Parents of any child ever,
Navigating sleep time can be highly stressful and frustrating. Especially if you need your kiddo to sleep on a schedule and on their own. I appreciate the idea of a family bed and sleeping with your child for comfort. I have had the privilege of basically having a family bed for a year while all 5 of us lived in a studio apartment. I also spent several months in our new house with Barrett sleeping in our bed, either starting there or moving there during the night. Up until a couple of years ago, I have always worked, or with my oldest, Marcus, I was a full-time grad student and worked. This meant that I really needed my kids to be able to sleep on their own and self soothe so that I could complete my work. As a Stay at Home Mom now I am finding that I need that time to recharge myself. I also use this as my husband-time!
I have thought a lot about what I want for my children as teens and adults. I have known so many people that have suffered from poor sleep habits. If I am able to help with establishing a healthy sleep routine and relationship, then I’ll consider it worth every moment of sleep training.
Disclaimer and acknowledgment: I am a believer in the Ferber method (Cry It Out with intervals of calming) with a healthy dose of my judgment thrown in there. I have only had success with it and have not experienced any negative impact. I understand that you can find research to debunk it or support it. Do your own research and follow what works best for your family. If you’d like to do some research I found this to be a helpful site.
Overview of the Ferber Method and how I used it:
- I always begin by explaining to the baby/child what the plan is the day before it starts. On the day I begin, I bring it up several times, whenever I think to mention it. It sounds like, “Tonight when it’s bedtime we’re going to do something new. When you’re in your bed I’m going to hug you and kiss you, say goodnight, and then go work in the living room while you go to sleep. It’s okay if you cry, I’m going to let you fall to sleep by yourself.” I think it’s important to prepare them for the change even if they seem too young to understand. I have also found that telling them that I will be working in a different room helps. They can visualize where I am and what I’m doing.
- Go through your routine. I am not good at sticking to a long routine, especially one that involves a bath. My routines in the past may have been as simple as pee, jammies, book, and sleep. Right now our routine is pee, jammies, brush teeth, a sip of water for B, and a cup of milk for G, prep the bedroom by closing the blinds and curtains, making sure the hatch light is on, and turn off the bedroom light.
- Be strong for this part. I follow what I said I would do exactly: I give a hug, kiss them, say goodnight, walk out, and shut the door. This is where you have to be extra strong. They cry. I start a timer for anywhere between three and five minutes, depending on how I think they’ll respond, and wait by their door if I can handle it. If not then I go away and watch my timer. If you have the room setup where they can leave on their own then any time they come out you pick up and set them back in their bed, preferably only saying what you’re doing once and then not talking on subsequent times.
- If they are still crying when my timer goes off I go in, hug them, kiss them, lay them down, say goodnight, and leave again. This time I set the timer for two minutes longer than the first interval. If I started with three minutes I now set it for 7.
- I follow this format and continue to increase the time by small increments until I get to 15 minutes total. Once here I tend to repeat this for as long as it is needed. I sometimes go to 20 minutes but I’ll tell you that that is really hard.
- I have only had to do this for up to an hour one time with one child. Generally, it’s closer to 30 to 45 minutes (remember, that’s several times of me going in to hug and kiss) total.
- The next day I start the day praising them and then talk about what to expect again a few times in the day. Being sure to use the exact same wording.
- The second night I start the first interval at 5 minutes, then 7 minutes, then 10. I increase by 5 minutes from there. Again, I tend to only go as high as 15 to 20 minutes at a time. I have found that with each child I find a system that works and use my gut response. The second night seems to be under 30 minutes.
- In nearly all of my times doing CIO I have found the third night to be successful with less than 10 minutes to fall to sleep! I always say it takes three nights: first night is horrific, the second night is hard but better, and the third night is there!!
- All of this hard work will be null and void after your little boo is sick. Every single time I feel like I had to start the whole process over. It only got easier because I knew what to expect.
- Tip: I keep a baby monitor on with the sound off in another room so I can’t hear them crying. I listen to a movie or anything else to distract myself. I’m watching them through the monitor to ensure their safety but I can stay strong this way. I also recommend doing this during a time when your partner is not home. I honestly have more anxiety when others are around than when I can just do it. I feel like I need to concentrate on it.
How sleep training broke down for all four boys:
With my oldest, I used the Eat, Play, Sleep Routine. It was a perfect fit for him! That was 20 years ago, people! I don’t remember where I learned it from. Here is a link to a blog with great info on it. The funny thing is that I totally forgot about this routine with Autzen! The gist of it is that you make sure the baby doesn’t fall to sleep nursing/bottle feeding. Instead, you feed them, play with them, and then lay them down to sleep. It lends itself to sleep training because the baby is still happily full and tired from playing. Marcus would fall right to sleep! I am not sure how well this would have worked with Autzen.
My dear Autzie-boy did a version of the Chair Method where I sat right outside his door when he was learning to sleep in a big boy bed. He’d call to me, “Hi,” and I’d respond back, “Hi”. I would do this as long as he was staying in his bed. I spent many a night grading papers and doing work outside his door saying hi.
Mr. B slept in our room longer than his big brothers. At around 6 months he moved to his room. For quite a while we walked him and rocked him and I nursed him to sleep. It seemed like the right thing for him at that point. When he moved into a big boy bed I would lay with him till he fell to sleep but then around 1 and a half I used the CIO method mentioned above.
Because I had never done sleep training with two so close in age and sharing a room I felt a bit lost. I invested in a sleep training app to get some support. Huckleberry was just the ticket! After completing a detailed questionnaire about Grayson’s sleep habits, schedule, room setup, and attitude they give you some options. I appreciated that you could choose a more aggressive or gentler route. For the first few nights, Barrett slept in my room. I eventually worked up to them both going to bed at the same time. What I’m finding is that for initial sleep at night I’ll read two books and then lay with them until they are asleep. I’m working towards not going in at all. Barrett sleeps well through the whole night. Grayson still wakes a couple of times but is starting to put himself back to sleep!
Roughly four months ago I got rid of their individual beds and switched to a futon mattress. Grayson would frequently get into Barrett’s bed in the middle of the night. I figured that with one large mattress I could lay with them both and they both may sleep better being together. It was totally worth the change!
No matter how you choose to put your child to sleep if it feels good for you and works for the family then you’re doing great! If you are hoping for a change or need something different to happen then be reassured that there are many resources to help you make that change. When I feel bogged down by rough nights I remember that my older sons both sleep well and don’t need me to rub their backs!! Ha ha!