If there’s one thing that I have learned since becoming a mom, it would be to never say never.
When I was pregnant, I had said to myself that I never wanted my baby to take a pacifier and that she would simply use her thumb. After about 6 weeks and constant fussy evenings, I caved and decided we could try a pacifier. Well, Amy quickly found comfort in it and it really helped her soothe herself when she’s tired and cranky. Upon giving it to her, my frustrations of having her try to soothe herself on my boobs was gone and her frustrations of getting milk when she didn’t want it was gone. I caved on something that I never thought I would cave on and we’re all happier for it.
The only other thing that I really never wanted to have to do with my baby was to let her cry herself to sleep. This can be a touchy subject for some, but a week ago I caved and you know what? We’ve all been happier since!
Back when I was pregnant, I reached out to my cousins who had recently had their first children and asked what were some of their recommended ‘must-have’ baby items. One of my cousins, who’s daughter is a fantastic sleeper, highly recommended that I read the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby by Dr. Marc Weissbluth because she followed his methods and said that is what worked for their family. I got a copy of the book back in the summer and gave it a read through. His sleep training methods seemed fairly straightforward, but being a new mom, I quickly found myself VERY hesitant. Is this guy really telling me that I’m going to have to leave my dear sweet little Amy crying in her crib until she cries herself to sleep?! Gasp!
After the initial 6-8 week period of sleep hell (when it would take over 1 hr to get Amy to fall asleep at night), we were actually blessed with a pretty fantastic night sleeper. After our bedtime routine, I would cradle her in my arms and bounce on the exercise ball until she fell asleep. On a normal night, it would take her anywhere from 5-10 minutes. I didn’t mind the bouncing and snuggling time and it was working so we just went on our merry way. She was sleeping 7-9 hour stretches around the 12 week mark and we were happy. However throughout all of this, her naps were pretty crappy and the only way I could really get her to nap was if I held her in my arms. This meant that I would have to spend much of my days sitting on the lazy boy, holding my bladder with a sleeping baby in my arms.
Once Amy hit the 3.5 month point, it was deemed ‘ok’ for us to start letting her cry herself to sleep, but things were still going ok. We had our little routine and it was working, so I didn’t want to mess with it.
But then the 4 month mark hit. Literally the day she hit 4 months old, her sleep habits changed. She began waking several times within the 1-2 hours after we’d put her down at night… naps began lasting only 30 minutes on the dot… we started to get tired… When she hit 5 months old, it started getting harder and harder to get her down at night. Most nights I’d be bouncing her 10-15 minutes to go to sleep, then she’d wake up to 4 times in the first 2 hours… and THEN at her early morning feeding, she suddenly began to think that 4am was a good time to wake up and I’d spend an HOUR trying to get her to go back to sleep. NOT COOL Amy, not cool….
I am a part of an absolutely AMAZING mom group on Facebook who all have babies born in May and over the past couple of months, many of them had decided to cave and start sleep training their babies — ie. they started letting their babies cry themselves to sleep (or cry it out – or CIO) and they were having a lot of success. I was still feeling so on the fence about the whole process because I really just couldn’t fathom having to sit down on the couch and have to listen to poor little Amy crying away up in her crib without going to ‘rescue’ her.
Sleep Training Begins
Last Monday, in the wee hours of the morning, I was bouncing Amy on the ball for an hour trying to get her to go back to sleep after feeding her. Every single time I’d put her back down in her crib, she’d wake up. After three tries I got so frustrated that when I put her down, I flipped her on her belly, gave her the pacifier and left the room. She slept until 8 that morning. The following day, I decided to attempt putting her down on her tummy for naps after bouncing her to sleep in my arms. And you know what? She actually slept past the 30 minute mark! I was shocked and excited. I had actually thought that putting her on her tummy was the trick, but when bedtime came that night, she just would NOT fall asleep. My back was killing me from bouncing her on the ball so long… I had enough. I made sure that she was not hungry and that she had a clean bum and then without really planning for it, I did it. I deemed that moment the begin of our sleep training journey and put her down (on her back this time), gave her a kiss and said goodnight…then I walked out the door.
The protest crying began almost right away as I had never left her room with her in her crib wide awake, but both Chris and I agreed that it was about time that she began to learn — for our own sanity! That night she screamed and cried for 40 minutes and I’d be lying if I said it didn’t break my heart. After that 40 minutes though she was quiet and asleep. She still woke up twice in the night to nurse, but fell asleep nursing so there were no issues getting her back in bed. She awoke at 6am the next morning talking in her crib. WHAA??!?! Prior to that day, she ALWAYS woke with a cry out for us to come and get her. Chris hadn’t gone to work yet so we both walked in the room and to our surprise, we were greeted with a smiling baby!!! She didn’t hate us!! ;)
That first morning, I vowed to continue the CIO method for naps as well so that we could stay consistent. We also decided that we would put her down on her tummy as she seems to be most comfortable that way. (She rolls both back to belly and belly to back, so we had no worries about putting her on her belly.) Guess how long she cried for that first nap!!! —- 2 MINUTES and she was out like a light.
She actually slept just shy of 2 hours and woke talking away. The moment I entered her room, I got the biggest smile!! My first thought – Geeze, I could get used to this!!
As the nights went on last week, the length of her crying decreased significantly and now only a week later, it’s rare for her to fuss much longer than 5 minutes. Also, without even really trying that hard, she’s even managed to get herself onto the recommended sleep schedule as per Dr. Weissbluth. These days, she gets up at 7 AM, and is down for her nap between 1.5-2hrs of being awake (so usually at about 8:45). For nap #1 she sleeps around 1.5 – 1.75hrs (umm what happened to my child!?). She’ll then go down for nap #2 between 12:30-1pm all depending when she woke from the first one. I’ve been aiming to get her down within 1.5-2hrs of being awake. She’ll sleep anywhere from 1-2hrs at this time. And finally, she’ll even go down for nap #3 around 4-4:30. We try to start bedtime right at 7pm with the goal to get her to go down by 7:30.
In ONE WEEK, we have gone from having a baby with a VERY unpredictable sleep schedule… a baby who would rarely nap longer than 30 minutes in her crib… a baby who would ONLY have a long afternoon nap if she was in my arm… a baby who would be cranky with others…. In ONE WEEK we now have a baby with a totally predictable sleep schedule.. a baby who BARELY cries or even fusses or even makes a peep when I put her down in her crib… a baby who naps over 1 hour THREE times a day… a baby who is in bed BEFORE 8pm (yay adult time again!!!).. a baby who is HAPPY!!!! This child of mine honestly wakes up with the largest smile plastered all over her face every single time she has woken up since I began sleep training (ONE WEEK AGO!) and I couldn’t be happier for that fact.
Going forward as a mother, I have vowed to never say ‘never’ again!! I never thought I’d be one to let my baby cry herself to sleep and even though that first night was one of the hardest and longest 40 minutes EVER, it was honestly the best thing I could have ever done. This sleep training has changed our lives. And in only ONE WEEK! (seriously, it still boggles my mind how quick she caught on!)
Oh and I know, I know… I am SO SO behind in Amy’s monthly updates. BUT, now that I have a baby who actually naps, guess who has time to spend as a blogger again!!! Yay! ;)