I am no professional when it comes to babies and sleeping. All I know is what worked for my babies and I. I can only speak on my experiences. I have a 2 year old and an 8 month old and they both sleep wonderfully 99% of the time. They both have been sleeping 12 hours straight at night since about the age of 6 months. Like most moms, it was challenging and took some time but I found a method that worked for us.
For me, being a new mom was so amazing yet so overwhelming all at the same time. I was blessed with this little gift from God and he was so beautiful and so perfect. He gave me a feeling I didn't know was missing until he was placed into my arms for the first time. I always had dreams and aspirations prior to motherhood but when my first son was born, I felt like my life had purpose. My purpose was to feed and nurture this little baby and love him and care for him for the rest of my life. I will admit, all that pressure was a little scary for me. I didn't realize just how much of myself I would be giving to my baby. Of course I had heard stories from friends about 'never sleeping again' and things like that, but it didn't actually register until I had my own child. I am going to sound like a bit of a complainer but I just want to express my true feelings and that it's okay to feel this way. I know what it feels like to be so deprived of sleep and so completely run down that I did not know how I would make it through the day. I remember a specific day when my husband kissed me and our 1 month old good-bye as he left for work one morning and after he closed that door behind him, I sat there and cried for a majority of the morning. I wasn't crying because I was sad, but because I was so mentally and physically exhausted that all I could do was sob uncontrollably. I threw myself a little pity party. I had been up all night long with our new baby and when he would nap, I would be pumping more milk or cleaning up, and I was just drained. For the first time, I felt a little conquered. For some reason, I thought this motherhood thing would all come naturally to me. As funny as it sounds, I thought I would be some kind of super mom and always be able to power through. In a way, that did kind of happen. I learned to accept the fact I will learn as I go and it's okay to be vulnerable sometimes. I realized it is important to simply do your best. I had to remind myself every day that I was doing a good job. It is funny because the second time around, this kind of stuff didn't get to me at all. My second baby was colicky and actually more challenging than my first but I knew what to expect and I was easier on myself.
For the first 3 months of your babies life, it is definitely 'survival mode'. Sleep and eat when you can. Forget about routine. Forget about losing your baby weight. Be easy and kind to yourself. Your baby is relying on you for food on command. This is normal. Embrace this period. It sometimes sucks, for lack of a better word, that you don't get to sleep or shower and you forget to eat some meals but eventually your baby won't need you so much and you'll miss it. During the survival period, make things easier for you. Co-sleep, bring the bassinet beside your bed or even go sleep on the floor in the nursery if you have to. If they are close to you, it takes less effort to feed them through the night. I don't believe in "bad habits" during the survival period. Both my children were attached to me at birth because they are tiny humans who rely on their mother for food. It's a natural thing. They both adjusted fine and sleep in their own rooms now.
It gets better!! Once your baby becomes 3-4 months old, naturally they will wake less during the night to eat. At least, this was my experience with both my boys. Their stomachs can hold more milk at one time so they stay full longer. They might be waking up more like 3 times during the night instead of the 10+ times they did when they were a newborn. I used the 10 minute rule around 3-4 months old for sleep training. When he woke during the night, I would wait 10 minutes. I literally set a timer on my phone. If he was still crying or whining after 10 minutes, I would feed him because I felt he was hungry. If he stopped crying and fell back asleep, chances are he just woke up and wanted his mother to be close to him but he learned to self-sooth. Sometimes 10 minutes felt like forever and I felt the 'mom guilt' so bad. I don't believe in letting your baby scream for hours but I also don't believe you need to run to their aid for every little whine during in the night. Being a new mom, it's definitely hard to not run to them. It is our instinct to just make everything better. I think as a mom you have to find your happy medium. Find what you feel comfortable with and what works for you and your baby.
At 6 months old, I used the "Sleep Sense" method of sleep training for my first son. You can find this book online. Again, this book is a guideline. All babies are different. Do what you feel comfortable with. A mom knows her baby more than anyone. This book may not be right for you. It helped us immensely but I took the advice with a grain of salt. Luckily by that time, my baby naturally was only waking up once or twice during the night. The book advised to sleep train with a routine. We started our routine at 6:00 p.m. We dimmed the lights. We had no t.v. on and tried to keep a quiet home. I bathed him, read him a book and fed him his last bottle. I put him in his crib in his room. I never had to let him cry long. He didn't always love bedtime but he got used to it after a couple minutes. Some moms are completely against the cry-it-out method. I understand that. It hurts as a mom listening to your baby cry. BUT, if your baby isn't sleeping much at all during the night, that isn't healthy either. It's hard to function as a mother when you are barely sleeping and it's hard on your baby when they don't get enough sleep too. I noticed a huge difference in my baby's temperament the next day after a sleepless night. For us, a solid routine, done consistently, night-after-night turned my children into great sleepers. There was very little 'crying it out'. The routine combined with the 10 minute rule worked wonders for us. For my second son, he actually just learned to sleep through the night on his own. I think this is probably because I started a night time routine with him much earlier than I had with my first son. I wanted them on the same sleeping routine.
Of course, there are the odd times when my babies are sick, teething, having nightmares, etc. and I just give them whatever they need during those times. I just embrace those nights where they need a little extra love because I know this period of our lives is so short-lived. There will be a time when my babies are so independent and they will not rely on me for much and I will miss these moments.
I hope the tools we used can work for some of you moms. I know all babies are so different and what worked for us may not work for you. I think it is awesome that we can find so much information out there and get great advice from mommy bloggers, Facebook groups and forums. It's good to know that we are not alone during these hectic, precious moments of motherhood. Good luck fellow mommies!! xoxo