Sleep Training and How it Changed Our Lives
Sleep; wow this is a tough one. We co-slept with our first for a year and then sleep training her to sleep in her own room was so easy she pretty much did it herself. Our second child, however, was not so simple.
Before we started sleep training Georgia, things were bad. Really bad. The longest she slept was 2 hours straight and would be awake between 30-60 mins each time. Her naps were 20 mins at the most. I figured she was just a tough baby because I was doing everything the same as I was with Scarlett. I was sleep deprived, dealing with a high maintenance baby, and struggled most of the time both mentally and physically. I was not a happy mom and felt sick to my stomach all day from just desperately needing to sleep. I couldn't do it...
Finally, I realized I could no longer co-sleep with her and I could NOT put her to sleep on the breast like I did with Scarlett. Here's why; she would fall asleep all snuggled into me while suckling away on the breast. Heaven! However, I'd have to sneak it away once she was asleep and then she would wake up about an hour later and cry for it. She woke up knowing that something was different; something was missing. "WAHHH", The cycle would start all over again.
A friend once told me that putting a baby to sleep on the breast or bottle and then taking it away once they were asleep was incredibly disturbing to them. Imagine you are sleeping and you wake up in a different bed then the one you fell asleep in; that would be terrifying and and seriously confusing. It's the same feeling with the baby and the breast/bottle; they wake up knowing that something is very different and wrong but don't know what it is and this is stressful for them. Makes sense, right? Of course this depends on the child. My first was not like this.
There is a bit of taboo around sleep training and not everyone agrees but this was amazing for our family and quite frankly, it saved our lives. I've created this post to offer support for parents who are struggling and feel like they are lost. Some children don't need this and some do. Every child is different. If your baby won't sleep then I highly recommend giving this a try. Living a life with no sleep is not good for anyone.
We started doing this with Georgia when she was about 6 months old and began with naps. Once her naps were regulated and she could put herself to sleep on her own we started doing it at bedtime as well. We started with naps because it is draining to say the least and it's best to do it when you have the energy and can put in the effort. Plus regulated naps help a lot with nighttime sleeping schedules. This also made doing it at bedtime really easy as she caught on fast.
Here is how we finally sleep trained Georgia (remember baby must be fed, have a dry diaper on, be comfortable, and not sick):
1. We Put Her in Her Own Room and Created a Calming Environment.
Georgia needs her own space. It is the only way she can sleep. Even when we had her crib in our room she could not sleep. We also put a sound machine in her room that plays soothing sounds and gives off a faint glow of light. This helps her sleep through any noises.
2. We Got a Really Great Baby Monitor.
Once she started sleeping in her own room I found myself freaking out all the time. Was she sleeping? Was she climbing her crib? Was she sitting there feeling all alone in this world with no one to love her? Okay, I'm really dramatic but we already know this. I always let these thoughts get to me and I would end up trying to sneak in to check on her and wake her up. This wasn't working.
We set up an amazing baby monitor by Safety 1st and it made a huge difference in our sleep training. I wasn't guessing whether or not she was asleep in there and was no longer worrying about her safety. We were lucky enough to have been sent this monitor to review and we freaking love it!
It connects to your phone and is expandable so you can put more cameras in various places. The picture is top quality with crystal clear video and it has infrared ultra clear night vision. You can even save and share photos from the app! So cool! We also found the Smart Audio Unit super helpful. It includes two way talk and motion and sound activated technology. This monitor makes sleep training (and life!) so much easier. I can't imagine blindly doing this.
Read more about it here.
3. We Implemented a Simple Bedtime Routine.
We created a set bedtime at 7. 30 minutes before her bedtime I'd change her diaper, put on cozy PJ's, give her a bottle, and we would have quiet time with most of the lights off or dimmed.
4. We Put Her in Her Crib When She Was Tired but Not Asleep.
This is key to helping them learn to fall asleep on their own. I put her into her cozy sleep sack, gave her a kiss, and said good night. This is where they start to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
5. Let Her Cry but Gave Her comfort.
We chose a really comforting and gentle approach to this and it worked really well but you need to be very patient. Once she was in her crib and I said good night I simply walked away and turned off the light. Of course, she cried. After about 5 minutes I'd go in and whisper a little lullaby and stroke her hair then leave again. Do NOT pick them up but offer comfort so they know that you are there and they are not alone. I'd continue to do this until she fell asleep leaving a minute or two longer at a time. This takes consistency and time to work. Now Georgia doesn't even cry when I put her down. She just falls asleep!
6. We Stuck to it.
Sleep training is SO HARD. It seems so simple but, dang it, those little babies are stubborn as hell and don't like to cooperate. For the first week or two you have to accept that your evenings are going to be completely committed to this and you'll loose your sanity just a little bit. Don't give it up and stick to your plan because you don't want to start all over again. In the end, it will be completely worth it!
Now, Georgia sleeps through the night often which is AMAZING for her. A lot of nights she will wake up and cry but only once and she falls asleep immediately. If she wakes up I wait a few minutes and then go in, give her some comfort, and leave. She will fall asleep right away without crying. I truly believe that if we had not done this we would still be living a sleepless life and I could not possibly imagine that. We are happy to say that we are all well rested!