I tried a little something different with C than A. With A, he would wake up to nurse and then fall right back asleep. He stopped waking up for night feedings at 14 weeks, so the next time he woke up in the middle of the night instead of feeding him, I went in to comfort him and increased the wait times progressively. This was easy, he didn’t cry much, and took 2 days – you can see the process here.
Baby C had a really hard time falling asleep after a middle of the night feeding; sometimes he would be up fussing for 2 hours. At 8 weeks I talked to a sleep consultant and also read the book 12 Hours by 12 Weeks for help; we were all so sleep deprived and I didn’t feel that waiting until 3 or 4 months to sleep train like I did with A was going to work out so great for C. I didn’t feel comfortable letting him cry though since he was so young, and thankfully I got advice for how to improve his sleep habits without crying. This is what we did and it worked out great for everyone:
- Stretch daytime feedings out to 4 hours. This seemed crazy to me, but even babies in the NICU are on a 3 hour feeding schedule typically. C was eating way more frequently than that day and night, and not really having a chance to digest before his next meal was piled on. So we tried it starting at 8 weeks and he easily went 3.5 to 4 hours between feedings. This alone immediately improved his night sleep.
- Slowly wean night feedings. The goal is to look at baby’s natural schedule and move forward from there but don’t go backwards. If baby sleeps longer one night, that is your new starting point. Then, reduce ounces at each night feeding, one feeding at a time (or nurse for fewer minutes). Try to offer extra ounces during day to makeup for reduced night feedings – you want baby taking in the same amount of daily calories. For example, the first night of our 4 hour daytime feeding schedule, C woke up at around 2am for a night feeding and drank 6 ounces – this time was our new starting point. If for example the next night he woke up before 2am, I would comfort him without food. Once 2am rolled around, I would give him a 5.5 ounce bottle. Slowly but surely, he moved that time up on his own; when he slept until 3:30am one night, and was drinking less from the bottle, that was the new starting point. We did this all the way until he was not having a night feeding at all at 12 weeks. I’m not going to lie, this was a slow process and I did not sleep a ton however, there was no crying involved and we saw many improvements.
- Help baby learn to self-soothe and sleep in crib from bedtime to wake time (for us that means 6:30pm to 6:30am).At 3 months, C was already used to sleeping in his crib and was no longer getting feedings in the middle of the night. He would still wake several times in the middle of the night, and I would quickly go in to give him his pacifier/comfort him. But I started to notice that my interventions weren’t really working anymore; for example I would try to comfort him and it started to upset him even more, or he would spit his pacifier out over and over within a period of an hour or two. It was time to step back a bit and give him the chance to practice falling asleep on his own. Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems gives such a good explanation for why this is important.
J and I decided that baby C really wasn’t digging the swaddle anymore, so on the first night of sleep training we did our normal routine but then put him in his crib, awake, in his footie pajamas. Our plan was that once he started crying, we would wait a certain amount of time before going in and comforting/giving pacifier/etc. (Same as what we did for A). For example, on the first night we would wait 5 minutes after crying before going in. If he continued crying again after that before falling asleep, we would wait 10 minutes. More crying, wait 12 minutes, and keep waiting 12 minutes until he falls asleep independently with us out of the room. If he falls asleep and then wakes up let’s say 2 hours later, you start over with a 5 minute wait time. These checks are important because they re-assure C that we are still there and that we will always come back, and they re-assure us that he is okay, not hold/cold, etc. The crying isn’t what teaches baby how to sleep – we don’t want crying! It is the wait times that give baby a chance to practice this skill and unfortunately, some protest crying comes with the territory.Here is how it went!
Night 1: Wait times are 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 12 minutes.
Crib 6:30pm, crying at 6:41pm, wait 5 minutes, give paci/burp. Fell asleep on his own after I left the room!
3:50am crying, wait 5 minutes, give pacifier and shhh, room was cold
4:12am crying, wait 10 minutes, give pacifier and shhh, turned heat on
4:33am crying, wait 12 minutes, give pacifier and shhh
4:58am crying, wait 12 minutes, give pacifier and shhh
5:14am immediately crying, wait 12 minutes, give pacifier and shhh, fell asleep on his own until 6:20am!
Night 2: Wait times are 7 minutes, 12 minutes, 14 minutes, 14 minutes.
Crib 6:29pm, crying as soon as I left the room, wait 7 minutes, calm when he saw me, burp and give pacifier
6:42pm crying immediately, wait 12 minutes, give pacifier. Fell asleep on his own after I left the room…
….all the way until 6:20am!!! First sleep through the night 🙂
Night 3: Wait times are 9 minutes, 14 minutes, 16 minutes, 16 minutes
Crib 6:21pm, immediately crying, wait 9 minutes, give pacifier and burp
6:33pm crying, wait 14 minutes, give pacifier and pat, fell asleep on his own.
3:36am crying, wait 9 minutes, give pacifier, asleep.
4:25am crying, wait 9 minutes, give pacifier, asleep
5:51am crying, wait 9 minutes, give pacifier and turn on crib mobile, got out of crib for the day at 6:30am
Night 4: Wait times are 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 17 minutes, 17 minutes
Crib 6:27pm, immediately crying, wait 10 minutes, give pacifier and shhh/pat, fell asleep on his own…
Gave pacifier a few times between 5:30am and 6:15am then got up for the day.
Night 5: Wait times are 11 minutes, 16 minutes, 19 minutes, 19 minutes
Crib 6:28pm, immediately crying (was closing eyes while drinking bottle, but cried when put in crib), wait 11 minutes, give pacifier and shhh.
Kicked around in crib for 30 minutes but no crying at all, fell asleep at 7:20pm…
Gave pacifier and turned on crib mobile until 6:30am and got up for the day.
And baby C continued to sleep all night….for about 2 weeks. Then, we stopped paying attention to wait times, had a bit of a regression, and had to essentially start over again after re-evaluating. Things improved, and you can read about it in my Sleep Regression post. I share this to show that sleep training is not a one and done type of process, and that the most important thing you can do is be consistent and figure out what exactly your specific child needs.