Dear Pregnant Self,
Every family chooses to handle their babies sleep in a different way. There is really no right or wrong way, as long your little love is getting enough sleep to allow them to grow, develop and rest properly, that is all that matters. Co-sleeping worked for us for 9 months, then it became dangerous and none of us were getting the proper amount of sleep. We needed to teach JW how to fall asleep on his own, in his own crib and put himself back to sleep when he awoke during the night. Easier said then done. After a few failed attempts, we reached out to a Sleep Consultant. We chose to work with Alison from Sleepytime Coach. (I need to stress again that this is just the strategy that we used for JW, all children are different and I highly recommend you work with a consultant to taylor a routine of your own.)
The first step was to meet with Alison so she could get to know JW, us and our individual situation. Two and a half hours later we had a plan! I had to purchase a few things before the training began; blackout curtains for JWs windows, a medical grade white noise machine and a lovey (which we already had).
After purchasing our arsenal, it was time to make a nap time and nighttime routine. To set your babies night up for success, you first need to prepare him during the day and evening. That means making sure he gets his 2 naps. First nap is 2 hours after wake up. JW gets up at 6 am, so his first nap is between 8am and 8:30am. It should last about 1 or 1 1/2 hours. If he wakes up at 10am then 2nd nap should be 3 hours later at 1pm, and it should be 1 1/2 or 2 hours long. Putting bedtime at 7pm, 4 hours later, lasting 11 hours for a wake up at 6am the next day. Confusing? I know. Just try to remember 2, 3, 4. Thats how many hours should be in between resting periods. ( Also, here is a sleep chart that shows the amount of sleep and naps by age: http://www.parents.com/baby/sleep/basics/age-by-age-guide/)
In the beginning, do not worry too much about how you put him to sleep for his naps. You need to do whatever you can to make sure he gets those 2 naps for at least 2 1/2 to 3 hours ( After he is sleep trained at night, training for naps is very easy.) Once you have him napping, make a nighttime routine. Make sure it doesn’t last more than 45 minutes, that is just too long and he will get fussy. Ours is simple; bath, pjs, bottle, book, bed, almost all B’s! You can make it whatever you would like, this just works well for us. Also, you want to be careful not to introduce any blue light (TV, phone or computer) an hour before bedtime. Blue light really messes with your sleep patterns, this is also true for adults, so try to limit yourself if you are having a hard time falling asleep.
We used the shuffle method for JWs sleep training. For the first 3 days, once JW was in the crib, I sat in a chair next to the crib so he knew I was near and it was safe to sleep. He cried a lot! But I could not give in and pick him up. I was able to stroke his hair or rub his back and say calming words but that is it. Once he was asleep I could slip out. If he awoke during the night I went back in to sit on the chair and do the same thing over again. It was very hard and exhausting, but you need to keep at it, because eventually it will work. After the 3 days, I moved the chair closer to the door, gave less comforting and less words. After 3 days, another move and no comforting, even less words. After 3 days, another move, no comforting, no words. It took 3 weeks, but JW finally got it!
We had to start from the beginning a few times and soon found out that my presence was actually keeping him up. So, instead of letting him see me towards the end, I would stand outside and giving calming words. That did the trick! What kept me going? First, was the encouragement and confidence I received each morning from my phone call with Alison. I kept a log each night and in the morning Alison would call to review the night. We discussed what happened and would make a plan for that nights training. It was a huge motivating factor to have that constant support! Second thing that kept me going, knowing that I was giving my son a skill that he would have for the rest of his life, being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Getting a goods night rest is important for babies, children and adults and I knew I was providing him with a gift for the rest of his life.
Napping came easy after that. I put him in his crib and left the room, I would have to give calming words a few times but it only lasted a week. Now he is sleeping in his crib for naps and at night. Here is a sample schedule that we follow now with a sleep trained baby:
6:00am JW wakes up
6:30am Bottle and Breakfast
8:30am Morning Nap
10:00am Wake up and Bottle
1:00pm Afternoon Nap
2:30pm Wake up and Bottle
6:30pm Bath, PJs, Bottle and Book
Thats it. Our day in a nutshell. There are very few gaps in there for activities but we make it work.
There is so much more that went into sleep training, this is just a general overview. If you have any questions I would love to answer them for you, also, you can reach out to a sleep consultant in your area. Hope this was helpful!
Blessings and Love,