I put it off for as long as I could, but we ended up having to do Sleep Training with my daughter (she was a little over 8 months old). She had been sleeping in a Rock and Play, which was AWESOME for helping with her acid reflux, but she had been sleeping really poorly for a few nights and seemed to be uncomfortable in it, so it was time. As a behavior therapist, the process and theory behind sleep training make total sense to me. However, I’ve heard horror stories of babies “crying it out” and knew that it was going to be SO hard for me not to pick her up and comfort her if she was crying. Fortunately, it wasn’t THAT bad.
A few things to know (that makes our situation unique):
- My daughter was already a good self-soother. From what I read, one of the goals of Sleep Training is to teach babies to self-soothe so that they don’t need help from caregivers to get back to sleep at night (with a bottle, or rocking, or singing, etc…). Our baby girl had already been sleeping 11-12 hours at night and would wake up occasionally, but get herself back to sleep. I think this was a huge advantage for us!
- My daughter had already been napping in her crib, but naps were only 20-30 minutes long. As soon as she would wake up, she’d cry to get up/out!
Here are the rules we decided on:
- She would start bedtime routine sometime between 6:45 and 7:45. She was already really consistent with this, so not a change.
- Once she was in the crib, we could soothe for 1-2 minutes, then had to leave the room. No matter what.
- We would wait 3 minutes (4 if we had to go in a second time, 5 if we had to go in a third or more times) then go back into the room and soothe for another 1-2 minutes, if needed.
- We also decided that if she wakes up after having been asleep, we would wait 3 minutes to go in and soothe.
- Wake up time would be anytime after 7:00am – no getting out of the crib before then, unless she had a poopy diaper or was in danger.
Here’s how it went:
Night One: This was, by far, the worst night. We started Hailey’s bedtime routine at 7:00pm and put her in the crib at 7:23. She must’ve been tired because she only fussed for about 20 seconds then fell asleep. She then woke up at 8:40 and began crying. We went in after 3 minutes, left after a minute, and had to go back in after another 3 minutes, but she fell asleep after that. She woke up again at 10:40pm and cried for 3 minutes until I went in and soothed. To summarize the next few hours… she woke up SIX TIMES between 10:47 and 12:50. However, she then slept from 1 – 3:15, and then 3:25 to 5:15. She then woke up once at 5:55, then slept until 7:40.
Thoughts after Night One? I got about as much sleep as I expected, but the crying really wasn’t anywhere near what I thought it would be. I only had to leave the room once when she was still crying. Don’t get me wrong… it was rough, but not as bad as I thought!
Night Two: I saw clients and didn’t get home until after 8pm. Here’s what my husband said went down… started bedtime routine at 6:50 and in crib by 7pm. Husband said she was FURIOUS and he had to go back in 5 times until she finally fell asleep at 7:30. He said that she was standing in the crib and crying very loudly. She woke me up at 12:40 and I just had to go in once and she fell back asleep. She woke up again at 5:15 and cried for a minute, but soothed herself back to sleep. She then woke up at 8:05am in SUCH A GOOD MOOD. She didn’t even start crying right away… I stopped in her doorway and her eyes were opened; when she saw me she just smiled (yes, my heart melted).
Thoughts after Night Two? Making progress!
Night Three: Bedtime routine started at 6:45, in crib by 7pm. She fussed and cried on and off for about 3 minutes, but soothed herself to sleep. At 11:00pm I woke up and saw that she was just sitting up in her crib (quietly). I went in and laid her down and she fell asleep right away. At 12:45am she woke up and was crying; I waited 3 minutes and went in to lay her back down. It took her about 15 minutes to fall asleep, but she was quiet the entire time. The night she woke up once more and cried for a few seconds, but soothed herself back to sleep (I have NO idea what time this was). She then woke up at 7:20am.
Night Four: Kiddo was in bed by 7:15, she fussed for about 15 seconds, but then went to sleep. At 3:45am I went in and readjusted her and put her pacifier in her mouth – she wasn’t crying, but had coughed a few times and I thought the pacifier might help. She went right back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 7:10am.
Night Five: Went down around 7:15 again. It was a bit of a rough night… she woke up every 30-40 minutes between 1am and 3 am. She would cry each time, but we only actually had to go in her room a total of 3 times because the other times she would soothe herself back to sleep. *We talked about why she might have had a rough night, but didn’t come up with anything*
Night Six: She was in her crib by 7:15 and fell asleep right away. She woke up around 8:45 and cried for 10 seconds, but went back to sleep. She woke up again around 6:23am, but soothed herself back to sleep right away. She then woke up for the day at 7:20am.
Night Seven: It was a busy day, so bedtime came a little early… she was in her crib by 6:55pm. She woke up and cried for just a few seconds around 8:15, but went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until 7:10am.
After about a week, we’ve had two nights in a row where she has been in her crib for 12+ hours and my husband and I haven’t had to go in at all! Was it rough those first few nights? Absolutely!! But I think it was totally worth it. I’m such a light sleeper and I’ve been sleeping so much better now that she’s sleeping better (and in the other room). Also, naptime is going so much better now! It’s not GREAT, but better than it was… before we did sleep training, she was napping 20-30 minutes at a time and sometimes it would take longer to get her to sleep than she would actually sleep. She still fights it sometimes, but is now fighting it less often, for less amount of time, and is sleeping longer. Today, for example, she napped from 9:45 to 11:20 and only fussed for about 10 seconds before falling asleep, AND I put her down about half an hour ago and she cried for about a minute before falling asleep. I’m hopeful that naps will continue to get better!