Sleep Training... again
How did I get here again? I swore I wouldn't start any bad habits with baby #2! And there I was, breastfeeding Ava until she fell asleep, rocking & snuggling her while she slept and then the big, bad co-sleeping (while breastfeeding her to sleep lol). BAM! But I'm not entirely sure I regret it. I loved every little breastfeeding snuggle before putting her to bed and quite frankly, it was just easy to do what I did with Brayden because it is all I really knew. Plus, I was pretty much in survival mode with two babes under two. As soon as I started to bring her to our bed in the middle of the night and then feed/soothe her by nursing, I knew I was starting a really bad habit. Nonetheless, I continued to do it until I felt the time was right. That time, was 2 weeks ago.
As I did with Brayden, I read a whole bunch of different methods, spoke to sleep consultants and conversed with girlfriends who had all "sleep trained" successfully. And I want to share with you what some of my learnings were, how we have implemented them with Ava & how we are almost* sleeping through the night.
For me (and my families lifestyle) I could not commit to any strict schedule because sometimes, my baby is going to nap on the go or go to bed past their bedtime... so it was important for me to learn ways to teach my daughter how to fall asleep on her own, without feeling anxious about it.
What you need to begin: a glass of wine a box of Kleenex (possibly)
Here we go...
1. Bedtime routine I love a good bedtime routine. For us, it includes bath, bedtime stories and bed. Some sleep methods will tell you to put your baby to bed between 6-7 and others will tell you between 7-8. I determine Ava's bedtime from the time she wakes up from her last nap (3 hours later). She is usually in bed between 6:30-7.
A few things I recommend:
Blackout curtains- I never had them and I decided to purchase before we started to sleep train. Her naps are almost an hour longer and it helps set the stage for bedtime with a nice, dark room.
Sound machine... that continuously plays. It helps block out all of the crazy
Sleep sack... to keep your babe cozy so you are never second-guessing if they are warm enough
A lovey... something that your babe will learn to love & cuddle (if they don't have one already).
2. Feeding before bed I was so nervous about sleep training because I thought Ava needed to be bottle-fed (which she isn't) and that this would never work. For all of you breastfeeding mama's- it can totally work! You just need to keep your baby awake while feeding. I tickle Ava's face & sing to her quietly. I try not to over stimulate her as I want her to be sleepy- just don't want her to fall asleep while feeding. I also keep her lovey in-between her and I, so she can also cuddle it. Ava loves to play with my hair while she falls asleep so I put the lovey in between us so she can have a little cuddle buddy in her crib.
3. Transfer to crib After I know she has a full belly, I then place her in her crib, with her soother in her mouth and her lovey in her arm. And the minute she goes down in the crib... she cries.
4. Crying it out? I've come to the realization that "sleep training" means crying it out (to some degree anyways). And that's okay. Babies cry, that is how they communicate- I totally get it. I just needed to find a method that took a gentle approach. After I put Ava down for the night, I leave her room. After 5 minutes (if she is still crying), I go in to her room, I tell her I love her and that it's bed time, I put her soother back in her mouth, lay her back down and leave the room (a total of 15 seconds max). Then you wait for 10 mins & repeat the above. And then you wait 15 minutes, and every 15 minutes after that.
The first night was hard. My husband was working late so I didn't have his moral support but I wanted to stop putting it off, so I ripped the bandaid off and just did it. She cried, I cried... but we survived. She went down at 6pm and cried for 30 minutes the first night, woke up for the second time at 1:30pm and then was up at 3:30pm and then up for the morning at 7pm. It was tough. But each day it gradually got better. By the third night, I put her in her crib and by the time I got downstairs, she had stopped crying. She then only woke up once at 4am and was up for the day at 6:45am. MIND BLOWN. This little girl would be up every 2 hours crying and then I would go running into her room to rock or feed her back to sleep (and then started the co-sleeping thing).
5. Bedtime vs Naptime After speaking with a girlfriend (and watching the videos) from Taking Cara Babies... she explained that babies use two different parts of their brain for nap time sleep and bed time sleep. She urges you to begin with bed time first and then work your way up to naptime... and I loved this. I couldn't do it all at once, it was making me too anxious and was part of the reason I kept holding off. We haven't even started with nap time sleep training yet... but we will get there! Karen from Weesleep was so amazing in this process as well... she told me to start getting Ava on a naptime schedule of 9AM and 2PM. And ever since following these times (and the use of blackout binds) she has been sleeping longer nap time stretches!
6. Middle of the night feedings This made me super nervous. I mean, Ava is 10 months old... there is no way she is hungry in the middle of the night, right? I decided to cut them cold turkey (for the most part). If she wakes anytime after 4AM... I'll go into her room and feed her before putting her back to bed (just in case she is hungry). But from the moment we put her down, there is no more soothing boobie.
It was all going SO well until Ava got a cold and was super congested. I threw the towel in and cuddled, consoled and fed my baby all hours of the night. She needed it, she needed me and I was okay with that. But we picked back up and we are pretty much on our way to SLEEPING bliss? Haha nah, who am I kidding? I'm a mom... if its not Ava waking up then its Brayden saying he needs to pee... or my mom brain is moving a mile/minute and I'm up thinking about what to cook for dinner all week.
Regardless, these are the things that have been working for me so far. Karen from WeeSleep is such an amazing resource, Taking Cara Babies had some great, informative videos and of course, I'm here to bounce ideas back and forth with! Just holla!
With love, Chels