Sleep training and winding down are kind of one in the same. They compliment each-other and you can't successfully have one without the other! I've received a lot of questions and requests recently to cover the dreaded sleep training topic. If we're being totally honest... I have no idea what's TRULY making Audrey sleep through the night. Don't get me wrong. I know what I'm doing for her... but I don't know if that's what is giving us results or if it's simply the fact that every baby will just be so different. Maybe she's just easy? I accept that what I'm doing for her now will likely not work for our next child. So, just go forward with that information in mind because in NO way do I think that this is the one and only way to sleep train. I believe that every family does what they need to do given the circumstances that they have. You have to pick something that works best for YOU. I'm going to list below what we've done with her and why we made those strides just in case it could be of help to anyone!
We have a pretty strict bed time around 7:00PM give or take a 30 minute window. She sort of picked her own bed time early on so we just stuck with it. Also, it needs to be noted that I made a personal decision to stop breastfeeding when Audrey was 8 weeks old. This could definitely have contributed to her being full longer through the night, whereas I'm sure you know, breast milk processes quicker in their system leaving them hungry more often. I started by reading a compilation of things online regarding sleep training and bed time routines, etc. I've more or less meshed them all together in a perfect little package that fits us! I like to think that I ride somewhere in the middle on a lot of things so I'm not an extremest by any means. To analyze our situation closer, I'm a stay at home mom. So I'm able to tackle everything during the day so that the evening doesn't really get away from me. I know this can be really difficult for a lot of people that work during the day. Those of you that do, you're freakin' rockstars and I don't know how you do it! The first stride we made was moving Audrey to her crib upstairs(scary right) when she was 3.5 months old. The reason I chose this age is because I read over and over that around 4 months babies become extremely aware of their surroundings and sense when you're in the room. They learn quickly that when they cry near you, you soothe them (because how could you ignore someone that is 3 feet away from you.) I wanted to transition her a couple of weeks before that awareness kicked in so that maybe she wouldn't be that conscientious of the transition as if nothing had ever changed for her.
After we moved her upstairs to her nursery, she would wake up every single night for a feeding like clockwork at exactly 4:00 am. Which was great and predictable for us. The night before she slept through the night... I was so exhausted. I didn't sleep well at all and didn't have a chance to nap. So the next night I was beyond tired. When she woke up at 4:00AM like she normally would... I SHAMEFULLY turned the volume down to volume 1 out of 6. It was almost the same way that you snooze an alarm with the IRRATIONAL intentions of waking up. Or the way you close your eyes for a SECOND while driving convincing yourself that it will all be okay. It was a "Just five more minutes," moment. Looking back I'm SO ashamed that I did that but.... when you're THAT tired... you do crazy things and I'm going to be real with you guys. So it is what it is. I don't know how long she cried herself to sleep. I couldn't tell you. Because I was so exhausted that even on volume 1, I never heard her crying as I dozed back off. Which leads me to believe that it wasn't very long or Eric would have woken up as well. What I do know, is that I woke up at 8:00am and she was just fine and sound asleep.
The next night I felt so awful and so scared that it could happen again that I slept with the monitor on the highest volume it would go! HAHA! But... she never woke up to eat during the night. Ever again. This was two months ago now. It was by accidental chance that me almost forcing the "cry it out" method really worked. Ever since that night she may whimper for a second at 5:00AM and then she sucks her thumb and is going right back to sleep(and sometimes she never makes a sound.) That leads me to believe it is a method that can't be ignored because it truly did work. Now, will every baby have one night that changes them forever? Probably not. I'm sure it could take a week or more for others. I just never intended on doing the "cry it out method" and it's just funny how it kind of happened on its own.
I couldn't have done any of that without some sort of video monitoring system. Those things are lifesavers -- assuming that you don't turn the volume down in a zombie state... idiot. Also, the best piece of advice someone gave me is; a crying baby is an alive baby. So I've more or less trained my mind not to go into "fix it" mode the exact second she starts whimpering. Eric has to call me out every now and then when I jump too soon. But, I've noticed since I've backed off and stopped the helicopter parenting that it gives her room to grow a little bit and I step in as soon as I see that she needs me so I think it's been really good for her!
Here is a more simple breakdown of our current bedtime routine:
- Bedtime is at 7:00PM
- Bath (At her age I still don't give her a bath every single night but when I do, we do this before I give her the final bottle of the evening.)
- Bottle is given 30 mins before bedtime. (I never bring the bottle into the nursery with me anymore so that it's no longer a soothing method for her)
- Wind down with lights off, nightlight & sound machine on, and read books
- Read for about 10 minutes until I notice her rubbing her eyes
- Lay her down in her crib while still awake. I give her 3 kisses goodnight, walk out and close the door behind me. (I've started incorporating this just recently in hopes that she will be easier to put to sleep with baby sitters and family in the future and it's working out SO AWESOME! She barely whimpers but for 1-2 minutes after I walk out and sometimes not at all.)
It appears that we have still avoided any kind of sleep regression, THANK GOD! But I'm keeping my fingers crossed every day and just enjoying the stage that she's at because I know that it could change at any moment! I truly hope that this was helpful for someone! Again, do what you have to do for your family and your happiness! This is just what works best for our family dynamics and gives Eric and I the quality time that we need together in our marriage!