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sleep training 101

there is no one in this world that loves my Baker girl more than me. as I sit here typing this, I can see her sweetly sleeping on the monitor and I want nothing more than to just scoop her up in my arms and hold her for the night's entirety.  
Baker would agree.  
sleep with all my kids has been a tough journey.  after months of dealing with Jolie's torticollis and then Parker refusing to sleep through the night until she was fifteen months old, I swore I wasn't going to be able to handle sleepless nights with my infant AND my toddlers.  
sleep is the number one question a new mom gets asked about.. as if the dark circles under her eyes aren't enough of the story to tell.. 
I scoured blogs and read books and articles and reached out to my seasoned mama friends for advice and found a form of sleep training that worked for us and I think might work for you, too!
we started sleep training based on the recommended age of 6 months + 14 pounds.  that age range kept popping up in all the literature read, regardless of the 'type' of sleep training method it was.. so I figured that was a safe place to start.
ground rules.
a few things to focus on when you are 'sleep training'.
number one // and most important! // set a regular and expectant routine for your baby. 
number two // slowly wean your baby from eating through the night.
number three // give your baby the attention she needs when she needs it.
number four // if it doesn't work this time, try, try again.
number five // last but not least!! // sleep training does not have to mean cry it out.
so.  now that we have the ground rules laid out.. 
first things first.  creating a routine.  children are creatures of habit.  they thrive and thrive well on a routine.  for the first few months of Baker's baby life we sort of just winged it.  we were exhausted and so in love with our newest little girl, so whatever she needed she got.  she ate when she wanted, she slept when wanted, wherever she wanted.  there was no real routine. it made it really hard to know how long she was going to sleep or when she was going to want to eat.  when we decided to get into a regular routine with her, we started with daytime. getting into a regular daytime routine allowed us to transition this routine to the evening and ultimately making it easier to get her to bed without a fight.  we started Baker on her daytime routine around 5 months and worked on this routine for about 2 weeks before we really had it down to something regular.  we are so busy with the twins in the afternoons, so making sure she gets an afternoon nap is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat.. but since we started her on solid food (6 months), her evening routine fell into place really easily.  

daytime routine: 
6-6:30am: nurse + back to bed
wake for the day: 7:30-8am
9am: nurse
10am: yogurt + fruit or almond butter
10:30am: nap
1pm: nurse
2:30-3pm: nap
4pm: nurse
6pm: dinner
7-7:30pm: bed

during the first few weeks of getting into our new routine I created a consistency surrounding nap time so that she would know what to expect when it was time to sleep.  we really made an effort of always letting her take her naps in her crib and getting out of the habit of letting her sleep in the car or the swing.. or in our arms.  getting her to take consistent sleep during the daytime definitely helped make it easy to regulate her nighttime sleep.  she currently sleeps about 2-3 hours in the morning and 1-2 hours in the afternoon.  
because these two naps during the day are relatively long, she doesn't typically take an evening cat nap.
as far as our nap time routine, Baker sleeps in a dim room with a sound machine and humidifier on.  I always make sure her sleep space is dark because a baby can wake up after a sleep cycle and get distracted by the colors or things on the wall and wake completely.  I can always tell this is the case if she wakes after just 30-45 minutes.. not because she's ready to be awake but because something has caught her attention (and screwed me out of finishing my lunch in silence, hehe!) 
when it comes to laying her down awake- thats hit or miss.  occasionally I will nurse her to sleep (gasp!) but like I mentioned in her 7 month update this is our quiet time away from he chaos of the day, just the two of us together.  and then there are some times when she is in a playful mood- attempting to stick her paci in my mouth or playing with my hair.  so, in those instances, she is laid in her crib to go to sleep and she will fuss here and there for a few minutes and then self soothe to sleep.. so I know she can do it without me.  
after we got her nap/sleep schedule down during the day, we started with nighttime.  
our nighttime includes:
dinner time + bath.  
every night, more or less, baker is bathed in lavender soap and then rubbed down with lavender lotion before getting in her jammies and telling everyone good night.
sound machine + humidifier + sleep sac + paci.
the main difference between nap/daytime sleep and bed/nighttime sleep is that she sleeps in a sleep sac during the night.  I have no idea if that makes a difference, but she sleeps well when she wears it through the night, so.. lets just go with it.  I have read that sleep association is real, so it could very well have something to do with it.  lastly- I put her down for bed relatively early- about 7 or 7:30pm every night.  thinking that keeping your baby awake later will make her more tired may actually backfire and create a harder time for your baby to fall asleep because they are overtired.  
I have read that babies who go to bed earlier typically sleep longer.  
second.  weaning.  this was among the toughest part of the entire sleep training process.  Up until this point, anytime Baker fussed even the slightest bit, I would run in and offer her my boob.  she would nurse for like a half a minute and fall back asleep.  I was exhausted!  I had even started bringing her into the bed with us through the night, which is a HUGE no-no, not because of the fact that we are SO AGAINST co-sleeping, but because Jordan is a paramedic that has been on one too many (horrific) major medical calls related infants sleeping this way.  in turn, Baker developed this dire need of needing me to soothe her to sleep any time she woke.  most of the time it was about 2-3 times/night.  I knew when it was time to sleep train her that it also meant that I needed to stop allowing her to nurse whenever she pleased at all hours of the night.  
night one I still fed her through the night, but only as a last resort. on night two and three I fed her one less time through the night.  even if it was just me rocking her through the feeding time, no matter how much she fussed about it.   night four she actually slept all night!  and night five-seven she woke again, but only once and I did not offer to feed her.
NOTE: sleep training was also coupled with her starting solid foods in the evening time, so I think it was helpful for her to fill up on solids and a quick nursing session before bed to allow her to feel full for a little longer through the night than she would have before now.    
three. attention.  this process for us took about two weeks.  week one was focused on weaning and getting Baker used to not eating/suckling through the night and the second week we worked on self soothing.  the second week was much easier than the first week.  during this time it was hard some nights because I just wanted to hold her and squeeze her.. and some nights I definitely did.  because she needed it.  sleep training doesn't have to be horrific or complete abandonment, so I gave her the attention she needed when she needed it.  Before your put your babes down at night, be sure they have a dry diaper, comfortable sleepwear, and that they won't be too cold!  We keep our house at 69-72 degrees at night, and I have Baker in a footed sleeper or footless with socks and a sleep sac.  chances are if you are cold/hot, then your babe is, too.  So however you need to bundle or strip them during the night, just simply making sure they are as comfortable as possible is most important.
four. try again.  after three successful weeks of sleep training Baker girl was sleeping well, a full 12 hours at night, and we were sleeping like babies- Baker became stuffy and coughing.  she was coughing all night long causing herself to wake and because she was stuffy she had a really hard time soothing herself back to sleep.  there were a few nights that I was up and down with her multiple times to rock and hold her- sleeping sitting up was easier on her breathing and sleeping through the night.  after she was well again we took a hard stance in sleep training for a second time and this time it was successful right off the bat. much easier than the first time around.
five. always assess the cry.  if Baker wakes crying, I always wait and assess. what type of cry is it?  at this point in development, babies usually have a distinguished cry for certain needs -hunger, upset, pain..What time is it? this cry might be out of habit if its around the same time every night. in the second week of sleep training, for about three nights in a row Baker woke at 330am, fussed for about 5 minutes and went right back to sleep while I stood outside her door to assess whether or not her cry was changing or advancing to something for stressful than a 'fuss'.  is this cry new? If it's new, or a different cry I always go in and check her.  this is where I bring in the classic '10 minute window'.  If after 10 minutes Baker is still upset, I go in and check her, settle her down for a few minutes, by rubbing her back and her head and telling her calmly that she's "a good girl" and "mama loves you so much".  I didnt ever pick her up because I didnt want her to expect that she was going to be picked up and held every time she made a peep.  one thing I had to teach myself was not to respond to every noise Baker makes. I had to learn to distinguish a real cry from a sleepy whimper.  this gives Baker the ability to self soothe but also allows me to be able to comfort her when she needs it.
it’s not realistic to expect your baby to sleep through the night a few weeks after they are born. it is also not realistic to think that it may not take a little bit of work. sleep training isn't for everyone, I know, and I didn't think it was completely for us until I found a method that worked well and we stuck to it and was a success!  one thing I will say is that sleep training based on your child's temperament is important.  going back through number three and four of my post might be necessary based on the developmental milestones your babe might be going through at the time.  Baker just started to crawl (what?!!) and is cutting her two bottom teeth (at the same time!!), so this last week I have noticed her restlessness on the monitor, but again, assessing her fussing to determine if I need to go in to soothe her or not.  

I am definitely NOT AN EXPERT, but I did find comfort in reading other women's experiences, and I decided to write it all down in hopes to help another tired soul get her way back to sound slumber:)


Allyson Gibson said...

Hi! I am going to start sleep training my little babe soon and talked about making sure they aren't cold. What is her room temp at night? My son's room fluctuates quite a bit and I think that's part of him waking at night. Thanks!

Amber Massey said...

hey Allyson! we keep the house about 69-72 degrees at night. she does sleep with her door open after we go to bed so there is air circulation as well as a footed sleeper and a wearable blanket (sleeps sac). chances are, if you are cold or hot, he is too~ so just finding a balance to make him comfortable is most important. hope that helps!

Hannah said...

Thanks for your tips! My twin boys are 6 months old and also love all night access to the boob... I'm EXHAUSTED. Do you have any tips for doing this with twins? It's hard to let them fuss because then the other one wakes up. I definitely am going to work on night weaning, maybe one baby at a time. It's tough, but mama needs sleep!

Danielle said...

thank you for this! my baby girl is just shy of 7 months and after getting her to sleep through the night at 5 months, she regressed at 6 months and is up every 3 hours wanting to nurse. this is just what i needed to try and get her going again. she's still pretty iffy on solids but we're slowly working on it. i dream of that 12 hour stretch again...

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your post, my little one 7 months and wakes up to nurse 5-6 a night, and after reading your sleep training I am brave enough to start it! Thank you again!!!

Brittney Hjelseth said...

I'm appreciating this right now. thinking about starting some sleep training with my eight month old tanner! thank you for sharing what worked for you!!

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