As I write this, my 9 month old is fast asleep on his second nap of the day. I read him a book, sang him a song, gave him a hug and kiss then put him down in his crib wide awake with his Sophie and his stuffy and closed the door . That was at 12:58pm, its now 1:01 pm. This is how sleep training works. Once you have trained your babies to sleep at the same time and fall asleep independently, most naps and bedtimes should be like this. It’s all about forming good sleeping habits and incorporating a good, consistent bedtime routine.
Now let’s learn how I go from these two being like this ^^ to sleeping 12 hours straight at night! Before I continue, I have to say I am no expert, I am not a sleep consultant, I am just a mom who was really really tired of waking up multiple times a night and spending an hour rocking my baby to sleep. So I found a solution for my problem, and I am here to tell you about it. Also keep in mind, this is what worked for me, this is not to say it will work for everyone, but if you are reading this I’m sure you want some sort of solution so hopefully it works for you too! Lastly, I need to tell you that I learned everything I know on the topic of sleep training from a book by Alexis Dubief (www.preciouslittlesleep.com). It is recommended to sleep train a baby between 6 months and 1 year but that also depends on you, your baby and your paediatrician.
So lets begin. I will tell you about how our nights go and then I will explain the steps we took to get there. We start our evening with dinner for both kids at 6pm. We then give them an hour to eat and then play a bit after dinner (to digest) before we take both of them upstairs at 7pm for their baths. Normally we spend about 15 minutes in the bath then at 7:15pm we take them into our room with dim lights and sometimes low volume bedtime music and we give each child a full body massage with coconut oil, get them dressed for bed and then Jacob has his last nursing session, while my husband dries Jennas hair and helps her brush her teeth. Once I’m done feeding Jacob, we all say goodnight and Jenna and dad go into her room for her reading time and milk, and I take Jacob into his room where I put him in his sleep sack, then we read his bedtime books (always the same books about bedtime), sing Jacob his night time song, place him in his crib, give him his Sophie the giraffe, and his stuffy. Then I turn on his white noise machine, say goodnight, turn off his nightlight, close the door and leave the room for the evening. From here, both kids will sleep from 7:30pm-7:30am, usually without a peep!
The first thing I would say is that you need to do is form a good and consistent bedtime routine. This means you should be doing the same thing every night and at the same time (or as close as possible). For example something like what I do with my kids (bath, massage, nurse, book, song and then bed). You should also have a routine at nap time but ours is much shorter for naps, for Jacob we just do sleep sack, book, nighttime song and bed and for Jenna we give her coconut water or milk in her bottle, put her in her pyjamas and put her in her bed with a bedtime song. Once you have a good consistent bedtime and nap routine, you can start your actual sleep training. By this, I mean teaching the babies to fall asleep and stay asleep without your assistance. Most importantly it is teaching them to fall asleep independently, and without an association (nursing, rocking, singing them to sleep) . However the baby falls asleep at bedtime is the same way he or she will expect to fall asleep every time he wakes up through the night. And because babies naturally go through sleep cycles which causes them to wake up multiple times a night. Sometimes they turn over and go back to sleep and other times they cry and wait for that association to go back to sleep again. Now I will tell you about my experience specifically sleep training Jacob because it was the most recent, but I did pretty much the same thing with Jenna.
So to teach Jacob to fall asleep independently I focused on two things, ensuring that his last nursing session was 20 minutes before I laid him down in his crib. This is the association I mentioned above, I didn’t want him to associate nursing with falling asleep otherwise every time he wakes up he will expect me to nurse him to fall back asleep. Once that part was set and we had a consistent routine that we used at bedtime and for naps, I had to teach him to fall asleep without my help. Basically you do the night time routine, you then put baby down in a safe sleep environment, turn on the white noise machine, close the door and leave baby in the room. Normally at this point, when you close the door, the baby will start to cry! This part is the hard part and trust me, it will end, and when its all done you will be so glad you did it. Unless you have a unicorn baby (congratulations you lucky duck), this means your baby will not cry, they will fall asleep and your sleep training is done!
Now for the rest of us, whose babies do cry when we leave them to sleep by themselves, you now have to use one of two methods. Cry it out extinction which means you do the bedtime routine as mentioned, close the door and leave the room. Then you just let baby cry until they fall asleep and they will eventually learn that you are not coming back and hopefully just turn over and go to sleep. This was not for me so I used the Ferber method. It is a more gentle approach to the cry-it-out method based on a a best selling book by Richard Ferber. Basically he focuses on the importance of sleep associations which I explained above. Ferber encourages us to remove the associations, allowing babies to learn to put themselves to sleep without our help and then he allows for checks at intervals explained below.
This is how Ferber works and how I implemented it with Jacob.
- created and maintained a consistent bedtime routine
- put jacob in a safe sleep space with white noise and no light
- check in at regular increasing intervals until baby falls asleep
Specifically, day 1: put baby down close the door. After 3 minutes of baby crying, go in sing, talk to your baby or pat him gently to calm him or her down but do not pick them up, and leave the room before he or she falls asleep. For the next check, wait 5 minutes of baby crying. Then repeat the same calming process as above. Next wait 10 minutes of baby crying. Then repeat the calming process above. Next wait 15 minutes and so on until baby goes to sleep. Day 2 do the exact same thing but start at 5 minutes for the first check and every day after that increase the timing until day 7 when you should be waiting 20 minutes before you first go in and check on them. Usually after 7 days the crying time is much shorter and the baby should be able to sleep longer periods because he or she now knows how to put themselves to sleep.
More or less this is how I taught Jacob to sleep independently . Then I wanted him to sleep through the night so I simply did extinction for one feed at a time. So he was sleeping at 7:30pm, waking up at 11:30pm for a feed, waking at 3:00am for a feed and then waking up at 6:30am for a feed and then waking up at 8am for the day. 9 months of this was all i could take and so I gradually cut out the feeds one at a time. I started with the 3:00am feed, I would simply let him cry until he fell back asleep and if he cried more than 5 minutes I would send my husband to go in and calm him down and if he had to he would pick him up and sit with him on the rocking chair. This took about 3 nights and then he stopped waking up at 3am for a feed. I then did the same thing for the 11:30pm feed and again it took about 3 nights for him to stop waking up at 11:30pm. He will still sometimes wake up at 6:30am for a snooze feed but I don’t mind because he just eats quickly and then we both go back to sleep until we start our day.
So there you go, I hope this helped you and answered any questions you may have but please leave any questions or comments below in the comment section I would love to hear how you trained your babies, why you chose to train them or why you chose not to train them.
Q&A. Here are some questions I have gotten from people trying to sleep train!
- how long until this works? it is different for everyone some kids learn to sleep quickly within 1-3 days and some take longer (it took about 2 weeks for jacob to start sleeping without crying
- do you ever go back in after you’ve put him down for bed ? yes, if he cries for longer than a few minutes i go back in and check if everything is okay, is his diaper okay, does he need to burp? are his clothes comfy? (once i left a tag on one of his onesies and it didn’t come off in the wash either so he was super fussy and this was why) is something else bothering him. Once i figure out the problem or I can’t figure out the problem i just revert back to the last step so I sing his sleepy time song give him another hug and kiss and lay him down and leave again. if he’s still crying i wait a bit longer and do the same thing. More often than not its a burp and sometimes it doesn’t happen until 15 minutes after I’ve put him down but this honestly doesn’t happen often, thats why its so important to have that 20 minutes between the last nursing session (or bottle) and putting them down.
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