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.
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!