Photography by Shadi Garman
Hi Everyone! Thanks for stopping by! I recently did a poll on Instagram asking my followers if they would want me to put together a sleep training post. The results came in at 98% yes, so here it is! I would like to preface this post by saying I am in no way a sleep training expert. These tactics and methods worked for me and my baby. Every baby is different and there is no right way to sleep train!
Ok, now that that is out of the way, on to sleep training! When I first had Charlee, I was up every 2-3 hours. This is normal and common for newborns and sleep training wasn’t on my mind. I was just trying to survive on no sleep and knew that she was too little to be trained anyways. Babies need to eat every 2-3 hours at that age. It wasn’t until 8 weeks that I started the training, so if you are a new mom just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel but the first two months are tough! Once Charlee hit 8 weeks, I started using the book “The Baby Sleep Solution” by Suzy Giordano as my guide. I highly recommend this book. Suzy is a mother and understands that as a new mom you have limited time. She made this book an easy to read (it only takes 2 hours) straight forward situational guide to get your baby to sleep through the night.
Before I get into what I took away from the book, I wanted to preface that I did not breastfeed Charlee. I was unable to, due to my anatomy (flat nipples!) and instead I exclusively pumped and gave Charlee a bottle for her feedings. This was very helpful because I knew exactly how much she was eating and how many times per day. Please just keep that in mind. I know that this method works for breastfeeding Moms too, but it may be a bit challenging when trying to eliminate the middle of the night feeding (more on that later).
Ok, anyways! The Baby Sleep Solution offers a sleep training guide based on a “light cry-it-out method.” There are a few other sleep training methods where you make your baby cry until they basically pass out from exhaustion. That didn’t sit right with me (even though I have heard it’s extremely effective…no judgment), so the idea that I could sleep train my daughter without making her too upset really appealed to me.
One of the first things Suzy recommends you do before you start sleep training is to make sure you extend the feedings to every four hours and that your baby is getting a minimum of 24 ounces a day. Now, I have to be honest and tell you all that I was NEVER able to get Charlee to eat every 4 hours. Still to this day she eats every 3 hours. She just didn’t want to wait that long! Can you blame her?! Ha! I was still able to get Charlee to sleep through the night eating every 2.5-3 hours which is great. I think the point is to offer your baby structure so that they become accustomed to a routine. Routine is SUPER important for babies and essential to getting your baby to sleep through the night.
I wanted to talk a little about how I extended Charlee’s feeding schedule before I go into the sleep training, because this was very challenging. I hadn’t read a sleep training book before I had her so I honestly was just feeding her on demand. This is important to do during the first month, but after that if you continue to feed on demand, your baby starts to learn to snack. Instead of allowing her to get hungry and then full after a bottle, I was giving her a bottle of a few ounces every time she would start to fuss. Suzy talks a lot about how to get your baby to extend their feedings and the main thing is to distract them! I would bring out a new toy, move her from her rock and play to her play mat, and do whatever I could to distract her to buy more time. It was a slow process and I would get 15 minutes more each time by doing this but eventually we got into a new routine of eating every 3 hours.
During the time I was trying to get Charlee on a feeding schedule, we were also introducing a bedtime routine. Our bedtime routine looks like this: bath time, massage, bottle, playtime (most of the time for 10 minutes) then in bed by 7P.M. Doing the same routine every night helped Charlee recognize that these events signaled bedtime. We started with this routine and then began putting her in her crib at 7:00 P.M. for bed. I would swaddle her, give her a pacifier, sing a lullaby and then put her in her crib AWAKE. Then I’d say goodnight, turn off her light and leave the room. This is crucial. I used to wait until Charlee passed out on me and then I would creep to the crib and try to transfer her. This was NOT effective. The key is for babies to see you when you put them in their crib and put them to bed. In the beginning, she was a little confused and would fuss for a bit. That’s where the “light cry-it-out method” came into play. If she would start to get fussy, I would give myself a timeline of 3-5 minutes depending on the severity of her cry. Now, keep in mind that I would only go in if she CONSISTENTLY cried for 3-5 minutes. If she stopped for a period of time, then the clock started over again. Eventually (usually within 10 minutes) she would fall asleep. It really wasn’t that bad and I never felt like I was torturing her. I knew she had just eaten and didn’t need food and was just having a hard time putting herself to sleep. I think it’s important to recognize that sleep is incredibly important for babies. It’s of course important for you as a parent to be well rested, but babies need sleep even more. They grow when they sleep!
I used this method every night from 8 weeks to 13 weeks when she finally slept through the night. Each baby will transition into a full night’s sleep differently, but for us Charlee was very good at leading the way. At the beginning of the sleep training, Charlee was waking twice in the night. Once around 1 A.M and then again at 4 or 5 A.M. In the beginning I knew she needed to eat so I would just give her around 2 ounces in a bottle (this is where it can be a little tougher when breastfeeding since you don’t know exactly how much you are feeding them). Before I fed her, I would make sure to check her diaper first in case it needed changing. I felt that if I waited to change her after she ate in the middle of the night it would stimulate her too much. After she would finish her bottle, I’d swaddle her and place her back in her crib. If she fussed at all I would go back to my light cry-it-out method. Most of the time she would go right back down after fussing just a little, but on the nights she challenged me I just never gave up. I would keep going back in after the 3-5 minutes and she would eventually go to sleep. I think being a little tough on her and not giving in really helped her become an independent sleeper. Over the next few weeks (from 8-10) Charlee naturally dropped one of her feedings and was only waking once to eat. Then a few weeks after that she naturally dropped her second feeding and was able to go through the night without eating. This happened around 11 weeks. It’s important to note that at this time she still woke up once in the night, but instead of giving her a bottle, I would let her cry a little in case she fell back asleep. If she didn’t fall back asleep in 3-5 minutes, I would go in her room, rub her belly and give her the pacifier. What she learned was that no matter what, she was in her crib from 7-7. I never picked her up, even when she fussed. She learned that sleep happened between 7:00P.M and 7:00A.M. She also knew that Mommy loved her and was there for her but she was strong enough to fall asleep and stay asleep on her own. Now, she is an INCREDIBLE sleeper and incredibly independent. Sometimes I try and sneak her into our bed for naps on the weekends but it’s never as lovely as it sounds. She is just a better sleeper on her own which makes me very proud.
I do want to mention that it’s important to remember that her sleep schedule isn’t always perfect and rules can be broken. Charlee has gotten sick a number of times since she is a daycare baby. When she is sick and having a tough time staying asleep I will of course pick her up and help make my baby feel better. We also went through a week of a sleep regression (at 4 months) when she was waking up again in the night. I never fed her, and worked overtime using the “light cry-it-out method” and she got back on track after a week. It was exhasting but we made it through. Another challenge for us has been days that Charlee doesn’t nap as well at daycare. This actually happened last Friday! She was so overtired that I ended up putting her to bed at 6:30 and she passed right out. She is used to a 12 hour night though, so she woke up at 6:30. Instead of running to pick her up when she woke up, I let her chill in her crib gabbing to herself and she fell back asleep after 5 minutes until 7:15. She never cries when she wakes up early because she knows she stays in her crib from 7-7 no matter what!
OK! I feel like that was the longest post ever so let me break it down into the major takeaways of sleep training that I find valuable:
2. Feeding schedule
2. Put your baby to bed AWAKE
3. Baby does not leave the crib from 7-7 (or whatever 12 hour period you choose…6-6, 8-8 etc.)
I hope you guys found this helpful and clear. If you have ANY questions please reach out to me. I’d love to help! Sleep is so important for parents and baby!