Hi mamas, mama-to-be, daddy-to-be.. or anyone else reading this post! We need to talk about SLEEP. Yes, we all love it. Depending on where you are at in life, sleep could be 8 straight hours, 20 straight minutes, or anything in-between!
Sleep training was something I literally had no idea was even a “thing”. You think about becoming a parent and you just see cuddles, kisses, and some poop in your future. You know babies sleep, and you know babies don’t sleep. But, I mean, am I training a child to sleep like a train a dog to go potty outside?
In the beginning I was a firm believer in the fact that my child would carve this path for me. I would follow their lead and we would all be as happy as can be. Why wouldn’t we, she knew what she needed or didn’t need, so if I follow her cues, I could have a happy baby, have life, and “breeze” through this thing called parenting 😉
… I know, I laughing at myself too. SO go ahead, get that good HAHA out at my last statement.
Fast forward to NOW. I do still believe babies have a GREAT instinct of knowing what they need, especially as they get older and you need to adjust to starting foods and then whole foods and water and milk and naps, crawling and walking.. the list goes on and on. We can’t force our children to be ready for any of these things, they will move on when they are ready, all we can do is follow their lead. But what about sleep?
I am not a stranger to the book section… on amazon :p I have my fair share of parenting books. Some I read the whole thing, others a few chapters, some a few pages… others are still sitting unopened. I tried a few of the methods. I was completely against the CIO (cry it out) method. I made up my mind that if my child was crying she was crying for a reason. She needed her mama to rescue her!
So I tried the “no crying sleep solution”. This was quite the process haha. First you needed to go through all these mental check lists, of “if you are ready to actually do this”. Then you need to log your entire day… you needed to log naps and nighttime; how did they fall asleep, where did they fall asleep, what time did they fall asleep, did you move them after sleeping.. at night there were even more things to log. I did it though, I did two or three days and nights of logging. Then it was time to test it. The method basically means you put the baby down awake, but stay in the room. You can rub the baby’s back, or something like that. They fall asleep and you slip out. So, I’m like cool let’s try it. So night one.. she’s screaming and jumping and trying to climb out of the crib as I’m there calmly patting the back of a raging baby hahahaha. The book never said what to do for a baby that was mobile, or a demond.. haha JK!! But there wasn’t advice on how to calm a baby that wasn’t laying down. So after one night I did give up on this method. It was just not right for me.
Im going to back track a second here. I want to tell you about my daughter’s sleep transitions over the past year.
Starting off Finley, was an AMAZING sleeper. Newborn to about 3 months old she was a normal breastfed baby, she was up every 4 hours, basically on the dot. As a brand new mom getting 4 hours of sleep in a row I saw that as a WIN! I was happy with that!
Around months 3-4.5 she was only getting up once and sometimes even sleeping through the night! I also need to add that at this point she was basically putting herself to sleep as well at night! RIGHT!? SCORE!
Then we hit the “4 month sleep regression”. We hit that around 5 wish months. Well, this was my downfall. I catered to her regression. We were sleeping on the couch together, I was going in at every peep she made! I figured something must be wrong, my once, “sleep through the night baby”, is waking up; she needs me. Well, between 5 months and 10 months we went from sleeping through the night to up 2 times, then 4 times, then 8 times a night, until I was up about every 20 minutes with her. YES, you read that right, every 20 minutes she was waking up. Which sometimes meant between her waking up, me nursing her, and then walking around and getting her to sleep, by the time I would walk back to my room and pick up the covers, she was awake again! I should also mention naps were almost nonexistent, or 20 mins tops!
We did get a Dockatot around 9ish months. That helps so much with the naps, she was taking 2 hours naps once we got that! She was sleeping better at night, but she was still up 4-5 times a night (on a good night).
Finally, I took my struggles to Facebook hahah. I mean, let’s be honest… you can read as many books as you want, but first hand mama advice with a push of the button help center is what all sleep deprived mamas need in their lives.
After a TON comments with advice and techniques. We settled on the Cry It Out Method. But of course it wasn’t just that simple. Did you know there are essentially two ways to do this sleep training method? There is the lenient version and the hardcore version. At least thats how I think of them :p
So what exactly is CIO? CIO stands for cry it out. You want to first, before anything, settle on a bedtime. What time EVERY NIGHT will your child go to bed? Ours is 7pm. But the goal is between 7-7:30pm. That means she is SLEEPING by this time, not starting bedtime routine at this time. Next, plan a bedtime routine. This can be as long or as short as you would like. Ours most of the time is; dinner, play a little (depending on time), nurse, bath, lotion, diaper, pajamas, teeth, say goodnight to daddy and dog, books, prayer, bed. It sounds like a lot, but really, I can drag it out for 45 minutes if I need to, or do it in a quick 15 start to finish. Routine is so important. Finley now knows that once she is in the tubby, is it time to calm down for bed.
The Lenient Version>> this is when you don’t just leave your baby to cry and cry. You set a schedule for yourself. The schedule can vary depending on what is most comfortable for you. Some parents set a 5-10-15-20 rule. Some do every 30 mins. The point is; you go in to calm the baby. but you DO NOT. I repeat you ABSOLUTELY DO NOT PICK UP THE BABY! This is the most important rule of this method. You are teaching your baby independence. They need to know they are capable of soothing themselves to sleep. So if you plan to go in, you can lay them back down, pat or rub their back, sing or talk softly, but you do not pick them up! So if you decide to go in after 5 mins to soothe, and then wait 10 and go in and then wait 15.. or go in every 30 minutes.. that is up to you and you’ll have to read your baby to know exactly what will work best.
We tried the lenient version the first night. However, it makes things DRASTICALLY worse! The first time I went in and it was awful. The next time my husband went in, and although it didn’t sound like a murder was going down in our nursery, it still wasn’t pretty. It was legit painful, broke my heart to see her so upset. That’s when we decided to try out the hardcore method. (ps. In another post I will go through night to night our CIO experience.)
The Hardcore Method >> this is the drop and leave method. hahaha. Kidding, but not kidding. You go through your bedtime routine and with the baby still awake (can be drowsy, but NEEDS to be awake) you put the baby in the crib. After you leave that room, you do not go back in unless it is an emergency situation. The only exception I see in the hardcore method for going in, is if you are still a nursing mama. Breastfed babies do tend to still nurse during the night (once or twice tops), so if you do go in to nurse, you pick up, nurse, and put right back down, and make sure it is before that baby falls totally asleep! That is very, very important. The hardcore method is not to abandon your baby; it is for the babies that do need that tough love. Once we stopped going in after we put her down during night time routine, everything changed for us.
I also want to add that we did not sleep training until Finley was 10 months old. Though, I do think it is something we should have done when we hit that sleep regression. I knew she was capable of sleeping through the night already, so I should have started to sleep train at that point- so around 5-5.5 months. I knew that she did not need to be up multiple times to eat at night. I do not recommend this for any baby under 3 months old, and honestly I would talk to your doctor before trying any type of sleep training. Nutritional needs should always come first! However, sleep is also super important for physical and developmental growth.
So why CIO works and why you should consider it.
There seems to be a ton of debate around this method, and I can see why. A baby crying, i mean, screaming their lungs out does NOT seem like a step in the right direction. Some will even go as far as to say it is setting the child up for abandonment issues and the feeling of helplessness. Believe what you want, I am not here to force my opinions on you, only to share an experience. Then there is the other side, a baby needs to learn to self soothe, a baby can’t do that with mommy doing it for them. Your baby will learn independence and setting up for a smooth transition into becoming a toddler learning to self soothe by crying it out. I won’t lie, I used to think it was abandonment. I couldn’t do that to my baby girl!!! But you get to this point in sleep deprivation that you know it is not “normal” anymore. You know that this is NOT the best thing for you, let alone that precious child.
There is much more to “crying it out” than just letting your child cry until exhaustion. In my personal opinion, they are learning the difference between crying because of survival reasons; nutrition, pain, etc., and crying for attention. Don’t get me wrong, give that baby attention 100% during waking hours! Love on that baby HARD when she’s awake. But, she needs to learn that awake time is for playing and cuddling, and night time is to sleep and recharge. Because sleep is just as important for them as it is for you.. (talking to that mama dragging from day to day with 7 cups of coffee and tooth picks holding her eyes open). No one in the house can function without proper sleep. Not you. Not the baby, not your significant other, not even the dog.
Within a month of Finley sleeping through the night, she started to babble (yes at 10 months old she wasn’t even babbling), she started saying mama and dada, she even started walking! Makes me wonder how much her lack of sleep was holding her back physically, and developmentally. She started nursing more often and longer during the day, she started eating more at her meals. She was a new baby. She was always a super happy baby, but you can really see the light in her eyes now!
**NOTE: I am not telling you as a mama what to do for your baby, I am simply just giving my insight on my journey as a mama. I am not trying to give any type of specific instructions or information out to you, just going off my memory :p
Sleep Baby=Sleeping Mommy
Sleeping Mommy=Happy Mommy
Happy Mommy=Happy Family!