Before I gave birth, and I mean RIGHT before, I assumed (wrongly) that newborns sleep a lot. I figured parenting was easy, and that newborns just slept a lot and drank milk. Right?

No one told me that newborns are born don’t have the ability to sleep through the nights like adults do. No one told me that I’d have to work hard and learn how to get my child to sleep through the night. I also didn’t know it was possible that I could wind up with a baby who preferred being awake to sleeping.

Is it all that hard, or will babies sleep through the night eventually on their own?

In this article, see what I experienced, from the things I did that helped, to the things I neglected to do, because I didn’t think they’d help. You may have a similar experience, or a totally different one. I hope some of these ideas are helpful for you!

Things I did

Here are the things I did to get our baby to sleep through the night (spoiler: in the end, it wasn’t anything I did at all!).

Time (and patience)

You might as well stop reading here, because time was the #1 thing that worked best to get our baby to sleep full nights.

Patience was the hardest part of this journey for me as a new exhausted parent. If you read my guide on how I got sleep when I had a newborn, you may know that I was sleep deprived, frustrated and a bit shocked at how newborn sleep was going.

By three-ish months of baby life, our baby started sleeping 8-hour stretches of time—but this wasn’t always the case. 8 hours a night was sometimes followed by a night of two wakeups, and sometimes we didn’t see another 8-hour stretch for a week.

The most consistent sleep-through-the-night progress was around 7 months. This meant I had waited over half a year to get nights of 8pm-6am or 8:30pm-5:30am, but it was something. By 8 and 9 months, we were on a “nearly” 7-to-7 sleep schedule, which made Mom and Dad (us) very happy.

Note: every baby is different and sleep patterns range widely from child to child.

Sound machine

We tried a cheap sound machine from Amazon before we settled on the Hatch Rest. Dan liked the sound quality, and I liked the Bluetooth control and the app. This was a sound machine for modern parents.

We started using the white noise setting on our Hatch sound machine to lull our baby to sleep, as well as to drown out the other things we were doing around the apartment. I’m convinced a sound machine helped our sleep journey as a family.

Blackout curtains

While our baby was born in the winter, when the sun set at 4:30pm and didn’t rise til 7am, summer eventually came and mornings started getting bright a little after 5:30am. When we moved our baby to a crib in the nursery (see more about this in Where should my baby sleep for the first few months?), we got a heavy-duty blackout curtain for the one big window.

Dan got the curtain on Amazon, and we installed a rod a few inches above the window. The curtains went past the bottom of the window and filled in on the sides, so the room was totally dark if we wanted it that way.

I think having blackout curtains helped simulate nighttime during summer months and helped with bright mornings to sleep later.

Swaddle or sleep sack

As everyone in the world suggested, we used tight swaddling from day 1. We used the HALO swaddles.

We used them up until the day our baby rolled for the first time, around 4 months. Then, we switched to a sleep sack with “arms out.”

Swaddling is probably a good idea if your baby likes it, because it is compared to the tight feeling of being in the womb. Some parents don’t do it, and some generations don’t believe in int, but I’ll go for the belief that swaddling helped with good newborn sleep.

Use a baby monitor

While using a baby monitor won’t directly cause your child to sleep through the night, we used ours to figure out if we needed to go into our baby’s nursery when she woke up in the middle of the night.

I’d often turn on the video to see if she was soothing herself back to sleep during a wakeup, or if she was sitting, or standing (toward 12 months), which typically meant “the point of no return.”

A full belly before bedtime

We always focused on a full belly of as much milk as our infant would drink, or as much food as she would eat, with some of a milk bottle, as she got older.

Room temperature

New parents are known to obsess over room temperature and there are lots of jokes about parents of newborns who nail the “perfect temperature for their baby” the moment their kid sleeps through the night.

We started to learn about the temperatures in our home for this reason, but mostly so that we could dress our baby appropriately. Every night was a long-sleeve zip pajama with a cotton sleep sack, and this seemed to be “just right” for our rooms that hovered between 72 and 68 degrees.

Things I did not do

While the Internet “says” to do a lot of these things as “musts” in order to get your baby to sleep through the night, I stayed away from these recommendations.

Take a “baby sleep class” online

I had not one, but FOUR friends recommend the Taking Cara Babies sleep class for newborns. They (all four of them) said it saved their sanities and taught them about baby sleep patterns and how to understand their baby’s sleep.

I was really on the fence about investing in it for $80 or so, and had put it on my agenda of something we should do as new parents. But time went by, and I realized that sleep isn’t a one-size-fits-all game anyway. Our baby eventually slept through the night without taking any online classes.

Read all the baby sleep books

As soon as I took home my newborn and realized that newborns do not sleep through the night, I was in total shock. I had collected “baby books” from moms in my community all throughout my pregnancy, and when I was in my early phases of being a new parent, I made a stack of the baby sleep books.

I had the “4x4 method,” and some other method, and some other best-seller about baby sleep and feeding. These books made my head spin, and the things they preached were not reflective of my baby. I stopped after reading a few select chapters of all of them, realizing they were written about someone else’s baby, or studies on babies that were not like mine.

Hire a sleep consultant

In the community where I live, sleep consultants are a popular thing that new moms talk about. Basically, a “baby sleep consultant” is a type of profession: put simply, it’s typically moms who sell services to assess and consult on babies who sleep badly (read this as, their parents sleep badly too) and how to improve the situation with a plan.

I never hired a sleep consultant, although during my weeks of being in a constant exhausted and frustrated stupor, I had multiple friends suggest that I “invest” in one.

Deprive my baby of night feeding

I never was the parent to have my baby “cry it out” in the middle of the night and deprive the baby of milk during night sleep hours. I wanted our baby to get all the calories she could get, and if it was a wakeup due to hunger, I was not going to take that away from her.

As I mentioned above, our baby slept through the night for the first time around 4 months old (9 hours) and “for real” (according to the 12-hour baby sleep that society prizes) consistently around 7 months. I never said no to nighttime milk if our baby had a middle-of-the-night wakeup.

Why I wrote this

Because of how sleep-deprived I was during the newborn phase, night sleep was very important to me. It was both about staying healthy in postpartum as well as working toward having a baby who could sleep.

I think that overall, learning to be patient was the thing that kept me going. I saw lots of Internet memes and Instagram accounts that said progress with child sleep is like a rollercoaster that is trending upward. You might have valleys next to the peaks, but hopefully you are trending up.

I want to be able to give hope to any other parents who are on the rocky road of baby sleep. The fact of the matter is that you will parent how you will parent, but there are tools that can help. You can choose as many or few tools as you like.

It’s also worth mentioning that babies come in all sizes, abilities and preferences. Some babies sleep through the night at 8 weeks. Some choose 7 months for when they want to grace their parents with this milestone.

What is “sleeping through the night?”

This is another phrase and term that ultimately irks me: some people define it as sleeping 7 or 8 hours. Some parents define it as sleeping this golden and lofty “7 to 7” of 12 hours or more. Actually, not all babies are capable of this. Some babies are good daytime nappers, and some aren’t.

I learned all this after months and months and after talking to tons of parents in my life.

You can define anything however you want, because ultimately this is your journey with your child.