Perhaps a better title would be “Why sleep training didn’t work for us the first time around, but now it appears to be!” Glass empty or full? You decide, but everyone has their reasons for why it worked for them or didn’t, or why they didn’t even try or didn’t need or want to. I’m sharing our experience because I got many emails, snapchat and instagram messages telling me it DID help you and for that I am SO happy. That’s why I decided to write this post. I felt you guys could use some explanation, after all I’ve been through this and continue sharing this saga with you all on my ColorfulPregnancy instagram page because if it doesn’t help me, at least it might help some of you out there looking to try.
Don’t be discouraged. This is simply our story. Everyone has theirs and we learn from each other, tweeking it here and there in order to make it work for us.
Everyone knows the cliche “consistency is key”, especially when it comes to children, but boy is it easier said than done. They learn from a very early age that they can get their way if they persist, and they know exactly how to push all the right buttons to get what they want. Some children are particularly “good” at this. My child is one of those, and that paired with her dad’s heard headed nature and my persistence, seems like a match NOT made in parenting heaven. Not to mention this is usually a common theme in toddlerhood.
A little background:
Alexandra slept through the night from 3 weeks old until the day she turned 4 months, like, to the day. We felt like the luckiest parents alive to have such a good baby, who slept peacefully in her bassinest, next to our bed looking like the perfect swaddled baby burrito. A new Mom could get 8 hours+ of sleep a night. It was a dream!!! I ignored anyone that said I needed to think about sleep training. Why!? I had been blessed. Do you hate me yet? You shouldn’t, because there is more…. ALOT more!
She was never great at falling asleep but was great at staying asleep, without me even trying. Again, to clarify, it wasn’t always easy to get her to fall asleep and it might take hours, of rocking, soothing, the boob (a lot) but once she was out for good, she was out, most nights. And I still didn’t think sleep training would be a good idea. Naiveness…. So our baby was awesome and we didn’t need this. Until…the magic hour where I was to go back to work….as soon as she turned 4 months old. The night before the big day, it was literally like she knew, and woke me up every 2 hours, that very night. What?? How could this be happening. Now, we are well into 13 months of her little life, almost 14 months, which means nearly a full year back to work, and although some nights are better than others, she mostly wakes up ALOT. Some nights when she’s particularly tired from a late flight or being out, or we just want to sip wine a little longer, and mistakingly allow her to stay up with us, she might actually go 3-4 hours without waking due to being exhausted, but that’s the extent of it. This is a BIG reason we decided we need to tackle this once and for all, nip it in the BUTT!
We do have some limiting factors as we travel a lot for work and Alexandra might not be in the same place from one week to the next, which typically will mess with anyone’s routine, and this has been the excuse for the past year. “It’s impossible to sleep train on the go!” Or is it? For one we don’t always have her crib, so the option is to sleep in bed with me, but still, Alexandra has never slept in her beautiful crib in over a year….and that is all on us, the parents. Look at this gorgeous nursery….seriously. It is time.
I love this post about when we say Bye bye to the newborn phase – Click here for more on Alexandra’s Nursery, the most beautiful room in our house!
Alexandra has maybe taken a couple of naps here and there in her crib, but that’s the extend of it. I am finally determined to change that, and I for those of you reading, that’s when you know you’re ready. When you really decide. This was the main reason I “FAILED” the first time around, but this time, I vowed for it to be different. WE vowed it to be different. This is major – you and your spouse, additional care take NEED to be on the same page, otherwise, why bother trying.
This is how we usually travel, Alexandra usually chills. If she gets too nutty, I let her watch her favorites on youtube – For more on FLYING WITH A BABY, CLICK HERE.
I rarely leave her, but if I have a business trip and absolutely can’t bring her (and my mom). I’ve been gone 3 or 4 times but never for more than for no more than 3 nights. I have never really felt ready until now, but wanted to think I was the first time we trkes sleep training her.
The First Attempt
On one of these trips when I was away, my husband said he would attempt to sleep train Alexandra. The truth is, he was ready way before I was, I think there might be something to do with me having the boob which she utilized all night. When it comes to sleep training a breastfed baby, I think it can be extra difficult for the Mom, but I agreed. After all, I would be away for 3 nights and wouldn’t have to deal with the screaming. She was now 9 months old, so we figured she might be ready, although we did want to keep her in our bedroom until she was at least 12 months old.
Our doctor and every sleep training book we’ve read described the 3 night sleep training mantra, so we figured we’d follow it, and what do we know, HE actually persevered.
I give him full credit for this because this is SO hard. Especially the way we chose to do this. I talked to him every night to get a “report” on what was going on during my absence – it’s made me very anxious. Something was being “done” to my baby and I wasn’t there, so I wanted details.
How it went down:
Winecoach did the heavy lifting, because I’ve historically struggled so much with her crying. I wasn’t around, so these details came from him.
He managed to hear her cry for 1 hour on night 1, 30 minutes on night 2 and 20 minutes on night 3. The technique was simple: to place her in the pack n play NEXT to our bed, and just sit there in bed, right next to her with dimmed lights, basically ignoring her.
Now how does that sound? To me, impossible….Well, I was gone for those 3 nights (this is supposed to be the magic number), and by the night 4 which is when I came back, our little bundle was falling asleep within 15 minutes, we’ll, next to our bed.
I assumed I would ruin it all due to my inability to hear her cry and scream without running to her, but was determined to try my best. My husband had worked so hard, I couldn’t simply come back and ruin his progress right?
She slept at least 11 hours that night, the first night I was back, and I️ was appalled – could this be happening? Her able to sleep on her own without interruptions, without wanting to nurse every 2 hours? Was I the problem? Us mothers, we are always trying to blame ourselves, but how could this be. By the way, it wasn’t easy lying in bed ignoring her crying for 15 minutes, not al all, but I was able to do it, and when she finally went to sleep, it was beautiful.
Night 5, or my second night back, Alexandra was done crying in about 10 minutes. This was difficult to endure still, and while holding my husband’s hand in hopes to get through this, together, we smiled when she fell asleep. And out she was, again, 11 hours.
Night 6, maybe she was out in 8-9 minutes? This was sounding better and better….every night it took less time! Could it really be this simple? Consistency is key, we all hear this right? It was sounding like it was true.
On night 7, she was asleep in 7 minutes. I shared her soothing “cry” on my Instagram stories, a dull complaining sound that faded into the night, almost a relief cry, as if she was putting herself to sleep and no longer battling, or trying to “break” us (if that makes any sense). Let’s face it, the astringent cry is what does anyone in, but the self-soothing sound was like music to my ears, and she was out quite quickly, for 12 hours! I didn’t feel bad about it at all and felt quite accomplished that night. It was different. That was the first time I could say that.
Well, night 8 of all nights was the biggest challenge. I thought I was in the clear. Note: you’re never in the clear.
Alexandra was tired, probably overly tired, and although I thought it might be a little early to go to sleep (she was going around 8-8:30 pm and it was probably 7:30), we put her down. We had visitors and we thought, hey, she might just go and stay asleep. She cried and cried in her pack n play, and just wouldn’t make that soothing sound she’d made the night before. 30 minutes in Andorra was like torture listening to her cry. I could hardly handle it anymore, my heart was breaking and my sweet husband told me to go ahead and do what I had to do. At 35 minutes and with no signs of calming down, I️ picked her up.
Her face was swollen, and she just wasn’t budging – we looked at each other knowing damn well consistency is key, and the fact that her relentless cry would likely still fade was uncertain, at least to me. I hadn’t endured the hour he had on the first night, I was unprepared. I came into it “too easy” I guess….I don’t know.
The power struggle came to an end and she was picked up, came right to bed into my arms and calmed down immediately. I felt so much better – and I knew she did too. She was up another hour with us, and eventually fell asleep nursing, which is exactly the habit I was trying to break. Sooooo…are were back to square one? Well…
Did we fail? Did I ruin everything? Maybe in the eyes of many, but that’s what happened, and I’m being 100% real with this post. I’m not teaching you anything, I’m simply relating my experience to you.
Night 9, another struggle. it was a stormy night, real loud thunder, lightening, she had a little cold, and just wasn’t feeling well. We attempted to put her down again and she again, was crying and wouldn’t put herself to sleep for 20 minutes. The thunder was loud and my mom heart caved in once again. Could she be scared? I thought…I️ don’t know if it was a mixture of all these things plus me picking her up the night before, but suddenly she was in my arms again, and then asleep, on the boob (insert eye roll).
Night 10 was “ruined” but traveling. We flew late, back on the plane, long ride in the car, and off to fall asleep in a different bed next to me, which meant back to the old habits. Then we were off to being gone for 2 weeks, back at the house for 5 days, and gone again. It’s a crazy schedule and most people don’t live quite like this, so it makes it very difficult to sleep train a baby. More excuses, or maybe true reasons, but just like that, we fell off the rails.
We did fantasize about getting a pack n play on our other location and that she would sleep there but then decided against it after all this happened…I’m not gonna lie, I did feel like a failure at some point and blame myself for “ruining” hubby’s hard work, but eventually accepted my decision, and ultimately his, that this wasn’t the best option for us at that given time.
So perhaps, yes, we “failed” sleep training due to lack of consistency. I feel like if I was actually at home every night, for months at a time, with access to her room, we would actually have made this work. Still, I give winecoach all the props for setting the stage and surviving the first few nights, and shoot, even give myself some credit for being able to hear her cry at all and not pick her up, but that was short lived, and I was for a long time fine with that decision.
The whole point of me writing this post is because I know this is something new parents struggle with, and I just wanted to give you my perspective on it. things are not always going to go exactly according to plan, and if you’re also there struggling with sleep training your baby, know you’re not alone.
My decision was to let it go from then (she was 9-10 months old last time we tried), and return to trying now, at 13-14 months old.
GIVING IT ANOTHER SHOT
Coming to the decision it was time again.
This time it came from me, out of pure and utter exhaustion. After numerous nights of poor sleep and low performance in life due to being a zombie, I decided it was time. As usual, winecoach was super supportive, so we decided the next stretch that we’d be home for an extended period of time, we would do this again. It just so happened that it was now, at 13 months.
We also felt she was ready to learn how to fall asleep on her own. She did learn that the first time we tried to sleep train her next to our bed, but she had totally forgotten. She didn’t know, hey, in order to fall asleep we have to lie down, relax. No. This was going to be a little more difficult than we expected.
The set up:
1. Get her acquainted and excited about being in her room. She loves books, so we went there, played with her, read her as many books as she liked, just spent time in her nursery. We weren’t really doing that.
2. Let her sit in her crib, added a stuffed toy in there, a friend to keep her company.
3. Dress in warm clothes, we know she will not keep covers on her, and staying warm, not hot, is key to staying asleep.
4. Get a nest cam or baby monitor you trust – in no way are they sponsoring this post, but I heavily rely on it to spy on Alexandra from the room next door or while I’m away. To me it was quite important to see her, hear her, even if this was going to break my heart a little.
5. Ready, set: DO IT!
How the first successful week has been:
- Night 1: Dreadful. We read the books, I nursed, we sang songs, we put her in her crib, she had no clue what any of this meant. We said good night, we love you, hugs, kisses, walk out of room, dimmed lights, door cracked with a little light coming though. Crying lasted 1 hour and 40 minutes. I kid you not. What? This was so hard. We went in at 15 minutes, put her down on her back, pat her in the back, walked out. She was up, up, up! Didn’t sit once. Went in after 20 minutes again, later her down – trying to teach her that in order to fall asleep she would have to lie down! She didn’t get it. She didn’t know how to fall asleep. I was in shock. She eventually fell asleep, exhausted, STANDING! my husband has to go lie her down and she didn’t even wake up, spent. We put her down at 9pm – she was out close to 11. Up again at 5:30am crying (hey, this wasn’t too bad). I went in, took her out, nursed her, out her back, she cried for a few minutes and was asleep by 9 am.
PS: this was the only time I actually nursed her and quickly realized she wasn’t even that hungry.
- Night 2: cried for 40 minutes. We went in at 20 minutes, layed her down, she wouldn’t go down, fell asleep again, hanging on the crib railing standing up. Hubby went in once we felt she was asleep and put her down. Out for 11 hours. Ok, now we are getting somewhere.
- Night 3: cried for 20 minutes, on and off – maybe not even for 5 minutes the first time, sat up instead of standing the whole time, put herself to sleep by lying down on her own. No visits from us. No waking up. Out for 11 hours.
- Night 4: Out in 12 minutes. Did not cry entire time. Heard her a few times and she did sit up and complain a little bit able to put herself back to sleep. Out for 11 hours.
- Night 5: Our in 16 minutes, this time door was closed, lights were out. Heard her once or twice but she never really stood up. I immediately look at the camera whenever I hear her from her room and it was pretty minor. She was out for 11 hours.
- Night 6: grandma came back home. My mom lives with us and watches Alexandra full time while we are at work. She was gone for a week and returned pretty close to Alexandra bed time. This added to a change in routine and added excitement. Alexandra was up crying for 40 minutes again, much like the first night, although was out for 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep after that. She realized grandma wasn’t coming to her rescue and I’m sure this wasn’t easy for my mom, as her room is right next door.
- Night 7: I left for the night, so it was up to winecoach to put her down. She was out in 20 minutes. I watched from the camera as if I was right next to her, except not. This was difficult for me and although she didn’t nurse before being put in the crib, it didn’t seem to mess up the flow of the “experiment”.
So I’m currently writing this post while I’m away from Alexandra. If you’re also struggling with the idea of leaving your baby for the first time, Click here to see how I handled it – especially pumping and coping with being away.
WHAT I’VE LEARNED
What I can share with you after this week is we were pretty successful with sleep training compared to the first time. For starters, my attitude this time has been key. We also do not deviate from being consistent and if we want to put her down by 9, we start the process 30 minutes-1 hour before, sometimes even longer. It really is all about sticking to a routine and setting ourselves up for success.
The process typically starts with a warm shower or bath, dinner (gotta fill her up!), playing in her room, reading books, signing sings, diaper change if needed, nursing, telling her we love her, putting her in crib, walking away saying good night as lights out.
When Alexandra wakes up in the mornings, she nurses, gets a new diaper, and if it’s weekend and still early, we might fall back asleep in bed together for another hour or so. We’re not doing this to punish our baby, but she really is a much happier baby once she wakes up from a full night of sleep! It’s really a gift, for both of us. I really enjoy having her in bed with me, nursing her as much as possible, but I think we were successful in making her understand she has her own bed, and that’s where she sleeps, ALL night. She needs her rest and God knows we need ours.
LONG TERM GOAL
My plan is to continue with sleep training, as I know this is just the beginning, especially with all the traveling. I will make all efforts possible to keep her in her crib or pack n play so we can both get a descent night of sleep. We desperately need it.
From speaking to experienced parents, and reading so many books about this, I feel we are doing the right thing for us and our babies. Maybe I might feel differently if I didn’t have a full time job and such a crazy life that requires me to travel so much, but for us, this is working, and hopefully will continue. I will definitely update this post as we progress into our sleep training process – my goal is for her to not only just go to sleep when put down in her crib, but maybe ask to go to sleep? Wouldn’t it be nice….
Please leave your comments and experiences below as you may help us, new parents or any parents looking for REAL human advice from other experienced humans.
Again, I’m in no way pretending to give expert advice, but I’m definitely sharing my journey as I know this may help so many of you, as I read through your messages and emails.
Thank you all for your forever support!
It’s not over yet – I believe training will take a while, and there will be updating here.
My next goal is to work on her naps – those have also been challenging. I would LOVE to hear your experiences, advice and any questions you might help. I hope this post has helped you. I helps me to write it for you – Happy Sleep training mamas and daddy’s out there!
Count Colors, NOT Calories!
Color your Plate, Color your Life.
Facebook: The Colorful Foodie
Youtube: Colorful Foodie
Pinterest: Colorful Foodie
SNAPCHAT: AnaSandee – I will continue to snap and live, so get the scoop in real time before it makes it to the blog! Videos stay up for 24 hours. I may condense them into YouTube videos after! Do you think I should make a youtube video on sleep training?