“Enjoy the sleep while you can.” “You’ll never sleep again.” Sound familiar?
Although frustrating, there is some truth to these cliche statements…at least in the early months. When baby first arrives they haven’t established a wake-sleep cycle and babe needs to be fed every couple hours. After a few months they start to stretch out feedings and may even let you sleep longer than a 3 hour stretch! This may be a great time to think about sleep training.
Let me start with saying…THIS IS MY OWN OPINION AND THIS IS ALL DERIVED FROM MY OWN EXPERIENCE. I am NOT an expert by any means and am surviving most days on the dehydrating duo: coffee and wine! However, we have been blessed with great sleepers and I attribute it to a few things that I wanted to share with other moms that may be grasping for straws on getting their littles to sleep.
What is sleep training?
- Sleep training is the process of helping your baby fall asleep and stay asleep.
When to start sleep training?
Typically 3-6 months is a great time to start sleep training. We started both our kids around 3 months because they were ready. However, you know your baby best so if you’re not ready to transition your babe to his/her crib wait until you’re ready!
- Just be aware of the giant pain in the ass: sleep regressions. There can be many times in your babe’s life when they regress in sleep, but I am directly talking about the dreaded 4 month sleep regression. Around 4 months your baby is in a transition phase from a newborn who can sleep through a Metallica concert to becoming much more aware of their surroundings. Your baby also may be working on a new skill like rolling over or defending themselves against their older sibling, which can distract them from sleeping!
Can I prepare for sleep training?
- Make sure the room is DARK, cool (68-72 degrees), and I recommend using a sound machine with whatever sound you think your baby will soothe best to. It could be ocean waves (our favorite), white noise, or the *NSYNC No Strings Attached album on repeat; do what makes you and the baby feel comfortable!
- Go to the liquor store and get yourself a bottle of wine.
- Know what “sleeping through the night” actually means. Sleeping 5-8 hours straight by 6 months old, NOT 12 hours straight like some sources have suggested. Most babies typically don’t drop a feeding until 5-12 months, so they will be waking up if they are hungry. Don’t ignore the hungry signs.
- The first night you start to sleep train will be rough, hell…the first week will be difficult! And that’s ok…it’s normal. DO NOT give up! Consistency is key.
- Think about drinking the bottle of wine.
- Have support and discuss your game plan. My husband was extremely supportive and consistent when we were ready to sleep train. Also, have supportive mom friends that you can text or call when you’re frustrated! They will make sure you don’t give up.
- Shed a tear when you grab that bottle of wine.
Paying attention for cues
- We never set a strict routine with either of our kids. I know a lot of parents that have and it has worked out great for them! So if that is your journey, please take it. We simply trusted our gut. Paisley was little miss independent and at 6 weeks we transitioned her into her crib. She hated cuddling, was super fidgety in our room, and was up several times a night. Once moving her to her own room she became so much more calm. Jack is my little momma’s boy so we waited until about 14 weeks! As stated above, try and have them in their own room between 3-6 months. Around 6 months they can regress again due to teething so you don’t want to battle both sleep training and teething at the same time.
- When Jack shows signs of tiredness (yawning, eye rubbing, fussiness, irritability, etc.) we put him down for a nap. Even if it was an hour after wake up time, I make sure he doesn’t get overly tired. However, with bedtime I try and make sure he’s up between 2-2.5 hours before bed so he’s nice and sleepy!
Starting a routine!
- After your child is at least 6-12 weeks old, you should start developing a quality bedtime routine. Having two babies has required that our bedtime routine is simplistic. I call it “BBB”: bath, book, boob or bottle. (Jack gets a lullaby -Paisley is over my singing so I keep trying to convince her that I’m going to be the next winner of The Voice.) Don’t over complicate it!
Ok nitty gritty. Again-this method IS NOT going to work for everyone, however, I’ve been asked to share details so here we go!
- Bedtime is always between 6-7 pm. If your little has trouble settling down put them down earlier. You don’t want to be fighting him/her until midnight! (Can parents even stay awake until midnight??)
- After our “BBB” routine I will rock with Jack for a few minutes. Once I see those sweet baby blues start to roll back in his head, I know it’s time. If nothing else, the one thing I hope you take from this is: PUT YOUR BABY DOWN AWAKE. Drowsy, but awake. News flash: they will wake up very quickly if they fall asleep in your arms and wake up in a crib. Imagine falling asleep in your bed and waking up 30 minutes later on your front lawn. As entertaining as that sounds, you wouldn’t fall back asleep either.
- We use the Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suite with Jack and used it with Paisley as well. This Michelin Man outfit has been a life saver for both kids! Merlin’s is designed for babies who are ready to transition from the swaddle, yet still need that cozy, secure feeling to aid in their sleep. You can read more about it here or reach out to me if you have further questions. I always dreamed of having those sweet, snuggly, adorable sleeping babes, but the reality is it’s not cute…actually kind of terrifying, but oh so effective!
- We are a household that believes and uses the CIO (Cry It Out) method. This method is based around the babies ability to self sooth. First, it doesn’t have to be as harsh as it sounds. The newer sleep training “CIO” methods don’t involve letting your baby sob all night without some comfort and attention from you. And second, while you may not believe it, the crying-it-out, sleep training approach is probably harder on you than it is on your baby. Crying won’t hurt him in the long run, and ultimately if you can stand it- you’re doing everyone in the house a favor! Crying isn’t the goal of this sleep training method, but it’s often an inevitable side effect as your baby adjusts to sleeping on his own. The short-term pain of a few tears far outweighed the long-term advantages: A child who goes to sleep easily and happily on his own, and parents who can count on a good night’s rest.
Here’s what we did: While he’s still awake, we put him in the crib, give him a kiss, then softly tell him we love him and leave the room soon after, without waiting for him to fall asleep. As expected, there was a lot of protest. Here’s where the going gets tough. We let him cry it out for a full 3 minutes (or let them cry as many minutes as their age in months. Ie. If your little is 5 months old and you start sleep training, let them cry for 5 full minutes. What seems like a damn eternity will only be a few minutes of your life.) Then we go back in and repeat the original routine — a quick kiss, a gentle “good night” and go. It may be better for Dad to head in at this point if Mom is associated with feedings and comfort.We repeat this process for as long as baby cries, extending the time we leave him alone by a few minutes each time until he falls asleep. Stretch the times he spends on his own by a few more minutes the second night, and again on the third.
How quickly it works: Typically 3 nights for both our kids! The crying starts to diminish over three nights, and virtually disappeared by night 4. The next sound you’re likely to hear: cute tiny baby snores.
Whatever sleep training method you decide to use, don’t be too hard on yourself. If sleep training was a breeze there wouldn’t be countless articles written about it and mamas trying to help one another. I know this is such a tough stage but nothing worth having is easy, so remember your effort and consistency is worth while! You will sleep again!
You thought I forgot, didn’t know?? NOW DRINK THAT BOTTLE OF WINE MAMA! YOU DESERVE IT.