we were veeeery unsure about the idea of sleep training initially — we went back and forth on the idea for sure, sometimes reading CIO was damaging to the baby and sometimes it wasn’t and basically there are way too many articles on every subject on the internet. in the end, we realized it really isn’t and our pediatrician even advised us to do it. so here we are, all FINALLY getting some sleep just a couple weeks later!
nighttime sleep before sleep training
a lot of you have asked about arlos sleeping habits since birth, so i’ll talk about that first. he was always such a champ at sleeping, basically through the night from a couple weeks old until recently. he’d always go down around 8pm and sleep until 4 or 430, we’d feed him, put him back down and he’d sleep until about 630. we past the four month marker with no sleep regression and were hopeful we’d never deal with one. we would sometimes even gripe about how we wish he’d just sleep through the night instead of waking up at 4 — little did we know what was coming!
another thing i get asked about constantly is our experience with the snoo. i’m sure it doesn’t work for every baby, but we LOVED ours. i honestly can’t imagine those first few months without it. we used to joke that we’d be converting it into a bed and he’d be in it till college, but with arlo in the 95% percentile, he was rapidly growing out of it so we got worried we were too reliant on it, so we turned on weaning mode (it doesn’t rock, just has the white noise play) and were sooo relieved he kept sleeping fine in it.
naps before sleep training
naps were never that great, but they got harder when arlo was about 3 months old. we tried lots of different chairs, the dockatot, etc — the only place i could get him to nap was in his snoo. but we’d rock him and put him down and sometimes he’d wake up and cry and we’d rock him again and put him down again and it was a very time consuming process all day long. we tried the putting him down a little bit asleep but that never worked for us. unless he was dead asleep, we were stuck with him. a lot of times i had the best luck nursing him to sleep, which i knew was a bad habit but soooo easy. we had him nap in his snoo until about 4 months, but then we tried naps in the crib with a sleep sack on, and then the magical sleep suit, and then the arms only swaddle — eventually realizing nothing was working. he took amazing naps at my father in laws house in a chair like this, so we stole it and brought it back to our house and got some amazing 2 hour naps in it for a few weeks. basically, we were like all lot of other tired parents, just desperately trying to get a few hours here and there with no plan or solution.
why we decided to sleep train
around 5.5 months, he started waking up through all hours of the night. we had been so worried about going on vacation and jeopardizing his amazing sleeping habits, and then just a couple weeks before our trip, those habits were long gone so we were like ok let’s go to hawaii and maybe we’ll come home and go back to normal. but then he got sick the second day of our trip, and could only sleep in our arms. we’d switch off halfway through the night and as you can imagine, it was super fun. when we got home, we didn’t know what it would be like and luckily, he still wouldn’t let us put him down so we slept with him on top of us, waking up and feeding three or so times a night suddenly. this lasted for over a week when we decided we needed to do something asap because we were both becoming very very very sleep deprived.
we’d bought a couple of books on sleep training months early on, and we skimmed them prior to when it got bad — but we were so tired and trying to devise a plan and when a reader suggested natalie willes, i wrote her immediately. we did the one-on-one consultation, which means we did an hour long video conference with natalie, and she helped us devise a schedule and regimen. (she has more inexpensive options as well)
how we sleep trained
we decided to start the day after our video call with natalie, a lot of people start sleep training on friday so that both parents are home for moral support. i think that we were SO nervous and built it up SO much that it actually wasn’t as bad as we expected. arlo also took to it fairly quickly, possibly quicker than other babies, i can’t say obviously — but it really wasn’t as painful as we expected.
natalie advised us not to leave the house for 48 hours once we started so that he couldn’t fall asleep in his stroller or carseat, so i went to the grocery store and stocked up on lots of comfort food and you may have seen i also baked a cake to eat during it. i set up our coffee table as a sleep training station : a notebook for recording the times he’d fall asleep/wake up, baby monitor, stopwatch, cake.
i nursed arlo at 730 and we put him down in his crib at 8 (we do a later bedtime because gid doesn’t get home from work till late and wants to see arlo). we did our normal bedtime routine prior to that, some quiet play on the rug in his room, a couple of books, changing him into his pajamas (i know a lot of people do these long bedtime routines with baths and massages and singing and that’s all still doable, we just have never been into more than a book and pjs.) then gid turned off the lights, put the white noise on and lay him down in his crib after holding him gently and getting him nice and chill.
we expected him to cry for hours, because what else would we expect? i anxiously watched the monitor and he cried for about 3 or 4 minutes, and then rolled over onto his tummy and fell asleep. i was in shock. we’d spent the last 3 weeks rocking him for hours and hours! he woke up a few times through the night, but never cried long enough for us to check on him. the first few days, he was waking up around 4am and i’d go in, keep the lights off and nurse him and put him back down. i was ok with that, but really hoping to skip all night feedings eventually — and i’m so happy to say that he’s pretty much started sleeping through them!!
he’s had nights where he sleeps straight through, and some nights he still wakes up sporadically and cries for a couple of minutes, sometimes more, it’s just different every night — but we are now getting a solid nights sleep out of him for sure. he sleeps from 8pm to about 630, usually with a little wakeup in the early morning hours but he’ll usually fall back asleep quickly. definitely feels like success to us. and we have our own room back! although we still whisper and tiptoe out of habit.
naps after sleep training
we are doing the same methods for naps as we do for bedtime, we read a couple of books and then i put him in his crib without any rocking or nursing. he has three scheduled naps a day, and i have to keep him awake in between (which can be hard when we’re in the car rushing home for a nap).
his naps were so inconsistent before, and although it’s kind of hard to plan anything around 3 naps a day, they have gotten much more reliable. he pretty much always sleeps for 45 mins – 2 hours (which is the maximum amount of nap time he can take) and overall the days have been way easier because of it.
i also only nurse him when he wakes up from his naps and before bed, and at first i was freaking out that he would lose all his rolls from not eating on demand but it’s actually made things so much easier. like when we go out i know i won’t have to nurse him in the car and i can even wear non nursing bras. it’s pretty chill.
how we’re all doing today
we are all getting along so well! gid and i were getting a little cranky with the lack of sleep but the arguing has completely stopped now that we’re well rested. and we’ve also been able to watch screeners and TV shows at night, and have dinner just the two of us — it’s kind of insanely liberating actually. we get to be just the two of us again, for a couple hours a day.
i’m also getting so much more done with his scheduled naps, so it’s been really helpful for my productivity. now i just need to get focused and not just eat and browse instagram during naptimes.
and i didn’t know what to expect for arlos reaction — everyone tells you he won’t be mad at you or hold a grudge and it’s true. he even seems happier overall because he’s getting more sleep. we’re currently doing three naps a day, and i’d like to get to two soon because scheduling around three strict naps is so tough, but right now he seems to need all three.
i heard from LOTS of you mamas on instagram that really sound like you need to try sleep training. if you are also exhausted and have spent half your day rocking your babe to sleep, i promise it’s worth trying. it’s daunting i know, but i am sooo glad we did it and we are all sleeping so well at the moment and i honestly never want to rock in a rocking chair again (until baby #2). i think i covered everything, but let me know if you have any questions — and i’d love to hear from you if you do it now too.
and come back tomorrow for a Q&A with natalie the sleep trainer!