Sleep training was of major importance to me and I was asked by a friend to write about it. (Sorry it’s taken so long!) If you are one of those lucky people whose baby has slept through the night since they were 6 weeks old and naps perfectly, I hate you. Just kidding!! (Well, kind of) In the beginning I was desperate for a schedule and I was repeatedly told that it was too early. So I waited until the age my pediatrician recommended which was 4 months. Well, I waited until almost then. Brooks decided early on that he liked to be rocked and held when he slept. This was fine in the beginning but I swear he was manipulating me around 3 1/2 months. That little booger would sleep with one eye cracked open so he could tell when I was about to put him down and then he’d scream bloody murder. It was exhausting amd drove me to tears on more than one occasion. So I did as I always do, I became obsessed with information. I talked to his doctor, I read books (like 4!), I surfed the Internet, and I attended a sleep seminar at The Bump Club lead by Janeen Hayward of Swellbeing. I started with naps (not sure if this is recommended). For two terrible days I layed him down in his crib awake but sleepy. He screamed and I cried outside his door or down the hall. I tried going in to calm him down. I tried letting him cry it out (I lasted 30 long minutes). Nothing seemed to be working. After two days we were both exhausted. I told Chris I was determined to try it at bedtime. I knew I was being inconsistent and I needed to be stronger. I was mentally prepared for one hour of crying. We went through our normal bedtime routine (bath, massage, pj’s and sleep sack, nurse) and after holding him for only a few minutes I told him goodnight and closed the door. I took the monitor downstairs with the volume low. I waited…nothing! He fell asleep that night without a peep. I was so excited I literally jumped up and down. The next two nights didn’t go as smoothly but I was already a believer. I knew it was possible for him to put himself to sleep. I also truly believed that this is a valuable skill that I needed to teach him. By the fourth night something magical happens and they just get it. Since then on most nights Brooks won’t cry at all when I put him to bed. If he does it’s usually because he is overly tired and it only lasts for a few minutes. As tough as it can be to hear your little one cry it out, I promise you it’s worth it. I love our bedtime routine. It’s our special time together and it’s completely stress free.
So that took care of bedtime but apparently daytime and nighttime sleep are regulated in different parts of the brain so they are separate issues to fix. I decided on and still go by the 2 hour rule. Brooks is awake 2 hours between each nap and therefore takes 3 naps per day. (Earlier on though he’d go down for his first nap 1 hour after he woke up). He goes to bed at 7 (sometimes earlier) and sleeps from 7 pm- 7am. Anyway, naps need to be at least 1 hour long. Apparently sleep cycles are approximately 30-40 minutes and babies need to learn how to connect them. So if your little one only naps for 30-40 minutes you are supposed to let him or her cry until they’ve been in their crib for one hour. This too is easier said then done. Generally though, it’ll only take him about 10 minutes of crying and then he’ll sleep for another 30-40 minutes. He’s gotten better with practice at connecting his sleep cycles so I don’t have to let him cry nearly as much now. Although exact nap times differ each day which make planning a challenge he generally naps around 9 am, 1 pm, and 4/4:30 pm. The last nap of the day is the only one that doesn’t have to be an hour. He’s become quite used to this schedule and although there are days (especially weekends) when we digress he’s much happier when we stick to the schedule.
The final piece of this puzzle for us was getting him to sleep through the night without nursing. At the sleep seminar I attended, Janeen said that when babies are 12 weeks old and weigh 12 lbs they are capable of sleeping for 12 hours. Although I believed this to be true I had a really hard time with the idea of Brooks crying in his crib because he was hungry and me not getting up to feed him. It wasn’t until we came down to Florida that I decided to tackle this problem. My pediatrician had told me that she wasn’t able to do it with her first child (a son) and he’s 5 now and isn’t a very good sleeper. She said she did let her daughter cry it out and although it took 1 hour and 45 minutes of crying the first night, she’s now 2 and is a great sleeper. In our unit here in Florida our bedroom is on the opposite end of the condo as Brooks’s bedroom. Chris suggested we turn on white noise in our room and that’s exactly what we did. I went to bed, turned on my white noise app almost as loud as it would go, set my alarm for 7 am, and went to sleep. When I got up in the morning, I went in to get Brooks and he was smiling up at me, happy as can be. I used white noise for the next two nights and then on the fourth night I didn’t use it and by then he slept through the night. I’ll never know if he cried for hours, minutes, or not at all but for me oblivion is bliss.
We now have a very happy little boy who sleeps 12 hours a night and generally about 4 hours during the day. I know that every baby is different and I don’t think there is a right or a wrong way to do sleep training. It’s a matter of what you are comfortable with and what works for you and your baby, but this is what worked for our family. It wasn’t all easy but it’s definitely worth it.