This took me a while to get around to writing, sleep training is not an easy topic. It’s emotional when doing it and there are two pretty divided camps of parents when you bring it up! Here’s how we decided it was best for us and what we did.
When Noah got to be around 4 months old, the sleep was still not going well. Since he wasn’t getting great sleep, he was cranky and tired all the time and was sleeping in 2 hour spurts through the day and night.. only when being held.
I was exhausted and cranky too! Any sleep I got was holding a baby and sitting up in a chair. No one in our home was getting any good sleep and I truly believe that to give our best to those around us, we need to be able to take care of ourselves too. I was extremely torn emotionally between loving Noah, cherishing the quiet hours of the night with just us while I held him and being so tired I could fall asleep in literally any situation and getting easily irritable.
Noah was also frustrated with his lack of sleep at night. He would wake up every 1.5 – 2 hours and whether I held him or not he was squirming and screaming and just unhappy trying to sleep. Gus and I felt helpless and Noah was just plain grumpy.
Enter sleep training..
I’ll start this way. I’m a pretty well adjusted person, no emotional or abandonment issues.. just a [fairly] normal person living life the best I can. I was sleep trained at 2 months old (as were my brothers), it was recommended to my parents by my pediatrician. Soo as much as the thought of Noah crying in bed while I wasn’t helping him hurt my mommy heart, he was already crying in my arms and I couldn’t seem to do anything to help him. We decided to give this a try.
How we did sleep training
The concept is pretty simple and it’s basically the same with tiny tweaks in all the different ‘methods’ we saw people re-brand as their own. We chose to buy a book called The Sleep Easy Solution. Honestly, it basically told me everything my mom already had and what I researched online but it felt good to have a book. It felt like a plan that I could cling to when the going got tough and I wanted to quit.. I definitely didn’t truly need the book.
Basically with sleep training the baby is meant to stay in the crib and learn to comfort themselves back to sleep instead of needing you to do it for them every time they wake up in the night.
We did’t use the extinction method. Extinction in sleep training is leaving the baby in the crib and not going back in until morning/wake up time. We went in to comfort Noah and make sure he knew we were still there. This can be done a few ways, you can just talk to them, talk and touch them (like a head rub or back rube etc) or just touch. Whatever it is you choose to do, the goal is not to pick them up out of the crib and rock them to sleep, nurse them to sleep, etc. You want them to stay in the crib.
Here’s the basic outline we followed for check ins:
Any time the baby cries, initially at night or in the middle of the night we followed the same steps. We chose to comfort Noah by just talking to him.
x Wait 5 minutes before going in. It gives them time to try and fall asleep before we rush in to help (at first this seems laughable, later in the process they actually will fall back asleep before 5 minutes is up sometimes).
x After the 5 minute wait is up, you go in and comfort for 30 seconds max. It can be really easy to want to stay in longer, thinking it’s more helpful but the longer you stay the more tempted you are to get them out! Comfort them and run!
x The next wait interval is 10 minutes. You repeat the same process afterwards. Go in, comfort for 30 seconds max and out.
x The final wait interval is 15 minutes. Once you get to 15 you stay here, repeating the process until they fall asleep.
In the book we used they don’t recommend giving the baby a pacifier if they can’t put it in their own mouth. We did anyways, just letting him fall asleep initially with it, that’s just what worked for us. It’s definitely a personal choice but one to think about before starting!
The book also recommended logging your intervals in a notebook. We started like this and that didn’t last long. Gus ended up just starting the timer on his phone and letting it run. It just counted for us.
I have to mention that for the first 2 weeks Gus did every check in. I was way too emotional about the whole situation to go in the room while he was crying. While I truly believe sleep training was the best choice for us and has been one of the best things we’ve done, as a mom it’s just hard to hear your precious baby cry and not want to cry too! When I finally did go in later in the process when he would randomly wake up (he’s a tiny bit stubborn so it took longer than the week they say it usually happens in) it just seemed to get him more worked up hearing me. Which makes sense, he can get a lot more from me than Gus! I can feed him, I’m his usual comforter etc.
The main thing here is whatever you do, be consistent. Babies are smart. if they realize that sometimes they can get picked up when they cry long enough, they will keep crying longer and harder. If it worked once it’s worth trying again right?
I’d also recommend talking about exactly what you’re going to do with your husband/who ever is going to be doing this with you (legit almost tried to recruit my mom :D). Outline how you’ll comfort (not getting them out), how long you’ll comfort, who will go in to comfort at bedtime/ in the night,(can be alternated or just one of you!) will the baby get their pasi/lovey given back when you go in (this can be a slippery slope of them needing you at night), the intervals you want to use, how you’ll keep track of the time, etc.
It’s also worth noting that there will be circumstances where the baby will have to get out. So it’s best to be prepared for it mentally. Otherwise you’ll be like me and panic!:D About 3 weeks in Noah had a blowout ( I knew because he randomly woke up crying so I went in for the first comfort interval and was greeted by a beautiful smell)! Once he was changed it was business as usual though, he got put back to bed and we kept the same rules. The only time he has been held again at night was when he had a cold!
It’s crazy now that he literally doesn’t want rocked to sleep, he pushes off of me to go in the crib when he’s really tired. It’s good but it crushes my mommy heart and I won’t lie, I shed a few tears over that.
So, that’s it! It’s truly a simple concept. It’s the implementation that’s hard! For us it has been so worth the effort though. I hope this has been helpful to you and please feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments!
Sweat, Smile, Repeat! And Sleep 😀