Sleep deprivation, lack of consistent sleep, insomnia, wondering will I ever sleep again... Sleep is a frequent topic in our Momidarity mom groups, and since I myself have Googled "how to get your kid to sleep through the night" about a thousand times in the last four years, I thought it might be helpful to share my sleep training experience with all you tired mamas out there who are reading our blog.
In a series of upcoming posts related to sleep training, I plan to share both our previous experience with Charlie and our upcoming training with Lucy. This is real time sleep training folks! Grab a glass of wine and cry with me!
But first, a disclaimer.
When Charlie was about 5 months old, we decided to sleep train. And it worked wonders for us. Now I know this approach is not for everyone, and I totally respect and understand those who may not feel comfortable with "crying it out" - but these posts are not about whether or not to sleep train your kid. You do what you do, mama but I'm all for it, I'm not shy about it, and I'm sharing our story for those who might be in a similar situation... and are tired AF!
Now there are countless approaches to sleep training, from strict cry it out to no cry solutions. After some research we decided to use the Sleep Easy Solution. It's modified cry it out, and it's an easy to read book that clearly spelled out the steps to take for getting your child to sleep through the night. I highly recommend buying the book, but I'll provide the basic takeaways here.
1. Start with a regular bedtime routine (example: bath, book, bottle). We were pretty laid back with everything EXCEPT bedtime! We would start the routine around 6:30pm with a bath, followed by a story and nursing, and Charlie was usually in his crib by 7:00pm.
2. Do NOT let your child fall asleep on the boob or bottle. This is very important, since you don't want them to associate eating with sleep. For us, the early bedtime would help since C wasn't overtired and therefor passing out on the boob, but in the beginning I would keep waking him up if he started to doze off while nursing.
3. Keep lights low when feeding and use white noise. Black out shades also made a huge difference for us both at night and during naps!
4. Place your baby in the crib drowsy, say goodnight, and leave the room.
LET THE FUN BEGIN:
These steps are to be used if your baby starts crying both initially when you put your baby down for bed, and during the night if/when your baby wakes before you feel they should.
1. Once crying starts, set a timer for 5 minutes. Seriously - use a timer!! Otherwise you will go in after 1 minute because it feels like an eternity, listening to them cry. This is key!
2. At the 5 minute mark, go in and for no more than 30 seconds, sooth with just your voice. We picked a standard mantra of "It's bedtime sweetie, it's time to go to sleep, we love you and will see you in the morning". Avoid eye contact, and no touching. As hard as this is, remember you are just reminding your baby that you are there. Leave the room.
3. If baby continues to cry (and often it will get worse!) start timer for 10 minutes. Repeat the check in.
4. If still crying, start timer for 15 minutes. Same steps as before.
5. If needed, continue with 15 minute intervals until baby is asleep.
6. If baby wakes in the middle of the night (and they are old enough that they don't still need to eat) start the process again but only with 15 minute intervals, Often they are still half asleep so you just need to give them a chance to self sooth. REMEMBER - They need the opportunity to learn to sooth.
Note: If during the check ins crying starts to really slow down (like 30 seconds between cries) that is a good sign and you can prolong the check in past 15 minutes if you want. In some cases the check ins make it worse for the baby, so if that happens spread them all out to 15 minutes.
Likely your super smart baby won't master this in a night, so it could take a few or up to a week for the training to work. But in our experience we definitely saw an improvement each night, and felt like we mastered it by night 4. And four nights of hell is worth it for a lifetime of good sleep habits.
Know that sleep training is HARD, even for the strongest of mamas. I probably shed just as much if not more tears during the process, but I can assure you that every morning he woke up happy and not resentful, and is a great sleeper now at almost 4.
Questions? Comments? Share your story by commenting here! And stay tuned, as we're about to sleep train Lucy and I plan to share our experience, as it's happening, here!
Good luck mama!