Sleep for All!! How We “Sleep Trained” Curren

The words “sleep training” are scary. For a lot of reasons. For one, I don’t like the stigma that those words carry. The word duo comes along with terrible imagery of a child screaming tirelessly in a dark room, alone, maybe scared… nothing you want for your baby! But that isn’t what I am here to promote or talk about.

I first have to say though, (and I am sure it is quite obvious), I am not an expert, a pediatrician, a sleep guru, none of that. Just a parent who did a bunch of reading online, picked bits and pieces that I liked from information I had gathered, tried my “method”, it worked, now we are here! Sharing my findings. Every child is different, has different needs, and is more or less independent than the next. So this won’t work for every child, and that I can guarantee. ???????? But if anything it is a great place to start!

Last disclosure: When I say he is “sleeping through the night”, that doesn’t mean he is sleeping 7-7 or 8-8. *In my dreams* That means he is sleeping MUCH more than he was. I am still night feeding at least once, which is totally fine with me. We started at every 1.5 – 2 hours so this is a HUUUGE improvement. Our schedule is consistent and goes like this:

7:30 – 8 p.m. – Nurse / Bedtime Routine

11:30 p.m. – (When I am going to bed) He’ll wake up to nurse around this time almost every night. *Some nights it is later around 1 and I will have to get up, but most of the time it’s conveniently before I even go to bed.

4:30 – 5:00 a.m. – Wake up to nurse

8:00 a.m. – Wake up for the day

Here is the why:

Since day 1, Curren was a terrible sleeper. He is 7 months old now and for the first 5.5 months of his life took VERY short naps during the day and was up 5-6 times per night. That isn’t good for ANYONE! He, above all, needed the sleep. For those first 5.5 months he was rocked to sleep, slept in our arms, and any time he cried I would go in, soothe him, nurse, and when asleep in my arms, put him back to bed. This might sound crazy to some, but to me, that’s what felt right at the time. I do not regret instilling these “habits” because I think babies that small need all the TLC and comfort. (Again, these are my own opinions!!)

But back to the sleeping. As soon as we felt he was “old” enough to gain a little independence, we started “training”. He needed the sleep, we needed the sleep… it was beneficial for all involved. ????

Here is what we did:

We wanted to disassociate anything that had to do with us soothing him or being dependent on us… i.e. his binkie (because he wasn’t able to put it in his mouth on his own), rocking, bouncing or nursing. By eliminating those factors, it gave him the upper hand, really! When he would wake up in the middle of the night, he would think, “OH NO! Where is my binkie?! Why am I still?! Where is my milk?! I need these things to fall back asleep!”

So we replaced those things with constants: white noise, his sleep sack, a dark/cool room. Things that didn’t involve us. When all goes perfectly to plan, it’s more like “I’m awake! But I have my white noise, my sleep sack, the room is still dark, I can go to sleep on my own.”

Another MAJOR key was putting him in his crib while he was still awake so he associated his crib with being awake and closing his eyes on his own. But we will get to that in a bit.

 

The Setup:

Getting a good sleepy time routine is crucial for any of this to work! We wanted to give him a “comfort routine” and cues so he knew that it was time for bed. (On an ideal night when we are home), it starts at the same time, (7:30-8) with a warm bath, pajamas, kisses from the family, white noise, lights off. These cues tell him it is time for bed.

 

Phase 1: REMOVING THE BOOB

At 5 months we wanted to disassociate sleeping and nursing. This required a lot of help from Clay because Curren just wasn’t having it. He was so used to nursing to sleep that he thought it wasn’t possible without it. I would be trying to put him to sleep (when I knew he couldn’t be hungry), and he would just cry and cry until the boob came out. So we switched things up a bit. I would nurse him outside of his room before bed time and let him be awake for a few minutes and then Clay would take over from there.

 

Phase 2: REMOVING THE BINKIE

At 5.5 months, we decided to lose the binkie completely. That was the first step in preparing for the future steps. This was a MAJOR change for us because our first son had his bink until he was 3! But we felt it was necessary for him to be able to sleep independently, which is what we were trying to accomplish. He hated it for the first 2 nights and then that was it! He doesn’t even want it anymore. I have to admit, I do miss it a little bit when we are traveling or out n about when I don’t have something to “sooth” him except for my breast… but hey, we’re sleeping, so I’ll take it.

 

Phase 3: REMOVING THE ROCKING

At 6 months the rocking had to go. He was now used to Clay or I putting him to bed without being nursed/no binkie. So instead of sitting in the rocking chair, waiting for him to fall asleep and carefully setting him in his bed, we put him down after holding him for a few minutes until he was relaxed and DROWSY, not asleep. He didn’t love this at first. He did cry a bit when we put him in his crib and he wasn’t asleep because he was used to being held when he fell asleep. But that’s ok, we are teaching him to fall asleep on his own. I chose to stay in the room with him, soothing him next to his crib. I didn’t pick him up, just sat next to his crib, “shushed”, put my hand on his belly until he calmed down and fell asleep. (Sometimes this took a long time until he was asleep and I’d be in there soothing him forever.) But not picking him up was really important to letting him gain independence.

 

Phase 4: REMOVING THE PARENT

Once he was used to being put in his crib while awake, the next step was actually pretty easy. To my surprise, he was able to fall asleep on his own pretty quickly after about a week of us being in the room with him. We were able to spend less and less time until eventually, we would put him down, walk out, and he would fall asleep independently and sleep for long periods of time. CRAZY!

 

So here is the hard, honest truth. This took SOOO much diligence on our part. It was so hard. ???? Seriously. Nursing and putting him to bed was the easy route short term because you are just SO exhausted and for me, that was a shoe in… I knew he’d be asleep in minutes and this “training” stuff could take an hour. It was hard and I cried some. HAHA But it REALLY is the best thing we have done for ALL our sanity. He is SO much happier now that he is sleeping. SO MUCH. He needed structure and just needed to be taught how to do it on his own!

I hope this helps! I know what it’s like to not sleep night after night. Ezra didn’t sleep until he was almost TWO! haha BEST OF LUCK TO YOU AND YOU BABE!

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  1. This is so great! Well done! I’m preparing for baby #2 and my first babe-now toddler- was & is a very talented and independent sleeper. I can’t picture another baby sleeping so well, though my husband credits us for that. I’m no so sure. This is very systematic and progressive which I can really appreciate. I feel like I did a few of these things but love the reminders!

  2. Georgie says:

    You are strong! I couldn’t sleep train either of mine and opted for co-sleeping (safely) until my daughter was 2 (!!!!!) and my son was 1. It only took a week to get my son to sleep in his own bed (so thankful). A lot of my friends sleep trained their kids but I just couldn’t do it ????

  3. Nicole says:

    Thanks for this! I’m going to try it. I ended up letting my daughter cry it out when she was six months, but it felt a bit traumatic for us all. I’m hoping your modified version might help us. My little guy is a few weeks younger than Curren, and loves to be nursed to sleep over and over all night.

    • Mary Lauren says:

      The straight cry out is tough. Not for us either. They’ll cry a bit with the method we used but you’re definitely by baby’s side the entire way helping them learn to sleep!

  4. Natasha says:

    Thank you for posting!! I have a baby girl who just turned 6 months. She can only fall asleep at night while nursing, and we have tried to breastfeed in the living room and then put her to sleep in her bed without, but she just cries and won’t stop before I nurse her.
    Can you tell me more concrete how you put him to sleep without nursing. Did you use the binki?

    Thank you Mary Lauren ????????

    • Mary Lauren says:

      Curren was the same way! Only fell asleep when nursing. So we replaced nursing with the binki for a few days and then removed the binki and just rocked. Then removed the rocking and just laid him in his crib. It was tough the first couple days taking away the nursing and then binki but we just stuck it out and it got easier as time went on.

  5. Rachel says:

    THIS IS AMAZING!!! Exactly what I needed right now. My little guy is 5 months old, and for about two weeks has been waking every 1 to 2 hours…. All. Night. Long. ???? so we are trying to figure out how to GENTLY sleep train and this fits with what we want to do perfectly. I would love to hear how you implemented your gentle sleep training methods when he would wake in the night. Did you just rock back to sleep without offering the boob? Did you have planned times when you would offer the boob? ie when you knew he was really hungry as opposed to looking for just comfort? Thanks so much for all of these good tips – will be implementing a similar approach soon!

    • Mary Lauren says:

      Thanks Rachel! That’s one of the toughest parts. Clay helped a ton with this so he wouldn’t cry to nurse as much when Clay went in. I would feed him around 11pm and then at around 5am. And for us we found that more nursing than that was for comfort and not for hunger. Once he was down we never got him out of the crib just pats on the back and whispers to settle him, except the two times I’d nurse him. I think that’s one of the most important parts.

      • Rachel says:

        Thank you so much for your response! Whenever my husband puts Logan down to sleep I feel like he sleeps longer without looking for the boob. Will have to have him use his soothing methods in the night to try to cut back on the all night buffet ????

        Thanks again!

  6. Cindy says:

    Thank you so much for the tips! My baby is 6 months old and still wakes up 4 – 5 times during the night, it’s so tiring, I’m definitely gonna try to change this by using your tips. Love your family! Kisses from Brazil ????

  7. Christa says:

    My son has similar schedule like yours! Though his pattern is still a bit irregular with 2-3 times night feeding.. I wonder if white noise can help him sleep better, may I know what brand is your machine?

    • Nicole says:

      We paid the big bucks for a Hatch Baby Rest night light/sound machine and I LOVE it. Worth the money, better sound, and can be programmed as an “ok to wake” or alarm clock one day when kids have to get up for school. We also have the Homedics white noise machine which gets the job done, but isn’t the greatest quality.

    • Mary Lauren says:

      Hey Christa! We love the white noise. I think it helps for sure. We use the munchkin one that has the little projector on it. We don’t use the projector but the white noise sound we really like on that one.

  8. Nina says:

    Great read, thank u. I’d like to know, however, how exactly you did these steps. Did u let him cry? I just tried eliminating the paci but it took extra rocking to get my daughter to sleep… she was so out of sorts to not have her paci. I’m terrified she will wake up screaming and then what? Any advice?

    • Mary Lauren says:

      Thanks Nina! Yea he cried when we took the paci so it took some extra rocking to sleep. The first day was pretty tough. But After a couple days it seemed that he forgot about his paci and would rock to sleep with little crying. That’s when we started rocking him until he was drowsy and then put him in his crib tired but still awake. Id stay patting his back and by his side till he fell asleep. Now we put him down that same way without staying and sometimes he’ll go to sleep without crying and sometimes he’ll whimper for a couple minutes till falling asleep.

  9. Elena says:

    WOW! This is great! I’ve had lots of trouble trying to get my little one to sleep without breastfeeding! He’s never been attached to anything but the boob, no pacifier, no blankie or stuffed animal…strictly boob! It’s been a tough few months for me! I’ve recently came across this that also really helped me! https://bit.ly/2IEzk7f Check it out! They have lots of good tips in here too!

  10. Elena says:

    WOW! This is great! I’ve had LOTS of trouble trying to get my little one to sleep without breastfeeding! From day one he’s only been attached to the boob…no pacifier, blankie, stuffed animal, nothing…just boob! the past few months have been so draining for me, trying to get him to sleep on his own! I’ve recently come across this that has helped me a lot too! https://bit.ly/2IEzk7f
    Check it out! It has some great tips too!

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