I am happy to announce that Baby Poppy (who is 10 months old) is on a consistent sleep schedule, sleeps through the night and goes to bed early. Yes it’s possible! I’m totally a believer now! By following a few simple sleep training rules and with a bit of patience, we taught our little girl how to sleep on her own.
First let me start off by saying I’m not a child expert. I’m just a mom that has done her research and am sharing my experience. With that said, I have read a lot of parenting material and found a sleep training program that worked for us that I stand behind.
Before trying this sleep training thing, baby Poppy dictated her own naps. Bed time was always past 8:30pm (9..10..11pm) and if she wasn’t fully asleep when we put her in the crib, she would wake up screaming. We tried to encourage earlier bedtime rocking her or reading to her but it rarely rarely worked. Our only solution was to cuddle with her on the couch until she eventually fell asleep. Also we didn’t really have a consistent nightly routine, which did not help either. So needless to say, bedtime was far from perfect from about 2-9 months.
The other bad habit still going on, were middle of the night wake up calls. From about 5 months on, she would wake up once a night for a bottle. After the bottle she would have trouble going back to bad so we would just end up sleeping on the couch together. Don’t get me wrong, I loved our nightly cuddles but it wasn’t helping her sleep routine one bit. At her 9 month check up, our pediatrician suggested sleep training especially since she did not need milk in the middle of the night. And from what she explained sleep training is great any any age, from infant and even past 12 months. It was finally time to get serious and give sleep training a real shot.
Our goals for this sleep training:
- Teach Poppy how to fall asleep on her own and self-soothe
- Teach her how to sleep through the night without a bottle
- Institute a consistent 7:30pm bedtime
Here are the basics rules:
- Put her in her crib when she is tired but still awake. This is the single most important thing about this training. It allows her time to self-soothe before falling asleep.
- Make sure she has her own room or space with white noise. Poppy has a sweet simple room with her crib and all her things. White noise such as this one is also very important and really helped! We went with a fan that has a white noise setting. Music could work too but we decided to not use music in case she got used it and then couldn’t sleep without it.
- Give her a security object. This helps baby self soothe without me doing it for her. We tried a stuffed animal, and a lovey but they didn’t stick. Instead she likes sleeping on a fleece blanket and playing with her hair to go to sleep.
- Adopt a consistent routine. This is crucial and it shows Poppy when its time for bed. Some people do bath time, PJs, bottle, stories and crib. We go with dinner, PJs, bottle, stories and crib.
- Wake baby up early and at a similar time every day. For those who do day care, this is much easier but since I am at home, this was something I needed to be cognizant of and remain consistent.
- Adopt a consistent nap schedule (2-3 naps of equal time) and never let her nap past 4pm. Doing this has helped improve her mood throughout the day significantly as well as bedtime. Poppy takes a nap around 10am for 1 hour and then a second nap around 2:30pm for another hour.
- Alternate between sitting in the room with baby and leaving the room for a few minutes, but do not pick her up when she cries. The first few nights we sat next to the crib for 10 minutes and then left the room for 10 minutes. Then 15 minutes, then 20 and so on. This way she knew we would be coming back. Eventually she would fall asleep.
When we finally decided to commit to this sleep plan, we knew it would be hard. Lots and lots of crying that we would have to stomach. But unlike other failed attempts, this time was for real. We were determined to help our little girl learn how to sleep on her own. This is how it went:
Day 1 – Asleep in 2 hours 15 minutes
Bedtime did not go according to plan beacuse she fell asleep while drinking milk around 7pm, so we put her in the crib completely asleep. As usual she woke up in the middle of the night at 2am. Since she was hysterically crying, I caved and picked her up to soothe her. I put her in her crib for 10 minutes on and off, picking her up in between. It was rough but eventually she fell asleep without a bottle.
Day 2 – Asleep in 1 hour 40 minutes / Slept through the night
We started off with a 7:30am wake up call. Then tried 2 one-hour naps during the day. For both naps, I fed her a bottle, read her some stories and put her in her crib and left the room. She cried for about 15-20 min and fell asleep! Success! Both naps lasted about 1 hour.
Our new bedtime routine of dinner, PJs, bottle, stories and crib started at 7pm. The hubs and I took turns sitting next to the crib soothing her by singing and patting her back, and then leaving the room (10 min, then 15 min, then 20 min). It took a while but she eventually fell asleep on her own.
Day 3 – Asleep in 1 hour 15 minutes / Slept through the night
Naps were about the same as yesterday. Bedtime was slightly less painful with less crying and screaming. Instead she just sat in her crib awake until she fell asleep. Woohoo!
Day 4 – Asleep in 45 minutes / Slept through the night
Baby Poppy had a hard time during her second nap. She cried for over 30 min and because we had an appointment, her second nap didn’t help! Bedtime however was still going well. On day 4 she also started playing with her blanket and playing with her hair. We didn’t realize at the time but this was the beginning of her soothing technique.
Day 5 – Asleep in 20 minutes / Slept through the night
Naps during the day were great and painless. During bedtime, we no longer stayed in her room after putting her in her crib. The hubs and I were so excited! We watched her play with her hair and her blanky quietly until she fell asleep.
Day 6 – Asleep in 10 minutes / Slept through the night
By this point, she was used to the routine. Her naps went well with only a little whining and bedtime only took 10 min.
Days 7 and beyond – Asleep in 5-10 minutes / Slept through the night
We are now 3 weeks post training, she has this whole thing down! Her early bedtime, allows the hubs and I to have time for us. And her 2 consistent naps help her stay happy all day.
What we learned from this whole experience:
- Hearing your baby screaming in her crib is really hard. Honestly it really sucks! But knowing that she is well fed, healthy, dry and safe helps. Also the first few nights were really the roughest and then it slowly gets better.
- Try to share the responsibility of the bedtime routine with your spouse. That way baby can fall asleep with both of you. I take all daytime naps and the hubs is in charge of nightly bedtime.
- There will be ups and downs. For example, today she did not want to take her first nap even after I tried to soothe her for 30 minutes. So every once in a while she will skip a nap.
- Do your best to keep the early bedtime routine but don’t worry if it doesn’t always happen. With social things that come up, the 7:30pm bedtime doesn’t always happen. Good news is she has maintained the same sleep habits throughout.
- Don’t give up! Our Poppy got use to the routine pretty quickly but obviously it could take your little one a little less or more time. Bottom line is that it works 🙂 so don’t give up.
This sleep training was hard but completely worth it!!! Happy baby means happy well-slept parents.
Good luck and sweet dreams!
Sleep training based on this post on Parenting.com.