through the Night

25 May 2009

Liam at 9 weeks

At 6 weeks old, my newborn Liam had established a night time routine – but not a good one.

He would go to bed at 8pm on the dot. Then he would wake up at 12am, 2am, 4am and 6am. Every two hours!

And guess what, my other 2 children also woke up at 6am! And we all have to leave for school at 8:00!

It was really hard. The broken sleep in the evenings, plus the very busy days looking after the other children and running the house… it was a very bad combination.

I was really cranky and irritable. I was constantly dazed. I kept having little memory “black-outs”. I was snapping and shouting at the kids – saying things like “Mummy’s got a headache! Can you just GO AWAY??”. I was emotional. I was grumpy at my husband. I would cry at random things. I would be really angry and breakdown if the smallest thing went wrong. And I could feel myself slowly sinking towards depression.

This went on for 8 days.

I soon realised that there was a pattern in my newborn’s night time feeds:

He has a huge feed at 8pm. At 12am he wakes up for a medium feed and goes straight to sleep.

At 2am, he cries out. I pick him up and he’s very sleepy and sluggish. He’s so sleepy that he doesn’t actually seem hungry, he doesn’t attach well, and so he gulps down a lot of air. He only drinks for 3-5 minutes and falls asleep on the breast.

When he’s done, I burp him and he usually throws up half or all of what he had drunk (I thought he had reflux). I clean him up, change his clothes, change his nappy, I burp and pat him a lot. He falls asleep, I put him down. All up, it takes 45 minutes.

At 4am, pretty much the same thing happens.

After 4 nights of this, I had perfected the art of aiming his head so his vomit goes on the floor without getting any on his clothes!

After 6 days of all this, I begin to suspect that he was waking up and crying out of habit. He just didn’t seem hungry, and maybe he just wanted something to suck on.

So after 8 days and nights of all this craziness, I decided to do something about it, to save my sanity, and to save my family from “mad” me.

Day 1

I put him to bed at 8pm. He woke up and had a big feed at 12am.

At 2am, he cried out and I went in to pat him, stroke his head, and say reassuring things to him. But NO FEED! I left the room. He cried.

After 5 minutes I went in again and gave him another pat, stroke and kind words. But NO FEED! He cried!

After 10 minutes, I did the same thing. Still crying!

After 15 minutes, I did the same thing. Lots of crying!

Whenever he started his angry or his breathless crying, I went in earlier. The sound of my voice and my strokes seemed to soothe him considerably. But I always left the room after a few minutes. And NO FEED!

It went on and on for 2 hours – every 15 minutes, going in to say hi.

Man, I was wrecked. I was really upset. My heart was crushed from hearing him cry. I felt like I was abandoning my child. I felt like such a terrible person, and a bad mother. I was starving my child! My child is going to have issues! My child is going to hate me! I couldn’t look at his face while he cried, or else I would have given in.

The only thing that kept me going was the fact that we had used the same technique with my other two children to sleep through the night. And it worked for them. So I knew he’d be ok.

Also my husband was very supportive, he stayed up with me to make sure I didn’t go crazy.

Liam finally went to sleep at 4am!

He woke up at 6am, I gave him a big cuddle and a big feed. And he went straight back to sleep.

(So he had gone 6 hours without a feed. During the day I was watching him like a hawk. He showed no signs of distress at all. He was happy, smiling at me and locking his eyes onto things whenever he was awake. And he slept soundly for 3 hours in the afternoon.)

Day 2

I put him to bed at 8pm. He woke up and had a big feed at 12am.

At 2am, he cried out and we did the whole thing all over again – every 15 minutes, going in to say hi.

This time he only cried for 45 minutes. But he only did a whimpering kind of cry, not an angry cry.

He went back to sleep and woke up at 6am.

(Again, he went 6 hours without a feed. He was absolutely fine and happy during the day. He had several big sound naps too.)

Day 3

I put him to bed at 8pm.

This time he didn’t wake up at 12pm. He woke up at 3am!

He just whinged for 15 minutes. I went in to pat him and say hi.

He went back to sleep and woke up at 6am.

Day 4

I put him to bed at 8pm.

And he woke up at 6am.

Day 5 to Now (3 weeks later)

Still sleeping at 8pm and waking up at 6am.

In the evenings he gets pretty hungry. He feeds 5:30pm, 6:30pm and 7:30pm. I figure that he’s topping himself up for the long night sleeps, which is great.


Officially, this technique is called “controlled crying”. I am aware that there are some people who don’t believe in it and discourage it. I’m making no judgments, and I hope no one else does either.

I’m simply sharing my experience here, which is that – I can’t be a good mother to all my kids, I can’t be a good companion to my husband, and I can’t manage a home… if I am suffering from sleep deprivation.

I know that Liam is putting on lots of weight. He’s reaching his baby milestones (smiling, gooing and gahing, following things with his eyes and ears, doing lots wet and dirty nappies), his breast attachment is much better (no more reflux and throwing up his feeds), he is sleeping soundly during the day, and… he gets a lot more cuddles and kisses from a relaxed and happy mummy.

(The photograph above is Liam and I ahgoo-ing at 9 weeks. When he is bright and awake, and you say “AH GOOOO” to him, he’ll respond with an AH GOO too. It’s so darn cute that it even makes my husband ovulate.)

Click here to see the whole story of Making Baby 3.