Teaching my Baby to Go To Sleep, by Herself Crying it Out
It seems that my first post about how we did some sleep training for our baby needed a second post, mostly due to popular request of what we did exactly. So, first feel free to read my post about how I thought I would never sleep train but came to a real breaking point and needed to. Looking back I wish I would have viewed sleep training our five month old more as teaching her to do something she was capable of, but stuck in habits of being fully dependent on me...so like making her roll over when she was physically and mentally able to do it herself.
So here are some things we did and maybe what might help you one day. Keep in mind just like every human is different so is every baby and at the end of the day you need to do what is best for you and your family; for us it meant this to keep some sense of sanity.
First, I recommend waiting until the following things happen or you are ready for before trying what we did.
- Wait until you baby has gone through the 4 month sleep regression or developmental phase...which ever you prefer to call it. (Olive's lasted for 6 weeks, which felt like forever.)
- Don't wait until you baby is too active, Olive wasn't quite crawling when we did this so she couldn't get her self into too much trouble in her crib, but she could also roll over both ways on her own, so we knew she was able to move herself to how she likes to sleep when she was ready.
- Understand your babies cries. When Olive was a newborn I thought this was BS, because they all sounded the same, but after months of trying to learn them I know the difference between her I am mad or I don't like this vs her I am sad need your help or am hurting cry.
- Be prepared to hear the very loud protesting cry. Think of their crying as when they are learning something new. Olive is very fussy and vocal when she is trying to figure something out, but if I help her a little along - not doing it for her- she gets through it, eventually.
- DO NOT do this unless you are emotionally ready to hear crying. I know I wasn't for a good month, until I was at my wits end.
- Be prepared to feel like you are a horrible parent, but take heart you are not. Learning something new is very hard, just like when you learned to ride your bike, you probably fell and hurt yourself many times and it was hard, but once you got it it was wonderful!
- Have your own "what if's" planned out. For example, we never took Olive out her crib, so we planned for the what if she threw up because she got so worked up, or what if she went poop, or what if she cried until she was hungry again? For us we decided she would stay in her crib unless she was hungry (it had been 2 hours since she last ate, or she was bleeding or physically hurt.) So even if she pooped, spit up or puked, we would clean it up and comfort her. Which sounds really traumatic but crying for a long time and sucking in air can lead to spit up or puking.
Next, what we did using the cry it out theory. My husband was admit that we didn't need to read some book or I didn't need to read a million blog post for us to do this, he felt so strongly that we are capable of knowing our daughter well enough and using our instincts and logic to figure it out. Granted I needed his non-mom emotions to make it through some days when I felt like an awful parent or like I was hurting my baby because she was crying.
- We decided to let her cry until she fell asleep, but started with short intervals that got longer each day. So the first day we let her cry for 5 minutes, before we went in and comforted her. Then we would wait 7 minutes, then 10, 12, and 15. Then the second day we started with 7 minutes of waiting and so on until we regularly wait 15 minutes.
- Every time we went into comfort her we were calmed and relaxed so she knew it wasn't scary, so she wouldn't pick up on our anxiety.
- We first set our "rules" for when we would intervene. For example, if she ever had her hurt cry we would respond immediately, so she could trust us and know if she was sincerely hurt or sad and needed us we would be there.
- We planned to never take her out of her crib unless she was hungry or actually very hurt....of course we gave in once or twice in the two week period but I feel consistency was key, so we didn't confuse her.
- We made a nap time and bedtime routine. We weren't intense with this but tried to basically have calm activities before any sleeping. I think it was key for us to know we are there to help her calm down and relax, but she can fall asleep by herself. So, I did still nurse her before napping because it was one of the few things that calmed her very active mind down, and my husband would sing and rock her. I think the thing I loved most about our sleep training was that the sweet moments with your child like the rocking, singing and nursing do not have to stop but don't need to be the last thing they remember before falling alseep either. ;)
- Know when your baby is tired. Olive is such a confusing baby on this because she yawns when she is bored. But she rubs her eyes when she is tired. She also gets very active and kind wild, and at her age at the time (5 months) would need a nap every 1.5 or 2 hours.
- Every time she woke in the middle of the night we would nurse, unless it had been two hours or less since she last ate, in which case we would let her cry for a few minutes then comfort her if she didn't fall back asleep. Sometimes I did nurse her every hour if she didn't eat long enough before. But we always kept it quite, dark and calm.
- We did this for two weeks and a few nights she actually slept through the night for 7 hours!
- We did end up seeing we needed to slowly move her bedtime up to 7pm because she was getting over tired and exhausted by then, but now she wakes up at 630 or 7. So there is that.
- Always respond to your child's cries during the day. A lot of moms that I know who did the cry it out that I've talked with said they felt like their child was clingy or lost their trust from doing this, but Olive never had this and I think it was because we responded to her hurt cries in her crib and when she was awake we were responsive to her. So she learned she can trust us to understand her communication.
Again, this is what we did and I would suggest taking any of these ideas as an idea not a rule. Do what fits your family and schedules and make a rough guideline to stand by. And when you cannot stand the crying any more its ok to give in occasionally. Remember you are a loving parent for allowing your child to work through learning this new thing. But the biggest thing I can advise you to do is not view this as get my baby to sleep thing, but rather helping them learn to put themselves to sleep.
Today Olive is 6 months old and still up 3-5 times at night to eat. (Which for Olive is situational because she is too busy during the day to eat enough so makes up for it night.) She still cries-fusses for 8-20 minutes before naps and sometimes needs us to come in and comfort her to sleep, but she can almost always put herself to sleep. There are still times when she ends up in bed with us and we hold her to sleep because she is really needing comfort that night, or needs to be nursed or rocked to sleep that nap, but she isn't dependent on it like she once was. There are also times we put her in bed to early and she cries for 40 minutes in which case we take her out and try again in a while. We aren't perfect parents at reading when she is sleepy, but we try. It still is hard to hear her cry and I often have to go do dishes or keep busy until she falls asleep. I still respond to her hurt cry and go in every 10-15 minutes to comfort her if she isn't winding down. But in the end I am glad to know my baby learned to put herself to sleep, and it is so nice now for her not to be dependent on me to sleep but only to need comfort and calming down from me.
Finally, an afterward, I am not a sleep expert, and this is my first child, this is what worked for us, and as I said earlier, do what works best for you and your family. <3
P.s. If you want cutie pie pictures of your pumpkin head to my Denver baby photography contact page on my website to fill out an interest form! You can do that by click here.