For the first few months of his life, Hudson was a pretty good sleeper. In the early stages I was waking up to feed him 2-3 times a night until gradually he started to wake only once for a quick feed. We had established a 7:00pm bedtime early on and I thought we were doing great! I was hoping Hudson would start sleeping through the night soon, allowing us to by-pass any type of sleep training or ever having to let him cry it out in his crib.
Suddenly, around 5 months, instead of waking only once to feed, he started waking 3-4 times in the night, leaving me exhausted! Sometimes he would wake up an hour after I had just fed him, so we knew he wasn’t hungry each time. We took turns trying to settle him with a pacifier (which sometimes helped him fall back to sleep) but it became more common that he would start crying again a few minutes later when it fell out. I was so tired that I just fell into a routine of nursing him back to sleep. This went on for weeks and it just seemed like the easiest thing to do. I would bring him into bed with us and feed him until he drifted off and then tip-toed back to his nursery and placed him into his crib.
With a little reading and some advice from close friends, we knew it was time for some “tough love”. Hudson needed to develop Self-Soothing Strategies. I also knew he was using “being nursed” as a PROP to fall asleep and was becoming dependent on it. I needed to put an end to it. Shortly after Hudson turned 6 months, we sleep trained him using the following methods. It took a total of 2 nights, and since the 3rd night he’s been magically sleeping from 7:00pm – 7:00am (yep 12 hours!) EVERY SINGLE NIGHT since!
I’m sure we are considered the “lucky ones” as 2 days is probably not the norm, but even if the process had taken weeks it would still be worth it for us. We are all happier, more rested and the whole family just functions better as a result.
I read that babies Hudson’s age should be getting around 15-16 hours of sleep every 24 hours. This consists of 3 naps totaling about 3-4 hours of sleep in addition to a night of 12 hours of consolidated (uninterrupted) sleep. I wasn’t prepared to not leave the house and entirely stop my life in order to follow a strict and regimented nap schedule, however I knew we had to tighten up! I wanted to ensure he was getting at least 3 hours of nap time each day and I wanted him to be able to fall asleep on his own (with little to no crying involved). I also wanted to ditch the pacifier as I was worried about being one of those parents who goes in throughout the night to retrieve it each time its fallen out of the crib and baby cries.
Here is the Schedule we followed while Sleep Training:
7:00am: Wake Up, Feed, Playtime (we would try to delay his morning feed 5-10 minutes after he woke up by changing his diaper and saying good morning to his stuffed animals etc. – this helps ensure early rising isn’t an issue by delaying the gratification of the morning feed)
9:00 – 9:30am: Begin First Nap
10:30 – 10:45am: Wake Up, Feed, Playtime
12:45 – 1:15pm: Begin Second Nap
2:00 – 2:30pm: Wake Up, Feed, Playtime
4:30pm: Begin Third Nap (this nap has since been phased out as we noticed he didn’t need it these past few weeks after turning 7 months – but I think it was important at the time.)
5:00pm: Wake Up, Feed, Playtime
6:30pm: Begin Bedtime Routine ~ Feed, Bath, Story, Kiss
7:00pm – 7:15pm: Lights Out
We followed the above schedule, keeping in mind that he needed a nap every 2-2.5 hours during the day. He would often show signs of being sleepy (yawning and rubbing his eyes) and we would start his nap time routine. During his first two naps of the day, if he woke up before an hour had passed, we would leave him for a few minutes and he would often fall back asleep. Keep in mind the above schedule was not always strictly followed and there were days he had naps in the car when we could not be home to put him down in his crib. Ideally however, you would want to follow this schedule strictly for at least two weeks until baby is in a good routine.
I made sure I was giving Hudson 5-7 good feeds during the day. I would breast feed him at the times mentioned in the schedule above, however I would also give him two “snack feeds” as well. Usually once before this morning nap and again in the afternoon. It was also very important that his last two feeds were substantial, and I felt he had enough to sleep through the night. We’ve never needed to supplement, but these later feedings are definitely where some mamas could add in an extra bottle or top-up with formula if necessary.
*Now that we have incorporated solids into Hudson’s diet, he has solid food instead of the “snack feeds”. Usually “breakfast” is served in the morning around 8:30am (before his morning nap) and his “dinner” is served between 5:30 – 6:00pm. We have been doing Baby Led Weaning for the most part but also incorporating the odd puree. The most important thing is making sure baby receives nutrient rich foods. More on BLW and our Foodie Adventures in an upcoming post to come!
We’ve continued this routine every single night and it’s been working a charm. Very rarely does Hudson have any trouble falling asleep on his own and he is put into bed wide awake each night. Within a matter of minutes, he is usually asleep. The bedtime routine usually takes us about 30-45 minutes, and without a bath only 20-30 minutes. We choose not to give Hudson a bath every single night, however during the beginning of sleep training it’s probably beneficial as babies love repetition and predictable routine.
1. Bath and Baby Massage.
2. Change into Pajamas
3. Feed (DO NOT let baby fall asleep – try to keep baby alert by tickling feet or rubbing ears)
3. Quiet Playing & Bedtime Story
4. Put into Sleep Sack and turn on White Noise Machine. (This is when I would also sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”)
5. Place into Crib (wide awake) and say Key Bedtime Phrase. “Goodnight Hudson, Mommy and Daddy Love You”.
6. Leave the room and shut the door.
PRODUCTS WE USE
1. Skip Hop Owl White Noise Machine – We only use the white noise “consistent sound” setting that continues all night long. It sounds like ongoing ocean waves. Having a white noise machine helps to block out any outside noises (in our case: outside cars, dishes, television and trains!) Also, if baby wakes up in the night, this consistent sound should help them fall back asleep on their own.
2. iBaby Monitor – This has been awesome. We have it connected to WIFI on our phones and we can both check on him from wherever we are. It also has alert settings and picture/video capabilities. A video monitor is crucial when sleep training because you can check on baby without physically going into the room.
3.Juddlies Dream Collection Sleep Sack – This has been perfect during cooler temperatures and during the summer we used a lighter sleep sack. These are recommended as they are much safer than loose blankets and keep baby feeling cozy and secure while in their crib.
4. Lovey: Flat out Bear– This can be a lovey (attachment stuffy) of your choice! When sleep training baby, their lovey helps by giving them something to cuddle with, similar to a security blanket. They can chew on it if teething, or just hug it until they fall asleep. When Hudson was born he received a Flat Out Bear from his auntie in Australia and absolutely loves this. He also has a Jellycat Bunny Lovey – that he likes to use for nap time!
In order for Hudson to develop a sleep strategy on his own and without props, the most important thing was consistency. Once the key phrase is said and we know he is in his crib comfortable (fed, changed, and burped) we then crossed our fingers he went to sleep!
- If he protested longer than 10 minutes, one of us would go back into the room, say the key phrase, offer some careful touch with a pat or rub on the head, BUT HE WAS NOT PICKED UP OR TAKEN OUT OF THE CRIB. We never stayed longer than 30 seconds. It’s important to remember its not our job to put baby to sleep, we are there to offer comfort but its now his job to learn to sleep.
- If going in to console makes baby more upset, or if you do not seem to be helping.. then leave the room and do not continue to go in. Luckily after going in once or twice Hudson usually fell asleep within minutes. This can be repeated every 10 minutes or so, until baby is asleep.
- Ensure Baby’s Room is Dark. We invested in black-out curtains and blinds which helped eliminate early morning light coming into the room and also helped dim the room for nap times. We didn’t use a night light either.
- We haven’t given Hudson a pacifier once since starting sleep training. Although he only had it occasionally, I think he has forgotten it ever existed. Try to eliminate any “props”.
The first night of sleep training Hudson still woke up 3 times during the night. Every 10 minutes he cried felt like 10 hours! Its especially hard when you are extra tired and patiently watching your clock. This was the hardest part for us but its important that you stick with it. Again, consistency is everything when sleep training and you need to follow through or else baby will get confused and any progress will be for nothing.
- Once a baby is 6 months old and past a certain weight (check with your doctor on this) they are capable of sleeping through the night with no feedings. Hudson was waking up in the night and feeding as habit. He probably believed that he couldn’t fall back asleep without it. It was important I didn’t give in and feed him, especially if he’d been protesting as it would defeat everything we were doing and only teach him that if he cries long enough he will get what he wants.
- We would wait 10 minutes before responding to him. Often after 10 minutes babies will fall back asleep on their own. This is where we would watch him on the iBaby monitor and count down the minutes. If baby is still protesting after 10 minutes, go in and repeat the same strategies used at bedtime (gentle pat and reassurance).
- We don’t consider morning anything earlier than 6:45am. If Hudson wakes before this, we consider it a night waking and use the same strategies to get him back to sleep without feeding him. When he wakes up in the morning we make a big deal about it being the morning (by opening the curtains and loudly saying “Good Morning Hudson!” etc.) We then take him out of the bedroom for his first feed.
- Since Sleep Training we have never had to change Hudson’s diaper in the middle of the night. Unless absolutely necessary try to avoid this.
We created a simple 5 minute nap time routine. It consisted of: change diaper, close the curtains, read a story (a short one), turn on the white noise machine, place baby in crib, say goodnight, shut door. There were times that he protested during nap time but it usually didn’t last long. You can repeat the same strategies used at bedtime but remember there is a time limit. Some naps may be shorter until baby learns to fall asleep quickly and on his own.
Since we have transitioned to 2 naps a day, Hudson usually naps from 9:15am – 10:45am and again from 1:00pm – 2:30pm (sometimes longer). We never wake him up from his nap unless we need to go somewhere. We found the only times he really had trouble falling asleep are if he hadn’t had enough to eat beforehand. So make sure baby is well fed and try to refrain from nursing/bottle feeding baby to sleep. Sometimes I still need to feed Hudson close to his nap time but I try to make sure he doesn’t fall asleep while doing so. Working with a WAKE > EAT > PLAY > SLEEP schedule will help to break the feed to sleep association.
If Hudson wakes up before 1 hour of nap time is completed, we leave him and wait 10 minutes before going in. This is considered a Short Nap (less than 1 hour) and we found he usually fell back asleep on his own within that 10 minutes. If no success getting baby back to sleep, you can always move bedtime earlier that evening if baby has a poor nap day.
MORE FROM OUR EXPERIENCE
The 1st night we started sleep training Hudson he started to whine a few minutes after placing him in his crib and shutting the door. Our goal was to go in and reassure him after 10 minutes and he was actually asleep 8 minutes later. Phew, what a relief we thought, until he woke up at 1:00am crying! Wide awake, I watched the baby monitor for what felt like the longest 10 minutes of my life, and then my husband went in to soothe him by placing his hand on his head and saying “It’s okay, daddy’s here – go to sleep.” He was still crying when Mark left the room and we watched the monitor for another 7-8 minutes until he fell asleep. At 3:00am he was awake crying again and we actually left him crying for about 12 -13 minutes. I decided not to go in at 10 minutes as I could see he was trying to get comfortable and might be falling asleep soon. He awoke again that night at 5:00am and cried for almost 20 minutes before falling back to sleep. At this point I was just so tired… I think had gotten used to hearing him cry that I just waited and it worked. When it was morning (7:00am) and we heard him wake up (playing in his crib), we both went in and made a big fuss about it being morning and I brought him into our room to feed him. Even though it was a rough first night, I was so impressed that he went 12 hours without having a feed.
The 2nd night Hudson went to sleep around 7:00pm with little complaining (probably thanks to the fact we had established this bedtime early on) and only woke up once around 4:00am. We let him cry for about 15 minutes before I went in and reassured him. I already felt like a rock star having had that UN-interrupted sleep until 4:00am, and I couldn’t believe the improvement over the night before! After going in, Hudson fell asleep 6 minutes later. In the morning we were thrilled he had only woken up once and made it through another night without needing a feed.
On the 3rd night Hudson slept from 7:00pm and didn’t wake up until 7:00am. It was incredible. I felt like a new woman and I’m sure Mark felt like a new man! We were “Over the Moon” that a couple hard nights and a bit of scheduling/routine had allowed our baby to sleep 12 hours straight. He adapted so well and we were so happy we did it.
On Hudson’s next doctor check-up I told our Doc all about it! She said “Yep! That’s the best way! I tell parents all the time that they need to use the Ferber method, but a lot of people are just too scared to try or don’t want to let their kids cry”. So really, we used The Ferber Method but not entirely. It is also called the “Check and Console” method. For more information on the Ferber Method – Click Here. Although I haven’t read his entire book “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems” it has come highly recommended by friends.
- Start Sleep Training with the bedtime routine and worry about naps later. Do whatever you are currently doing during the day to get baby to nap so they are well rested for their first night of sleep training.
- Start when baby is 6 months old and they are getting enough food/weight gain that they can sleep through the night.
- The key to making it work is consistency. No cheating. If you go in on night two and start cuddling your baby, you’ll have to start all over again. Not only that but its confusing and unfair to baby.
- Remember helping your baby learn to self-soothe and sleep better is important. It teaches them self–regulation, and sleep is essential for development. It may be hard at times but baby won’t remember it when they get older. It ensures healthier, happier, and well adjusted children.
Any questions or thoughts? Did sleep training work for you? Please comment below 🙂