Sleeping like a Baby
Ruby woke up early this morning. Not crazy early but earlier than normal and I caught myself thinking back to her early life when I was up every 3 hours to feed her. EEEEK! That seems like forever ago - I almost forget what it's like. I can't believe I made it through ok since I LOVE sleep. But it's like anything - you get used to your new normal. That said, the second her night nurse thought she was ready to be sleep trained we were on it. She slept through the night the first time at 3 months and was pretty much fully sleep trained 1 week later.
Sleep training is another one of those weird, judgy areas for moms. I remember feeling kind of nervous telling my Mommy and Me group that we had sleep trained. I think it was my issue though and I may have been judging myself. Again, every baby is different, every parent is different, so you should do what feels right for you. Personally, I didn't want to wake up every 3 hours anymore and so my decision was easy. It also helped that Ruby has been chill from the beginning and pretty teachable.
There is a ton of information out there and a million different methods on sleep training. I read a few books and scoured the internet but honestly I don't think it's all necessary. In my opinion, it comes down to three things: 1. weaning your baby off the night feedings 2. teaching them how to self-soothe and 3. teaching them how to put themselves to sleep (which kind of goes with number 2).
We were lucky as we had our night nurse to help with eliminating the night feedings - that was actually the easiest part. They say once your baby is 12 pounds they don't NEED to eat in the middle of the night, that they wake up to eat because it's part of their routine and they just WANT to eat. So basically you need to change the routine. First, we introduced a dream feed at 11:30 pm which means feeding your baby while they are sleeping. So feed them like any normal feeding, don't burp them, and put them back to sleep. The idea here is that they will be full longer and you have a better chance of them not "feeling hungry" and waking up at 2 am. (By the way, we continued the dream feeds almost until 6 months but gradually moved them to 10:30 pm then 9:30 pm, then 8:30 pm) Ruby woke up the first couple nights and cried a little but not much. We gave her a pacifier and stroked her back to sleep but didn't pick her up. To date, she will still wake up in the middle of the night at times but has always (with the exception of 1 time) been able to put herself back to sleep). Yay sweet Ruby! Disclaimer: Ruby was easy at night. If your babe is not you're probably going to have to do some or all of what I describe below.
The harder part for us was teaching her to put herself to sleep. Start on a Friday so you have the whole weekend to dedicate to this. And be prepared that it is going to suck because they cry. My biggest advice is to designate the stronger (more hard core, not really sure what to call it) parent and have them be in charge for the first bedtimes. Edward was the stronger parent and so I actually left the house while he tried to "teach" Ruby how to put herself to sleep for the first time. And by teach, I mean some version of them crying it out. This is what that meant for us:
- Put Ruby down to sleep. Whisper to her and say things like "I love you, I'm going to put you to sleep now. I'll be in the next room when you wake up".
- She cries non-stop for 5 minutes.
- You go back into the bedroom and stroke her and say more comforting things. "You're ok little Ruby. I love you. You're ok. You're tired. You just need to sleep for a little while".
- She cries non-stop for 10 minutes.
- You go back into the bedroom and comfort her.
- You repeat this for as long as it takes for her to go to sleep.
- We used a pacifier at first but she actually started using her thumb to put herself to sleep which honestly was the cutest thing ever!
We tried as much as possible not to pick her up when we went into the bedroom. But there were times when we couldn't help it. 10 minutes feels like an eternity but if you look at the clock it really isn't. The very first nap I think she cried for an hour before she went to sleep. Edward handled it like a champ though and soothed her every 5 - 10 minutes and she eventually fell asleep. I'm not going to lie - it's hard. They cry hard and loud....and you just can't help but want to save them. But after knowing that Edward did the hardest, "first" time, I felt like we had made so much progress and I couldn't let him down. I also personally believe that teaching Ruby how to sleep was going to be good for her for the future so I stayed strong. I stared at the monitor and drank wine to numb the pain. And the fact is, she was fine. And each nap time she cried less and less. By Monday morning she was only crying 5 minutes before falling asleep. A week later she was completely sleep trained. A year later, she has never regressed (well at least at night) and is still a really good sleeper....though she sometimes fights naps because she wants to be around all the fun.
As we were getting ready to sleep train Ruby, she was beginning to get out of her swaddles so we had to move onto transition blankets. I recommend the Merlin Suit as you are sleep training because they are so cozy and warm. But I don't recommend using this for too long especially if you are concerned with flat head issues. So once they are better sleepers you can move onto something like the Halo Sleepsack Swaddle which is great because you wrap the babes in different ways depending on their needs.
That's it! The whole sleep training process took about a week. And at times was hard but not insane (I actually thought it was going to be harder). I think we did get lucky with Ruby though. She got my sleep genes because I can also sleep anywhere and pretty easily! But honestly, this was a GAME CHANGER. She was sleep trained at 3 months 1 week old. And you really don't understand how much of a difference it makes until you've done it. Instead of spending an hour putting her to sleep (like 5 times a day), I could just put her in her crib and walk out. I almost felt guilty that I wasn't tired and exhausted anymore!
Good luck and Happy Sleeping!