Third time’s a charm
We have now officially followed the 12 by 12 method (modified) and sleep trained three children so I figured it was a good time to update and share what we learned the third time around. (I say we because it really is a team effort, my husband is as much involved in the sleep training as me, maybe even more so)
My takeaways from our experience:
1) The first five weeks are not indicative of how the training will go.
To set the stage for you:
I feed on demand in the beginning. (Meaning whenever the baby is hungry, I feed) My first 2 kids ate often during the day and then naturally gave stretches at night (4-5 hours), but my daughter gave NO stretches. She ate every 3 hours or less.
In addition to eating often 24 hours a day, she also would not go down to sleep happily. With my boys, we put them down from when they were born and they were fine to go to sleep on their own. She did not want to do that. In the first few weeks she would pass out at the end of a feed and would be fine to be put down, but if she was awake she wouldn’t fall asleep, she needed to be helped to be put to sleep. She also was a delayed burper. She could still have a burp an hour after a feed and need to be picked up to burp. I’m pretty sure at one point she had her nights and days mixed up. Lastly, she had a late “witching hour.” From about 7 – 10 pm, she couldn’t sleep and was not happy. It was a constant guessing game, “Does she have a burp?” “Is she still hungry?” “Does her stomach hurt?” “Does she want to be swaddled?” “Does she hate to be swaddled?” So we would try to burp her, try to feed her, swaddle her, unswaddle her, and start the process again until she fell asleep.
If you’re close with me, I’m sure you heard from me at some point during that first month, “she’s going to give me a run for my money!” I joked often that my blog would go up in flames if I couldn’t successfully complete the method on my own child. All joking aside, I really was worried that she wouldn’t train. To make matters more complicated, when she was 3 weeks old I ended up in the ER with appendicitis and had surgery. Thank g-d I have a huge support system. In the end, I wasted time worrying because in the end I think she was the easiest of all of our kids.
2) Sleep training is easier for a young baby
What do I mean? Since I started this blog, I have had the opportunity to hopefully help people with babies of all ages. What I find is, they are easier to train and they catch on earlier when they are brand new. People automatically assume sleep training just means letting them cry, but it really doesn’t. When you train a baby so young, you are giving them the tools for healthy sleep habits and it becomes all they know.
I’m just going to highlight the major points. Essentially you shift their schedule of eating over 24 hours, to only eating 4 times a day, and then they can eat whenever they wake up at night. So the very first step in the training, and what we did was start stretching the day feedings. If you’re nursing I either suggest offering a top off bottle post feed to make sure they really got a lot, or to pumping for the training so that you can confidently stretch them between feeds. (Just a reminder if you switch to pumping, you need to pump more often than the baby eats in order to keep up your supply to match their growing demand. I also pump post nursing sessions in the beginning to up my supply right from the start to make the transition to pumping easier. Feel free to message with any questions)
I also recommend you keep a log because everything is so fuzzy in the beginning and you think you are going to remember what time they ate but then it’s actually startling how little you remember from the day before.
At 5 weeks, she was over 10 lbs, I started stretching her feeds and adding ounces. The week before she was eating 4 oz, so I added to 4.5 and then at 5 weeks I offered 5 oz and then within a day or two 5.5 oz. By 7 weeks she pretty much had the day schedule set. 7 am , 11 am , 3 pm, and 7 pm. Pretty much – meaning that as I look at my log I see that most days she ate before 3 pm.
While the day scheduling is happening, the night wake ups still stay natural. Whenever she would wake up, she would eat, with one change. IF there was another wakeup after 5 am, she would not get a full feed – it would just be a snack. The key here is the first feed of the day, in my case 7 am, they need to be hungry for a full feed to get the day on track. If they recently ate, then they either sleep past that morning feed time and/or the first feed wouldn’t be a good feed and then they want another snack soon after. So while we aren’t officially reducing the night feeds yet, we do not give a full feed if it is too close to the morning feed. (**Once they are trained, I let my babies sleep in if they want, hey I like the sleep in too 🙂 And then I adjust the day accordingly, maybe 11:15 instead and then back to 3 pm. It all works out)
At 8 weeks she had 2 night feeds. The first anywhere from 1-2 am and the second just a snack. At 8 weeks we felt the day schedule was set and we were ready to reduce the night feed. We followed the 12 by 12 method, reduced it by .5 oz every three nights. Feeds were done in the dark, we didn’t interact and play. We picked her up, fed her, burped her, changed her diaper, finished the feed, burped her again and back in sleep sack to sleep. (*This reminds me, I start a sleep sack at 4 weeks. Ah too much info in 1 post!) The whole feeding process was 10 minutes.)
On her own she moved the first night feed later, more like between 3 – 4 am so that eliminated the snack (which was already only 1.5 oz). The feed started at 4 oz so we went to 3.5 then 3 etc, and then at 10 weeks old she took 1 oz at 3:00 am and that was it. The next night she slept through, didn’t bother waking up for the feed that we had gradually reduced over 2 weeks.
I know what you’re thinking, so what happens when she wakes up and cries? I have in my notebook a few times where I wrote down what we did. At 8.5 weeks she woke up at 1:30 am but the few nights before she had slept until 2:30, so we put in pacifier and played music through the monitor and she fell back asleep until 3:55 and then we fed her then. (*She didn’t love the pacifier, I didn’t really push it but still tried at times like that and it worked.)
At 9.5 weeks again she woke up earlier than she had been so twice at 1:30 am and at 2:30 am we did pacifier and turned on the mobile and she then slept until 4:00 am. I have notes of a few times when she woke up at 6 am so it was too early to feed her. We put a star projector on the ceiling, played music, and one time she made it until 6:30 am and one time until 6:50 am.
At 10 weeks, her bottles were up to 7 oz a feed. We had reduced the night feeds so she added those ounces during the day. Once she was consistent during the day and no night feed I stop logging the days, but I know it was still about a week after she stopped having a night feed that she would still wake up at some point. She cried out for a minute but not even enough time for us to wake up and register and decide what to do. By 12 weeks, she had her day time schedule totally set, she went to sleep happily in her crib, she slept 12 hours, often she sleeps in because she will wake up at some point and make talking noises and then go back to sleep.
I’m not going to lie and say there was no crying, because babies cry and she definitely cried, but in terms of towards the sleep training there was very little crying. At such a young age it isn’t about changing things they are used to, it is staying consistent in a routine – they thrive on routine. I’ll make that my 3rd takeaway – 3) Stay consistent. Everything starts to fall into place once the day feeding schedule is consistent.**
(I put an asterisk because I like to remind everyone, including myself, babies are NOT ROBOTS. So while I encourage consistency you need to listen to their cues and remember that they are humans just like you and could just be having an off day.
I realized I didn’t address the transition to going to sleep happy. Every night we put her in with the same routine and eventually she figured out how to do it. Her witching hours disappeared as quickly as they came.
I know this was information overload and I didn’t even get to everything, but she is waking up from her nap now so I will have to continue at a different time. I know I didn’t get into napping because I really don’t concentrate on naps until the night is completed. I did have an easier time with her naps, I think with each kid the training becomes more natural because we had more experience with the same routine for so long already. I think my fellow 12 by 12 followers would agree with that – it just becomes such a part of life. I laugh when I get together with friends and all our babies are on the SAME schedule. But I do want to say that in the 12 by 12 book it says only 2 naps and then the baby stays awake between the 3 and 7 pm feed, I definitely do not follow that. I encourage a cat nap before bath time so that bath and the last feed are not a mess. I also start the last feed at 6:30 pm so that they could be in bed for 7 pm, not start eating at 7 pm.
I feel I can’t end without mentioning that she loves her angel dear lovies as a comfort – I’m a huge fan! In my house we call them “softies.” As always, I hope this helps and I know I went over a lot and didn’t go through all the details so please feel free to message me at anytime!
I wish I had this advice even you were a baby!!!! I see firsthand how well it has been working for you!!
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Hearing this information first hand from someone whose experienced it is so helpful and thank you for answering all of my questions while you were going through it all yourself! Xoxo
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Hi! Your blog has been very helpful- my husband and I started Step 1 this week- our son is 12 weeks old. I’m exclusively breastfeeding and he’s taken to every 4 hours pretty well. I really don’t want to pump during the day for nighttime bottles (long story- he had a tongue tie and was taking bottles early on and pumping was torture). Do people have success with exclusively breastfeeding and night weaning?
Yes people definitley do!! You just do by the minutes instead of the ounces. Good luck!! Let me know if I can help along the way!
Thank you! He used to wake up to eat around 11ish, 2:30ish, 5ish. Now he’s fallen into a pattern of eating at 12 (18 minutes) and 5 (8 minutes) and I have him waking up at 7- although he usually is up around 6:15 on his own. Which feeding should I cut out first? I’m worried that if I eliminate the first feeding, he will start to wake up before 5am.
Or should I try to move the 5am feeding to 7am first?
That’s great that he already naturally went from three feeds to two. The reduction is very gradual, so it doesn’t usually effect the next wake up. I agree the 5 am feed is really just a snack, so I would go with that one first too, it may happen fast because he might push it later and if it’s 6 am you want to try and not feed and just get as close to 7 am as you can. Good luck!
Thanks for the amazing post, it is really helpful for us to see how you interpret the book in your own way. We have a 7 week baby and we would like to start our training next week once she is 8 weeks. I have a question regarding the first step of this training.
We are at the moment feeding our baby every three hours and will be streching to 4 hours 4 feeds next week. I am guessing that the transition will be quite difficult since she can hardly wait till her next feed every day. Is there a transition that you recommend? For example, if I am trying to stretch her first feed to 4 hours (11am instead of to 10am) but she is unable to make it till then and I feed her at 10:30. Should the next feed be 4 hours from feed time (10:30) or 4 hours from the planned feeding time (11am) meaning next feed is at 3pm.
I am worried that if I need to feed early at one feeding the wait till the next feeding becomes longer if we are to stay on schedule.
Thank you so much!
Ece & Matt
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This is an excellent and common concern! I am out now but I will respond when I get back asap 🙂
How much is she eating at each feed? If she can hardly wait the 3 hours it will be difficult to stretch, so it may be a sign that she needs more at each feed.
In terms of the timing question, the first few days it won’t be consistent which is okay. I went back and looked at my log, our first day was 7, 10:30, 2:30, 5:30, a little snack ay 6:30 and then 7:50 pm. Our second day was 7, 11, 3, 6:45. Our third day was 6:30, 10:30, 2:30, 6:40. Fourth day, 6:45, 10:55, 3:05, 6:45 and fifth 7:10, 11, 2:45, 6:40. A few days later the log was pretty consistent with 7, 11, 3, 6:30/45. I do see a few 2:30s instead of 3s because that stretch was harder for her.
The way I like to look at it is during the training time, the first feed is the most important because it starts the day. So you want to make sure that is a GOOD feed (meaning if the baby wakes up an hour or two before the morning feed time, its ok to feed but just make sure it is just a snack so that they are going to be up and hungry at the feed time) I also like to see the last feed of the day around bedtime. If the 2 feeds in the middle vary as you are training, it is normal and they will start to become consistent. So if the first day it is 10:30, you just try and get as close to the next feed time which will be around 4 hours away. In your head you are always trying for the 4 times that you chose whether it’s 7,11,3,6:30 or 8,12,4,7:30. As close as you can get during the day schedule process is great. As you stretch the feeds they get hungrier and can take bigger feeds, and then they adapt to the schedule and it is not a struggle anymore, it just is the way it is.
Please let me know if you have any more questions!
[…] She had 2 night feeds to eliminate. I eliminated the second one first, keeping the first feed at 4 oz. Once the second night feed was gone, then eliminated that one by .5 oz every 3 nights. Sophie’s sleep training is outline in this post. […]
Hi there! Your posts are super helpful. We have a three week old whose already 10 pounds and eating way more than 24oz in 24 hours so we want to start training in a week. One thing I’m not sure about – you mention in the post that your night feedings took only 10 minutes… he consistently takes about 20 minutes per feed (plus we burp/hold him for 10 minutes after, so total of 30 minutes that we spend with him). Is that too long?
Not too long at all! They get faster at eating as they get older, and as the bottles reduce it’s a small amount it is fast. Good luck! Let me know if any questions as you go!
Hi, me again 🙂
It’s been two weeks and we’re in the middle of the night feeding reductions, and I wanted to get your thoughts.
Our little one is 5.5 weeks old. Although it’s early to start the process, he’s almost 12 pounds, and is eating almost 30 OZs a day, and at the last doctor’s appointment on Dec. 3 the doctor said we should start reducing night feedings, so we have, but I’m not sure we’re doing it right.
The first mistake I think we made is starting to reduce the day the doctor said we could, before the day schedule was set. But since Friday, Dec. 6, we have had the baby on a consistent day schedule (7:30, 11:30, 3:30, 7:30).
He still had three night feeds when we started the reductions, around 11, 2, and 5. Since he’s eating more at 7:30, we were able to shift the 11 to 11:30, and the 2 to 2:30/3:00, and then the 5am is just a snack so he can have a full meal at 7:30.
I have two problems:
1. Since we started reducing the 2:30/3:00am feeding, I noticed that he is not sleeping as long after it. He used to sleep easily 2.5 hours after the 2am feed, if not longer, but now that we’re reducing he’s waking up after 1.5 hours.
2. The first night at the 2am feed I reduced him from just under 4OZ to 3OZ, but the next night he reduced further himself to 2.5 OZ, so we kept him there for three more nights, and now have reduced to 2OZ. But the last two nights when I’ve given him 2OZ he really wants more, and then when I put him down he cries. I give him a pacifier a few times and eventually he calms down, but he is not like this after any other feeds where I let him have as much as he wants.
Did you experience any of this? What are your thoughts?
Sounds like you’re on the right track!!
1) how much is he eating at the day feed per feed?
2) the middle of the night feeds are natural wake ups right? How much is he eating at the first wake up?
During the day he’s eating an average of 5.5 OZ per feeding (he’s gone as high as 7OZ though), and I’m working on increasing it as the night feedings are being reduced, so he’s consistently getting around 30 OZ in a 24 hour period.
The middle of the night feeds are natural wake ups but since the book said not to let them fall back to eat earlier once he hit 11:30 and 3am once I’ve been giving him a pacifier to calm him if he wakes up before those times to stretch him for a bit. The 5am one I feed whenever he wakes up since it’s really just a snack.
I should mention the 11:30 feed for a while was as big as the daytime ones (5.5-6 OZ) until yesterday when he reduced it himself to 3.5 OZ so tonight I plan to only give him 3.5 at 11:30, continue with 2 OZ at 3am as we’ve done for the last two nights, and whenever he wakes up next give a snack.
I’m just concerned that since he seems to be struggling with only 2 OZ at 3am, I don’t know how I’ll get him down to 1.5 OZ when the next reduction is supposed to be tomorrow (tonight is the third night in 2 OZ).
You can always add time before reducing again if you feel not ready yet! Is he swaddled?
No, I stopped swaddling about a week ago, using a sleep sack.
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Especially since he did a lot of reductions on his own, can definitely keep it before reducing again because it was a big jump – you want to give it some time for the day feeds to consistently be increased
Once you see consistent higher day feeds than can go for it. Because on his own he went much faster than .5 oz but probably hasn’t figured out to intake those ounces during the day just yet, but he will!
Thanks! Will try to hold steady for a few more days and see how he does.
Good luck! Keep me posted!!
I just wanted to circle back with an update on our 12 X 12 experience since you were so helpful – bottom line, it worked! At 9 weeks he was sleeping through the night (though waking up an hour earlier than we wanted, at 6 am instead of 7) and now at 13 weeks most days he wakes up at 7 as planned, or even needs us to wake him up (which is adorable).
Thank you for your advice throughout this process, I am trying to pay it forward with moms in my neighborhood that I’ve been hanging out with while on mat leave.
Everything I was stressing about (that reducing night feeds caused him to wake up earlier for the following one, and that he was too hungry a baby to actually eat every 4 hours during the day) ended up being normal and all worked out. Once we started reducing him, he self reduced pretty quickly, and started pushing all of his meals forward until he was down to just one meal at night, and the none. The whole process of eliminating night feedings took about 4 weeks in total, and sticking with it and staying consistent was the hardest and most important thing in the end.
Thank you again!
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Thank you so much for the update!!! So glad to hear!! And love that you’re paying it forward 🙂
Hi Lori – it’s me again! Out little one is not so little any more, in a few days he will be 6 months old. As I wrote to you a couple of months ago, the sleep training for night time went really well, and at 9 weeks he started sleeping through the night. No complaints!
BUT – we can’t seem to get a handle on the nap training. He goes down for his morning nap just fine, around 9 / 9:15 (wakeup is 7 – 7:30, breakfast is 7:30). He doesn’t get more than 45 minutes usually, but we leave him in the crib for a full hour and he doesn’t cry or fuss.
For the noon nap, we are in trouble. He will not bridge sleep cycles. We put him down, usually he will fall asleep but after a bit of crying, and he will always wake up after 45 minute to an hour, and we cannot get him back down unless we put him on us with a pacifier, so that’s what we’ve been doing, for months.
I haven’t tried any one thing with the noon nap consistently, and I can’t decide what the right approach is. What worked for you? How did you help your little one bridge day time sleep cycles?
Hi! This is what I did for the naps – https://tobabyconcierge.com/2015/09/09/n-a-p-not-a-problem/ – you can e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can talk through it!
So glad I found your blog! We have a 10.5 week old, he was born 3 weeks early, and constantly struggles with gas and spitting up, however does not have colic. We finally have him down to eating every 4 hours during the day and only doing 2 feeds during the night (1 regular and 1 snack). However, he is only eating about 4.5 ounces a feeding and will spit up almost every time. Am I overfeeding him? I want to increase the amount, but anything over he typically throws up. What would you recommend doing?
Look forward to hearing from you.
Hi! All 3 of my kids spit up EVERY single feed. It didn’t matter how many ounces, even 2 ounces they’d spit up. For this reason, I raised their bottles to what they wanted because either way they were spitting up, and this way they didn’t need to eat at night! I wouldn’t worry unless it’s really throwing up, which is different from spit up. Hope that helps!
I am a new mom and do not necessarily know the difference between spit up and throw up…It is typically toward the end of a feeding and a white milky consistency (thick but not chunky), but a good amount (an ounce or so)! Is this considered a throw up?
How do I increase the amount during the day feedings? Similar to how I am decreasing the night feeding?
It sounds like spit up to me (can ask your Doctor to make sure!)
For the day increase it doesn’t need to be small incremental like the night decrease, you can just put more in the bottle and see if he’ll take it! Can email me email@example.com and we can discuss as you do it!
Hi there! I am just starting stretching the day feeding with my 9 week old twins (they just hit over 9lbs each earlier this week as they were premature). I have two questions. First, why do you indicate to switch to a sleep sack instead of swaddle? At the moment they sleep better in their halo swaddles with arms tucked in. Secondly, how long do you wait to start step 2 (reducing nighttime feeds) after they have the daytime schedule set? A few days or a week? I don’t want to set us up for failure but I’d like to progress as quickly as I’m able as I’m going back to work in 3 weeks and will have my parents helping during the week after that. Thanks! Your blog is so helpful and gave me confidence that this method can work.
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1) I switch to a sleep sack because, in the words of the book, “Older babies have to figure out how they like to sleep on their own and they need freedom of movement to figure that out.” She refers to 6 weeks or older as no longer swaddling. I do it young because I find the transition easier. Not all babies love to be swaddled so it could just be that my babies were like that. I notice the way they sleep wouldn’t have worked in a swaddle.
2) As soon as all the criteria is met, once they have the day feeds set, I start on the night. So I would say a few days.
Feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org and we can discuss specifically for your babies to make sure all set up for success!
Hi! Tired mama here looking for a solution for my 8 week old. He’s been a pretty bad sleeper from the get-go, and napping is a huge challenge. Right now he only contact naps or in the carrier, and sometimes getting these naps is a challenge.
At night, he usually goes down somewhere between 8-9 and gives two 3.5-4ish hour stretches and then is UP at 5:30-6am. He won’t go back down after feeding then.
Do you think that I will be able to break the bad habits- contact napping, and the night sleeping, with the 12 by 12 method? I recently heard about the method and interested in trying since it’s different than everything else we’ve tried – following wake windows, feeding every 2.5-3 hours, etc.
I would definitely recommend trying it! The naps are the last step, and it makes sense he doesn’t have great naps yet. Read through the 12 by 12 posts and then e-mail me with any questions email@example.com!
Yes!!!! You can turn this around in 2-3 weeks.
First, re naps, don’t focus on those for a bit. Work on getting the night sleep in a good place and then tackle the naps later. Nap habits at this age do not impact night time sleep habits, my son slept through the night at 9 weeks and was a terrible napper until 8 months mostly napping on us just like your baby (we weren’t good about the nap training we could have gotten that under control sooner if we had).
Now for night – you’re doing really well! That’s a good stretch. It sounds like you just need to wean the middle of the night feed. I would recommend doing the following:
1. Make sure you have a good night time routine. Draw the blackout blinds, put baby in a crib in their own room without distractions, sing them a song, turn on some soothing projector lights (check out bubzi on Amazon turns off automatically after 30 min), and turn on a very dim night light. All of this is to differentiate between day and night sleep and start programming their routine.
2. When baby wakes up to eat, start reducing what they are eating by 0.5 ounces every three days until they no longer need the feed and then you let them CIO in the gentle way that 12×12 suggests. Make sure you are not engaging with them for anything other than food, not turning light on, not speaking to them, minimizing eye contact. Basically not giving them any rewards that would encourage them to keep waking up. Also just a note that when we were reducing feedings in the middle of the night it did cause them to wake back up earlier initially but after a week or so it sorted itself out and the feed was just weaned.
3. When they are done feeding if it’s before 6am they should go back in the bed. Even if they aren’t falling back asleep, I would encourage that. Ans if they cry follow the 12 by 12 method and go in every couple of minutes to soothe without eye contact. If it’s after 6am I think it’s fine to wake up for the day.
4. Eventually you will want to make their bed time at night a bit earlier (I would say 8 is latest but 7 is better). They may wake up early for a while. After my kid slept through it took about 3-4 weeks to “train” him to not wake up before 7 or at least wait for us when he did. We handled it by not taking him out of his crib until 7. When he woke up early we would give him a pacifier in the crib to “stretch” him but didn’t reward him by picking him up. After a few weeks of that he stopped waking up so early. But no need to tackle that until you wean the night feed.