Good morning and happy Sunday!
I am writing this at 5:30 in the morning because I woke up early (thanks a lot internal clock) and I am on day 4 of sleep training my almost 5-month-old. I posted on my instagram recently asking for post suggestions and a lot of you guys have asked me about this, and my methods, so I am here to tell you all about what we're doing.
I'm going to start by saying, sleep training sucks. I think more so for the mom than anyone else. HOWEVER I am already seeing progress so I'm keeping at it.
Okay, first things first. In order to successfully sleep train, all members of your household/ baby village need to be on board. No matter what your methods are, everyone needs to be on the same page for it to work.
Secondly, DO NOT try and sleep train your baby before 3-4 months (my pediatrician said not before 4 months but I have known people who successfully started earlier.) I have friends who told me when Roman was 6 weeks and colicky to just let him cry it out, and I am here to tell you that that will do absolutely nothing. This is because a young baby in their first few months is not neurologically developed enough to create habits. They will not learn to self-soothe, you're just making your baby cry for no reason. My child development professor theorized that it actually could do more harm than good, because in the early months baby needs to know that you are there and will care for and nurture them when they need you. She believed that not doing this would actually make self soothing more difficult as they don't know that they are safe. So there's that.
You may have read in this post that we have been dealing with the very real, very annoying 4 month sleep regression. Roman has always been a really good sleeper. At 2 months he was only feeding once a night and by 3 months he had dropped his over-night feed all together. So imagine my surprise when all of a sudden, for seemingly no reason, my sweet angel turned into devil baby and was waking up demanding food 2-3x a night again. Okay, honestly I don't know that he was actually hungry, but when I'm sleep deprived, and he wakes up, I nurse him before he has a chance to start screaming. Anywho. The 4 month sleep regression is basically your baby's brain changing so that they no longer sleep like an infant, and now sleep more like an adult. It's like a switch flips in their brain. So think of it this way: as an adult, if you fall asleep, and someone were to try and pick you up and move you in those first minutes of dozing off, you'd probably wake up, right? Before, baby could fall asleep anywhere and you could move them to their bed and things would be gravy because they are a newborn and sleep is what they do. Throughout the night (during sleep,) we briefly wake up every time our bodies enter a new sleep cycle. But since we've been doing this for a while our bodies know to immediately go back to sleep. Babies's don't. They have to learn that.
So if baby starts waking up again after having been a good sleeper, it may be time to start sleep training. Side note: please check with your pediatrician and confirm that your baby is at a good weight and does not need to continue feeding at night before you stop.
My method is a variation of crying it out. "Don't cry it out alone."
Before you begin, 2 things:
1. Try and get baby on a good wake/nap/bedtime schedule. I have found that Roman now does not work well if his naps are off. Babies don't sleep well at night if they don't get adequate sleep during the day. It doesn't really make sense but its true. At 4 months those little 30 minute baby cat naps won't cut it anymore. Roman has 3 one hour naps every day. At the same time. In his bed. No more stroller and car naps. My alarm goes off at 6:30am, and that is when I wake Roman up. Most days he wakes up at that time on his own, and some days I have to wake him (which feels so wrong, but I do it anyway.)
2. Make sure when you put baby down to bed at night, there is no reason they would be crying other than they are tired. Make sure they are fed, changed, not sick, etc. Once you have ruled out all of the usual suspects, it's time to begin.
I am not a person who has ever been interested in routines, but baby needs them. So, an hour before bedtime, I start to enter calm mode. Dimming lights, calm music on, etc. Roman is changed, dressed for bed, and then we go into our room. I have the lights turned way down, and I nurse him for as long as I can. He's like a baby bear getting ready for hibernation. This is my longest feed of the day. Sometimes we will pause for 10 minutes so that I can wake him up and get him interested again. Then once I'm done feeding him, I hold him for a minute and say goodnight and such. This is so he is awake when I put him down. Roman always falls asleep when he's nursing, and it's important that you put them down tired but awake.
Now, let the crying begin.
Roman takes a pacifier, and my pediatrician said that letting him sleep with it is not going to affect his ability to sleep train, so Ro gets to use it at night.
So the whole part about not crying it out alone is this: in regular intervals, you go in to your babies room and soothe them from afar. Don't touch baby, but talk to him for a minute and tell them you're there, everything is okay, etc. We go in after 5 minutes twice, then after 10 minutes twice, then every 20 minutes until he is asleep. Alec and I take turns checking on him. Now, I'm not supposed to do this, but I will put his binkie back in his mouth if he has thrown it out of reach.
That's it. Super easy.
No one likes to hear a baby cry. Actually I just read that when a baby (or more specifically your baby) cries, it triggers that same reaction/part of the brain that triggers when you are in danger. Which makes a lot of sense especially if anyone here has ever experienced panic, elevated heart rate, etc when their baby is screaming. Mom, you are going to have it harder than dad, grandma, babysitter, whoever. This is because we have a flood of hormones every time our baby cries, ON TOP of the panic trigger that everyone else will get.
My girlfriend, who taught me this method, told me to be successful, I would need a glass (bottle) of wine and headphones. She was not kidding. Letting your baby cry is hard and goes against every motherly instinct/ bone in your body. But I have to say, every night that I have made Roman cry himself to sleep, he has slept better. He has slept through the night again. He is going down for naps easier. I've had a night where he only cried for 15 minutes and I've had a night where he cried for 2.5 hours.
I really hope this post gives insight and help to anyone who needs it. Sleep training is fucking difficult. Fight through it, mamas. It's all worth it in the end.
Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments, and shop my look below!