The ‘Sleep Training’ Method That Worked for Us
‘Sleep’ and ‘Babies’ are two words that just don’t seem to sound right when placed next to each other.
Especially when you are a new parent. You desperately want them to…no doubt about that…but for most of us (not including a few really lucky mamas) it takes work. Infant/baby/toddler sleep is like a really complicated math equation that looks different to everyone. The equation sometimes even gets different solutions, but still ends up being correct. Does that make sense? No? Math is not my strong point.
I feel like the best advice I can give on the subject is “do your research and follow your gut”. So many mamas get the advice to ‘let your baby cry…no matter how terribly you feel about it. It’s what’s best for your baby and you in the long run’. Well, outsider on my Facebook wall, there is no possible way you really know what will be best for me and my baby. Only I can really know that.
Here’s my ‘advice’ as well as my ‘method’. Hopefully someone out there will find it encouraging in some way!
My biggest piece of advice is to do. Your. research. I’m not saying go out and read every sleep training book there is (let’s be honest…I haven’t had time to finish a book in about two years). But you have to be prepared. Have a plan. Stick to it if you can but listen to your gut at the same time. If it really doesn’t feel right, change your method.
I personally used Pinterest to get other mamas’ first hand accounts of what worked for them. I took two or three that I liked the most and felt comfortable with and I blended them together to make a perfect formula. It has needed tweaking as my son has grown and changed but it’s worked nicely so far!
The first thing to remember is: Newborn babies are not meant to sleep through the night. If you got lucky and yours does, AWESOME! You are definitely in the minority but feel free to enjoy the glory that is a decent night’s sleep. You deserve it! Tiny babies have tiny stomachs and they are built to wake up every couple of hours to eat. Don’t stress about it. Understand that it’s normal and it won’t last forever. Just stock up on coffee in the meantime.
Even after the newborn phase passes, most babies still won’t sleep through the night.
Sometimes they are hungry and go back to sleep after a feeding. It could be something totally random that you never really figure out. There are other times they just wake up and cry because they miss you.
My son is 16 months old and JUST started sleeping all night (most nights…knock on wood) a couple of weeks ago. At his one year doctor’s appointment our pediatrician said ‘he isn’t hungry in the middle of the night…you can stop night time feedings now’ and I planned to do just that, starting that night. Well…the first time he woke up to nurse was around 11pm, and he wrapped his chubby arms around my neck and I thought ‘nope. I’m not ready for this.’ So I continued to get up once a night (sometimes twice) up until recently. It’s just what worked for us!
Okay, so here is how we got off the nighttime crazy train of waking up to play at midnight, or getting up every 30 minutes. After reaching my breaking point mentally and then doing my research when Leopold was about 8 months old, I settled on a gentle sleep training approach.
Babies cry. They just do. In the beginning I cringed at every mama talking about ‘cry it out’. However after trying to run into his room at every cry I realized there are so many different ‘cry it out’ methods! I followed my gut when letting him cry. Once he started getting really worked up, or if his tired/frustrated cry became even the slightest bit distressed, I would go back in there.
[I must preface this by saying that when I started ‘sleep training’ we also altered our daytime routine to make it a bit more structured. I really believe a good daytime schedule paves the way for a good night’s sleep.]
I started out by doing our usual routine (bath, pj’s, nurse, 3 books) and then I put him in his bed and pulled up a seat right next to the crib. You can read more about our bedtime routine here. For the first three nights I sat next to his bed for as long as it took for him to fall asleep. Luckily for me this was never longer than 30-45 minutes. If he cried I would pat his back, sing to him, talk to him, etc but I never picked him up. I also started giving him ‘pep talks’ before bed. “You’re going to sleep good tonight buddy! All night long!” of course he never really listened but part of me thinks it did help somewhat.
This was when the crying came in. In a post I read, you use these nights to sit in his room again, but scoot your chair away and just don’t touch him. He did so well with nights one through three that I didn’t feel the need to sit in the middle of his room in the dark. This was really the end of our ‘training’ but it’s when I started using the 15-20-25 method.
If he was still crying after 15 minutes I would go in, lay him down, tell him goodnight and then go back out. I’ll admit, most of time time I picked him up for a quick snuggle. If you want to be a strict sleep trainer, I wouldn’t do that. Then wait 20 minutes…and so on. I definitely cheated some nights if he was crying a little harder or if there was another factor that made sleep more difficult for him. Eventually he got it and most nights he didn’t even cry long enough for me to have to go back in.
After this became routine, he was really good about going right back to sleep after a midnight nursing session.
Now that I’m out of the woods (again…knock on wood!) I can tell you that it really will get better.
You got this mama!! You are a rock star and a champion and I hope you will be sleeping like one soon too!