Monday, September 25, 2017

My experience + advice on sleep training!

Good morning everyone :)

It's been a long time coming, but I'm finally getting around to writing about my experience sleep training Jace!

Let me start by saying this:  My experiences with sleep training each of my boys have been completely different.  Also, I'm a huge cheater.  I don't follow any specific plan to a T because it just hasn't worked for us.  That being said, I have used certain sleep training books as general guides in the past & then altered the instructions given to fit what worked best for us.

With Cole & Brody, I referred to Baby Wise quite frequently.  While the sleep training approaches in that book tended to be slightly on the "harsh" side for me, I did go back quite a bit to find out where they should be as far as how many feedings per night, how many naps per day, length of naps, etc.

One big part of Baby Wise that is something I've stuck with for all 3 kids, is the eat/wake/sleep routine.  If you nurse them before they go to sleep, they will get used to needing that.  You want to nurse/feed them when they first wake up, then it's wake/play time, then at nap time they do not nurse first.  You do feed them right before bed time but not to put the to sleep.  I start this routine very early on, even before sleep training & stick with this all the way until they are done nursing completely.  I highly recommend this before anything else. :)

With baby Jace, I was blessed enough to have my good friend & sleep coach Lauren with Sleep and the City helping us along the way.  This was a game changer.  Having an actual person just a text or phone call away to answer my hundreds of questions in my most sleep deprived moments was PRICELESS.  She was so patient with me when I was completely sleep deprived & confused on what to do.  Yes, I was confused even though he is my third child.  Every baby has been different, & there was no way I could remember how many naps per day for each age & how many hours he needed to be sleeping etc.  It had been 3 years since I did this before so a refresher course has been needed!

Jace is almost 10 months now & sleeping through the night, so I feel like I'm finally ready to share our experience & my tips now that I'm through the thick of it.

For the first few months I had him sleep in between us in the Dockatot on our bed.  I loved not having to get up in the middle of the night repeatedly.  This made it so I could easily get him out, nurse him, & put him back in a safe place between us.  These first few months were a complete BLUR.  I nursed him all he wanted throughout the night just to keep him happy, which with all 3 of my boys meant more sleep for Michael & I as well.  I also had him nap in the Dockatot on my bed. MY advice, do not bother sleep training until your baby is about 3-4 months old at the very least.  In my opinion, this makes life a lot harder & those first few months post partum very difficult.  Just enjoy your baby & make your life as easy as possible.  Having your baby close to you will not only take some stress off but will help you & your baby bond even closer.



Jace was around 5 months old when it was clear he was sleeping longer stretches throughout the night & I could put him in his crib.  This is also the point where I really started to feel confident that both of us were ready to sleep without each other.  ;)  I was prepared & willing to get up twice a night or so, just for the first few weeks & then slowly cut him down to once a night, then none at all.  The problem with this though, was I would get up SO tired & just bring him back to bed with me.  I'd nurse him & then we'd fall asleep together.  I was so tired that it was hard to stick to my guns when Jace was crying for me.  Also, we are such a busy family, that trying to be home for every single one of Jace's naps so he could sleep in his crib was absolutely impossible.  So then we went on vacation when he was 5 months old & he ended up having to sleep with me the entire time, which completely set us back & was obviously completely contradicting what I was trying to accomplish.



When we returned home from vacation he turned 6 months old & I started to really buckle down on getting him sleeping independently.  At this point I feel like babies NEED to sleep on their own to get a good night's sleep, not to mention for the sanity of the parents!  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your baby sleep in your room for the first year of their lives.  I personally think that's a little extreme & many sleep experts don't follow that either.  If your baby is in their crib with no bumper, blankets, or stuffed animals, sleeping on their back with proper sleep attire on, & a well ventilated room, they are safe.  Also, investing in a GOOD digital video monitor is key!  That way you can keep an eye on your little one's every move if you want to.  After owning multiple baby monitors in the past 6.5 years since Cole was born (& many of them breaking), I have found my favorite one!  I recommend this Motorola monitor!  Here's why I love this one:

-  It has a big 5" screen that you can see your baby in color in, & infrared vision for night time.
-  It has smart phone compatibility so you can spy on your baby in his crib even on date nights. ;)
-  It has a microphone so you can speak to your baby through it if needed.
I will use this monitor even through the toddler bed days, & when they're older this can be used as a nanny cam when we're gone, or to keep an eye on the kids when they're older & staying home alone!




Okay back to the sleep training.  Start with nights.  When you & your baby are READY (no vacations, no sickness, & baby is old enough, here's how I start):

1.  Your baby is going to need to learn to self soothe.  If you have to rock/nurse him to sleep every single night, they will never know how to do it on their own AND they won't sleep as well.  If they know how to self soothe, they do better at falling back asleep on their own in the middle of the night too. :)  At some point you need to "rip off the band-aid" as I like to call it.  Develop your nightly routine with baby.  This is VERY important.  Babies love repetition & knowing what to expect.  Also, this routine will help them to realize it's sleepy time, & they will automatically start to calm down.  Give baby a warm bath & then take them in their nursery for dim lights, diaper change, & pajamas.  (We don't do bath every single night.  On the nights we don't, we start routine with the diaper change).  After he's in his pajamas I nurse him in the rocker & sing lullabies to him.  This is where it can get tricky because you don't want him to fall asleep in your arms.  If he starts to fall asleep you need to make it quick.  If he's all wound up from play time with siblings (like Jace often is), it takes a good 15 min to really calm him.  Once your baby is DROWSY but awake, lay him down softly in the crib.  I always say a quick little prayer & then "night night time" a few times, turn off the light & shut the door.  Also, don't forget white noise!  I linked the most amazing white noise machine by Hatch Baby in this post.  Most likely your baby is going to cry for the first 2-3 nights & then will eventually just fall asleep on their own like Cole did.  OR if your baby is anything like Brody or Jace, they will fuss/cry a little bit almost every single time they are put down for bed time, because this is how they release exhaustion.  They're also mad because they don't want you to leave.  Trust me, your baby will get used to it, & comfortable with this routine because it's what they know.  Their crib will become their safe & familiar place, & you will also get used to maybe some fussing from time to time as they fall asleep.  (Fussing before bed time is a lot more common at naps for us, there are many nights where Jace doesn't make a peep when I put him down).

2.  Night time feedings.  This can sometimes just depend on the baby & their needs.  In our case, Jace is & always has been a BIG boy, & takes down big feedings.  I knew at 6 months he was more than okay to make it long stretches.  At this point he was going about 7 hours, so from about 8 to 3 am or so.  I would get up & nurse him, & then he'd usually wake up about 6:30-7 am or so.  Definitely do some research on your baby's age & what is suggested.  Your pediatrician will also let you know if your baby is okay to go through the night without eating.  This is also where sleep expert help like from Lauren at Sleep and the City is really a life saver!  She helped me to realize that if he woke up any time before about 3 am that he didn't NEED to eat.  She also said that when I did go in to feed him at the wee hours of the morning, that I should only feed him for about 5 minutes & then taper it down each night until that feeding was eventually eliminated.  Also, making sure your baby is getting FULL feedings each time & not snacking throughout the day is crucial to getting them to sleep well.  Make sure you know how many feedings your baby should be taking in a 24 hour period.

3.  Naps.  Once your night times are going well, you can move on to naps.  Now let me tell you, if you're a busy mom of 3 like I am, don't take naps TOO seriously or you'll drive yourself nuts.  Here's what you need to do:  Find out how many HOURS a day your baby is supposed to nap for.  Don't worry so much about a nap schedule, because this will change depending on when your baby wakes up, your schedule for the day, how long each nap is, etc.  Then you need to figure out how long the wake windows between naps are.  And last but not least, when is your cut off time for naps before bed time.  You don't want them napping too late in the day.  So it's not so much about a nap schedule as it is length of nap time/wake windows.  If this sounds confusing, definitely contact my friend Lauren, or check out her free sleep tips/advice on her blog at www.sleepandthecity.com or her Instagram page www.instagram.com/sleepandthecity.

4.  Be consistent, but also flexible.  What I mean by this is, be consistent with bed time routines, & nights.  (If you're not going in to nurse before 5 am, then don't break that rule.  Your baby will be confused.  You want their body clocks to eventually wake up at the same time every day & this will only happen if you stay consistent).  When I say flexible, I'm mostly referring to naps.  Sometimes, Jace has no choice but to fall asleep in the car.  If this happens, I either transfer him to his crib the minute we're home, or if that doesn't work, we make up for that time missed at his next nap.  Just keep an eye on how long each nap is so you can make sure they're getting the total amount needed per day.

This is a topic I could go on all day on.  There's a lot to think about when sleep training & a lot of things change during the process.  For example, right now at 9 months Jace is napping twice a day for a total of 2-2.5 hours or so, & sleeps about 8 pm to 6:30 am.  This could change at any moment. As a matter of fact I think today he will be having 3 shorter naps because he woke up too early from his first one.  Also, some nights he wakes up at 3:30 am, or 5:30 am, & normally I let him cry for 5 minutes & he just falls back asleep again.  Sometimes he doesn't at all.  No day or night ever looks identical.  Just take each day at a time & don't be hard on yourself or get frustrated when things don't work out the way you planned.  You can't really PLAN anything in motherhood & that's something I realize more & more every day.  All we can do is try our hardest to do what's best for our kids & keep calm when things get tough.

If there is one thing I tell ALL new moms, its: do what works best for YOU & your family.  I can talk about sleep training all day long & how much I believe in it, but if your style is attachment parenting because that is what makes you & your family happiest, then do that!  Your happiness & sanity are the most important.  Happy mommy = happy kids!  For our family, we all do best when we sleep well, & sleeping independently is the only way a good night's rest happens for any of us. :)

I am open to all questions you may have because I know I didn't cover every single thing in this blog post. ;)  Please feel free to either comment below today's post on my Instagram or send me an email to sincerelystevieblog@gmail.com, I'd be happy to help in any way I can!

You got this mamas! :)





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