Here is a recap of our sleep situation before we starting sleep training:
We have a 7.5-month-old little boy, Joseph. Since he has been born, he has been co-sleeping with us. This was more out of desperation than choice: the little guy slept awesome when he was next to us. Anywhere between 9-11 pm I will nurse him, then cuddle him in a chair in our room until he goes to sleep. I will wait until he seems like he is in a relatively deep sleep before we make the transition to bed, which is usually 20-40 min. He will wake up 2-3 more times during the night, but will go back to sleep immediately if I nurse him. He will eventually wake up at 9:30-10:30 am. He will take 2-3 naps during the day, lasting a maximum of 30 minutes. To get him to nap, I nurse him and cuddle him, wait until he is asleep, then try my best to lay him in his playpen without him waking up. Once he wakes up, there is no hope that he will go back to sleep. He has to nap in his playpen, because he hurts himself in his crib. Ever since he started to roll over, he will bang his head on the side because he is desperate to not be in there.
We decided that this was the right time to think about teaching Joseph to sleep on his own because the current sleep situation is no longer working for us. He needs longer naps during the day; he gets increasingly cranky throughout the day because he is not getting enough sleep (babies his age need 3-4 hours of nap time during the day). His nap routine also eats up large parts of my day, which leaves me feeling exhausted and cranky too! He needs to sleep at an earlier bedtime (7pm as opposed to 10 pm!), and me going to bed at 7 pm isn’t a possibility. We would also like the freedom to have Josh be able to put him to bed, or to leave him with a babysitter – which isn’t possible under the current circumstances because he needs his mom!
So…here is our game plan!
- Start bedtime routine at 7 pm: snack, bath, pjs, brush teeth, story time, nurse, and cuddle (all within 30 minutes)
- Put him in his playpen and sit by him, offering him words and comfort until he falls asleep or starts to cry hysterically
- If he does start to cry with a lot of intensity, we can pick him up and cuddle him until he winds down and starts to get drowsy, and put him back in his playpen
- If he falls asleep and wakes up, wait 5-10 minutes to get him to see if he can settle himself. If not, cuddle him or nurse him as necessary
- 2 naps a day. Ideal duration is 2 hours. Minimum 1 hour
Here is a summary of how our first day went:
- We started our routine a little bit late, around 8:30pm. We did bath, pjs, teeth, story time, and nursing
- I put him in his crib with his pillow, blanket and Ellie (his stuffed elephant) when he was drowsy. He fussed and crawled around in there for 40 minutes. He got panicky as the hour drew near, so I nursed him. He fell asleep nursing, but I didn’t wake him and just put him in his crib asleep (11pm)
- He slept for an hour, stirred, but got himself back to sleep
- He woke up at 4 am. I fed him and put him back in his crib asleep. He woke up shortly after, but managed to fall asleep with some comfort from me
- Woke up at 9:30 am (10.5 hrs)
- Started showing signs of sleepiness at 10:30 am
- Nap routine at 10:45: snack, story, cuddle
- Laid down in crib at 10:50. Played for 20 min then started crying hard
- Cuddled him until he was drowsy, laid down at 11:15, asleep by 11:20.
- Woke up at 12:15pm (55 min)
- Showed signs of sleepiness at 1:30pm
- Nap routine at 2pm (same as before)
- Laid in crib at 2:15pm, but did not fall asleep. Tried to stand up, fell over and needed to be cuddled
- Nursed him, then cuddled until barely asleep
- Laid in crib at 2:40, fell asleep
- Woke up a 2:45, but fell asleep on own. Stirred again at 4 and 5:30, went back to sleep on his own
- Woke up at 5:50pm (3 hrs and 10 min!)
Alright! So there it is…is day #1 of sleep training. It was harder than I expected, but also better. In her book, the Sleep Sense Program, Dana Obalman insists that children will fall asleep eventually if they are in their crib, the parents must possess the will power to “wait it out”. Josh and I were not comfortable “waiting it out” as Joseph was working himself up so much he started choking or flinging himself around that he would hurt himself. In my mind, he does not possess the skills necessary to calm himself down once he gets to that point. I felt it was ok to pick him up and cuddle him in our usual spot as he got into the right “space” for sleep. We were rewarded in having him sleep for the longest stretches on his own that we have ever experienced! I was also really happy with his nap times the following day…3 hours on his own! But even better than the duration, was knowing that he had woken up but managed to get to sleep again without me.
This is really challenging, but I am happy that even in less than a day we are starting to notice positive effects!