I have consistently posted monthly updates for my kids on the blog and in every one of them I always speak about my children’s sleep habits. It seems that after each one I post, I always get someone asking a question about how my babes sleep so well, starting at such an early age. I’ve shared my experiences openly when people have inquired but I’ve never posted my thoughts, choices and behaviors publicly on the blog. The reason being, is because I know sleep, just like breastfeeding, has a lot of opinions associated with it. So, here’s my disclaimer: I am NO sleep expert. I have never read any sleep books, taken any classes or trained myself in any way. I am a mother of two who has followed her gut on what she thinks is best for her kids. I know I’ve made choices that others will not agree with and will not feel comfortable doing and I totally understand that. I am sharing my experiences with the hopes it can help another mama out. But, please know I am not telling anyone that what I did was the right way or the only way. What’s right for each baby and each mama (and their partner) is obviously totally up to you and what you’re comfortable doing! I thought maybe we got lucky with our first being a good sleeper but after doing what we did with both and getting the same great results, I’m thinking we might have had a part in it.
First things first: We use monitors in both our kid’s rooms. Even now, we still have one in our daughter’s bedroom. My thought behind this is that I like knowing what they are up to at all times and it makes me feel more relaxed and at ease when I know they are safe. Right now, I am using the Safety 1st HD Wi-Fi Baby Monitor with Audio Parent Unit in big sister’s room. One of the features I like about it, is that I can use my phone to watch her on the app through the built in Wi-Fi , so I don’t have to carry a monitor around the house with me. It uses less data than other models, so I can continue to stream and watch videos online without being interrupted which is an added bonus! It’s noise sensitive and can be customized so it turns on only when she makes noises that are of concern; sending alerts to my phone to ensure I’m aware. Otherwise it stays in quiet mode and doesn’t have a constant white noise sound all the time which I like. Click here if you want to see which one it is. I didn’t purchase a double monitor when we had baby brother because I like being able to split the two monitors up. I sometimes send one to a grandparent’s house for a sleepover with my daughter or at night my husband takes one to his side of the bed so we each can be responsible for one child. I also use monitors for another big reason. When it comes to “sleep training” (and I put it in quotations because I’m using the term as to what it means to me) I believe in the stop, look and listen philosophy. Which to me means don’t just react in mama overdrive when I hear my babe start to cry in the night. I found that if I slowed down for a minute, looked at them on the monitor and really listened to the sound of their cry, I could learn a few things. What I found is that I could quickly differentiate which cries were pain cries, sad cries, or I’m still asleep but making noises, cries. Combine that with seeing if their eyes were open and if they were standing up vs. laying down, it would give me a sense as to what their needs were. I remember one night hearing our daughter cry a high-pitched scream out of nowhere when she was about 5 months old. It was Christmas time and we had family over who were all still hanging out together downstairs. The minute we all heard her cry, a bunch of our family reacted in horror, causing my husband to panic and run up the stairs as fast as he could to go get her. As he got to about half way up the stairs I looked down at the monitor to see that her eyes were closed, she was snuggled up again, quiet, and appeared asleep. I ran after him and yelled at him to STOP for fear he’d wake her up if he barged in. Luckily, he heard me, stopped himself and came back down. We looked together at the monitor and she appeared very asleep. She never made another peep that night before waking in the morning. What we learned is that our daughter sometimes screams randomly in the middle of her sleep for no reason. A milder, baby version of a night terror? I don’t know, but as I type this, she just did it again tonight. It’s completely normal for her and never has required intervention.
Each night I would start at the same time of night, before my babe was overtired and was just beginning to get sleepy, as I’ve learned that an overtired babe is harder to soothe and will have a harder time falling asleep on its own. I would then keep the same routine: put my babe into pyjamas, dim the lights, close the blind and put on our white noise sound machine. I would then nurse my babe to sleep, only to transfer them into their sleeping quarters for the rest of the night. In the early days of their life (around the 6-week mark for my girl and around the 5-week mark for my boy) there was a week of hell that we went through. I really believe though that the effort you put in during this timeframe gives you the results you want for the rest of their little baby (and toddler) sleeping lives. This week of hell with each child, was truly an overwhelming and exhausting experience that I always say isn’t for the faint of heart. The first time I did it with my daughter, my mom was in the house with me (my husband was away for work) and with my son, my husband was home with me. I don’t recommend doing it alone if you don’t have to. It’s a lot at one time, causes major sleep deprivation and the support is definitely necessary especially when you have other kids in the house. It seems that somewhere around this 5-6 week mark the new baby sleepiness wears off and the babe out of nowhere becomes aware of its surroundings. It no longer wants to be placed in a sleep sack, on a flat, cold surface like a bassinet, or in our case, a playard. The minute I would lay he or she down for the night, they would instantly cry and scream. This is where the 10 minute, cry-it-out logic came into play. When this would happen, I would always wait 10 minutes before I picked them up again. My thought behind this was that I was giving them the chance to learn to self soothe rather than immediately picking them up, and therefore teaching them I would console them the minute that they cried. Once I did pick them up, I would rock/soothe them with my arms and/or voice until they were calm, but I never offered the breast again. My rationale behind this was I knew they didn’t need the breast for food (as they had just eaten) and if I gave them the breast it was only to provide them with comfort. Some would argue that there’s nothing wrong with providing them with comfort via breast, but my thought was that they can then have something external such as a soother. It would have been an easier out at the time to give the breast as it would likely have settled them instantly, but I was also trying to teach them to learn to self soothe and by providing the breast I did not feel I was achieving this as they would learn to depend on me. Once they were calm in my arms I would once again place them down into the playard to sleep. During this week, without so much of a blink of an eye the crying would begin all over again almost every time they were placed down. I would then repeat the cry it out method, waiting the 10 minutes, followed by soothing them in my arms and placing them down into the playard again. If it got to the 2.5 hour to 3-hour mark after repeating this pattern many, many times and settling was obviously getting much harder (likely due to hunger increasing) I would then nurse and start my routine again. but, I always waited the 2.5-3 hours in between. At some point in the cycle, the babe would finally fall asleep. Sometimes after rocking, sometimes after nursing, and sometimes after instantly being put down. I can’t say I ever noticed patterns in what finally caused them to fall asleep during this week. This whole process of cry, rock, and attempt to lay them down again at bedtime, lasted no more than a week for each baby. I believe around 5 days for both. There were a couple of really bad nights during it where they didn’t fall asleep until after about five hours of awake time since the first session of nursing, rocking, waiting and soothing had begun for the night. I obviously wanted to cave in these weak and tired moments and just let them sleep on top of me but their safety and getting though this rough patch to help them learn was my only focus. I stayed consistent and each time I did, it worked. After the week of hell, they both were able to self soothe within minutes after being placed into their playard for the night. They then would sleep at minimum six hours straight. Each passing week the amount of hours they slept per night increased.
This sleep training week for each child was an awful experience full of sleepless nights, cranky days (mostly for me) and lots of television for the toddler (when I was doing it for baby brother). But, once I got through it with both kids I never looked back or regretted my choices. There were never any large hiccups with their sleep patterns after this week of intense training and both kids slept throughout the night consistently moving forward. In the future, as they grew, and teething came into play, especially for our son, there were some nights he’d wake up randomly and cry. Once again, when this happened, I did the 10-minute cry-it-out rule and I can’t remember one time that he wasn’t able to self soothe and put himself back to sleep within that timeframe. I never had to enter the room to get him in the middle of the night.
Another note to add: we have never co-slept with our kids. It’s not something we have ever had the desire to do as we value a good night’s sleep and our alone time together. Once again, I know others love doing this and to each their own. My experience with “sleep training” has been with my two kids who have slept in our bedroom up until six months of age in a bassinet/playard. At 6 months of age we transferred our babes out of this bassinet/playard and into their crib which was in their own bedroom.