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We sleep trained our baby twice. Yes, twice. Are we gluttons for punishment, or what? We sort of had an excuse. As I have mentioned before, my husband works away from home for a month at a time and then is home for a month. In my mom wisdom, I waited for a month when he was going to be home to sleep train. Our son was just shy of four months old. He was still sleeping in our room in his bassinet and nursing at least once during the night (but, I was close to cutting that out too). We started putting him down in his room at bedtime and moving him to our room when we went to bed. We were loosely following the Ferber Method. We were seeing progress. He was almost consistently going down without too much of a fuss when we had his four-month check-up. My son was born at thirty-six weeks due to me being diagnosed with preeclampsia. He had been in the 1st percentile at every weigh in since birth, but at this appointment, he ever so slightly fell off his curve. This is a story for another post, but this made us hit the breaks on sleep training (increased night feeds, etc). I tried to pick it back up once my husband was back at work and I was feeling a little better about his weight. It was a lot to handle alone, my mother was not supportive, and I ended up giving in a few times. Every time I gave in it got worse. And worse. And worse. By the time my husband came back home just before my son was six months old, he would not even sleep at all unless he was in my arms. Around this time, I had a follow up with the doctor where she cleared us from this weight issue. I asked if it was ok to sleep train again. She was all for it and cleared him to sleep through the night.
Let the research begin. Again.
I asked some more friends and family their opinions, read a whole lot more blog posts, and watched a few more YouTube videos. I came across this video by Susan Yara and then this one. I sent the second one to my husband and he was all for it. We made a plan. We had enough information from the video to get started (which is crazy for me to get started before I have ALL THE INFORMATION). So, we used the method we learned from the video to put our son down for the night. I bought the book, poured a glass of wine, took a bath, and read the entire book while my husband monitored the baby. He can handle crying a lot better than I.
As I read the book, Getting Your Baby to Sleep the Baby Sleep Trainer Way* by Natalie Willes, I learned more about the method and what we should be doing and updated him as I learned new things. We learned, from experience, very early on that checking on him only made it worse for him. The first night it took about an hour and fifteen minutes for our son to go to sleep.
Then he only woke up a couple of times in the early morning and was able to get back to sleep without getting too worked up. It was amazing. We went and got him up around 7 am and he was all smiles. (I may or may not have been watching the clock and waiting for 7 am to hit and then jumped out of bed to go get my baby.)
It only took a few nights and now he consistently goes down in fifteen minutes pretty much whatever the circumstances. Sometimes with a little fussing. He will cry if he is not in his bed (at a friends house or traveling), but will still go down in about fifteen minutes. It is getting more and more often that he quietly goes down with barely a peep.
Naps are a little different story. My husband was not home during the day to help with naps and it was hard on me, especially the first day. What I like about this program is that there are clear rules, particularly around naps. I just had to follow the rules. We did not see results as quickly as with bedtime, but definite progress. He naps pretty well these days, but it’s about the length of nap, not difficulty going down, that is the struggle. We also just switched to two naps a day and this program helped with that too!
The key to this program is that it is not a one-time thing. You do not sleep train your baby once and that is it. When you hit a bump in the road you know what to do. The rules do not go away. You just follow the rules. Which is great for a rule follower like me.
It is amazing how much better life gets when your baby is sleep trained and sleeping through the night and taking naps. I get enough sleep each night! My husband and I have time for each other in the evening. My house is so much cleaner. Dinner is usually ready or close to it when my husband gets home. I have been able to start this blog. Most importantly, it has also been good for my son. He is getting higher quality sleep and is well rested. We have set him up for good sleep for life.
My biggest concern going in, besides the crying, was losing flexibility. I thought that sleep training and nap schedules would make my baby fall apart whenever we were off schedule, which happens frequently in our life. I was so wrong. I cannot tell you why, but he is able to stay happier longer even when his naps or bedtime are late. It really taught me a lesson to apply to our next child. Schedules are good. Schedules do not create inflexible babies. I fought them for a long time and opted for the sleep, eat, play routine applied loosely.
We did deviate from the plan in one area. We opted not to use blackout curtains or a white noise machine. It probably made our progress slightly slower, but we did not want to go that route unless we were unsuccessful without them.
I intentionally did not include the specific guidelines in this post. It does not seem fair to the author to give away all of the information from her book. The videos are very informative and her book is not expensive. She will work with you one on one, but we found the book to be enough to get the job done. If you are not a rule follower, you may need the extra guidance.
It should be noted that the author is clear that if at any time you are worried about your child you should check. This is a great rule. Mainly because it helps you learn to trust that your baby is fine and learn what sounds indicate a real problem. This comes from a mom who still slips in to make sure her child is breathing before she goes to sleep each night (guilty).
If you are on the fence about sleep training, I get it. It hurts your mama heart to hear your baby cry. But, it is worth it. Not just for you, but for your child. The end really does justify the means. It would be nice to say if you are on the fence about sleep training go ahead and give it a try. But, sleep training is something you have to really commit to doing. It cannot be done half-heartedly. Which is why we had to do it twice. Do not be like us. Commit and follow through the first time. You can do it, mama!
Top Tips for Sleep Training
1. Use the buddy system.
Seriously. Not a one person job. At least not if you want to stay sane. Husbands are a great help, particularly for that first night. Wine also helps. And a bath.
2. Commit. Commit. Commit.
If you go into sleep training half-heartedly, you will fail. You have to decide this is what is best for your baby and your family and stick with it.
3. Follow the Rules
It really is that simple. Not easy, but simple.
Wishing you a good nights sleep for all!