I wrote this second part months ago but just didn’t finish the last 20% or so until now. Unfortunately, my phone containing all of Catherine’s sleeping logs died. Very unusual for droids. :\ The Baby Care Log does have a backup function though.
In this part I will expand on our version of sleep training which essentially was a modified Ferber method. The Ferber method involves check ins and gradually increasing the amount of time in between them. It aims to give the baby the chance to work out how to self soothe while still being assured that you are there. There will most likely be tears but keep in mind that it’s different from sheer crying it out; you’re not just leaving the baby alone to sob themselves to the point of exhaustion. With check ins, you reassure your baby and can comfort them with touch that is meant to promote relaxation versus stimulation (e.g. gently stroking their back, not picking up).
Sleep training is a learning process for everyone involved thus it’s imperative to be attentive to what is and isn’t working. We made adjustments where we needed to and were still able to reap the benefits of the Ferber method as a family. Consistency, tempered with flexibility, will both set the foundation of a schedule and help your baby gradually acclimate to it. Some things to note:
Catherine was 7 months old when we started sleep training (the recommended age is 6 months)
There are several instances in which we didn’t enforce the method as strictly: when Catherine was sick, in pain or cranky from teething, generally not sleeping well (having nightmares– upon waking, she’d cry and scream hysterically), needed to be changed, or growth spurts. This didn’t undo the progress we made. Sure, there were some blocks of days here and there where it wouldn’t go as smoothly but that was temporary. She never reverted back to where we started prior to sleep training.
At 6 months of age, a healthy baby should be able to sleep through the night sans feeding. As mentioned, Catherine was still waking every 2-3 hours at 7 months which was the catalyst for trying our hand at sleep training.
For the first few month life, babies generally need to eat every 2 – 3 hours. However, this can fluctuate for various reasons especially during growth spurts. That in itself isn’t necessarily indicative of a problem so long as baby is healthy (i.e. gaining weight, growing, meeting milestones). If you find yourself in our situation, there are a couple of things to consider.
1) How is overall food intake in a day looking? You may have to nurse or supplement more throughout the day to ensure that baby is eating enough.
2) Watch how your baby feeds at night. Is your baby actively suckling or is it pretty much game over from the moment they latch on? Sometimes, a baby seeks to nurse just for comfort and that’s okay. It’s when it becomes absolutely necessary to stay asleep that isn’t ideal.
Now onto the actual sleep training!
Work on sleep cues! Think about setting a calming, comforting atmosphere that promotes sleep. White noise (endless loop of rain sounds, anyone?), blackout shades, adequate amount of breathable clothing, and most importantly setting a time for this nightly routine and sticking to it. Example– start routine at 9 PM, finish routine, and in bed by 9:30 PM. Also, swaddling can be helpful in the early months of baby’s life as it simulates being in the womb in a sense.
Ferber method! My daughter slept in our bed until we started and we used a pillow similar to the Snuggle Me. You can also try a surround sleeper which is also placed on the bed and encases baby in safe space. If you don’t want baby sleeping on the bed, you can also try a bassinet that can be positioned at the side of the bed. When it came time to sleep train, we had her sleep in her crib, in her room. We’ve never tried to sleep train in the same room so I’m not sure whether or not it can be done.
SLEEP TRAINING SCHEDULE
(Interval 1) 5 minutes
(Interval 2) 7 minutes
(Interval 3) 10 minutes <-- max
(Interval 1) 7 minutes
(Interval 2) 10 minutes
(Interval 3) 15 minutes <-- max
(Interval 1) 10 minutes
(Interval 2) 15 minutes
(Interval 3) 20 minutes <-- max
Place baby in crib and leave the room, starting the timer for the first interval or in this case 5 minutes. If the baby is still crying after the first interval finishes, come back into the room and comfort for exactly 1 minute. After the minute is up, leave the room and start the timer for the second interval. Comfort at the end of second interval if the baby is still crying after 7 minutes. Continue on to third interval if needed. If the baby is still crying after the third interval is over, repeat process using 10 minute intervals until baby falls asleep.
There are differing opinions on what to do when the baby sleeps for a little while but wakes up again in the middle of the night. With Catherine, we decided to restart the entire process from the first interval whenever she slept for at least an hour straight. We did the entire set of Day 1 and she fell asleep for 2 hours before waking up again in the middle of the night. We restarted the set and she only needed two intervals before she slept until the next morning.
Follow the same schedule as described above. Naps spaced 2 to 3 hours apart. To clarify, 2 to 3 hours from the moment the baby wakes up from their prior nap or upon waking for the day.
I implemented sleep training for naps a few days after we started sleep training at night. Sleep training for naps was harder in our experience and I think that’s just to be expected. There’s just a lot more stimulation during the day. However, don’t be discouraged. As mentioned earlier, this is a learning process for you and your baby. Being consistent and keeping a log were key for me. The log helped to stay on track, measure progress, and it’s just generally a good thing to keep records when you’re introducing a huge change like sleep training.
Catherine would take anywhere from 1 to 3 naps each day for 1 to 3 hours each. Also, she wasn’t asleep when I would set her down to nap. I would make sure to go through all her sleep cues first (white noise playing, room completely darkened, maintained temperature in low 70s, etc). Often, she would continue to babble in her crib after being put down but within a few minutes would be asleep. I also watched her on the baby monitor periodically to check in without disturbing her.