Home » Sleep
Category Archives: Sleep
For most of my daughter’s first year, I dreaded putting her to bed because I never knew what I was going to get. I’m sure some of you mom’s know the feeling… some nights can be a true battle! Then, all that changed a few months ago (sometime after her 11-month mark). I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but bedtimes with her have consistently become my favorite time of day (along with waking her up first thing in the morning).
We start her bedtime routine with a bath, then we give her the bottle (it’s her only bottle of the day… I don’t have the heart to take it away yet!). Once she sucks that dry, we’ll take her to the bathroom to brush her teeth. We then zip her up in her sleepsack and I pull her into my lap to read a couple books (Goodnight Moon is always on the agenda – she loves pointing out the little details in that book… the red balloon, the green curtains, the fireplace, etc). This all sounds like a lot, but it takes no more than 10 minutes (minus the bath).
Then comes my favorite favorite part… I turn off the lights and turn on this music/projector thing our friend gifted us. Both of us lay down on the floor while she lies in the crook of my arm. We’ll stare at the rotating projector on the ceiling while listening to “Hush Little Baby”.
We point and wave “bye bye” to the projections. I always whisper, “Noelle.. say goodnight moon, goodnight stars, goodnight cow…. goodnight…” as the images go round and round. She even points to the tiny green light from the smoke detector and waves bye bye to that too (she thinks it’s a star, haha). I love being in the quiet with her. I love snuggling with my soft, milky, delicious baby. I look over at her, and she looks at me – I know we have a special bond. I can see her smiles in the dark.
She gets drowsy within minutes, so I’ll pick her up and put her in her crib. However, in the last week or two something new/different happened – she’s been wanting to be held just a little while longer before we put her down. We know she’s tired, but what she wants is a longer cuddle session. So I bring her back to the glider with me. She lays on my chest and I’ll sing her lullabies while she drifts off.
She hasn’t fallen asleep on our chests since her newborn days, and we missed it a lot… so we couldn’t be happier to oblige now that she wants it again. Tonight, both of us fell asleep and I woke up not realizing how long I’d been in the darkness with her. I put her in her crib, and walked out with a big puddle of baby drool on my right shoulder and an even bigger smile on my face. THESE are the moments.
Goodnight Noelle, mama loves you… daddy loves you. Goodnight sweet girl.
Every night, the same words… and my ever-expanding heart.
With the help of my husband, I was able to get a clearer idea of what happened during those early sleep training days. Here goes… *big breath in*…
In Part I, I mentioned that for the first month or so, we were mostly sleeping with Noelle on our chests, and was in basic survival mode by just doing whatever we could to get some sleep. I was breastfeeding, so my husband couldn’t help with feedings in the middle of the night (plus he went back to work after 2 weeks), so I was the one getting up most of the time. Noelle would wake up every other hour the first couple months, and I would feed on demand. Then it would take me 30 more minutes to rock her back to sleep. By the time I tried to go back to sleep, it was time to do it all over again. I was losing it, and it was obvious that she was not a naturally good sleeper and probably falls in the category of a “high needs” baby.
When we first considered sleep training, it didn’t sit too well with me. I could hardly bear to hear Noelle cry for more than a few minutes at a time, how was I going to muster up the courage to let her cry herself to sleep? Wasn’t my role as a mother to make sure she didn’t cry and to meet her every need? I felt conflicted, but we did it anyway because ultimately, we felt that sleep training would be in the best interest of us all instead of having an overtired baby along with sleep-deprived, stressed out parents.
We decided to sleep train Noelle earlier than most, at the 6-week mark. It happened to fall on President’s Day weekend so we thought it would give us the perfect 3-days to let her cry-it-out. We started with Ferber’s CIO method with checks every 5-minutes, then every 10-minutes, and so on. We soon found that checking up on her just made it worse because she would cry even more furiously knowing we’d likely come back in for her.
Thus, we chose to follow Weissbluth’s Extinction Method, meaning no checks at all once she’s down for the night. However, we used that with discretion. If her crying sounded abnormal, we would hurry and go in to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong. We found that when we did this, she would immediately stop crying the moment she was picked up, which indicated to us that everything was perfectly fine with her. We would put her right back down and not check again. Hearing her cry while we sat in the living room staring at her through the baby monitor was one of the hardest things I ever had to sit through. I cried inconsolably while she cried, but thankfully, I had my husband to lean on.
The first night was the most brutal – she cried about 45-minutes nonstop before falling asleep. Through the monitor, we saw her learn to self-soothe by sucking on her fist through her Woombie. My stomach was twisted into a thousand different knots, and I wondered if I was going to damage her for life. However, my mind kept reassuring me that human beings are more resilient than that. The second night, she cried a little less. The third night, she only cried for about 15-minutes before drifting to sleep. I couldn’t believe it!
What worked for us:
- Tackling nighttime sleep first. I read that it’s easier to teach them to sleep at night than it is to nap train. Turns out we never ended up having to nap train because after we successfully night-trained, she fell into a good rhythm for naps by herself.
- For naps, we let her sleep on her belly the moment she exhibited stronger head control. We believe this is a big reason why we never needed to nap train and she was always able to nap in 1-1.5 hour increments. We would watch for her sleepy cues, and get her ready for a nap the moment she let out her first yawn.
- Consistency is key. Having the same routine every night was so important in setting up her expectations. She caught on pretty quickly that once we put her down for the night, we were not coming back in.
- Putting her down sleepy but awake. We intentionally did not want to create sleep props like rocking or feeding her to sleep. We really wanted to teach her how to fall asleep on her own, so this required her being somewhat awake when her head hit the crib.
- Swaddling - We used the Woombie and loved it because it allowed her limbs to still move freely within the confines of a swaddle. This was especially important in allowing her to self-soothe. She was able to suck on her fist through her Woombie, whereas she wouldn’t have been able to do that with a traditional swaddle. She was not a pacifier baby so her being able to suck her fist was very important in aiding her back to sleep.
- Cluster-feeding - this helped keep her tummy fuller and allowed her to sleep longer stretches at a time.
- Holding her upright for 20-minutes after nursing. We soon caught on if we didn’t make sure she got one really good burp out before putting her down, she would not be able to sleep.
- We were fiercely protective of her sleep. We pretty much revolved our lives around Noelle’s sleep schedule. We were the type of parents others might roll their eyes at because we would skip out on events, or come home early just because we wanted her in her crib for a nap or to put her down for the night. It wasn’t much of a sacrifice to us though because when she napped, you bet I napped! When she went down for the night, I relished the personal time that remained.
Where we’re at now:
The benefit of writing this post months and months down the line is I can tell you if the sleep training worked for us. We saw the benefits of sleep training almost immediately, and have no regrets about it.
- Months 1-3 she slept from 8-midnight before waking up for her first feeding. Then she would wake up once or twice in the middle of the night, but fall right back asleep right after feeding so I didn’t need to sit there and rock her to sleep like I had been doing before.
- Months 4-6 she started sleeping 7-4 am, which is considered “sleeping through the night” for that age range.
- Months 6-8 she started to sleep from 7 pm-7 am. Since I was still breastfeeding I would wake up in the middle of the night to pump and keep my supply up.
She did go through various phases where all of a sudden her good sleep would somehow disappear. This was usually because of teething, or a developmental leap like the 4-month or 9-month sleep regression where they’re learning so many new things at once. Regardless of what phase she was in, the one thing we always stuck to was giving her a consistently early bedtime (7 pm). She’s well-rested, we’re well-rested… everyone wakes up happy.
She’s a healthy and well-adjusted baby girl. Contrary to what some say, none of this seems to have made her love me any less. She is a mama’s girl through and through, with a wonderfully gentle spirit.
Would I do this again for our next baby? Absolutely, if needed. But every baby is so different, I’d have to wait and see what he/she’s like. There really is no right way. I’m lucky Noelle took to sleep training so well, this may not be the case for the next one. I guess we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.
This was a hard post for me to write. I know not everyone is going to agree with sleep training so early on, but it worked for us and hopefully it provided some useful insight! If you have questions about anything we did, I’ll try to answer them as best I can.
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child is filled with tons of research but it doesn’t tell you how to implement anything. It tells you the how come behind the science of sleep. The biggest take away I got from this book was the idea that sleep begets sleep. One major point that Dr. Weissbluth makes is that “the major fear that inhibits parents from establishing an earlier bedtime is that this will cause their child to get up earlier to start the day. In fact, the opposite will occur. An earlier bedtime will allow your child to sleep later, just as a too-late bedtime will eventually cause a too-early wake-up time.”
Logically it doesn’t make sense, but biologically it does. That’s why I’ve always been a stickler when it came to Noelle’s early bedtime. I like to be home by 6pm so that I can feed and put Noelle down. I still do it to this day. Tonight she fell asleep in her crib before 7pm and this is a regular, almost daily occurrence. I protect her bedtimes bigtime.
Secrets of the Baby Whisperer is also a wealth of useful, practical advice. Her tone is so gentle and warm, I felt like I was listening to a wise grandma speak when I read her book. Hogg recommends that you follow an E.A.S.Y. schedule for daytime (does not apply at night!). E.A.S.Y. stands for Eat, Activity, Sleep, You. The basic idea is that you never feed your child to sleep. You always want them to eat, then play, then sleep because you don’t want them to be dependent on eating to fall asleep… because guess who gets to be the human pacifier? Yup – you!
She also has a great chart that lists/describes all different types of baby cries (are they hungry? tired? poopy diaper? in distress?). It was helpful for me as a new mom who had a hard time distinguishing her cries initially. Hogg also touches upon the topic of “accidental parenting”, where you use props to soothe your baby to sleep. They eventually become bad habits that are difficult to break. Other ideas mentioned in her book are “dreamfeeds” and “cluster feeding” to help your baby sleep longer at night.
I also found On Becoming Babywise a useful book. However, I took it with a huge grain of salt. It was helpful in some areas (like their wake/eat/play schedule), but incredibly extreme in others. For example, it said that it’s best to start sleep training your baby from Day 1! I personally don’t recommend it (at least the first few months) for breastfeeding moms because it doesn’t allow you to feed frequently enough to maintain a healthy supply. I know parents who swear by it though and it totally worked for them. There’s even an entire detailed blog dedicated to the Babywise Method - Chronicles of a Babywise Mom.
It wasn’t any one book or school of thought that helped me through those early weeks. I read and researched and tweaked things to make it work for our family. Every baby is different and I don’t believe any one book will solve all your problems.
Other helpful resources:
- The Baby Sleep Site - It’s just chock full of good insight on sleep training.
- Babycenter Forums - It was helpful for me to hear firsthand, personal experience from other moms.
- Sleep/WT Chart – Take the time to understand this chart and it will be your holy grail. Every few months I refer back to this and adjust/readjust Noelle’s schedule as needed.
Stay tuned for the final part of this series…
Sleep Training: Part III. How we translated all this head knowledge into reality.
I’ve been wanting to write this post for months now. My husband advised against it because it’s such a controversial topic, and I was too tired to follow through on it anyway. But if you don’t know already, you’ll find out soon enough that everything parenting-related is controversial.
If you’re a mom, you know that there is plenty of unsolicited advice out there when it comes to how you should raise your kid. People will judge your choices no matter what you do. From formula vs. breastfeeding to crib vs. co-sleeping. Can’t we all just get along? Anyway, I digress…
For those not in the know, I’ll give a quick briefing about sleep training before I dive into what we did. There are essentially two schools of thought when it comes to getting your child to sleep.
Camp #1: the Cry-it-out (CIO) method – associated with Babywise and Ferber. Proponents of this believe that your child should be left to cry and learn to self-soothe.
Camp #2: Non-CIO/Attachment Parenting – associated with Dr. Sears. Proponents of non-CIO believe crying is our babies’ main form of communication, so when they’re crying they’re asking for a need to be met. In order to develop confidence in your child and ensure secure attachment, you should try your best to meet all their needs.
I didn’t read any sleep books while pregnant, so I ended up reading like 8 different sleep books the first month after delivery from varying perspectives! Talk about information overload! There’s so much info out there, it’s no wonder most new moms are practically walking around with their heads cut off. That first month, Noelle would only sleep in our arms. The moment we put her down anywhere, she would wake up and cry. For naps, I often strapped her in my Ergo and let her sleep in there while I sat on the couch watching episode after episode of Friday Night Lights (my favor-eeet).
We had a twin-sized bed in her nursery, so at night my husband and I would take turns “sleeping” in there with her on our chest. We often brought her into our bed and co-slept with her too. Anything to get some sleep (and maintain a semblance of sanity) right? The thing is, when she was on our chest she easily slept from midnight to 6am and we all got some much needed rest. When we didn’t sleep with her we were waking up every 2-3 hours for cuddles and feedings. However, we knew we couldn’t do this forever. Or rather, I… I couldn’t do it forever. I was the one with the boobs attached.
Stay tuned for Sleep Training: Part II. I’ll be writing about the resources that helped us get to where we wanted to be.