I mentioned in a previous post that we are definite fans of gentle sleep training and how it transformed our lives shortly after my daughter’s birth.
Since this post I have realized, even more, how fragile of a topic this can be and how strongly differing opinions are held. Many things that are very necessary for a parent to do are also very difficult – both for the parent and the child.
You discipline your child in an effort to teach them to obey… you have to allow the doctor to give them a shot when they are sick…allowing them to make decisions on their own as they get older, knowing they might be making a mistake…in order to do what is best for our children, we will always be called on to do tough things.
When my daughter was a newborn, we did some tough things in teaching her to sleep (although I think it was toughest on Mommy!). But I can now say that for the vast majority of my daughter’s life she has been able to soothe herself to sleep, sleep through the night, and lay down without A SINGLE TEAR!
Now that she is 1.5 years old, our routine for bedtime or naptime is a diaper change, hand her a favorite stuffed animal, turn on her noisemaker, lay her down in the crib, and she happily goes to sleep. We have never known long hours of rocking to sleep before EVERY nap and bedtime that so many other parents do. And more importantly, although that first weeks had a few tears, I believe we have saved her many more by simply teaching her how to sleep.
Well, now we have moved on to child #2 and with a different personality comes different challenges and experiences…so here are some things I’ve learned.
We didn’t discover sleep training until my daughter was just over two weeks old and so for those first couple weeks she mainly slept on Mommy. We decided that this is a tradition we would like to keep up. It is the baby’s time of transition from being in the womb; it is a good time to nurse more frequently to build up a supply; and it is a great time to get in a bunch of snuggles!
But when my son turned two weeks old we dove in! You can refer to this post to get more details of the method that we follow. Basically, the website that gave me most of my ideas suggests starting your newborn on either a 2.5hr schedule or a 3hr schedule and since my son seemed like a laid back personality I decided to try the 3hr schedule.
The first week was miserable!! He got no good naps, fussy most of the time, and I could see absolutely no improvement.
Truly, I was beginning to think that the success we had with Heidi was a fluke! That didn’t make sense to me because every child needs to learn to sleep, just like no child is born knowing how to ride a bike…but I couldn’t figure out why perfect consistency wasn’t doing what it did the first time.
Light bulb goes on!
Every free moment that I had during that week was spent trying to research what I needed to do.
I had chosen the 3hr schedule without much thought because I didn’t know it would make that much of a difference and I had a friend whose new daughter was on a 3hr schedule also (I couldn’t remember which one I chose for Heidi).
But then I realized, my friend was feeding her daughter formula and I was nursing…breastmilk is digested A LOT faster then formula! I bet he was getting hungry before the three hours were up and that made it impossible to finish his nap!
I made the switch that day and MAGIC HAPPENED!
He suddenly began taking great naps, eating great meals, smiling through the majority of his awake times, and only waking up to eat ONCE at night!
By 2 months he was sleeping 8 hours a night and still napping well!
Biggest lesson: listen to your child. Every child needs to learn to sleep, but it needs to fit their personality (and stomach size!).
Some more hints
- Consistency leads to flexibility – For the first month I did my utmost to keep him on a strict schedule (when you are working with 1.5hr awake time it can be tough to go to appointments or run errands). That was when he was actually fully mastering the skill of soothing himself and learning that when he is laid down in the crib it is sleep time and when he gets up it is fun/awake time. Once his body learned that, I was able to be much more flexible if I had something that kept me away from the house longer or needed to keep him up a bit so he could then take a longer nap. His feeds still never go over 2.5hrs (except at night) but his naps are very flexible.
- Lessons on swaddling – Our daughter didn’t find very much comfort in being swaddled after the first couple month so weaning her from it was never an issue. Daniel is different and when 4 months arrived we had to figure out how to handle it. I had always heard that 4 months was the time you wanted to start getting them out of the habit of being swaddled, so I tried to gradually get him weaned over a weeks time. But he still had the startle reflex that babies have and it wasn’t going well. But since he hasn’t even tried to roll from his back to his belly WITHOUT the swaddle, I know he isn’t ready to do it WITH the swaddle so we have decided to wait until he starts to roll or his startle reflex goes away (5-6 months), whichever comes first.
- Physical touch routine – It has truly become apparent to me how much babies love mom’s smell, mom’s voice, and ANYTHING gently touching their face. So before laying him down, I swaddle him and then pick him up, cradle him in my arms and softly sing to him while kissing his face or rubbing my cheeks against his for a minute or two. That always gets him to cooing and smiling and most of the time that soothes the transition into bed.
Well, that is the lessons I’ve learned thus far. I would love to hear ANYTHING you have picked up from your experience or any thoughts you have!