Sleep training Days 1-3
When my oldest daughter, Portia, was about 5 or 6 months old, nobody in our house was getting much sleep and I wasn’t sure what to do about it. She would *sometimes* sleep 6 hours in a row, but often she only slept 3-4 hours in a row. I vented my frustration to friends on Facebook one day and I had a friend highly recommend the Sleep Sense program. My insides shriveled, as I thought any sleep training meant that I would have to let my precious baby “cry-it out” and I quickly dismissed the recommendation. After a few more days of feeling like a total zombie, I started reading through what exactly I would have to do to feel sane again.
After 3 nights of using the Sleep Sense program, Portia was sleeping soundly and so were we! YAHOO.
Alas, we find ourselves in the sleep-deprived state once again with daughter #2. As we all know, every baby is so different from the next. I never realized how different my own two kids would potentially be from one another though. You hear about it, and it’s true. With Madeleine, I knew I needed help when it comes to sleeping. I had gotten into some bad habits as band-aid solutions to getting through each night. Portia is a light sleeper, so my fear for the past 5 months has been of waking her throughout the night and having to deal with a sleepy (and angry?) toddler. It made sense to me to just keep Madeleine in our bed and nurse her on demand, because it seemed to work and my little family would all get some good sleep.
Everyone but ME of course! I have been up every 1.5-2.5 hours all night long for the past 5 months. There were 3 nights when Madeleine was a newborn that she slept a 5 hour span, but other than that… I pretty much get up with the well-rested household every morning feeling like a truck has hit me. Coffee is my best friend right now. Because of the caffeine, but also because I am so tired that I can’t carry on proper conversations with adults 😉
Enter Leslie Black of A Kiss Goodnight.
Leslie is the North Shore Mama sleep consultant and, with every week that I publish her latest post, I have been telling myself that reaching out to her for help would probably be the smart thing to do (you know, the thing that well-rested people can think of doing because their brain is functioning at full capacity). It took me a few weeks, but I have finally enlisted the help of Leslie and we are up to our (sleepy) eyeballs in sleep training mode.
I thought it would maybe be helpful to document how the training is going so that others who are dealing with sleep troubles at home can follow along, maybe pick up some useful tips and maybe even reach out to Leslie as well if they want to start getting some quality Zzzz’s.
So, here is a recap of the first 3 days of our sleep training experience with baby #2:
Leslie stressed to us the importance of a calming routine before we begin to put Madeleine down for the night. I have always known that the routine was an important step, but with a very active toddler running circles around me (literally!) at the time of night that I *should* be starting the bedtime routine for the baby, I just haven’t had it in me to do it. In our consultation meeting, Leslie gave me the nudge I needed to really dig-in and just do it! I found that talking with Leslie in person really helped to layout exactly what our particular situation was and get expert advice from her about Madeleine and HER sleep. I knew re-reading the book wasn’t going to happen (because I honestly have no time to read now that there are 2 little kidlets in our life and I needed new ideas that pertained to our specific issues. I realize now that I was taking ‘the routine’ for granted!)
6:30pm — I followed the plan that Leslie created for Madeleine which included a bath, getting her into her pj’s, feeding her and then making sure she was awake throughout until she went into her crib (AWAKE!). I anticipated an hour of crying and was very shocked that, after 17 minutes, Madeleine was sound asleep! What is important to me about Leslie’s plan is that I am not someone who can close the door and walk away from a crying baby. It’s just not in me and I have friends who are able to do it, but I know that I cannot. Leslie’s plan involves reassuring Madeleine the entire time in whichever way I want to soothe her (as long as it’s not nursing her to sleep!).
Madeleine woke up twice in the night, at 10:40pm and at 2:30am. I knew this was highly likely in the first few nights of sleep training, though I secretly hoped Madeleine would be one of those magical babies that just slept through the night on the first go (haha!). I calmed her both those time and when she woke up at 5:00am, she didn’t cry, rather made little grunting noises and then fell back asleep ON HER OWN (which is the ultimate goal here!) after about 1 minute. She was up at 7am bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. I didn’t necessarily get much more sleep, but my husband and I DID get an evening to ourselves which was so nice after not even getting to talk to each other over dinner for too many months!
Now, the thing about sleep training, is that you’re not just trying to set your baby up for good night time sleep, but also to be able to nap properly during the day. Depending on the age of your child, they should be napping a certain number of times/day for a certain amount of time (roughly!). Leslie reiterated the importance of naps during the day. If Madeleine is over-tired at night time bedtime, she will have a more difficult time getting to sleep.
Madeleine had 3 naps during the day at 9am, 1pm and 4:20pm. I feel though like I had a bit of a ‘cheat day’, because the first two naps took place in her stroller as opposed to being in her crib. It’s so different when there is an older sibling involved because we are out of the house almost every morning with a Portia-related activity. I decided I couldn’t be too hard on myself for these stroller naps and instead was going to keep the end-goal in mind: getting her naps in during the day and keeping up with the nighttime routine to provide that consistency for her.
7:15pm — I started Madeleine’s nighttime routine with her. I sat in my chair flush against her crib and reassured her for just 6 minutes this time! I already felt like we had made progress and felt like I was regaining some sort of control over my life .
Madeleine didn’t wake up at all until 4:30am. I did however do a dream-feed at 11pm because it was super hot that night and I worried she might be thirsty. I wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do, which is why I am glad I have Leslie to bounce these things off of when all the little details along the way pop up. Leslie is great at never making you feel like any choice you have made is the wrong one and instead, she redirects you to other options that will help establish the best sleep situation for your baby during the night. I need that!
My struggle with Madeleine right now is that when she wakes at around the 4am time, she wants to stay up and smile at me and engage with me for way too long!! Two mornings in a row, she was up for over an hour at that time, WIDE AWAKE. Leslie assured me that this would not last, as it is also part of her learning process. I trust in the process, so I keep going. I know it works and I am ready for change!
Madeleine was up at 8am and had her 3 naps at 10:40am, 1pm and 3:20pm. None of her naps lasted long enough this day though. She was restless and slept less than an hour each time, which is less than we are shooting for.
I think something really important to take into consideration throughout the training process is that it will take days and maybe even a few weeks to get it to the point you want it to get to. Last night, my husband and I decided to take the girls out for dinner, mostly because I didn’t feel like cooking after a long week (and it was 25 degrees in our kitchen which didn’t help the cause).
This decision was not a good one!!!
We are trying to provide consistency for Madeleine and we messed up the routine entirely. And, as a result, we didn’t have a good night last night. It felt like we took 10 steps backwards and we definitely won’t be doing that again! When I did my daily check-in with Leslie and told her about our break in routine by going out for dinner, she reminded me that the commitment to being home in the evenings is not permanent. Once we do teach Madeleine how to sleep and to be able to fall asleep independently, we can start getting out of the house again in the evenings. We are not trapped at home forever. Phew… good to know!
We missed her relaxing bath and she didn’t get to bed until 8:15pm! Much too late for a little one her age. While she fell asleep in her crib in less than 9 minutes, she woke up at 10:30pm, 11:30pm, and 4am. It’s not even the frequency of the wake-ups that is the issue. When Madeleine was up at 11:30pm, she was up for almost 3 hours and there was nothing we could do to get her to sleep. We fed her, cuddled her, rocked her (and even paced the floors with her!). She was out of sorts. Poor little one.
As I mentioned, we will definitely not be veering from our plan today/tonight!
I’ll be keeping track of days 4-6 and will post again next week with updates, so stay tuned!
If you need guidance with your own baby or toddler when it comes to sleep, make sure you get in touch with Leslie. She is FANTASTIC! If you are not nearby geographically, she will Skype with you so you still get to have that important face-to-face conversation!