Thursday, May 13, 2010

How we do sleep training

I'm going to guess that more than a few of you are going to be shocked by my version of sleep training. But many have asked what we do, so I figured I'd tell you what worked for us.

The very first step is getting them in a bedtime routine. We did this with Hulk from the get-go, and took us about 6 weeks to start with Maggie. But around 6:30 (or whenever the babies start getting super tired, rubbing eyes, whatever) we go upstairs for a bath. We have fun in the tub, and then put on PJs, have a bottle and go to bed. With Hulk, we were able to just put him right to bed with a binkie almost from day one (and now that he is older, he brushes his teeth, reads a book... the routine evolves, obviously). We never rocked or walked him around - he was a born sleeper. With Maggie, that was another process. With her gas/reflux issues, we would hold her, and rock her and pat her butt until she fell sound asleep (it took like 40 minutes, minimum). But once we got her on meds and the right formula, she also would go to sleep with really no crying after that last bottle.

Then next step is to be ready for them to be in their own rooms and in a crib. We did this with Hulk at 3 months and Maggie about 3.5. Now, we've already had the bedtime routine in place for a long while, and they are going into the crib awake/aware (we don't put them down fully asleep). Both kids would fall asleep fine. The problem with both of them was night time wake ups. Hulk would go about 7 hours, and then wake up crying, and Maggie after only 3! This was where I needed to do the sleep training. With both kids, I waited until they slept through the night once on their own (so - like for 10 hours). I know I was lucky in this - because not everyone will get this - but these nights assured me that they could make it all night without a bottle. It was easier to believe with Hulk - as he was such a big kid!

Then comes my version of sleep training. Hulk was over 6 months old, and Maggie was over 5 months (I've been told not to try sleep training until at least 4 months). At this point in their lives, they both had very steady pooping habits (neither would poop in the middle of the night) and I can tell what they are crying about (ie. there is a very specific THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG cry for both of them). And what I do is this. Once we decide to sleep train, when they wake up crying (assuming it isn't the 'there is something wrong' cry'), I ignore it - but having the video monitor is a huge help with this. I don't wait 5 minutes and go in or anything. I just wait it out. With Hulk it was 1.5 hours the first night, with Maggie it was about an hour of solid crying. The second night was about 30 - 45 minutes, and then the 3rd night was 10 minutes. And then they both sleep through the night.

Yep. I'm brutal. I just don't see the point in going in after 5 minutes and comforting them. It's hard. Really hard to hear them cry like that. But I'm of the mind that learning to comfort themselves and go back to sleep on their own is a really important skill for both them and us. With Cam, I would sometimes go in and give him a binkey - but NEVER would pick him up, unless there was something obviously wrong (ear infection, poop, something that he NEEDED). And Maggie isn't a binkey gal - she is more of a fist/finger sucker - so. much. easier.

Sure, I take a hard line. But every morning I'm greeted with a big smile, and we get pretty good night's sleep. Of course, at this point, Maggie is still waking up for her bottle at 4 - 4:30 (which is somewhat brutal) but it's better than at 2 and then AGAIN at 5! We will get there with her - once we start solids I'm hopeful that the 4 AM bottle changes to 6, but for now, a full 9 hours of sleep is really awesome.

I was a little nervous that it wouldn't work as well with Maggie as it did with Hulk, but she was perfect! Last night, night 4 of sleep training, she fussed for maybe 3 minutes around 1 AM.


Anonymous said...

Yeah for sleep training! It sounds like it is working great. I agree, it is so very important that kids learn to soothe themselves and get themselves back to sleep on their own!

Anonymous said...

I'm speechless.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I'm glad you found something that works for you. It took me a year to finally get our system down.

Cece said...

I have to say that I think that we ended up forumla feeding was a big difference too... my friends that breast fed ended up going a bit longer before their babies were able to go as long between feedings, and others, who worked outside the house, opted to get up in the middle of the night just to keep their supply going.

Michele said...

Wow... I have to say that I have never let Bobby and Maya cry and that, since 3 months old, they've slept through the night. Sometimes, when they wake in the morning, they self soothe back to sleep or until we get up. But I think I'd die with the crying- even for five minutes!

Zephra said...

I always thought going in every few minutes just sets the process back. Crying out is hard...but mostly for the parents. Kids cry, they learn to soothe themselves. So many parents will give you a hard time for doing it this way but after having 4 kids, I agree this works great.

Heather said...

All babies are so different. We had to be tough with our first daughter. She was completely stimulated by our presence and wanted to play if we were anywhere near her. She then would get overtired and the multi-hour freak out would begin. We did have to let her cry it out, but I figured the crying over the three day training was far less then the cumulative of what we would go through every night if we tried to soothe her to sleep. After a few days of letting her figure it out bedtime was SO much easier, and we ALL were happier.

The second girl, now 4 months, is some kind of freak 'easy baby'. I thought they were a myth. Put her in her crib at 9 and she will sleep. She might wake up and babble for a bit at any time at night, but she won't need us to come to her until 7 am. It's ridiculous.

I'm so glad your training is working so well! Happy parents and a happy baby makes everything easier. Horray!

Anonymous said...


It just breaks my heart to hear about babies being forced to cry it out, in the name of good sleep. Why does Americans feel the need to make their child independent so EARLY (I'm speaking as an American), other cultures have kids co-sleep with them forever. I know that's not for everyone, but I could never imagine making an infant cry it out.

Jen said...

I am with you on not checking every five minutes. With Jillian it just seemed to make her cry even harder. I see nothing wrong with sleep training. You are helping them establish healthy sleeping habits now. I know what too many toddlers and preschoolers who still don't sleep through the night.

mamahearsawho said...

i also agree with this method. i wish it didn't take this, but i believe that sometimes it does. i am so glad that michele didn't need to do that with her kids. i consider her lucky. my kid did not sleep through the night without being given the time and space to work it out on his own (which we did not begin trying until 10 months old and did not enforce in earnest until just very recently -- at nearly 18 months old.

y'know that old adage about everyone making the parenting choices that is right for his or her family (short of abuse, obviously)? yeah, that. i admire your willingness to be forthcoming about such a controversial [in parenting circles, anyway] topic.

and congrats on the sleep!