Our Sleep Training Journey
Hi friends! Over the past couple of months, I’ve loved being open about my journey as a first time mom. I’ve given insight into my postpartum experience and healing from a very long delivery, I’ve shared my baby product favorites, and shared small glimpses into my breastfeeding and sleep training journeys.
Today, I wanted to share some insight into one of the topics I get asked about most: sleep training. The numbers of questions I receive shows me that it’s a need so many moms long for. Although I am not an expert and have not done any kind of formal training, I’m more than willing to share our experience even if it helps just one mama or mama to be.
I’ve done a lot of reading, listened to the guidance of my pediatrician and loved ones who have great sleepers, and followed my own babies cues. We’ve looked at several sleep training methods and the one that seems to work best with us and our flexible schedule is Taking Carababies Sleep Training. I did not buy the program and instead, I simply followed on social media and read up on their blog. This has given me the majority of information I need without making a significant investment. I also want to share that we have not consulted any sleep training experts or night nurses and we have still had a lot of success. It doesn’t require a large investment to start getting in a good sleep routine, so please do not feel discouraged if you feel you do not have the money to spend on a formal sleep training program. I genuinely believe that instinct and consistency can get your baby sleeping better.
I think the easiest way to share is to back track a little bit and share some details around our sleep routine up to this point. If there is anything I’ve learned it is that sleep training is a long, challenging road. No baby is the same, and it takes a lot of trial and error to start making progress.
Sleep Training: Birth-2 months
If I’m being honest, our first couple nights home from the hospital were a nightmare!! I literally LOL just thinking about it because I had no idea what I was doing. I hadn’t taken any classes, done any research and was honestly just following doctors orders (feed every 2-4 hours and let them sleep when they want to). Okay!? I stayed up nearly the whole night, cluster feeding and feeling like a zombie. I told my sister in law who had just had a baby 13 days prior how badly it was going, and she saved me by recommended this swaddle. A total GAME CHANGER! I highly recommend for the first 3ish months of life until they start rolling over. I swear that swaddle and this sound machine (used on ocean sound) are they only way I survived those first couple of months.
As far as a routine goes, we truly didn’t have much of one. We were doing a sleep, eat, and play routine centered around a consistent feeding schedule of eating every 3 hours. We basically fed at 8, 11, 2, 5, 8, 11, 2, 5 (I don’t use am/pm because it was around the clock haha) with period of sleep and play between feedings according to baby’s cues. The newborn days are tough, but I promise they fly by and when you look back feel like a blink in time.
One thing I do want to mention that I think helped for sleep training in the future is starting to track Wyatt’s natural routine and schedule. To do this we used a free app called baby tracker. It allows you to track sleeping and feeding schedules as well as a lot of other things. Over time you can start to see patterns in your baby’s routine that really help set you up for success with future sleep training, more on that later.
Wyatt’s rough schedule birth-2 months: (led by on demand feeding)
8am wake up and feed
11pm top off/feed
Sleep Training: 2-3 months
At two months old, we chose to drop Wyatt’s middle of the night feeding (4am) at the permission of our pediatrician and move her to her crib since she had pretty much started sleeping through the night and continued to grow on track, staying at her birth percentile. I think her weight and regular feeding schedule really helped facilitate this naturally along with a great sound machine and the halo sleep sack swaddles I mentioned earlier. If you’re worried about shifting your baby to their crib you can always use the owlet sleep sock to help monitor their breathing. We didn’t end up using it and Wyatt transitioned great, I almost wish we had some it sooner. As soon as we made this transition, Wyatt and us both started sleeping a lot better.
During this period, Wyatt started sleeping on her own from about 11pm-8am. This was a game changer for us that we were honestly fine with this schedule and almost avoided sleep training. We knew eventually she would need to stop being swaddled and move to an earlier bedtime, so this was our goal in month 4. After all, she was pretty much sleeping on our chest between her 8pm and 11pm feedings that we felt she could eventually shift to an 8pm bedtime.
A couple of quick things to note. I first want to mention that we only noticed all of these natural routines Wyatt was creating for herself thanks to the baby tracker app we were using. She started doing the same thing everyday at certain times of the day and we analyzed these patterns in the app to determine when her preferred nap times were. Another thing I wanted to note that at 3-3.5 months we started the goal of unswaddling her by transitioning her to the Merlin magic sleep suit. We did a hard transition rather than the 1 arm in, 1 arm out method and she transitioned fine.
Wyatt’s rough schedule at 2-3 months: (eat, play, sleep)
8am wake up and feed
10:30 dream feed
11pm-8am sleep in crib
Sleep Training: 4 months
I was told that the perfect time to start sleep training was between 4-6 months. Not sure why that is the case, perhaps babies are more understanding of the process, but that is what we decided to do for several reasons. I wanted to pair sleep training with the new year (fresh start) and when she was starting solids to keep her tummy full at night. It just so happened that we got permission from our pediatrician to start solids and the new year started right around 4.5 months old. After spending the holidays with Drew’s family and seeing all the babies asleep by 8pm (even Wyatt’s cousin who is 13 days older than her) and us up with Wyatt until 10pm, we were extra motivated to start moving her bedtime earlier, so we decided to get serious about sleep training.
It going to lie, the process of sleep training was ROUGH! Especially since Wyatt is very attached to me and doesn’t see other people due to COVID and quarantine. Drew helped as much as he could, but when it came to soothing, she ultimately just wanted her mama. But I can now say that I am officially out of the thick of it and she is doing so much better! If you’re getting discouraged like I did, hang in there! It’s so worth it to get your baby on a good routine.
Lots of questions about what sleep training regimen we are doing. I did research on both taking carababies and moms on call and ultimately settled on taking carababies. I had sisters and friends who recommended it and the schedule seemed a lot more flexible which is what works best for us. I didn’t buy the program, and I honestly just read the blog and followed their Instagram. I’ve been told the program you buy isn’t much different from the info you can find on their blog/Instagram.
We started the program with the goal of doing at least one long daytime nap in her crib and moving her bedtime earlier in the night to extend her nighttime sleep. The most important parts of the routine for us were putting her down to sleep in her crib awake but drowsy, and allowing her to self soothe herself to sleep. In order to do this you have to allow them to cry it out for small increments of time. We would put her down, let her cry, and do check-ins to help calm and soothe her without picking her up in her crib.
We started by doing check ins at 5 minutes, 10 minutes and then 15 minutes, 15 minutes, 15 minutes until she would fully fall asleep on her own. There were times when this would go on for 2 hours, practically hyperventilating from crying! It was miserable, but eventually she was always able to put herself to sleep. I would say day 1 and days 3-5 were the worst! Day 1 took 1.5 hours, day 3 took 2 hours and 4 and 5 were between 1 and 1.5 hours. For some reason day 2 went pretty well that I thought we had figured it out but I was so wrong haha! It wasn’t until day 6/7 that I started feeling progress and it was closer to 30 minutes of her soothing herself to sleep. Now I can honestly say she either goes straight down or goes down within 10-15 minutes, so I’m so glad we did it!
I also want to talk through the importance of routine and consistency for putting Wyatt down to sleep. At night, we do pretty much the same thing every night a part from not doing a bath every night. Around 6-630pm I nurse her, she eats solids at around 7, plays until 8, nurse again at 8 and goes down for the night. On nights we do bath we will do bath around 8 and nurse after and put her down for the night. As you can see from her schedule, we nurse, do solids and nurse again within a 1.5 hour time frame, cluster feeding to get her belly full at night. This has also allowed us to drop the dream feed without any setbacks. She loves to rock, so I’ll rock her with her paci until she is drowsy and put her down in her crib awake with her paci.
I was originally trying to put her to bed without her paci and to be honest that wasn’t working so we’ve started allowing paci at night. She usually loses it about an hour into sleep but at least it helps put her to sleep. I also want to mention that we’re still doing the Merlin sleep sack for her long nap and nighttime but she has started rolling over so we are going to start transitioning to kyte baby sleep sacks – will let you know how it goes haha! Bedtime goal is 8:30pm and she currently sleeps until about 8am every morning.
Here is a look at our current schedule/routine:
8am wake up and feed
9:30am-11am nap (usually out of crib)
2-4pm long nap in crib
5:30-6pm cat nap (usually out of crib)
7pm- eating purées/solids
8pm top off/feed
8:30pm-8am sleep in crib
As you can see, it’s been quite a journey to even start the sleep training process. My biggest advice is to take it day by day and don’t feel pressure to follow any one persons exact schedule. Follow your baby’s cues and adapt to a schedule that works best for your family. Of course this is just my personal experience, I am no sleep expert, and recommend seeking guidance from a pediatrician like we did. Sending you all the good vibes for longer and more restful sleep!