When I was preparing to sleep train my daughter, I read every blog, website, and book I could comprehend with my sleep deprived brain. I found blogs about real experiences most helpful in getting through those tough nights of sleep training.
So, that’s why I’m here — to share my experience with you.
Please know that, since every child is different, what worked for my baby may not work for your baby; also know that there is hope and that with time, patience and consistency your baby will soon be sleeping through the night too.
In order to give a clear picture of the story, let me back up. I began co-sleeping with my baby accidentally.
A friend explained how you can breastfeed laying down, which became a lifesaver for me since I was recovering from a c-section. Well, those night feedings quickly led to co-sleeping, which my husband and I fell in love with. I had always been an advocate of not co-sleeping because of all the dangers linked to it, but it seemed so natural for my baby to be with me. After we researched the pros and cons, we determined it was right for our family.
Co-sleeping worked great for our family until my daughter turned 9-10 months old.
She started to be so wiggly and preferred to spread out when she slept. My husband and I found ourselves at the edge of our beds, enduring very poor sleep. I knew it was time for my daughter to go in her crib, so I tried it alone (big mistake…never try it alone). I quickly gave in after 10 minutes (that included checking on her every 1-3 minutes and attempting to calm her). So, I tried other things…I bought a co-sleeper, but that did not work either, so we continued to co-sleep.
Around the time she turned one year old, putting my daughter to bed turned into a battle. Her usual bedtime routine (nurse and rock) would not soothe her or put her to sleep. Instead, she would fight sleep and it took hours to put her to sleep. Then, she would only sleep for maybe eight hours. I knew it was time for her to be sleep trained.
She needed to learn how to soothe herself and fall asleep on her own.
I was not looking forward to the process, but I gave myself time to prepare. I even talked to other moms about it, but most responses I received about sleep training seemed hopeless or negative. Many times other moms just told me “nothing is wrong with co-sleeping,” “that’s why my four year old still sleeps with me,” or those southern words, “bless your heart.” That made me feel like we were doomed, but my husband and I knew we had to do something to help our daughter (and ourselves!) get some sleep!
So, what was our plan?
Bedtime routine: At 6pm — bath time, nurse, quiet time play, read, and then she was placed in her crib (drowsy) by 7pm. Once placed in her crib, we would calm her every five min (x2), 10 min (x2), and then 15 min (x2).
I’ll be honest: night one was rough and night two was even rougher. By night three, we realized something was hindering her from sleeping through the night. It wasn’t hard to put the clues together: it was my picking her up to feed her back to sleep and to comfort her. We realized this was a negative sleep association.
It was tough not to soothe her, but by night four, she only woke up once and quickly put herself back to sleep within 10 minutes! By night five, she only cried for about 10 minutes before putting herself to sleep and then sleeping all night long (success!). If she woke up, she was able to instantly soothe herself back to sleep. Each day she continued to get better when she was placed in her crib. She now sleeps 12 hours a night. After a week, I felt like she mastered it and then we moved on to nap training!
1. Have a partner help with training your baby!
Believe me, your sweet mama heart will need the support. My husband and I split the duty of calming Lily in shifts. He took the first shift since he stays up later at night (7pm until midnight) and I took the remainder of the time (midnight until 5:30am or whenever Lily woke up).
2. DISTRACT yourself.
My husband and I played cards or watched a television show, or I left the house to go on a walk since my husband was on duty (tip #1).
3. Write down your plan (your child’s bedtime routine).
Be specific and follow it. I know, I know, it sounds weird, BUT it will help keep you accountable. My husband had the idea to write it down, so not only were we both on the same page about our plan, but the bedtime routine would remain the same each day.
4. Video monitor.
We were able to watch our daughter to know she was okay. Listening to your baby is hard, but being able to see that she’s actually okay (physically) makes it a tad better.
5. Research, research, research!
Find which method will work best for you! There are tons of different approaches to sleep training.
After the first night, it gets easier, I promise. When I saw her trying to soothe herself and once she accomplished it, I was so proud and happy for her. I do not believe sleep training harmed her emotionally or mentally. She actually seems happier now because she is better rested. And I am more rested too, which makes for a happier mama.