We are on day 7 of sleep training our nearly 8 month old and I thought I would write out some thoughts on the whole process since it’s pretty much consumed my brain for the last month.
I wrote a post about no-cry sleep training tips after my first son was sleeping through the night. Looking back at it now, I realize how ridiculous it sounds. Big bro learned how to become an amazing sleeper once he found his thumb and we just got lucky with him. Sure, we gave him the opportunity to go to sleep on his own (which, if you’re a mom, you know how hard that first step is), but he did the majority of the work and saved me from the anxiety of listening to him cry (oh, what a painful thing it is to hear your baby cry).
With lil bro, we have struggled with sleep since day 1. He spent the majority of his first 6 months only sleeping swaddled in a swing (which made me nervous for lots of reasons). After month 6 when we ditched the swaddle and the swing, things went downhill very fast. He was waking every 45 minutes and eventually my husband and him just started sleeping together all night in the spare room. And even with that set up, neither of them were getting very restful sleep. And no one really liked this set up (most of all, my husband!).
We tried various ‘gentle’ sleep training methods like sleep fading and pick up put down, all of which resulted in MORE crying from lil bro. I now firmly believe there are no ‘gentle’ sleep training methods, unless you just have a kid like big bro who naturally catches on to these things easily.
So we moved into more traditional sleep training territory.
I knew I couldn’t just abandon my baby in his crib, so we settled on the Ferber method. The word ‘Ferber’ has bad connotations, but it really is a pretty gentle method, at least in regards to ‘crying’ sleep training methods. You never leave your baby completely. You go in and do checks to let them know you’re still there while they figure out how to go to sleep on their own.
I joined a Facebook sleep training group and did TONS of research. We picked a Friday on the calendar and cleared our calendar and committed to it. I was so nervous the entire week leading up to that Friday. But I kept telling myself, ‘I’ll just give him an hour and then I can save him if he’s still crying’. That made me feel better.
(Side note, I did check with my pediatrician before starting this. Every baby and home situation is different.)
The first night, he cried for 11 minutes and went to sleep. We were doing a happy dance! But I was nervous for the first nighttime wakeup. I had a feeling that would be the worst.
And it was.
After 50 minutes of sleep, he woke up. Mad.
We hunkered down on the couch and supported each other through the process and prayed he would figure it out quickly. We alternated comforting checks, which, I will be honest, was so so difficult. Luckily, he was calming himself down regularly, so that was a great sign. I just kept reminding myself of how cranky and sleep-deprived he was (he was CONSTANTLY yawning!) and how he needed his sleep to grow and thrive.
He fell asleep at the 25 minute mark for about 5 minutes, woke up again and the fell asleep another 90 minutes later.
And then he slept 8 hours!
Now, I know there are people that think crying is the worst thing ever, but we literally never abandoned him. We went in to comfort him at regular intervals and he was clean, dry, warm and fed. He just needed sleep. And sleep he got.
He picked it up fast and hardly cried at all for naps the next day. Over the past 7 days, he has had some ups and downs but he is now sleeping 11 hours at night and taking 2 LONG naps every day. Between 1.5-2.5 hour naps! He is getting the sleep he needs! He has even taking some epic long naps of 4 hours since we started. We gave him the gift of knowing how to get back to sleep on his own. It was so hard, but so so worth it.
I definitely could not have done it without the support of the Facebook sleep training group. I would have given up that first night, for sure. But knowing what was ‘normal’ really helped.
Of course, I know there will be nights of teething and illness where I will comfort him as much as he needs, but this has been the best decision ever for our family.
A few things that helped:
- We sleep trained with a lovey. They need something to comfort them at night! I wore the lovey in my shirt for a week and let him play with it. I really think it helped. (Every mom has to make a decision with whether they are comfortable with lovies in the crib.)
- We started a plan and were consistent. We didn’t go backwards. I didn’t confuse him prior to sleep training with any crying in the crib. We did our normal routine up until the minute we started and then we stuck to it. It was only HARD a few times. If I would have given in during those hard times, it would have been very confusing to baby!
- I weaned off most all sleep props prior to starting. We stopped night feeds about a week before starting the training. We stopped using the paci for sleep about a month before. His only sleep prop was rocking/co-sleeping. I think nursing to sleep is the hardest prop to break probably, so I’m happy we never really went down that road. Also, I think having Dad help out helps a lot!
- We sleep trained on his belly. I am SO not recommending this to anyone, but this is the only way my son will sleep without a swaddle. He is old enough now that he can push up and move around if he needs to. This is such a personal decision, but this was the decision we made for our family. I think it helped a lot.
- A support network! My husband and I committed to support each other that first night. And I leaned heavily on my Facebook group. I was pretty much on my own after the first night (since my husband had to be with big bro while I was doing this), but having a buddy for the first night was so helpful.
It is SUCH A relief to be able to put him down awake in his crib knowing he will get the sleep he needs rather than having to stress about rocking him to sleep every few hours! And he’s much happier now! Yay!