In this post, I’ll give you a quick recap of our sleep training journey, the key concepts of sleep training that we worked with and what are the key values that we are revising according to age.
I learnt everything I know about sleep training from a few Facebook groups I am a member of, some friends who have sleep trained their kids and lots and lots of online reading. The women in those groups are super helpful and are full of absolutely fantastic advice. This post is my attempt to streamline all the info I gathered from various resources, all informal.
First off, sleep training can be very intimidating and I understand that very well because I went through it twice! We sleep trained baby D once when she was 5.5 months old. She started standing up with support at 6 months and this was very disruptive to her sleep because she kept practising her new skill even when she was put down to sleep in her crib. For the sake of my sanity, I started giving up during middle of the night wakings and started putting her on my chest to sleep.
Well, that was completely counter productive because now I wasn’t sleeping at all from the fear of her or me (!!!) rolling over. Also, my rationale for sleep training was same as that for baby led weaning. Independence. Good relationship with food and sleep. So I started feeling uncomfortable every time I let her sleep in our bed.
So my husband and I had a good discussion about how we had lost control and why sleep training was important to us. In the meanwhile, I also got help from the ladies in the Facebook groups and found out that I might have missed to recalculate the wake windows according to age.
So we started sleep training round 2, but switched to Ferber instead of the Sleep Lady Shuffle method because we felt hovering around was making our baby more upset.
Things you need to know before you sleep train
1. Sleep training involves crying. It completely depends on the baby how much they cry. Prepare yourself for a lot of crying.
2. Give yourself and your baby time to adjust. Understand what you are doing and stick with it. Don’t bother about anybody else’s judgement. You are doing this for a lifetime of good sleep associations for your baby and your own health.
3. Having a detailed talk with your partner or the person helping you take care of your baby at night is essential. If your plan falls apart in the middle because of disagreements, your baby will get confused due to break in consistency.
4. It takes time. And every night is different for the first few weeks. I considered my baby sleep trained only after she was falling asleep on her own for naps and night sleep. This will be different for each one of us. It took about three weeks for everything to fall in place for our baby.
5. Coming back to crying. As per my research, the crying is not because the baby is longing for their mother’s company but because they are trying to process sleep. They are not matured enough to process their thoughts in silence like we do. This really put me at ease when my baby cried. Try not to project your own fears on your baby.
6. As difficult as it may seem, keep telling yourself that it will work out. Because sooner or later, it will. Just keep the bedtime routine consistent, and follow your chosen method of sleep training consistently unless baby is teething or sick.
7. Don’t be rigid with time. Treat every time value as a range and figure out what works for your baby.
8. Sleep training does mean that you have to put your plans on hold till your baby is trained. At least that’s what it meant for us. For example, if we wanted to take a walk in the evening, we couldn’t, because our baby loved sleeping in her stroller and that meant she would fall asleep in her wake window. This would cut short her waking time and we would need to push her bed time to keep her awake for the recommended hours. After being sleep trained, she knows it’s not sleep time, and she’s had enough time to rest, so she’s doesn’t fall asleep in the stroller anymore!
9. Sleep train when no other big plans are in the near future – Sleep training needs to be uninterrupted. Do it when you have a couple of weeks on hand with no upcoming trips, guests or other plans that might need you to adjust your baby’s routine.
1. Daily wake time – This should be the same time range every morning. Our is 7:00 – 7:30 AM.
2. Age appropriate wake windows – Babies can stay awake for longer as they grow. Staying awake for too much or too little during the day really messes with the quality of naps and night time sleep as well. Trust me, an overtired baby does not sleep well at night. Neither does an under tired one. I have made both mistakes and learnt the hard way. You don’t have to!!
3. Number of naps – Most babies initially start with three naps and then drop one nap at 6-9 months and transition to one nap later. I would recommend googling for the correct number of naps and sticking to those numbers.
4. Capping nap time – Allow baby to sleep according to age appropriate nap time. For example, at 7.5 months, baby D can sleep for a total of 3-3.5 hours with each nap capped at 2 hours.
5. Eat wake sleep – Nursing or feeding baby to sleep is very common. It’s a popular practice because it’s soothing for the baby and makes them fall asleep. But this creates an association between food and sleep. If this is something that bothers you, you may want to follow a plan where you feed the baby as soon as they wake up and then let them play and fall asleep.
6. Bed time routine – Doing the same thing again and again before bed cues the baby that sleep time is coming up. Our routine is a nice warm bath, lotion, brushing hair, snuggles, putting on the sleep sack, switching on white noise and then saying goodnight!!
The independence that sleep training can give your baby and the precious time you can get for yourself makes sleep training so so worth it. It is definitely not easy but it’s completely worth it!
P.S. Please know that I am only sharing my own experiences and findings from reading and speaking to other mothers. I am not a doctor. I am not a sleep consultant. This is not medical advice.