When Wagon Jr. came home from the hospital, he was sleeping all day and all night in 1.5-2 hour chunks. Pretty soon he stretched to 3 or 4 hours at a time at night. Everyone warned me that newborns are so tired from being born and all the excitement of being in a new world, and not to expect the great sleep to last very long. Just wait until he's more alert. Just wait til you move him into a crib. Just wait til he starts teething.
As a new mom, I approached everything with caution because I wanted to be fully prepared for the worst. But at 8.5 months, Wagon Jr.'s sleep was amazing. He'd been sleeping through the night every night for almost 5 months. When he was teething for the first time, right around 3.5 months, he did have a couple of bad nights where he woke up screaming every few hours. And a few times a week he'd wake up crying at some point between 9pm-1am, but he always had eyes closed and after a couple of minutes of self-soothing, he'd fall back sleep. His wakeup time has been pretty consistently between 6:30-7:30am.
I believe the reason Wagon Jr.'s sleep has always been so good is because he's naturally a very sleepy child. But we did employ some techniques to make sure his sleep was as good as it could be, and we've always stayed very disciplined about it. We took a lot of these techniques straight from "Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child" by Dr. Weissbluth. I know a lot of moms don't agree with many things in his book, but it was recommended to me by a friend and it really resonated with me, especially when the techniques seemed to work so well with Wagon Jr.
Here's what we stuck to.
Swaddling. Wagon Jr. was swaddled very tightly in the Miracle Blanket 24 hours a day, except for keeping his arms free during awake time, until he started to roll over at around 2.5 months. We then switched to Halo Sleepsacks (cotton for summer, fleece for winter) to keep him warm. During the transition, he had such trouble with waking himself up with his own hands, so we used to hold his arms down until he fell asleep.
Pacifier. Wagon Jr. had a very strong suck reflex since he was born, so pacifiers were always a must-have for falling asleep. We used to stick a blankie in each arm so that he wouldn't pull his pacifier out of his mouth and wake himself up. The pacifier would fall out after he fell asleep. Once he figured out how to suck on his fingers, he didn't want the pacifier anymore, and he only just recently stopped sucking on his fingers for self-soothing. We consider ourselves extremely lucky that he dropped both the pacifier and finger-sucking completely on his own.
Bouncy chair, Swing, Stroller, Carseat. The book says it's fine to let babies sleep in these things, but to stop movement once they're asleep so they can enter deep sleep. Wagon Jr. took many, many naps in these until we started nap training. He now naps at daycare just fine on a mat on the floor, and at home he naps in his crib. He also naps great in the car or his stroller.
Moved him into the nursery. As soon as my parents left (they were here helping us for the first month of Wagon Jr.'s life), we moved him into the nursery. Both Wagon Jr. and I were light sleepers so we'd wake each other up all night long, and we were bottle-feeding him for night feedings in the nursery anyway, so we moved him into the crib in his own room across the hall from us. He didn't seem to have a problem at all and we both slept so much better.
White noise. We've had a pretty noisy humidifier on every night since he was born. I don't know if this helps or not, but hey, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, right? Plus I like that it drowns out noise when we have people over and we are playing board games, and it helps to blend the noise from motorcycles and trucks that go by and shake the house with such a racket.
Kept him cool. Wagon Jr.'s a pretty warm kid. Even though he was born on one of the coldest days of the year in December, we always kept him in a long-sleeved onesie in the daytime, and a cotton sleeping gown, socks, and a Miracle Blanket at night. When he got a little older and wasn't swaddled anymore, we kept him in footie pajamas 24/7. When it started getting warm, we kept him in short sleeved rompers, and that continues now. Even keeping him in these light clothes, he still gets sweaty. I hear of other moms dressing their babies in a onesie as an undershirt and then a layer on top. If I did that to Wagon Jr. he'd be drowning in sweat! We keep our thermostat at 68 during the winter and 72 during the summer.
Kept him full. We figured that if he got all of his needed nutrition during the day, he'd wake up less and less at night for feedings. So during the day we'd feed him every 2 or 2.5 hours even if he didn't show signs of hunger, and at night we'd only feed him when he woke up. He naturally stretched his time between night feedings from 2 hours to all the way through the night over a period of a couple of weeks. As he got older and the pediatrician assured us that he didn't nutritionally need to be fed at night anymore, we experimented with just giving him a pacifier when he woke up instead of feeding him. From the first time we tried that, he fell back asleep and he's been sleeping through the night ever since.
Extinction. When Wagon Jr. would wake up crying after we put him down for the night, we'd wait 5 minutes before going to him. The next time he woke up, we'd wait 10 minutes. Then the next time was 15, and so on. For a couple of nights we had to go up several times, but by the end of that week we'd only have to go up once or so. We employed that technique until he stopped consistently waking up. We never had to let him cry it out for hours at a time. It was painful the first few times we had to let him cry 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, but he learned really quickly and it helped us to be able to time the intervals.
Naptime and Bedtime rituals. I instilled naptime rituals while nap training so that he could wind down and get drowsy. We used to use his mobile, but now all I do is zip him into his sleep sack, rock him and sing to him for a bit, then put him down. For bedtime he always gets a bath and the same rocking and singing.
Put him down awake. After Wagon Jr. had mastered night sleep and was sleeping through the night for several months, I decided to try nap training. For naps he'd usually fall asleep nursing or sucking a pacifier, and I'd rock him until I was sure he was asleep and then I'd put him down. He was napping fine that way, but I thought I'd experiment with the technique of putting him down drowsy but awake so that he could learn to fall asleep on his own. This would also help to lengthen his naps and minimize night wakings, since he'd learn to put himself back to sleep if he awoke early from a nap or during the night. It took a good week or two, but he didn't cry all that much during the nap training. He'd mostly fuss and yell, but I only had to intervene a few times. Once he learned how to fall asleep on his own, naptimes were so nice because I knew I could put him down and walk away, knowing that he'd fall asleep on his own.
Hopefully these tips help you to have a good sleeping baby. Sweet dreams everyone!