This can be a controversial subject, but what parenting topic isn’t? For some people (me and my husband) it wasn’t a question of whether we would sleep train. It was more about when is the right time and what method do we use?
Once I went back to work, it wasn’t so obvious which one of us was going to get up for the middle of the night feeding. I was thoroughly exhausted from working all day, pumping and secretly struggling with postpartum depression. So, my husband picked up some of the night shift. By Wednesday that week, he came home with a brilliant idea – sleep training. He was clearly tired, as we both were and his boss had suggested it after they had hired a sleep expert night nurse to help them get their daughter to sleep through the night.
This is when we started our research. It seemed like the logical choice. I needed sleep, my husband needed sleep, so the baby needed to sleep.
First, we consulted our pediatrician to make sure there was no harm in our son going that long without eating. Our babies come out of the womb large, but plateau in growth at that point. They follow after their momma and are on the smaller side of the growth scale. But at 3 months, she felt confident that he didn’t N E E D to eat through the night and gave us a few tricks to implement during the day that could help with the night time.
So, without further ado, here is the routine we followed for sleep training B O T H of our babies!
As I mentioned, our pediatrician suggested that we try and push the daytime feedings a little closer together. The goal here is to give your baby the sense that he needs to eat and he needs to eat during the day.
Make sure to get 5 full feedings in between 8 am and 7 pm. A newborn or any baby before starting solids should be getting 5 true feedings a day totaling 30-40 ounces of milk a day.
Create a bigger stretch between the 4th and 5th bottle. The idea being that the 5th bottle is the last bottle before he goes to bed. So, by putting more time in between the 4th and 5th, the hope is that the last bottle will be the biggest of the day and give our baby the sustenance he needs to get through the night.
Create a bedtime routine. Here is an example of our routine:
- We give the kids a bath every night
- Get them in their cozy PJs after lotion and things
- When they were infants, we would also swaddle or use a sleep sack
- Have a bottle
- Read a few books
- Turn on the humidifier
- Turn off the light
- Give a kiss and say goodnight.
Even to this day, we have added a few things like brush teeth and use the potty, but we follow the same routine. We have also taken the bottle completely out, but you get the idea. Babies recognize patterns, so if you do the same thing every night at the same time, you will create an environment that invites him to wind down before you ever even put him in the crib.
At the same time though, you want to make sure that you are doing everything with the lights on and the lights turning off should signal that it is time for sleep. If you continue to sing songs or give them a bottle in the dark, then when they wake up in the middle of the night, they are expecting you to still be there with the bottle or song.
In combination with pushing the daytime feedings closer together, if you must feed at night, push the nighttime feedings further apart. This is one of the trickier ones. When your baby is up at night and hungry, he kind of starts to cry. 😉
Then comes step 2 – do not pick him up. This is one of the hard parts and yes – you will go a few nights with even less sleep than you are already getting, but it is worth it in the long run. You have to teach your baby to start soothing himself and if you jump to pick him up after every noise he makes, he will never have the chance to self soothe.
Cry it out. Yes we did. We used the cry it out method and it was tough. Worse for my husband than for me because the sound of a crying baby makes him cringe. But luckily you have each other to talk through the hard moments when you are about to break. Remind each other that you are doing this for the long term and you will be happy when you sleep soundly through the night.
Check him out. Even though you are letting your baby cry, doesn’t mean you are in the clear. Every 15 minutes or so, we would go in and lay our son back down, pat him on the back and tell him “shh, it’s bedtime”. This was our code word. We read that you are to reinforce that you are there, but that he is to learn and sleep.
Send in dad! This was hard for my husband, but once I explained he understood. Up until this point, I had gotten up every night with our little one. I held him close, I fed him, I changed him and I rocked him back to sleep. So when I walked into the room it almost made everything worse. Our baby boy was expecting the same results from me. So, when daddy went in our little one knew that he did not have the milk, so he could not help. This ultimately allowed our baby boy to calm down and soothe himself to sleep.
This process unfortunately is not a one and done method. For success, you have to repeat, repeat, R E P E A T !
I suggest you start on a Friday night so that you can relax on Saturday and have a slow weekend since I can pretty much promise your will be zombies. The experts say that it takes a week to create a habit in a child, so you need to commit to whatever decision you make. You will see results before the end of the week though – T R U S T M E !!
Every baby is different and every parent is different. We all have different methods and ideas and that is what makes this world great! If you don’t feel like this is a method you can implement, then I do not judge yo in the slightest. This is your life and you have to be comfortable. I can only share what works for me and my family. So…