Sleep training is such a hot topic in mom groups. Either you do it and you’re a neglectful parent or you don’t and everyone wonders how you’re not a walking zombie (seriously though, how on earth do you do it?!).
The internet is filled with so much contradicting advice it becomes a chore just to sift through it all. I briefly considered not sleep training, but believe me when I say our whole home is a much happier place when momma gets some sleep. The biggest difficulties for us were deciding which methods were healthy and which would work for us.
The unhealthy ones are fairly easy to spot. A baby’s stomach is only so big, so anything suggesting pushing out the distance between feedings was out. Also, anything that proclaims it makes babies sleep through the night before 8 weeks, as babies aren’t designed to go that long without eating. Eventually, we plan on using the gentle CIO (cry-it-out method) but from what I can see babies don’t develop the ability to safely and healthily self-soothe until 3-4 months and we wanted to start incorporating good sleep habits and start easing into sleep training before then.
I cannot emphasize enough that finding what works for your family is key. Just because this works for ours doesn’t mean it’ll fit with yours. If something just causes more stress, let go and move on, try something else, because it’s not worth it. So, after all that, here’s what works for us:
Setting a bed time
This seems to be something that’s going out the window for a lot of families these days. I know some parents who don’t seem to care when their kids go to bed, and that’s so foreign to me. I was raised where all kids had a bedtime, and I feel like that’s one of the contributing factors to us not having an overtired cranky baby so far. Our goal is for his bedtime to start at 8pm, and to put him back to sleep (after a diaper change or feeding) if he wakes up before 8am. We’re not very strict with that, after all, he is just a newborn still, but we aim for that time every night to try to give him and us some consistency.
Every night, starting about a half hour before our goal bedtime of 8 pm, we start our routine. Our routine consists of a bath, changing his diaper, wrapping him up in his swaddleme wrap (these things are lifesavers!), reading him a story, nursing him to sleep and laying him down. Personalize the routine with something that works for your family, but the whole goal is that eventually he’ll get used to the routine and be able to start learning that we’re winding down for bed in the hopes that we’ll have less bedtime fights in the future.
Good sleep environment
Around 2-3 months babies start losing that adorable ability to fall asleep anywhere and start becoming more alert to their environment. It’s recommended to have a dark room (you can even put black out curtains up) with a sound machine at night and for naps. Not only do these help your baby go to sleep and stay asleep, but it’s another thing that can send your baby the signal that it’s bedtime. We dim the lights for story time to send his brain the alert that it’s bedtime, and I’ve noticed that if I leave the lights off during nighttime feedings he goes back to sleep faster.
Nursing to sleep
This goes against almost all of the sleep training advice, but if we tried to stop my little man from doing this, nights would be miserable for all of us. So for now we accept that nursing to sleep is the best for us at this age, and in a few months we’ll start trying to teach him to fall asleep without it. I don’t feel guilty for ignoring that advice, it works for us now and that’s all that matters.
Also against most sleep training advice, our little man still sleeps with us in bed every night. Every night when he falls asleep I transfer him over to his own bed and usually he’ll sleep for somewhere between 30 minutes to a few hours. When he wakes after that he usually won’t stay asleep if he isn’t in bed with us. Someday we’ll make an effort to get him to sleep in his bed all night, but that will have to wait until he’s older.
Learning his daily routine
We don’t try to manufacture the perfect daily routine, to me that’s just not natural. Maybe he needs to eat in an hour instead of three today, maybe he needs to sleep extra due to not feeling well. Instead, we pay attention to what works for him and try to plan our days around it to prevent meltdowns. The two exceptions are we usually wake him if he’s napped longer than 2.5 hours and try to make sure that he isn’t waking up from a nap less than an hour before bedtime. Baby Daybook is a great app for keeping track of that all if you want to learn your baby’s routine.
Obviously, we’re just starting this so I can’t claim for it to be an absolute success yet. Sometimes we have bad nights, and no, he doesn’t sleep through the night yet, but one night we did get 5.5 hours of sleep before he woke up! He doesn’t keep us up at night anymore and he usually goes right back to sleep after eating or a diaper change. I feel we have a much happier, content baby during the day after he’s gotten all that sleep at night, and the additional sleep is making us much happier parents as well. Altogether it has been great for our family, and I look forward to progressing towards even better nights.
If you’re interested in seeing what a sample day looks like for us, that post will be coming up soon, so make sure to follow the blog to get a notification when it gets published! What sleep training methods have worked for you and your family?