So now that you all know my feelings on sleep-training and why we felt it was best for us, I’m going to get right into the nitty-gritty of the HOW! If you missed my post yesterday you can catch up here first.
IN A NUTSHELL
After what seemed like months of Hunter waking up all night and with her sleeping getting progressively worse we knew we had to do something and that something needed to change.
Like I expressed yesterday, I felt it in my gut. I knew I owed it to my older kids because I wasn’t able to give them my best after a night of no sleep. I knew I owed it to my marriage because we were too tired to communicate properly and she was coming between us, literally. But most importantly, I owed it to my baby. I wanted to equip her with the right tools to sleep well and set the stage for her for life. I wanted her to thrive and be happy, not the over-tired, often whingy child we were becoming used to.
THE METHOD : Baby Wise
The sleep-training method we followed (and are still very much following) is the Baby Wise Method. With the wonderful advice from a new friend I began following the simple ground rules of what they believe are the fundamental of healthy sleeping habits for babies. After a few long messages over What’s App, Amy gave me a rough idea of how Baby Wise worked and more specifically what Hunter’s routine should look like for her age. (This is what helped so much if I think back! She told me where to start without me having to do all the reading on my own, instead highlighting the important bits I needed to get me going. And as a tired and busy mom with lot on the go, that was just what I needed!)
Now the biggest difference between Baby Wise and other sleep-training methods is that this starts primarily with their daily routine as they believe that this sets the stage for the actual sleep training part itself. Many of us believe or have this preconceived notion that sleep-training is literally just long intervals of letting your baby scream and cry it out, but this is not the main focus here. Baby Wise not only don’t tell you specifically how to sleep-train, they don’t make any hard and fast rules about what they feel is best decided and read by you. Obviously there are some fundamental guidelines but these always start with a good day routine.
You see, we thought we had a semi-good routine in place, but to be honest it was so all over the place on most days. Because her waking time was so inconsistent, her breakfast would be at a different time every morning and that would effect the entire day’s set-up – her first nap, snack, lunch, afternoon nap, and eventually her bedtime routine, making it impossible to get into any sort of rhythm. (Of course having two older kids in the picture with busy lives didn’t help either!) Because her bed time and waking time were not in sync, we simply couldn’t gauge how her day time routine would pan out. Breakfast would be anytime between 6 am and 8.30am, her first nap anytime between 7.30am (Yup if she woke up at 5.30 am!!) and 9 am (if she was a doll and slept late, usually after a rough night!)
So you see, what I thought was a good routine was in actual fact a chaotic mess. It was a guessing game of trying to read when she was ready for her next meal or when she was tired enough to sleep longer than 30 minutes, which she seldom did. And this left me feeling helpless and not able to gauge what she needed at any given time. She ruled the roost instead of the other way round, if I were completely honest with you!
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Baby Wise believe that babies should follow a 12 hour sleep routine/cycle at night. Yup, 12 full hours. I needed to try and make sure that Hunter stayed in her cot for the full 12 hours even if that meant her crying. This is where the actual sleep-training came in. (More below) Obviously this didn’t happen over night. In all transparency it took us 7-9 nights to start seeing a noticeable change and it has taken us a full two weeks to get to where we are now. By training her to stay in her cot between these hours, helped us at least get the ground work right so we could start implementing a stricter day time schedule. See how they both work and-in -hand. You cannot do one without the other!
ONE of the key things that I needed to implement was making sure that my last feed of the day was at the same time every night, and that it would coincide with her first feed every morning. So if feed her at 6.30pm when she goes down, her next feed should only be at 6.30am when she wakes up. *Obviously for younger babies who still rely on middle-of the night feeds, this does not apply. In that case you will need to follow the same fundamental guidelines but with an added feed around 2/3 am, followed by the same approach. (Hope that makes sense.)
Because Hunter was 9 months at the time we started, she was old enough to last through the night with no extra feeds. Please read your situation independently though. Should your baby be younger or on the cusp of being older enough to push through and you feel he/she still relies on that extra feed, slowly start to stretch them but don’t eliminate it all together. Use their guidelines too to find out what routine is specific to the age of your baby.
WHAT HER ROUTINE LOOKS LIKE (9/10 MONTHS)
This is what Hunter’s (9/10month old) routine should look like: (Please note that I breastfeed but use a top up formula bottle at night- will share more on that below!)
6.30 – WAKE-UP! Boob/bottle feed
7.30 – BREAKFAST
9. am – NAP – This obviously still varies but generally she sleeps at least a solid hour, if not more. Which is testament to the fact that this routine works.She used to sleep for half an hour at a time. She’s just woken up in fact after a 1.50min nap. (she went down slightly later today at 9.30 and only woke up at 11.15!)
11am – BOOB and snack
12.30 – LUNCH
2pm – NAP
3.30 – BOOB
4.30 – SNACK – Not compulsory but it helps stretch her to the next meal without getting cranky. She also just loves to eat 🙂
5.30 – DINNER – For the record she eats REALLY well so it does help knowing she’s getting all her nutrients and that her tum tum is full!!
5.50pm/6pm – BATH – I usually try to make this stretch a little longer because she loves it and it’s her last “activity” for the day. It also gets her through the stage where she’s starting to get tired and irritable. It’s also nice because it leaves her feeling warm and relaxed and she knows that once she’s dressed, bedtime is around the corner!) I usually dress her with the lights dimmed and then turn it down to almost darkness before feeding.
6.20 – BOOB *Plus a little top-up bottle of Nan Formula. I only do this because I feel my supply has dwindled a bit and I want to make sure her tummy is full before bed. She would get to the point at the end of the day where she would have to suck for close to a minute before i would get my let down and to me she didn’t always seem satisfied. So by a miracle and after much perseverance, she started taking a bottle with black tea a month ago. After moths of refusing it, she began to then take formula, which I think had something to do with the fact that we swapped formula – she HATED the Holle Organic formula and actually likes the plain old NAN. What started off with her taking 50ml, has now worked its way up to 120mls every night just before bed. I’m pretty sure this has contributed to her stretching longer, but can really be sure? 🙂
6.30 – COT I hold her up up-right with her head on my shoulder, sing one song while gently swaying her (Usually to get her get a big burb out too!) and with her still awake but sleepy I put her in her cot. I put her Poppy (Jelly Cat soft toy) under her arm and wrap her arm around it. I pat her a few times gently on the bum, run my hands over her with the blanket, switch off the light completely and walk out the room.
LET THEM CRY
There is going to be crying. If you want your baby to learn how to self-soothe and learnt that they are not going to get that source of comfort from you at night, they are going to cry. To what extent and degree of crying depends on two things ; 1. What you feel comfortable with and how often you choose to intervene and 2. How strong-willed your child is. Yup, these are the biggest factors here. It’s good to remember that all babies cry though and you need to do your best to read those cries!
With Hunter we we started off quite gently with letting her cry it out for 3 minutes at a time. You see the strange thing is that only once she actually cried herself to sleep, did she stop waking up so frequently at night, if not all together. I think if your approach is to do it gently, it may just take longer, whether as if you are tough and know your strong-willed child will stop at nothing to prove a point, then you may need to be prepared to leave them to cry for 30 minutes at a go. I eventually did this and it took two 30 minutes sessions of what can only be described as demon possessed screams coming from her room, for her to realise that she was actually the one who could help herself. On one particularity rough night my husband actually looked at me with fear in his eyes and asked “What have we created?”
But we persisted and we ended up having to take the tougher approach. (You see, it really is about seeing what works for you and your child, what you fee comfortable doing and learning as you go). If you do intervene, make sure you time it for long enough for them to get a little hysterical and on edge. Then go in, without making any eye-contact whatsoever(!), lie them down, put their dummy in if they take one, put the blanket back over them with their soft toy/blanket, pat them on the bum for 10-15 seconds while calmly saying “sssshhhhhh ssssshhhhh shhhhhhhhh” and then walk out the room again. And if the crying begins all over again, start over, only this time waiting longer. It can take a good two hours or more , every night for as long as 2 weeks but they should eventually learn what it is we are trying to teach them ; that they can self-soothe and sleep better on their own!
*DISCALIMER: Please note that I’m no expert nor am I a trained sleep-therapist. All thoughts and opinions are my own based on experience with my 9 month old baby, which I have adopted from the Baby Wise book. I strongly urge all moms to rule out illness, ensure their babies are well-fed, clean, warm enough and generally thriving before you take on any form of sleep-coaching. Also I would only personally do the sleep-training part from 6 months, the routine bit I would incorporate as much as possible from day one!
My Biggest Tips and things That Made ALL the difference.
- Always do the same thing with day naps as you do with night time routine. This is key in getting them to understand the key elements of good sleep patterns.
- Help them rely on things they can use independently to fall asleep. Sleep associations are so important so encourage them to touch their soft toy with their hands, put the ears over their eyes….. things like that. I’m also an advocate for the dummy so if yours sucks a dummy allow them to only use this when they sleep or are needing comfort from being hurt. And use a dummy clip for you and them to eventually be able to start finding it on their own.
- A sleeping bag helps not only to ensure that them waking up from being cold i eliminated, but also because it it prevents them from standing up and resisting sleep too much. It’s also an added sleep association! 🙂
- Get everyone on the same page – Mom, Mom-in-LAw, Husband and Nanny all need to follow the same routine and rules when it comes to leaving them in their cot. If one of them takes them out of the cot when they cry, it confuses them more and undermines the process.
- Be consistent and persevere. It can take three nights for some, but up to two weeks for others.
- Realise that once the the routine is set, you can be a little bit more flexible. It helps to be a little strict in the beginning though!
- Remember that you are doing this for them, because you love them. No amount of crying they endure will take away from the amount of love you have invested in them all day!
- Remember we are not teaching them to be robots and they will have off days and off nights, we are teaching them to simply become independent sleepers who enjoy sleep and benefit from a good routine. Hunter still doesn’t always get it perfectly right and her day times can still play havoc with our routine, but if the fundamentals are in place, you can hopefully work around all the unforeseen things that are out of our control.
- Always be loving and gentle – not only with them, with yourself too.
- While teething can be a challenging and uncomfortable experience, in my opinion, I don’t feel it should be allowed to get in the way too much. read your situation but don’t be too quick to blame teething as the culprit. Their strong will usually is! 🙂
- Remember they are cleverer that we give them credit for, so stand your ground and don’t let them manipulate you. (Bless their dear hearts!)
Once again a huge shout out to Amy Brown for introducing me to Baby Wise and all the love, support and encouragement along the way! Because of you I’m off for a long night out tomorrow to celebrate our 11 year wedding anniversary… we’re not getting divorced anymore!!! HAHAHA!
Mamas I hope you are encouraged and please let me know in the comments what you have tried, your struggles, your victories, advice to other moms, anything! Let’s help moms across the country get more sleep!!! 🙂 I WISH YOU ALL THE BSET ON YOU SLEEP-TRAINING JOURNEY! ♥
Mama Leigh xxx