Okay, before we get started let me start by saying I am definitely NOT a sleep training expert. In fact, when it comes to parenting I am not really an expert in anything, but then again who is? I am a big do what works for you, you know your baby, listen to your gut, kind of mama. So when you read this remember that. YOU know your baby best, YOU know what you can handle, and YOU know when or if you want to sleep train. It is not for everyone, that is for sure. In fact, if you were to tell me 8 months ago that I would sleep train Dane I would have laughed in your face and said oh HELLO NO. With all we went through with Dane, it took me a VERY long time to get to a space where I felt ready to even consider sleep training. Hearing him cry was a big trigger for me. It physically pained me to hear him cry. It took me right back to the days of NICU; the pokes and prods he endured at only hours old, it was just too much.
Fast forward 7.5 months of me getting no more than 3 hours of sleep at a time and I finally broke. Dane was 6 months adjusted. I remember it vividly. I looked at Lee and said “that’s it, I’m sleep training starting NOW, I can’t take this”. It was midnight and I had been in and out of Dane’s room easily 12 times already. He was only calm when he was at breast. He was suckling as that was it. Not getting milk, just needing my boob to fall asleep and the second I would put him down he would wake. If I was lucky, and I snuck out without him waking, the second he woke up and I wasn’t there, he cried out for me because my boob was what he needed to soothe himself back to sleep.
I clearly let it get too far. I don’t recommend starting sleep training on a whim in the middle of the night… but hey, we made it through and Dane is a pretty good sleeper now. I say on a whim but really I had been reading, asking questions, and contemplating it for about a good month. Although it was started unconventionally it the middle of the night, I did feel like I had a good handle on what I wanted to do.
Okay, let’s get to the nitty gritty, I know you want to know what program I followed and all the exact details. I will share BUT remember that you know your baby best and I don’t believe there is one program that fits all. So make sure you do the reading, ask your friends who have done it, and most importantly listen to your mama heart.
Lee and I didn’t purchase any program, we just got advice from a good friend who has sleep trained 2 of her kids. We have similar personalities and parenting styles so I knew it was a good fit. Of course, we modified it to our liking.
The first thing we did was start with bedtime sleep. This meant setting a bedtime routine:
OUR SLEEEP TRAINING BEDTIME ROUTINE (aprox. 1/2 hour)
– lotion + get dressed + in sleep sack
– story, songs, and a little cuddle
– lamp off, sound machine on
– put him in his crib with his soother
*as SOON as I noticed him showing any signs of dozing off I put him to bed awake. I think this is the most important thing in the beginning. I did this consistently for about 2 months. Now that that it’s been a few months, there are nights I’m enjoying the cuddles… hell I NEED the cuddles after a hard day, and he falls asleep in my arms. It doesn’t ruin all you did. Trust me. It fills my soul and his… heck rules are meant to be broken aren’t they?!**
**Some sleep training programs won’t allow soothers, lovies, or for you to pick them up and feed them in the night. I wasn’t about that. Dane goes to bed with a soother and still wakes up once or twice a night to feed and I am okay with this. My goal in sleep training was for him to learn how to put himself to sleep. So, I do go to him in the night and feed him (depending on how many times he wakes) but I ALWAYS put him down awake.**
Obviously, as soon as I put him down he would start to cry. Not because he was hungry or in danger… because he thought he needed me to go to sleep. The second he started to cry, I would start my stopwatch. Here is where things differ a lot for people. If you are going to let them cry, which is the method we choose, you need to decide on a length of time YOU are comfortable with before you go in. We decided on 10 minutes. Trust me, it felt like an ETERNITY but I do believe it worked quicker (basically 1 night) because we went with a longer cry time. In my research, I learned that their crying pattern will be similar to a rollercoaster. It will be quiet, then become more intense, and will slowly go down with little peaks on the way down. On the way “down”, when you hear them almost hum to themselves, but it’s still a cry… that is them teaching themselves to self sooth. The method we followed suggested that every time he was quiet for 1 minute or longer, you restart the 10 minutes. I’m not going to lie, the first night was extremely hard and very emotional. He cried on and off again for about 45 minutes. I caved after that, went in and fed him because I figured he worked up an appetite and I had been crying the whole time so we both just needed a cuddle. He fed, I put him down awake, he cried for maybe 30 seconds and slept until 5 am. I went in again after letting him cry for 10 minutes at 5 am. I fed him put him down awake (he didn’t cry this time) and he slept until 8am. Is this what the program told me to do? No.But it worked for us. The next night he cried for 7 minutes and was out. He woke up at 5 am for a feed and was down until 7! And that has been our pattern basically ever since!
Does he sleep through the night? No. Could he if I was a little more strict with the sleep training? Probably. But I am okay with it. Right now he generally goes down around 6:30 or 7pm. Wakes around 11 and I feed him (this is not every night, just on occasion) Then goes down again until 4 or 5 am. I feed him and then he is down until 7 or 7:30. I am not a big schedule girl. If he sleeps until 8 I don’t wake him. But I always put him back down if he is awake before 6 am. This is just me. A lot of people, especially when they go back to work, are on a schedule and I know this works for people. We will likely get there, but for now we aren’t. Now, of course there are mornings he is up earlier and nights he wakes more or less. Sleep is not linear that is for sure. There are ups and downs and JUST when you think you have it figured out, they go through a sleep regression or a leap or teething lol there is always something- but hey, that’s parenthood I suppose!
OUR CURRENT BEDTIME ROUTINE
- lotion + get dressed + in sleep sack
- story, songs, and a little cuddle and I breastfeed … sometimes we snuggle until he falls asleep but not too often.
- lamp off, sound machine on
- put him in his crib with his soother.
*I have become a little more relaxed. He RARELY ever cries when we put him down. So, if he cries when I put him down we will sometimes go in and give him his soother if he looses it or rub his back.
Okay… I know what you’re waiting for, NAPS! What about the naps?! This is a whole beast of it’s own. We definitely struggled a lot longer with these but for the most part we are on track now!! I will post a whole separate post about this… I am already starting to write it so don’t worry it won’t be long. But, if you are just starting sleep training, I would suggest just starting with bedtime sleep. Get that sorted then move to naps after. In the meantime, you can start with creating nap habits, like putting them down awake, etc but honestly I would suggest just working on night sleep first!
Now, if you take one thing away from reading this, let it be this: don’t let it get as far as I did. If you don’t want to sleep train, that is 100% you choice and is the best choice for your family. But, if you are not getting sleep and it is effecting your mental health, relationships, and overall health like it was mine ask fo help in whatever form you need it. Maybe that means asking someone you trust to come over so you can go for a walk or go to Winners, or maybe it means sleep training.
Okay, that was super long but I hope you found it helpful! Again, this isn’t a program, there are lots out there to try. This is just MY experience and advice. Dane is not a perfect sleeper, but who is!? He still wakes once or twice in the night, but does go right back to sleep. If I was just a little more strict, I know he would stop… but truthfully I enjoy the night feeding not that I can put him down right after without tears. It is so peaceful and quick. We have had to do a little refresher and when we were in Arizona for a month we basically just free willy nillied it… because life happens!
So, you may be wondering, am I happy we sleep trained? 100%. Not sleeping took a toll on my mental and physical health (you get sick so much easier when you’re sleep deprived), mine and Lee’s relationship, and my work. It truly was taking a toll on us all.
Okay… speaking of, Dane is just waking from his 2 hour nap… yahoooo! Gotta run!!
If I didn’t answer your question or you need clarification don’t hesitate to drop me a comment in the comment section below!