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The title may be a bit dramatic, but after 6 months of getting very little sleep, that’s how it felt! Both my babies had very different sleep issues, so when #2 came around (Noah), it felt like I was starting over.
Life before sleep training
Before we committed to sleep training, I found it almost impossible to set a sleep schedule for Noah. My day was a blurry mess of cooking, cleaning, mom-ing, wife-ing, and by the time I knew it, I had already skipped an entire cycle. The cycle I am referring to is the eat, wake, sleep cycle outlined in babywise (BW). That cycle is incredibly important to sleep training and pretty much the only thing that I carried over from baby #1 (Micah). More on the “cycle” later.
Noah is my clingy baby. He wants to be held and loved on all day AND ALL NIGHT! The only way I could get him to sleep was if I let him sleep with me, half the time as his human pacifier. I have no issue with parents who choose to co-sleep, but I have no interest in it. Don’t get me wrong I love baby snuggles every once in a while, but after the day is done, I want to go to bed by myself, talk to my husband, and not worry about smothering my baby. Something had to change.
Before I sleep trained, I would rock and nurse him to sleep for what felt like an eternity, and as soon as I laid him down, his eyes would pop open or easily within 10 minutes. This drained not only my energy but also my psyche. Eventually, I would give in and put him next to me on the couch (for what was supposed to be 20-30 mins), and we would sleep there for half the night. Noah is also very dramatic. He would cry and get so worked up it legit sounded like someone was cutting off his leg. I tried to let him cry, but he would wail and scream the entire time. I decided CIO wasn’t really an option for us.
The number 1 thing that you have to do when you sleep train is commit. I vowed that I was done rocking and nursing to sleep. I committed to that, and it only took about 1-2 days, and he was ok with it too. This brings me to my first recommendation, get rid of the sleep props. Swings, rockers, bottles, and pacifiers are all wonderful things for the first few months, but if you want your baby to sleep through the night, they have to go. My only exception is the pacifier; I love that thing. It has saved my sanity so many times with Micah. Keeping a pacifier will make it more difficult for the first few months until they can find it after it falls out and put it back in.
The “cycle” I mentioned earlier is essential. In my opinion, it is one of the most important take-aways from BW. The “cycle” refers to feeding the baby when they wake up, playing with them, and then laying then down without nursing or a bottle. This is where I find a lot of moms make the mistake of teaching the baby to rely on these props to fall asleep. Learn to read your baby’s cues and find that “sweet spot” of when they are tired but not overtired and will fall asleep on their own. Using nursing or bottle-feeding to put your baby to sleep sets you up for a lot of hard weaning down the line.
Ok, with baby 1 I was BY-THE-CLOCK! Micah got fed within 15 minutes of our schedule, and I did not deviate. With Noah, I could not get on a schedule, and I also had a hell of a time getting a bedtime routine down. What I realized is that he has a good 2-hour window after he wakes up that he can be awake. After that, he’s a mess. With that in mind I have been doing a flexible schedule basing his sleep times off of when he wakes up. For now, it’s working. I think eventually he will get into a good routine and habit and we will have a more concrete schedule.
Here is my bedtime routine with 2 babies:
- Feed both dinners at 5
- Noah bath at 5:30
- Micah cleans up his toys, goes pee, and puts his clothes in the hamper while Noah takes a bath
- Micah takes a bath while I lotion, diaper, and put Noah in jammies
- Noah hangs out in his crib while I go scrub down Micah and get his milk sippy ready
- Micah either stays playing in bath or goes to watch TV on the couch while I put Noah to bed
- Noah gets swaddled, nursed (only to relax), and put to bed awake and drowsy @ 6:15-6:30
- I go hang out and cuddle Micah then he goes potty and brushes his teeth @ 7
- We read a few books, and then I leave Micah to fall asleep at 7:15, and he is typically asleep no later than 7:30
How I sleep trained
Without further ado, here is how I sleep trained Noah:
Before I get started I have to admit some of this was luck. One day for Noah’s nap, before we started sleep training, I decided that since he loved being held I’d just leave my shirt with him. He promptly draped it over his face and went right to sleep. Fast forward a couple of weeks I remembered the magic of some momma smells and did it again. Just like last time, he draped it over his face and went right to sleep. Now, I know we aren’t supposed to put anything in the crib with them and trust me when I say I stayed up watching the monitor like a psycho the first 2 nights. At the end of the day, he loves it! He even holds his car seat cover now against his face. It’s just his thing. So when you see the pictures of him with something over his face… that is ALL him!
Night 1: As I said earlier, he was a mess if I just let him cry. Because of that, I found a gentle sleep method that had you sit next to your baby’s crib for the first 2-3 nights, merely offering your presence as their comfort. This method said offer very little physical and verbal comfort so the baby can learn to figure it out on their own. I was blown away how much of a difference just sitting with Noah made. He hardly cried! If he did it was just short cries and none of the screaming he had been doing. The first night I sat next to him for close to 2 hours. All I did was a few “it’s ok, it’s time for mimi,” or helping him find his pacifier. At about 2 hours, he fell asleep just looking at me… WIN! He slept for about an hour and then woke up crying, and at that point, I just went in every 10 minutes to soothe. It took a couple of hours of going in every 10 minutes, and then he woke up once at 3 am at which point I nursed him. He slept until 8 am!
Even though this was quite a journey for the first few hours, I got so much more sleep going in 1 time as opposed to sleeping next to him or trying to make him sleep by letting him cry.
Side note: going in every 10 minutes is a bit of a takeaway from the Ferber Method (FM) which says to let them cry for 5 minutes, go in, 10 minutes, go in, 15 minutes, go in, and then every 15 minutes until they fall asleep. With the FM each day/week, you leave them to cry/fuss a little more until theoretically they no longer need you to go in and fall asleep on their own.
Night 2: I sat next to him again for close to 1.5 hours, and he fell asleep. This time he stayed asleep for closer to 2 hours, at which point I went in again every 10 minutes to offer kisses, hugs, and cuddles — still, no rocking or nursing. The time spent going back to sooth him was cut in half from night 1, and again he only woke up once and slept until 8 am.
Night 3: I put him to bed, and he stayed asleep! I seriously felt like doing cartwheels. He essentially slept through the night on night 3 because we didn’t have 3+ hours of me going back to soothe him. This night was the first time since he was born, he got 10 hours of sleep. Although he stayed asleep after I put him to bed, he did wake up 3 times that night crying. I only nursed him once at 4 am because I knew he was hungry, not just wanting me. The other 2 times (11 pm and 1 am), I just went in, gave him a kiss, turned on his shusher, and that was all he needed.
Night 4: I put him to bed, and he stayed asleep, and then he slept through the night only waking at 3 am for a quick snack.
Some quick side notes on my method
- It is pretty clear when a baby is just mad/tired and actually hungry. I don’t recommend ever withholding food from your baby if they are hungry.
- I would not embark on sleep training if your pediatrician has mentioned any concern about their weight. When I went through it with Noah, I just fed him every time he cried to make sure he was getting as much food as possible without expelling unnecessary calories crying.
- Whenever he has difficult nights or has slight regressions, I simply divert back to the roots of the steps outlined above. Typically, it is because of constipation or teething that he has a regression, so it is short-lived.
- Noah has been in his crib since he was 2 months old because my husband snores and will get work calls in the middle of the night. Putting the boys in their nursery helped with sleeping tremendously.
There are a few items that I swear helped Noah sleep better. I mentioned consistency, well he gets all the same things every night, which helps him learn that when these steps are carried out, it’s time to sleep.
Nested bean sleep sack– I have been using the Zen One, and it is AMAZING! I recommend this to any new mom.
Shusher– I love how loud and portable this is. My kids listen to Enya while they sleep. It is just what worked for Micah, so I made sure it was what Noah listened to too so they could share a room sometimes. When I embarked on sleep training, I got the shusher for Noah just to help him fall asleep.
Nest: Etsy made– There are a bunch of “nests” on Etsy, this is what we used and love. I got the toddler size so they could use it for a long time and help transition to a big boy bed eventually. It is nice and spacious, offering the safety and comfort I want for him.
Owlet– This is the only way either of us slept. This gives you their pulse ox and HR and will alarm if either reading drops.
Diffuser– I love this because it puts moisture in the air and is a perfect night light and gives plenty of light for feedings and diaper changes without being too bright. Both my boys love to stare at the light, changing colors to fall asleep. It is quite mesmerizing.
Overhead fan- this is known to help prevent SIDS.
I hope this helps! What I learned with Noah is that every kid has their “thing,” you just need to figure out what it is. I wish you many hours of glorious sleep in your future.