Before I had Kevin and in my first few months as a new mom, I never thought I would be one to ‘sleep train’ with crying methods. I had nothing against those who did, but it wasn’t really the style of parenting that I envisioned myself adopting. Listening to him cry broke my heart and I hated when it lasted more than a few minutes. Plus we practiced a lot of attachment parenting things like co-sleeping, breastfeeding and baby wearing, to name a few, and attachment parenting isn’t usually associated with letting babies ‘cry it out’ in order to learn to sleep.
Fast forward a few more months and Kevin is now 7 months old. He never really recovered from his 4 month sleep regression, and was still sleeping only 8-9 hours of fragmented sleep each night. He was VERY dependent on me for everything at night and became too attached. The only way he would sleep through the night was if he was in our bed with us. He wouldn’t take a pacifier anymore and only wanted to nurse to soothe himself. We all weren’t getting enough sleep, and my sleep deprivation started causing feelings of frustration, lack of energy at home and at work, and resentment towards my husband because I was the only one who could soothe the baby. I also knew that the baby should be sleeping 10-12 hours a night and I was worried that not sleeping enough would affect his health and development.
And with that, we decided enough was enough. It was time to sleep train. I wouldn’t change the way we did things in the beginning at all though. I love the bond that we developed and I think I set up a positive, loving and nurturing relationship between the baby and us, but once he hit 7 months I knew it was time to try some sleep training. I knew he was old enough to be able to handle it, and at this age he understood that when I left I would come back eventually so he wouldn’t think I was abandoning him. I did my research by reading the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, reading a few blogs by moms who had sleep trained, and talked to my mommy friends about what they did. I also love the My Baby Sleep Guide Website. Between all of these sources we developed our own ‘plan.’
I knew I couldn’t do the total extinction method where you are supposed to ignore all crying and never go into the room. I wanted a somewhat gentler approach, so we decided to do comfort checks, starting with every 5 minutes of hard crying. I knew it would take longer doing it this way rather than total extinction, but that was okay with us. If the baby calmed down or got quiet then started crying again, we would start the clock over. We planned to only rub the baby’s back, SHHH him, and tell him we love him during a comfort check- no picking him up. We would stay in the room for only 30 seconds then we would leave. We decided we would eventually increase the time from 5 minutes to 10, and so on.
In order to keep myself calm and confident I kept telling myself that all he’s ever known since he has been born is that when he cries we will come to him. He doesn’t know any differently because we’ve never done it any other way. I had to remind myself that we are teaching him an important lesson in how to self soothe and sleep. And that this is something he will need to know the rest of his life. The teacher in me understood this, but the mother in me still had a hard time at first. There were many tears shed the first few nights, But it got easier with time especially when we realized he was learning.
A quick summary: The first night we put him down (Sunday, April 14th), he cried for 18 minutes. Last night when we put him down he whined for about 5 seconds and then fell right asleep. He used to go to sleep around 9 p.m.- we were never successful at getting him to go to bed earlier than that- and he always woke for the day at 5 a.m, sometimes even earlier! Now, he goes to bed around 7:30 p.m. and wakes up between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m (except for a couple days where he woke up a little earlier). He went from getting 8-9 hours of sleep to 11-12 hours. Yeah!!!
Here are all my notes from the nights that we have sleep trained so far. It’s a lot of information, but I wanted to remember the details of what happened.
Night 1 (the most detailed of my notes!)
- 7:00 – did bedtime routine: bath (happy), massage (fussy), PJs, nursed (kept falling asleep while eating).
- 7:40 – put him down in crib awake. He suddenly became hyper and was calling out, kicking, rolling around, and happy. Then he started whimpering/whining/light fussing. He flipped to his belly.
- 7:52 – started crying harder.
- 7:57 – I went in after 5 minutes for 30 seconds of comforting. I told him I loved him, rubbed his back, and he calmed down. When I left the room he started crying hard again.
- 8:03 – went in after another 5 minutes for 30 seconds of comforting. When I left he cried even harder. This is when I started to cry too. It broke my heart to watch the monitor and listen to him cry.
- 8:04 – 8:11 – crying, but had periods of time where he calmed down then started up again, so I didn’t go in again. Eventually his cries turn into soft whimpers.
- 8:12 – and all of a sudden he FELL ASLEEP after 18 minutes of crying.
- 8:13 – just kidding, he’s not. He cried again for 30 seconds and then he was out for real.
- 8:13 – 2:36 – SLEEP!
- 2:36 – light cries for less than a minute
- 2:40 – little noises from crib and back to sleep
- 4:35 – more little noises then back to sleep
- 4:57 – crying. These cries sound different. I know he’s hungry at this point since it had been 10 hours since he had last eaten, so I fed him. I also realized his diaper had leaked and he was wet and I felt really guilty.
- 5:30 – tried to put him back down in the crib and he was not having it. He was wide awake and ready for the day.
- 5:55 – 7:30 – fell back asleep in dad’s arms and then in the lounger pillow. I guess he was still tired anyway! Live and learn.
Night 2… a TON of night wakings.
- 7:40 – put him in his crib and he fell right asleep, no crying!
- 8:21 – soft cry, back to sleep in less than 10 seconds
- 8:30 – cried softly for 2 minutes then fell back asleep
- 9:19 – cried for 5 seconds
- 9:58 – cried for 2 minutes
- 11:09 – crying hard. I went in every 5 minutes to comfort him, then moved it to 10 minutes after a little while. Crying started to slow down periodically so I only had to go in 3 times.
- 12:10 – finally back asleep after crying for an hour
- 3:15 – crying. After 5 minutes daddy went in to change him and I fed him.
- 4:18- we both accidentally fall asleep together while I’m feeding him. Oops! I go to put him back in his crib and he cries.
- 4:23 – asleep after 5 minutes of crying
- 7:15 – woke up for the day!
Night 3… getting better.
- 7:38 – put in crib, started crying, but became soft after 3 minutes
- 7:43 – asleep
- 3:40 – soft cries
- 3:43 – back asleep
- 5:45 – soft noise, started moving around, then fell back asleep
- 6:30 – awake for the day
Night 4… waking to eat, or not?
- 7:28 – put in crib, cried loudly for 3 minutes then got softer
- 7:33- asleep
- 3:53- crying, but it sounds like a different cry. I wonder if he is hungry.
- 4:00 – decided to go in to change his diaper and feed him
- 4:30 – put back down, cried hard
- 5:00 – asleep
- 7:20 – awake for the day
Night 5… same as the previous night.
- 8:08 – put down later than usual because we were stuck in traffic after daddy’s baseball game, cried for a minute
- 8:09 – asleep
- 3:22 – crying, again it sounds like he’s hungry
- 3:33 – crying hasn’t let up so I go in to get him changed and fed
- 4:00 – put back down in crib, cried hard and long again for the 2nd night in a row. Definitely having trouble getting back to sleep after his feeding.
- 4:33 – asleep
- 7:45 – awake for the day
Night 6… started our weekend trip to PA.
- 7:31 – put down in crib, cried for a minute
- 7:32 – asleep
- 12:00 – woke him up to get in the car to leave for our trip
- 12:25 – fell back asleep
- 2:30 – all of a sudden wide awake in the car right before we arrived. Fed and changed him once we got there.
- 3:32 – put down down into the crib at my dad’s house, cried hard. I think he was unsure of his new environment.
- 3:54 – fell asleep after 22 minutes of crying
- 6:30 – woke up for the day
Night 7… trips away aren’t ideal in the middle of sleep training. DUH.
- 6:50 – acting super tired so we put him down early, cried
- 6:54 – asleep
- 7:25 – awake and crying… already? Back and forth between hard and soft.
- 8:05 – I pick him up because his crying is getting stronger, discovered that he pooped and is still hungry. Feel really guilty 😦
- 8:18 – lay him back down dry and fed, cried for 10 seconds and fell asleep
- 4:15 – awake and crying so I fed him
- 4:51 – put him down, cried
- 5:13 – still crying, change diaper and put back down
- 5:25 – still crying, so I give up and bring him in bed with us. Fail!
Night 8… back at home and back at it again! 1 big step forward…
- 7:43 – put in crib, cried for a few minutes
- 7:46 – asleep
- ALMOST 10 HOUR STRETCH!
- 5:27 – woke up crying, fed him and was awake for the day.
Night 9… and then 2 steps back after a day of refusing to nap.
- 7:51 – put down in crib, whined for a few seconds, fell asleep
- 10:46 – awake and crying hysterically
- 10:56 – go in to change diaper, won’t stop crying even when held
- 11:00 – put back down and he continued to cry hard
- 11:10 – went in to get him and tried to figure out what was wrong. He wouldn’t eat and wouldn’t stop crying. Wouldn’t even really open his eyes, even when we turned on lights. It was almost like he was having a night terror, probably due to sleep deprivation from not napping more than 25 minutes at a time that day. Finally got him to nurse and we both fell asleep together for the rest of the night. Fail 😦
Night 10… better, but still a lot of night waking.
- 7:42 – put down in crib, no crying at all, fell right asleep
- 10:10 – crying softly
- 10:15 – asleep
- 2:18 – crying, back and forth between loud and quiet
- 2:40 – still crying. Is he hungry? I go to feed him and change diaper
- 3:00 – put back down, cried for a minute
- 3:01 – asleep
- 4:20 – light cries
- 4:23 – asleep
- 6:27 – awake for the day
Night 11… getting back to longer stretches.
- 7:23 – put down in crib, no crying at all before falling asleep
- 8:49 – light cries
- 8:51 – asleep again
- 8.5 HOUR STRETCH
- 5:15 – awake and hungry? I feed him, and daddy changes diaper
- 5:35 – put back down, light fussing and crying
- 5:46 – back asleep
- 6:00 – awake and crying lightly, maybe he’ll go back to sleep
- 6:25 – rolling around in crib wide awake so I go to get him
Night 12… more night wakings and more setbacks.
- 7:20 – put down in crib, cried for less than a minute then asleep
- 8 HOUR STRETCH
- 3:33 – awake and crying, again not sure if he’s hungry or not
- 3:38 – crying hard still so I go get him for diaper change and feeding
- 4:06 – put him back down, cried for less than a minute and was asleep. Is he finally learning to go back to sleep easily after a feeding?
- 4:15 – nope… he’s up again and crying.
- 4:27 – dad goes in for a comfort check
- 5:10 – finally asleep after going back and forth between hard and soft crying for 30 more minutes
- 6:18 – soft whimpers
- 7:00 – awake for the day
Night 13… rocky beginning, good ending!
- 7:50 – put in crib, asleep after one little whine
- 10:02 – crying hard and thrashing around in crib
- 10:12 – dad goes in for comfort check, he calms down but is still crying
- 10:22 – I go in for the second comfort check and discover that he pooped. I change him and hold him for a few minutes, trying to calm him down
- 10:31 – put back down, crying hard
- 10:41 – dad does comfort check, gets more upset. We decide to wait 15 minutes now, but his cries start getting softer so we never went in again.
- 11:11 – asleep after an hour and 9 minutes of crying 😦
- 3:03 – awake like usual around 3 a.m. I waited to see if he would put himself back to sleep, and he did!
- 3:05 – asleep
- 7:21 – awake for the day
We are now almost two weeks into our training, and while we have made some good progress, we definitely aren’t done yet, obviously! As you can see from my notes, we have had some bumps in the road. It definitely hasn’t been a situation where it gets better every night. There’s been a few instances where I feel like we have taken 2 steps forward and 1 step back. I wanted to write this post now while we’re still figuring things out to get a snapshot of our progress.
According to Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child, using a controlled crying approach like we are could take anywhere from 3-14 days, and since our trip to PA was right in the middle of it we were set behind a bit. In hindsight, maybe we should’ve waited until after our trip to start sleep training. But we have so much going on right now that we don’t have a clear block of time until JUNE! I felt like I kept coming up with excuse after excuse for why we hadn’t done it yet… he was sick, he is teething, we’re going away for a bunch of weekends soon, we have visitors staying with us, etc. I knew we had to do it now or never, or else something would always come up. I also knew that 6-7 months is the ideal time to sleep train, and I didn’t want to miss our window before he starts being able to stand in his crib and things like that. So we are just making the best of it, doing what we can, trying to be patient and celebrating the small accomplishments and progress he is making with his sleep.
Happy boy in the morning!
- A consistent, predictable bedtime routine: for about a month now we’ve done the same bedtime routine- bath, baby massage, PJs, nurse, put down in dark room with sound machine running. I think he really is associating these things with bedtime and it makes him start to get drowsy.
- Earlier bedtime: He used to fall asleep around 9 p.m., and now he goes down between 7:15 and 7:45 p.m most days.
- Waking up later in the morning: He went from waking up between 4:45 – 5:15 a.m. to about 6:30 – 7:30 a.m!
- Able to put himself back to sleep: This one is HUGE for us! Now he can fall back asleep within 5 minutes (most of the time.) It’s not perfect yet and there are still some nights he’s not able to do this, but considering before he only fell asleep if I held or nursed him, it’s a big improvement.
- Meeting the recommended hours of night sleep for his age: He is now sleeping between 11-12 hours a night, and before he was sleeping only 8-9 hours.
Things We Still Need to Work On
- Night wakings: I know it’s normal for children to stir a little bit at the end of their sleep cycles, but he’s doing more than just stirring- he’s actually crying a lot of the time. Hopefully with more time he will stop doing this and sleep for a continuous block of time more consistently.
- Figuring out the nighttime feeding- should I or shouldn’t I?: I think one of the main issues is that I’m never sure if I should feed him or not when he wakes up around the 3-5 a.m. mark. I feel like 12 hours is really long for a 7 month old to go for a feeding, but there are some nights that he doesn’t wake at all to eat or falls back to sleep on his own. To me, that shows that he doesn’t necessarily need to eat during the night, right? I just feel guilty if he wakes up around the time crying, wondering if he’s hungry or wet and uncomfortable.
- How to get him back to sleep afterwards: I wouldn’t mind getting up to feed him in the middle of the night if he went down easier afterwards. Even though I don’t stimulate him and keep the lights off, he has a hard time falling back to sleep after he eats. I feel like it ends up interrupting things too much and gets him too worked up.
- Naps: My initial plan was to first work on nighttime sleep and then once that was better established work on naps. However, I’m starting to second guess that now. His sleep is noticeably worse when he doesn’t get good naps in during the day, which makes perfect sense because then he’s overtired. Should I be nap training too and trying to get him on a better schedule? He currently takes 2-3 naps, one between 8-10ish, one between 1-3ish, and sometimes one around 5. But these are very variable. Sometimes he sleeps for 15 minutes at a time, and sometimes he will sleep for 1 or 2 hours. It isn’t consistent at all.
So that’s where we are with our sleep training, 2 weeks into it. I will do another update after another 2 weeks or so to talk about where we are at that point. I am hopeful that things will improve once we figure out more about how to help our little man learn to sleep better.
Experienced mommies, do you have any advice for me? I would love to hear your input!