January 11, 2018

How I Sleep Trained My Babies

ferber method


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I've mentioned it before here on my blog (and here), but I'm a believer in sleep training. It's what worked with Adam, so I knew I would implement it with Hannah as well. I'm not going to lie, it's not easy or pleasant to hear/watch your baby cry. But the point of sleep training is to to teach your baby to self-soothe. We all naturally wake at random times throughout the night. So when your baby wakes and s/he has become dependent on something in order to fall asleep (a pacifier, a swaddle, a boob or bottle, etc), s/he won't be able to fall back asleep without that thing. So this process is about removing that crutch so that your baby isn't dependent on anything to fall asleep.

When I sleep trained Adam, I second guessed myself the entire time. But I stuck to it because I had the support of a friend who did it with her kids, and I knew it worked. And guess what? It worked for him within 2-3 days. He's now almost three and still sleeps 12 hours at night and takes a daily nap (we've gone from 2 naps to 1).

We sleep trained Hannah last month and the reason I wanted to document the process in a post is because there was so much I forgot with Adam that I wished I remembered when I started with Hannah. Did I continue to swaddle him? Did I take away his pacifier? What about naps? It's funny how you think you're going to remember everything when you're in that moment because you're living it daily, but with babies, you really do forget so much. So for any of you mamas who are currently going through this or plan on sleep training soon, this post is for you!

So Hannah's sleep situation pre-sleep training was this: I was still swaddling her and giving her the pacifier at both nap time and bedtime. Her naps were usually okay. She'd go down fine and would take a decent nap. Same for bedtime; she'd go down in her room with no crying. The problem was that she wasn't getting a solid night's sleep. She'd usually wake at midnight, 4 and 6. I would be so exhausted that I'd just bring her back into my room, nurse her and put her in the bassinet, so she'd finish the night sleeping in my room. After doing this for 6 months, you can see how it can be exhausting for both her and me. Everyone needs solid sleep.

Sleep Training, Night 1

So we started sleep training right before she turned 6 months. I decided to go cold turkey and leave her in the crib unswaddled and no paci. The first night was some weird fluke. I put her down late, at 10pm. She fell asleep with NO CRYING within 10 minutes. She then slept until 5am. At that point I honestly didn't know what to do because I definitely don't want her waking up at 5, but I figured since it's kind of morning, I'll feed and change her and put her back down. After that, she cried for 3 minutes and slept again until 9am.

After night 1, I thought maybe she won't be so hard to sleep train, after all lol. But surely it was too good to be true...

As for the naps the following day, that was a different story. She would NOT sleep. I put her down unswaddled and no paci again. But she just wasn't having it. Per Ferber, if they end up crying more than 30 minutes for nap time, you're supposed to end the nap and try again later. I tried to get her to nap on her own a few times but she wasn't having it, so I said screw it, I'll just hold her to sleep. Nap times seem to be harder than nighttime training, so I figured I'd focus on nighttime first and work on nap time later. I just wanted her to get some sleep!

Sleep Training, Night 2

I feel like this was my real night 1 lol. This time I put her down at 8:30, which is my goal bedtime (between 8/8:30pm). This time she cried. I went in after 10 minutes to console her. She continued to cry. I then went in after 12 minutes, with a following 12 minutes and she finally fell asleep around 9:10pm. She then woke at 9:55, cried for about 17 minutes and fell asleep on her own around 10:10.

She woke up again at 11:45pm. She hadn't finished her bedtime bottle so I thought maybe she's hungry and let's have her finish it. She wouldn't have it; she was actually really tired. So we put her back down and she fell asleep at 11:58pm.

She then woke up at 4:12am. This was the worst stretch. She fussed for 20 minutes so I went in to change her diaper. That was probably a mistake because I think it really woke her. After that. she cried up until 5:45am (with me going in every 12-15 minutes). She then woke for the day at 9am. That was definitely a rough night.

For her naps that following day, I decided to put her down with no swaddle but give her the pacifier. I put her down at 10:30am and she fell asleep within 15 minutes without crying. She did wake about 25 minutes later, but she didn't cry. She sat in her crib with the paci.

Sleep Training, Nights 3-5

These nights got better. She started to go down without crying (hallelujah!). She would wake here and there throughout the night with some fussing, but she would go back to sleep.

Today

Now, she goes down for the night (without her pacifier!) and will generally sleep through until 5am. Although it's not ideal, I usually go in to feed her and put her back down, and she'll sleep again until about 8/9am. I'm hoping we can push back this wake time to 6, if not later lol.

Don't get me wrong; she still has some random off-nights where she'll wake for God knows what reason. That's the thing with babies; the one constant is change. Once you get into a groove something throws you off: teething, a growth spurt, tummy issues, whatever. So you just gotta roll with the punches and wait for these periods to pass until you get back into your rhythm.

As far as naps go, I am still giving her the pacifier. I tried for a while to go cut it off, but girlfriend just wasn't having it. I'm hoping that once we're really solid on nighttime sleep, the good habits will just transition into nap time as well.

Tips

The first thing to remember is that all babies are different, so everyone's experience will be different. Adam was pretty easy to sleep train. Unless I'm just forgetting, he was good after 2 nights. Hannah was definitely a lot harder. It's all going to depend on your baby's temperament, so be patient.

Next, get into a routine. I need to take my own advice here. While our nighttime routine is decent, I'm awful in the morning. Getting her on a routine/schedule means I have to get on a schedule and I just don't have it together enough right now to do so. Ideally, I'd be waking her at the same time every morning and putting her down for naps at the same time, but I'm not. Once she wakes for the day, I'll just put her down for a nap within an hour/hour-and-a-half, because that's when I notice that she's getting tired again. While I think flexibility with nap times is fine, I think it would be better for her if I at least had her morning wake time and evening bedtime be the same. This is something I need to work on.

On a similar note, pick your nighttime routine wisely. This routine is important because it will signal to baby that it's time for bed. I wanted something easy that I knew we would be able to do every night. I even considered situations in the future like traveling: what would you be able to do in a hotel if you need baby to sleep? I know a lot of people include bath time in their nighttime routine, but I specifically didn't want to include it. I don't bathe my babies every single night so I don't want them to rely on this in order to sleep. Plus, I don't always bathe them at night. Sometimes I'll bathe them during the day so bath time was out for us.

With Adam, our routine was simple. We'd warm up a bottle of breastmilk, take him to his room for story time on the rocker and feeding, prayers, done. Super simple.

Hannah has a similar routine. Since I'm still nursing, I nurse her throughout the day, but at night she gets a bottle, so this is her only bottle of the day. I have to admit we currently suck at story time, but that's something I'd like to be more consistent at with her.

So there you have it, that's how we sleep trained our babies. I know it's not for everyone, but if sleep training is something that interests you, I included the sample chart from Ferber's book in this post. And while it IS hard and you'll probably second-guess yourself if this is your first time doing it, it DOES work. Just hang in there, mama, and remember that you're instilling healthy sleep habits for your baby. And if you have any questions or need support throughout this process, please feel free to reach out to me! All my contact info is on the top right corner of my blog, or leave a comment below.

Good luck!

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1 comment

  1. You did the right thing for both you and baby! We sleep trained my son around the same age and it probably saved both our lives. We found great comfort and support in the online blog/book/facebook group Precious Little Sleep. They were there to help me trouble shoot problems, preempt problems and just commiserate. Great people and information! They use a similar formula to what you did. I'm glad it work out well. Baby is beautiful :)

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