Sleep training has been written about a thousand times over by bloggers far more qualified than I am. But everyone has a unique experience with the beast we call baby sleep, and I thought I’d weigh in. I’ll cover bedtime first, and naps in a few days.
There are so many options when it comes to getting your baby to sleep better. There are the gentle, ‘no-cry’ methods (like The No-Cry Sleep Solution), methods that involve extinction (letting the baby cry until they fall asleep), and methods in the middle, that involve crying-it-out (CIO) with periodic checks. Knowing Miss K’s personality, and having tried a few no-cry solutions in the past, we decided to go with a method recommended by our naturopath (based on Ferber).
What does this look like? For us, a little something like this:
1. Bedtime routine (pyjamas, story, prayers, nursing)
2. Put her down awake, but drowsy
3. Turn on the Sleep Sheep, close her door, and bolt down the stairs like a bat out of hell.
4. When the crying starts (because it will, inevitably, start), set the timer for 5 minutes, and wait.
At this point, I grabbed a new cinnamon roll recipe, and barricaded myself in the kitchen where I couldn’t hear her crying.
5. J checked on her at the 5 minute mark, shushed and patted her for about a minute, then left. When the crying started again, we set the timer for 7 minutes.
At this point, it was time to knead the cinnamon roll dough.
6. J checked at 7 minutes, patted and shushed her for a minute, then came back downstairs to sample the ‘goo’ for the bottom of the cinnamon roll pan.
We had planned to check in another 10 minutes, but K had put herself to sleep at that point. 29 minutes from start to sleep, and it was tough, but doable. Plus, we had cinnamon rolls rising in the fridge for the next morning.
The second night was much the same as the first. Bedtime rolled around, we carried out our routine and put her down awake. She cried for 7 minutes, then just as I got up to check, she fell asleep. She woke at 2, 6, and was up at 8:30 for the day. I’ve uttered the words “Is this real life?” more times than I care to admit over the last few days.
Day three was even quicker; she whimpered briefly, then got quiet. Up at 4 for a feed, then at 7 for the day.
TL;DR? Bedtime routine, put baby down awake, when the crying starts, wait five minutes. Pat and shush for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then leave. Crying starts – wait 7 minutes. Pat and shush again. Crying starts? Wait 10 minutes. Pat and shush if necessary. Rinse and repeat (though we didn’t have to).
There are many concerns over leaving a baby to cry, and honestly, I understand where you’re coming from if you think this way. Yes, it seems unnatural to let your baby cry when everything in you wants to rescue them. Use your instinct. This doesn’t work for all babies; it really depends on temperament. K needs her space, and I knew that she was crying because she was pissed off…not because she was hurt, or hungry, or wet. If that crying had changed (and she sounded hysterical, or was gagging), I would have intervened.
Others think that checking on baby just serves to get them riled up even more. Again, this is all about the temperament of your baby. If you know that your kiddo will just get angry if you pop your head in after 5 minutes, then don’t do it. Set a longer time limit, or don’t set one at all. A video monitor might come in handy (but isn’t necessary…we don’t have one), so you’re not tempted to peek and disrupt the process.
The moral of the story? Use which method works for you.