“Bode is the worst sleeper ever”, or “Bode hates sleep” were things I used to say every day, usually in a bad mood because I was so so tired. It’s true, for the last 9 1/2 months sleep has been such a struggle and I would have been lucky to get 5 (very interrupted) hours a night (not even exaggerating) I have been one tired mama!
In our first few months Bode had reflux and mild colic, but he slept OK… Once he went down for the night he would wake 2-3 times a night, with his longest stretch of sleep being about 4 hours. At the time I didn’t feel like that was great, but it wasn’t bad either for a newborn. As time went on his sleep got worse and worse and oh what I wouldn’t have done to go back to only waking 2-3 times! Around 4 months we hit a downhill spiral and up until recently he was up every 1-2 hours. 1-2 hours, maybe 3 if we were super lucky!
Not only did he wake up a ton, but he would not go into his bed at all, whether it was the bassinet or the crib. He has been exclusively breastfed, so I would nurse him every night and rock him to sleep and then attempt to put him down. I know you’re supposed to put babies down ‘drowsy but awake’ but that never worked. I would need to get him completely to sleep and then even still he would usually wake up and scream the second I tried to put him down. I felt defeated every night, and once 8pm baby bedtime rolled around I was done for the night too, so it really didn’t leave me any time for myself or to spend with my husband. And forget date nights! If I could barely get him to sleep, none of our baby sitters would be able to.
More recently in the last maybe two months we made the smallest step in being able to put him down in his crib, but it would only last an hour max and that was it for the night, he would be in our bed, right next to me and up every 1-2 hours, ugh! I was totally hitting my breaking point, I tired to hold it together but most nights I just felt like a wreck and the mornings were even worse. Some nights he had me up so many times that I would just fully wake up and not be able to get back to sleep, and then I would just be even more miserable and barely functioning the next day.
After commiserating with some mom friends, and reading some mom blogs, it was clear that something had to give and it was time for sleep training!
My husband and I did some research and came up with a plan that we thought we could handle. Neither of us were ok with the full on cry it out, let them scream until they just pass out. One thing I learned that I hadn’t heard before was NOT to let them get drowsy, and to nurse or bottle feed with the light on! Here’s what our new routine is:
- Jammies/book/saying goodnight to big brother
- Nursing or bottle (if he will take it) with the lights on!
- Turn on the white noise & Sea Dreams musical soother in crib
- Lay him down
- Lights out and leave the room (sometimes he gets upset when the lights go out so I go back for one last kiss)
The first night when I set him down with the lights on he looked at me and giggled, and I thought ‘oh no this is never going to work’. To our surprise he only cried for 2 minutes, moved around a little, and fell asleep! We didn’t know if we should laugh or cheer, it seemed too easy, but we waited with our fingers crossed to see what would happen.
Since we weren’t ok with full blown cry it out, we had agreed on a plan. If/when he woke we would let him cry for 10 minutes and then we would go in, but not pick him up. He did wake up and cry, after 10 minutes I went in, gave him his blankie and cozy and turned the Sea Dreams Soother back on, gave him a kiss and walked out. He fussed (not cried) for a few more minutes and then went back to sleep. There were two wake ups like this the first night, one the second night, and the third night he slept for 12 hours without any wake ups! Hearing him cry was seriously not easy, but I think being as exhausted as I was, I had reached my limit and the frustration actually made it easier (I think it was actually harder on my husband).
It’s been about two weeks and he sleeps 10-12 hours straight, and we are looking at each other thinking, why didn’t we try this sooner! The truth is though, none of us were ready any sooner, and even though it was wearing us down to wake up so much, we were happy to sacrifice our sleep to make sure our boy was happy and getting what he needed. We only decided to try sleep training after taking him for his 9 month check up with the pediatrician and being sure that there was not a medical reason for his awful sleep habits.
Bode has even started napping in his crib this week with the same routine as bedtime, which was a HUGE win for us!
Everyones experience will be different, and everyone will be ready at a different time. We never even had to try sleep training with our first son because he was just always such a good sleeper! I think this time around we just knew something had to change and we needed to do our job as Bodes parents to try and help him learn to sleep. It was also nice to have a mom friend trying this plan at the same time and being able to chat about how it was going.