Hey friends! I am so sorry I have been so MIA lately. I don’t even know what happened- The past month has brought a lot of little stressors and I’ve been majorly lacking on my blog! But I’m back and really excited to talk about something I feel I have learned SO much about- baby sleep!
2 things before I start- first of all, always check with your pediatrician before sleep training or night weaning. Some babies may have concerns that would make sleep training/night weaning more difficult or not okay at all. I am obviously not a Dr… SECOND- These are things I have learned through LOTS of research and LOTS of trial and error. There are always exceptions- maybe you nursed your baby to sleep overnight and they slept through the night no problem- thats great! but these are general guidelines to help people who may be having trouble getting their baby to sleep independently.
What is sleep training? It is helping your baby learn to fall asleep independently. meaning without help from you. It is not the same as night weaning, although many people do them both together. but you CAN keep overnight feeds during sleep training.
okay. Here are a few things Ive learned!
1- Put baby down AWAKE. This was huge for us. If you do all the hard work and rock or sing to baby until they are completely asleep- they won’t be able to put themselves back to sleep overnight. It’s normal to wake up a few times overnight and fall right back asleep. But if baby falls asleep in your arms then wakes up hours later in his crib..he’s going to be like wtf?! come rock me to sleep again. This will almost always involve some crying at first. If you can’t handle any crying, this post is not for you. It took a few full weeks of sleep training before Liam would go down without any crying. There were LOTS of tears in those few weeks, but he was ALWAYS still happy as could be in the morning.
2- Follow age appropriate wake times. A brand new baby should only be awake for about 45 minutes at a time. That’s pretty much enough time to feed, burp, and change diaper. I followed these to a T from the day we brought Liam home and let me tell you- he was a DREAM baby the first 6 weeks. I would lay him down right at the 45 minutes mark and he would fall right asleep. This was before official sleep training and in those sleepy newborn days- there were no tears when I’d lay him down UNLESS he was overtired. Seriously- I’d miss it by like 10 minutes and he’d refuse to sleep. As baby gets older these times increase. You can look up age appropriate wake times and find charts.
3- Eliminate sleep crutches- some babies do fine with sleep crutches and naturally lose them. But in general, you don’t want to introduce anything that you’ll have to take away later. Examples: swing, pacifier (unless baby can put it back in by themselves), rocking, nursing to sleep etc.. We use a wearable blanket every night, but that doesn’t require me. In other words- if he wakes up overnight he doesn’t need ME to come replace a crutch. I don’t have to go rock him, put pacifier back in or anything. He has his wearable blanket on and he figures it out himself.
4- Separate feeding and bed with a little bit of play. Feeding right before sleep can become a sleep crutch. So this is to prevent baby from NEEDING to eat to fall asleep. Again, because if baby wakes up a little bit overnight- he won’t be able to fall back asleep without eating even if he isn’t hungry.
5. Make a nap routine and a bedtime routine. Here is ours- nap= put on wearable blanket- sing for like 15 seconds- lay down and say “I love you Liam have a good nap”. For bedtime it’s- rub coconut oil on skin- put on blanket- read a couple books- turn on diffuser and turn off the light- sing for about a minutes and say “Goodnight Liam I love you”. Babies are smart. They will start to learn what it means. After a week of this, Liam started crying the second I started singing because he knew it meant I was laying him down. Now when I sing he lays his head on my shoulder and if I sing too long he reaches for the crib. It’s amazing. For naps- he was like most babies and was sleeping only 30 minutes until I read about crib hour. Leaving your baby in the crib for an hour regardless. It took weeks, but it took him for 30 minute naps to 90 minute naps. I still utilize this if he has a random bad nap. I consider it rest time. Even if he’s not asleep he still needs to “rest” until nap time is over- I know, mean mommy.
6- You don’t fall asleep within 2 minutes of laying down, and neither does baby. Maybe you read, watch TV, or get on your phone (bad!) to wind down in bed. All baby can do is be vocal. So maybe he’ll cry or make he’ll just babble or roll around, but give your baby some space to learn and figure it out. It’s honestly a wonderful thing for your baby to know how to sleep and to get enough restorative sleep which brings me to my next point-
7- It is NOT selfish to sleep train your baby. Liam had a lip tie released at 1 week old and had no post-op pain or fussiness. The first 6 or so weeks were the easiest for me. I laid him down awake and he napped great all day. Basically just slept all the time. Easy. Then he had a tongue tie released at about 6 weeks and he took it much harder. He was SO fussy and because I knew he was hurting I threw all my rules out the window and let him nap in my arms for a few days. Well this spiraled out of control and even way after his tongue was healed we got to a point were I was getting maybe 45 minutes of sleep a night and Liam was only sleeping 20 minutes stretches overnight. I am not comfortable co sleeping so I would sit awake and let him sleep on my chest all night. HE WAS A DIFFERENT BABY. He became so cranky all the time. His pediatrician diagnosed him with colic. He cried all day long. He was so overtired and it was an endless cycle each day. Missing out on that amazing sleep made him an insanely fussy baby. Overnights were torture. One night I looked at Liam in my arms and then looked at the bed and saw a second Liam. Luckily I was coherent enough to realize I was seeing things, because I knew I didn’t have twins. But I could not figure out which baby was real. So I woke Patrick up and told him I was seeing two babies. He obviously took over that night and I got 3 glorious hours of sleep. The next night we started sleep training to get back on track. It was so rough after starting a bunch of new bad habits, but it was very successful and I’m happy to say I have an insanely happy, well rested 1 year old now. So YES- I love sleep. But I also NEED sleep. I cannot function on 45 minutes a night for weeks straight. And Liam clearly couldn’t either. The good sleep has been good for both of us and was not a selfish decision. Looking back I laugh at the “colic” diagnosis. My kid just needed sleep.
8- There are so many methods. There are methods that allow you to go in and check on baby in intervals and methods where you make sure they are fed, changed, and comfortable then say peace out. That’s what we did. Any time I tried to check on him he would scream harder and I felt like I was teasing him. So we made sure all was well and we said goodnight. At this point I kept 3 overnight feeds at specific times and slowly pushed them back by 30 minutes every couple nights. Then one heavenly morning I woke up at 6 AM and realized Liam was still asleep and had been since 7PM. He now sleeps 7:30p-7:00AM and only wakes up if he needs a schedule change or has in ear infection.
9. HAVE SUPPORT. omg so important. If you live with a significant other- make sure you guys agree on a plan. Sometimes I would just stare at the monitor and cry with Liam. I thank God I had Patrick. He would take the monitor and tell me to hop in the shower or take a bath with headphones. He was absolutely amazing through sleep training. He supported me and never questioned my decisions. I am so thankful for that. I also had a dear friend with a baby 3 weeks older than Liam and we would text every single night in those first few months all about baby sleep. Lastly I was a member of a sleep training Facebook page that had a ton of useful files and resources.
10. You know your baby best. Now that Liam is “sleep trained” there have been nights when I could just tell something was up and he didn’t feel well. At these times I’ve always been there to comfort and love on him. I do not just leave him all night when I know something is wrong. Usually these nights have turned out to be an ear infection or the result of the need for a schedule change. It’s okay to bend when you know your baby needs you.
11- Make your own rules. You don’t have to stick to strict rules if they don’t feel right to you. Do what feels best for your family. If you’re happy cosleeping- do it. I was not. If you don’t mind nursing to sleep a few times overnight- then you don’t have to stop! Maybe you don’t follow any rules and your baby sleep just fine- then there is no need to change anything. Or maybe you’re doing alright with bad sleep and you’d rather wait it out without letting your kid cry. Do you. But some moms hit a breaking point where the sleep deprivation is making them feel desperate and miserable and they need to be able to take care of themselves without feeling guilty. I also figure Liam is going to cry a LOT in the next few years. Like when I tell him he can’t play with a knife or every single time I put him in his carseat. Babies cry. I don’t let him ride in my lap in the car just because he screams in his carseat the whole drive home from the mall. So for me- comparing the crying because he doesn’t want to go to sleep to carseat crying helped me see it a different way.
I feel like I need to just say it one more time- I am NOT a medical professional. These are guidelines I learned about baby sleep and they have been amazing for our family. Every baby is different and you definitely want to make sure your baby has no contraindication to sleep training before starting. But as always- if you need someone to talk to, I am always here! my email address is email@example.com and I would always be happy to talk or answer any question based off our experience. So ask your Dr what they think, make a plan, and pour lots of wine because it may be a rough few nights.