One of my favorite pictures of all time
Let me start this by saying every family, child and situation is different and I am certain that every parent is doing the best they can and what they think is right for their baby. I have read a lot of mean commentary and judgment from parents online (more on the mom Facebook groups later…) and think it’s really unfortunate. I just read about a woman walking up to a mom in the library who gave her toddler little bags of teddy grahams and asking her why she would feed her children sickening sugar? Has everyone lost their minds.
Anyways, I digress.
Sleep training and letting your child ‘cry it out’ is a hot topic for a lot of people and I really debated sharing our approach and thoughts. I got a lot of messages over the past few months asking about how we did it and decided if I could offer some insight, I should share. If you are someone who has had a magical child that slept 8 hours from the get go, bless you! However, that is not what happened with us nor what I hear from most moms.
I read about and talk to moms who say they had to wake their child to eat and I can honestly say that never happened to us once. Zain was and still is a hungry boy and makes sure to never miss a meal, ha! So while I was worried during those early days about getting him enough nutrition I soon realized he was doing just fine. We used the Glow Baby app for tracking his feedings, diapers and everything in between and it was a lifesaver. I went back and looked at it the other day and couldn’t believe what his schedule looked like in the beginning!
I remember those early weeks still so well when Zain was sleeping in our room is his bassinet. For reference, we are obsessed with our Lotus Travel Crib and it has a bassinet attachment you can purchase which was amazing. This is all we used in the beginning before moving him to his crib! We also used the Dock a Tot like crazy! It was so nice to be able to move him around the house and have him sleep close by while I was trying to get things done. We also used it on the weekends in bed when we just wanted to hang out with him during the mornings—totally reccomend!
Zain in his Lotus Crib Bassinet Attachment!
Trevor letting me take a nap while watching Zain and Netflix probably…
I was always looking for something beyond the books to read and I think hearing about someone’s personal experience would have helped a lot, so here we are. While pregnant, I read Bringing up Bébé and purchased the sleep training book my brother and sister in law had used. They had twins and both work full time so sleep training was a must for them. They really couldn’t function any other way. Trevor and I both watched first hand how well it worked and how happy their kids were so we knew it was something we would do in the future.
We purchased Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child before Zain arrived and LOVE it! If you happen to live in Chicago, Dr.Weissbluth gives seminars here and offers classes and although we’ve never been to one, I’ve heard from friends they are great. We liked the book because it broke everything down from why it was helpful, what you wanted to achieve, how to do it and also had sections based on the child’s age and everything they may be going through.
I can’t even believe how tiny my little guy was! I loved wrapping him in these muslins for his daytime sleeping too.
We started a few small things really early on to try and help his transition out. I always made sure to have him nap in the bright daylight sun and put him to sleep ‘for the night’ in the dark with his noise machine and humidifier going. I hoped that over time it would help him learn day and night and even out his circadian rhythm. We also started a ‘nighttime’ routine pretty early on. I have no idea how helpful this was in the early days but we still do it now. At 5:30pm or 6 we get him ready for his bath, snuggle him up, give him his last bottle and read to him before bed.
We wanted to start sleep training early, worried that the older he got the harder it may be. Now, let me preface this by saying you will still be feeding around the clock. The goal is not for your child to miss feeds or suffer from malnutrition but for them to learn to soothe themselves to sleep. We didn’t want to need to rock Zain to sleep, hold him for hours before bedtime or have him dependent on us to sleep. I wanted him to be getting great sleep in between his feeds but I just wasn’t sure when we would start.
Then Trevor went back to work.
Trevor was still in fellowship so working insanely long hours and although my mom was here helping us out, we were still wiped. Zain had become difficult to get back to sleep after feeds and he was still eating every 2 hours sometimes. If you weigh that out, no one was sleeping.
Trevor highlighted every part of the book that backed up his feelings and sat down to show my mom and I. We had a doctor’s appointment that week and we talked to our Pediatrician who we are friends with and trust a lot. She recommended he go no longer than 5 or so hours without eating but that he could definitely go longer than he was in between feeds and that we should consider letting him cry and try to self soothe a little. I think she could see how sleep deprived we were…
My mother is a classic Indian mom so when we came home from the doctor and told her she was less than thrilled. She cried when she heard my niece and nephew cry during sleep training and was not on board to say the least, haha. I told Trevor I would try it and if it didn’t feel right, I was going in. I think you know your child best and looking back I’m glad we did it so early.
It was around 10 weeks, if I can even remember clearly and we committed to it during dinner and I promised to follow through. Many nights before I would say yes but then give in and run in and hold him. At this point he was still in a swaddle (we love the Swaddle Me velcro options and the Love To Dream swaddle) but had moved him to his crib. Since our place is so small, his crib iss literally steps away from us and my mom was sleeping the living room right outside his door. For reference, to this day we have never used the sound on our monitor because we don’t need it—we hear everything. I also wrote about this previously but we love and swear by the Owlet! We still use it and love that it gives us peace of mind.
So, that first night we sat and waited. He cried for 32 minutes and I will never forget how I felt. I sat there crying myself while Trevor reassured me (I’m sure the post partum hormones didn’t help) that it was going to be okay. I couldn’t believe how it felt like he was crying for years. Eventually, he fell asleep on his own and then slept longer than he ever had.
When Trevor got home from work the day after we had let him cry, Zain smiled for the first time and it was at him. He took it as a sign that he was okay 🙂
I think we were lucky in that he never did that again. I mean he’s cried many times trust me but he went to sleep with no fuss the next night and slept for a long stretch again, then again the next night and so on. Although we wanted to be mad at Trevor (it’s the only night my mom didn’t cook him any Indian food haha!) we realized it was best. We all started sleeping more, he started learning to soothe himself and we then felt a little more confident implementing the techniques going forward.
If he cried we would give it ten minutes, go in and shush and pat his bottom and then leave. If he continued we would wait another ten minutes and repeat. It’s amazing how well shushing and patting their bottom works! Something important I never knew is that you need to be shushing them louder than they are crying for it to work. It honestly stops Zain from crying immediately.
Once he hit around 3 months, we got the Magic Merlin’s Sleepsuit. We had heard such great things from friends about it helping their kids sleep and I’m sure every kid is different but I’m it didn’t make much of a difference for Zain. He slept about the same in it or just a normal sleep sack but we liked how thick it was during winter.
Once he started rolling over (I think it was around 4 or 5 months), we transitioned him into a fleece sleep sack just because it was winter and he has done fine in that. I will say, I think when they start to roll over and sleep on their belly it’s a game changer. I think they get more comfortable and we noticed he would start sleeping later. Before, he would go down between 6 and 6:30pm and wake up between 5:30 and 6am most days. Now that he’s started sleeping on his belly he doesn’t wake up before 6:45 or 7:30am!
Once he hit 6 months, I also wanted to get him on a better nap schedule. Before that he was still sleeping every 2-3 hours and the book along with most of my friends said that’s when their kids transitioned to two naps a day. Now, don’t put pressure on yourself! I remember thinking that it was my fault he wasn’t on this magical nap schedule already since I’m home during the day with him. I think kids all grow into things in their own time. The first few weeks I tried transitioning him, he would still get tired and I would do 3 or 4 naps a day. Slowly, he started shifting and we are now on two naps at 9am and 1pm. The book will tell you and I totally agree, that the morning nap mentally develops first. He started taking that nap well immediately but the afternoon nap took some time. He cried in the beginning but is now 7 months and goes down for both usually without a peep.
As they get older, so many other things come into their sleep patterns. They go through so many mental leaps as they are learning new things (I use the Wonder Weeks app to track this although it annoys me that it claims leaps most of every month, haha!) getting shots, sickness or something else.
For us, it would have been really hard to wait till now to sleep train Zain and I think he would have cried a lot longer. He’s stubborn, well aware of everything and way smarter than us now. It also helps that I know his cries much better. I usually know if he’s getting sick, developing an ear infection or something is bothering him so I’m more confident in how long we let him cry, if at all.
My sweet boy at 2 months before ‘bedtime’
It’s still lots of trial and error! Zain wakes up sometimes at night and we try to figure out why and treat it as such and I still have hard days with him when it comes to napping. I think the best approach is to be patient (I’m working on that this year) and know it’s never going to be perfect. I joke with my friends that you can’t go more than a week without something new popping up, I’m just waiting for the teething and fevers!
I hope this was mildly helpful and not too confusing. If you have any questions at all feel free to leave a comment or send me a message, I am happy to answer anything I can!