Hi guys! now that we are officially done (well finished the 14 days) and Easton is sleeping through the night, I wanted to share what I learned about sleep training. I figured I would break it up into a few posts. This first one is a bit long as I am sharing why we decided to sleep train, but I promise to keep the rest of them short. If you are considering sleep training your baby, keep reading.
“Sleep training” is such a personal decision. I struggled with it for about a month. When I brought Easton home from the hospital I made the decision that I would feed on demand, and not follow a “schedule”, but rather go off of his cues, which I really regret now. If I had to do it all over again (which I might) I would put my baby on a feeding schedule ASAP! As a new born, he was pretty easy, around the 10 week mark he started sleeping from 8pm-1:30am/2am, wake at again at 5am/6am and then sleep until 8am. And while that wasn’t ideal, between Pete and I we were able to manage getting up once a night. Then around 3.5 months he went from being an OKAY sleeper to a TERRIBLE sleeper getting up multiple times a night. We endured about two weeks hoping hew would readjust, but he wasn’t, it was only getting worse and we started to breakdown.
Sleep deprivation is a serous thing. It was starting to affect all of us. Easton was so fussy during the day, he would nap, but sometimes he would nap for 20min other times he would nap for 2 hours. I couldn’t get a handle on his mood and I was starting to describe him as a fussy baby. Pete and I were at each others throats too. He demanded I take more night shifts because he had to work the next day, and I demanded he take more shifts because I needed to be 100% so that I could give my child the attention he required. The argument went on for a few days and we were both right. But at the same time, he wasn’t willing to commit to helping me sleep train, and I wasn’t willing to take it on all by myself, either. It just sounded so daunting and exhausting! But, What really made me jump on the idea of finally doing something about it was an article I read somewhere that talked about how fast and how much a babies brain was developing. It said something like 90% of brain development happens in the first 3 years! Then I thought about what the sleep deprivation was doing to us, and then I got really sad thinking about what it was doing to Easton. I felt terrible, and started to get a little depressed. We finally came to the agreement that we needed help.
We had friends who used a sleep nanny with their first child and had great results. They gave us the phone number and don’t you know, I immediately called her. I mean after all how great would it be to hand your child off at night and in two weeks, you have a child that sleeps through the night? During our phone consult, she asked a series of questions all to which I answered no to (that’s when I realized I was doing something really wrong) and when I asked her, her sleep coaching method she told me that at this point, no matter which way I move forward there would be crying involved because Easton has entered his regular, wakeful sleep pattern. Meaning, he has entered the phase where he will wake up periodically during the night and since he doesn’t know how to put himself back to sleep, he cries out, we respond and he is using us a tool to help him fall back to sleep. Obviously that would need to be broken. So after that phone consult, I came to the conclusion that this was something I needed to try on my own before handing my child to a stranger. I couldn’t come to terms with him crying, searching for comfort and it not be Pete or I to reassure him that everything is going to be okay. I just kept thinking how abandoned he would feel if one night we are just not there anymore.
Over the next few days, I did a lot of research on “sleep training methods” from the Cry it out method, Then there is the Fade Method and Then there was the No Tears method…. This sounded to close to what we had been doing and it obviously wasn’t working. Unfortunately non of these methods were ones I could get behind 100% so I kept searching and I found a sleep coach on Instagram (takingcarababies), started following her, read her blog and I really liked the tone of her method. Essentially she wants to make sure all of your babies needs are met during the training and that sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I wanted to make sure, I wasn’t just abandoning my child so that I could eventually get some sleep. So I purchased her course and took a shot at it, knowing that the sleep nanny was still an option if I failed at this or couldn’t handle it on my own. I started on a Wednesday (so that I would have the weekend to sleep in and recover while pete was home) and gave myself until that Sunday and if I wasn’t seeing improvement, I planned on calling the nanny on Monday morning. Well, on day three we started seeing improvements and by day 4 I didn’t have to enter his room any more because he wasn’t crying any longer, and he was slowly able to soothe himself back to sleep. I can tell you that Easton is now sleeping though the night and we have not had to enter his room to soothe him since day 4 of the 14 day sleep plan. Tomorrow will be 21 days since we started. If you feel you are ready to sleep train, I would highly recommend just purchasing her course. She offers one for both New Borns and one for 5months and above.
Before you get started, Both coaches recommend checking with your pediatrician or if you trust yourself, you can certainly use your own judgment. Being a first time mom, I needed reassurance especially since Easton was 4.5 months when we started. But keep in mind that If your child has any kind of medical condition it needs to be address and dealt with or obviously you will not have success sleep training, and could even cause harm to your baby. Easton has reflux and slept with a wedge, but at the starting point he had already been on medication for a month. Even so, the sleep nanny would not begin without a note from our pediatrician stating that Eastons reflux was under control and the wedge could be removed. The Taking Cara Babies method also wanted all medical conditions to be addressed before starting. Makes Sense, since babies with reflux can experience pain, and require you tend to them. As far as teething, The nanny said any time is okay to start, but Taking Cara Babies recommends holding off ONLY if your child is cutting a tooth.
If you are thinking about starting to train your baby, i know exactly how you are feeling! But, if I can do it, you can too!
So anyway, here are some tips for setting the ideal environment for a baby to sleep in.
- Bedtime has to be between 7-8pm. Apparently all babies enter a natural lull between this time and it’s an ideal time to put them down. There is evidence that bedtime any later than that does not make your child sleep later because just as they enter a natural lull they have a natural wake time too and thats around 6am-7am. Eastons bed time was 8, now we moved it to 7pm. It just works better. I felt like we were always fighting to keep him awake that last hour.
- Baby needs to be in their crib, in their own room while you are sleep training. Side note- Once your baby is sleeping through the night, you can move them back to your room. If moving your baby out of your room is not an option, it’s recommended that YOU move out of the room while you sleep train.
- Baby must be out of a full swaddle (remember this is for 5 month olds and above)- Easton was completely out of swaddles and sleeping in a sleep sack, although the sleep nanny told me it was a little premature and lack of some swaddle could be contributing to his frequent wakes so now he currently sleeps in this, .
- The room temperature is really important. Depending on what your baby sleeps in, they recommended somewhere between 69 & 74. Because Easton sleeps in this, we keep it around 72.
- Remove all stimulants, like mobiles and toys from the crib. If a baby wakes up during the night, they can stimulate he/she to wake more. Side note- A lovey is okay, it can help baby soothe himself back to sleep. – Easton never had a mobile so this was easy.
- No night lights or bright light in the room. This means making sure your window does not let any light in early in the morning. Per both coaches, If baby wakes up for a second, light can disturb the sleep cycle and make him wake up. I learned that babies do not have the mental ability to be afraid of the dark! That happens later! We had a night light and Easton room has shutters which don’t let in a lot of light, but his room did get slightly lighter as the sun came up so we put up a black out curtain. Now is room is pitch black and once we did this, the 5 am wake ups are now short and sweet. (ill explain more later)
- You must have a sound machine. Not only does it offer baby comfort, they are said to help transition between sleep cycles too. I guess if a baby wakes and they hear the sounds, that signals their brains that it’s not time to wake up yet, and it obviously drowns out any outside noise. – I personally sleep with a fan on, so he’s had white noise from birth. We didn’t go out and buy a white noise machine, we jus use the cradle app and use a bluetooth speaker. But I hear great things about this white noise machine.
There you have it, these are the things that both consultants said had to happen before we even started. I hope As you can see, i was doing some, but not all. I definitely think implementing all of these helped.