This is a guest post by Marisa Olsen from GirlLovesFood.net. Read more on Marissa and her AMAZING food blog at the end of this post.
I used to joke that sleep training saved my marriage. In all seriousness, it really did help. At 11 weeks our little baby girl would wake up roughly five times a night with her longest stretch of sleep maybe reaching three-and-a-half-hours, if we were lucky. The longest stretch would always occur at the start of the evening, usually around 7:30pm, meaning there were plenty of nights I went to “bed” at 8pm hoping for a few extra minutes of sleep before nursing throughout the night.
Throughout the night, I would awake to crying and would feed her, hoping that a long feed would tie her over. However, she would promptly fall asleep after five minutes of nursing. This cycle continued all night, and often at 45 minute intervals. I was a mess, especially for someone who thrives on sleep. My husband, who was working 14 hour work days, was in rough shape as well.
After consulting our pediatrician, we decided to sleep train at 11 weeks. Our pediatrician recommended cry it out, a method where you simply leave your baby in their crib or bassinet and let them cry through the night, not going in to comfort them for nearly 12 hours with a goal of the baby learning to self soothe and establishing their sleep clocks. Sounds cruel, right? I knew this method was considered very controversial. Well after researching and speaking with friends and family (turns out my brother and I were also trained on this method), we bit the bullet. Here’s how it went:
Before we did anything, I immediately sought out support from my husband, friends, and mom. They helped me prepare for a long week of mixed emotions and encouragement. Armed and ready, the first night was pretty torturous. Not only was I to let my baby cry, but she was also graduated into her own room and crib. I felt like a horrible mom all night and even cried myself. My baby would cry for 45 minute stretches on and off. I lost track of time and eventually nodded off myself, trying to rid of the bur of guilt and anguish. The next morning, after on and off crying from the wee hours of morning, we entered the room and our baby promptly stopped crying and smiled at us. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a miracle and she didn’t hate us. I spent the next day doing lots of skin to skin and cuddling. She even took long naps and seemed weirdly well-rested.
The second night was a little bit better in terms of the crying, which had significantly lessened. However, night number two was still painful, especially because we knew what to expect. I texted my mom friends throughout the night, who sent over virtual love and courage. When the morning finally rolled around and we came to her rescue, the smile returned. She immediately was her old, happy self.
By the third night, she slept for much longer intervals and by night number four and five, she slept 11 hours. She even woke up earlier than her 7am morning rescue and was cooing and giggling in her crib and appeared to be quite content. It worked! Our baby learned how to self soothe and was happy and chipper in the morning. Plus, I discovered part of my old self and realized how incredible a night sleep really is both emotionally and physically.
My baby is now seven months and is still a wonderful sleeper. There are certainly nights where she is teething or under the weather from her vaccinations. I’ve learned how to identify nighttime cries when she really needs me. But otherwise, she is a solid and stoic sleeper and it has helped our family immensely.
If you are interested in sleep training, here are some helpful tips:
- Commit – this is tough stuff and not for everyone. If you’re going to do it, it was recommended that you do it entirely for at least three to five nights.
- Clear your calendar both day and nights – this is not the time to go on vacation and have a hotel full of guests hear your baby screaming.
- Stay strong and enlist in moral support – I had ongoing text messages with friends and family giving me strength and support. They helped me get through those three nights and I am forever grateful for their encouragement.
- You don’t have to sleep train, period.
- Find a bedtime routine – whether you sleep train or not, I recommend working on getting your baby to fall asleep at a certain bedtime. We started to use the same cues for bed at two weeks old: massage with almond oil, diaper change, nursing/bottle feed, burping, and a lullaby with a sound machine on. I would then put her down and rub her belly for a few seconds. She would sometimes wake up and I would repeat soothing her and putting her down until she finally slept. This was key in sleep training as she was able to fall asleep at “bedtime” pretty regularly.
It’s important to remember that rather than judge other families, it’s best to embrace different practices and acknowledge what works for one family may not work for yours. We were fortunate that this solution worked for us. No matter what method you may choose, I am sending happy sleeping vibes your way!