I am an on-location, natural light photographer based in Dallas, Texas. My style is based on beautiful light, pastels, and intimate connections. My goal is to beautifully capture the most precious moments in your life in a way that you will cherish for many years to come. I can't wait to get to know you!
You might have seen that my husband and I welcomed our third baby and first little girl last year! As a mom of three under three and a full-time Dallas newborn photographer, there are few things I value more than routines and healthy sleep to keep me going. But, as you might imagine, those things can be hard to come by with little ones, especially a newborn. With baby girl in particular, we have been struggling to establish a sleep routine that works for our whole family! (Translation: I’ve been soooo exhausted, ya’ll!)
Even though she’s my third, I have been learning a lot of new things about baby sleep this time around. We were very lucky that both my boys were such good sleepers from the start. Besides sticking to a schedule and making sure they knew how to fall asleep on their own, there was very little we had to do to get them to take long naps and sleep ten to twelve hours at night. If that hasn’t been your experience with your baby or kids, please know that I now 100% commiserate! While we absolutely adore baby girl, she has not been easy when it comes to sleep. With frequent night wake-ups and inconsistent naps, I was at my wits-end with exhaustion until we decided to hire a sleep consultant.
While it was a little scary committing to sleep training, it has been one of the best decisions we’ve ever made for our family! As a newborn photographer in Dallas, I meet so many moms in the metroplex who are also struggling with sleep, so I wanted to share a few of the baby sleep tips I’ve learned that have been the most helpful.
I am not a sleep consultant or a medical professional, so please read the following as recommendations only and consult your pediatrician for what is best for your baby. The following tips should be helpful with any method of sleep training, which I’m defining broadly as any approach that teaches a baby to learn to sleep through the night unassisted.
Watch for Wake Windows
You may have heard that you should put your baby down to sleep “drowsy but awake,” but what exactly does that mean? While there are small signs babies give—redness under the eyes, rubbing their eyes, etc. —I found it was easiest to learn about wake windows. Basically, this is the amount of time a baby can be awake before needing to sleep. The wake window will vary based on your baby’s age.
For example, our baby girl is four months old and can be awake for up to an hour and a half before needing to nap. If you try to put a baby down before their wake window is up, they will either fight their nap or take a nap that is too short because they were undertired. If you try to keep a baby awake past their wake window, this can lead to overtiredness, which can also result in fighting naps and short naps, because overtiredness creates cortisol, a stress-hormone that makes it harder for babies to sleep.
By paying attention to when a wake window is ending, I know when baby girl is going to start getting sleepy. Putting her down at the end of her wake window means it will be easier for her to fall asleep on her own because she’s already drowsy.
While you’ll have to learn what your particular baby’s wake window is, every baby tends to have a time range based on their age. A simple Google search can show you a chart to help get you started.
Because we’ve learned to follow baby girl’s wake windows, we’ve also had to learn to be flexible when it comes to her schedule. While with my sons we simply followed a set schedule—naps at 10 and 2, for example, and bedtime at 7—with baby girl we can’t just put her down at a set time and expect sleep to go smoothly. Instead, we keep track of when she woke up to know when to put her down again. While this can sometimes make life unpredictable, it ultimately makes things easier because it follows her body’s rhythms.
We’ve also learned to be flexible based on her bodily needs. When she’s sick or teething or learning a new skill like rolling, we expect sleep to go a little differently than planned because she may need extra comforting or extra encouragement to get to sleep.
Establish Habits that Encourage Independent Sleep
When it comes to sleep, there aren’t necessarily good habits and bad habits, because every baby and every family is going to have habits that work best for them. I know a lot of moms who love nursing their babies to sleep, and there’s nothing wrong with that if it’s making everyone happy! However, there are times when certain habits and routines just aren’t working because it leaves mom exhausted or baby confused. We’ve been working on building healthy habits that encourage baby girl to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own because that’s what our family needs right now. A few habits that encourage independent sleep are:
Don’t Be Afraid to Start
I know it can be really scary to take the plunge and commit to sleep training. But I also know that the longer you put it off, the harder it becomes, largely because the older babies get the more resistant they can become to changes in their routines. While there are legitimate reasons to delay—an upcoming trip that might throw off the routine too soon, an illness, or other personal reasons—you also don’t need to feel guilty about making this choice for your family. Ultimately, good sleep is good for baby and for you! If you’re not sure where to start, there are lots of wonderful resources out there like Taking Cara Babies and Moms on Call. We wanted a more personalized sleep plan for our baby so we have been working with Jessica at sleephappyconsulting.com and she has been immense help with getting our baby into a good nap schedule and sleeping though the night (10-12 hours) consistently.
Remember, You Are Doing an Amazing Job!
No matter where you are on your sleep journey, I just want you to know that you are an amazing mom (or dad!) and you’re doing a wonderful job caring for your little one! There can be a lot of negative stigma and stress around baby sleep, but the most important thing is that you love your baby! Be gentle on yourself, take it slowly if you need to, know that you’re not alone, and remember that all babies DO sleep someday, even if it feels far off right now. You’ve got this mama, and I’m rooting for you!
Are there any tricks or tips you’ve used to get your baby to sleep? Share in the comments to help another mom in this community!
Ana Dufreche is a luxury Dallas wedding photographer. She aims to capture the most precious moments in people's lives and create a story for them to relive for years to come. If you're looking for a wedding photographer to capture your precious moments, contact Ana to schedule your big day.