I wanted to share our experience with sleep training. Sharing today all about what we did and how it went. I want to always preface these posts by letting you know I am sharing our journey with Otis and know that every child is beautifully unique and what might work for us at home might not work for others. While I know that sleep training can get a bad reputation, it’s something I actually got a lot of positive feedback on and it was a great experience for us.
WHY DID WE DO SLEEP TRAINING?
So I am going to be very honest with you that Otis has always been a great little sleeper (I shared about our newborn – 5 month sleep experiences here). Because of that, some of our close friends asked us why we were even going to do sleep training since he was already sleeping through the night and sleeping well. At the time, Otis was about 6 to 7 months old and he was still using his pacifier. He would take his pacifier at bedtime and we would usually have to go back in his room to replace it 5 minutes after we initially put him down. Usually the “paci pop,” as we like to call it, would work and it was not really a hassle to us. He would then usually soothe himself to sleep with the pacifier and sleep through the night. We wanted to get ahead of any possible sleep issues and reinforce good sleep habits before any separation anxiety set in for Otis. It was time and we were ready to do this.
WHEN DID WE SLEEP TRAIN OTIS?
We sleep trained Otis in between 6 and 7 months. We would have likely done it closer to 5 months if we didn’t have so much other stuff going on with his helmet treatment (which you can read all about here).
OUR SLEEP TRAINING PROCESS
There are tons of sleep training programs out there. The only thing I knew is that I wanted the process to involve me and to make sure that I was able to support Otis through the process. I feel like all you hear about sleep training is “cry it out” but what a lot of people don’t know is that there are so many different styles of sleep training out there. Yes there was crying involved but it wasn’t what I expected. Since I followed the TakingCaraBabies newborn and 3-4 month sleep courses, I did some research and found that I wanted to take her 5month-1 year sleep course called The ABCs of sleep. The course was formal sleep training and came with online course videos as well as a pdf guide full of information. I get tons of questions to this day on how we liked her course, if it worked etc and I can’t say enough good things about it. The day I bought the course, Blake and I sat down and watched the whole thing through so we would be ready to get started.
What I loved about her style of sleep training is that it had a compassionate approach where you were still there for your baby and able to sooth them in small ways by letting them know you were going through this together with them. The course is based on a series of “pop ins” after putting your baby to sleep initially and if they are crying, you space out those pop ins first at 5 minutes, then 10 minutes, and then 15 minutes until your baby is asleep. The catch is, when you go in for each pop in, it should be quick (30-60 seconds max) and you can go in, verbally comfort them letting them know that you love them and it is time for sleep and you can place a loving hand on their body to show your love. You just don’t pick up your baby when they are crying. You can reposition them once if they are sitting up when you come in but that is pretty much it. The goal here is that they won’t cry to be picked up and they start to realize that bed time is for sleeping. Like I said, sleep training isn’t for everyone. You have to have a strong stomach for the first few nights because hearing your baby cry is the saddest and most maddening thing you could ever hear. But if you think about it, it makes sense. If they cry for you, and you immediately pick them up, you start to create those patterns for them. Babies are incredibly smart. Of course this is quick overview explanation of the course and there is so much information in it that was so helpful guiding us through the process. But this could give you the gist if you were on the fence deciding if it was worth it to purchase. I love how Blake will reference Cara from time to time and say, “that Cara really knows her shit.” And he’s right.
Night 1 was by far the hardest. Blake and I were armed with a bottle of wine because we knew we were in for it. We did our usual bedtime routine, put on his sleep sack, turned on his sound machine, gave him his lovie and pacifier and put him to bed. We kissed him goodnight and left the room. We set up our monitor in the living room and we waiting. Of course within 5 minutes he was crying because he had lost his pacifier. This was the first hard moment. Not being able to go in and replace it is always tough when you know it’s an easy fix. After 5 minutes, we went to check in on him, gave him our support and quickly left the room. The level of heartbreak when you walk out of the room with your baby screaming… broken. Heart broken into 5 million pieces. But we stayed strong and after 42 minutes of crying and pop ins, he was finally asleep!! AND HE SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT WITH NO PACIFIER.
Below is our schedule of how Otis did through our sleep training process just so you can see the progress that was made and how quickly. Day 9 was a turning point because it was the first night where there was zero crying! So even though he didn’t instantly fall asleep instantly, he became successful at putting himself to sleep. Such a major accomplishment. GO OTIS!!
Night 1 / Asleep in 42 minutes (4 Pop-In)
Night 2 / Asleep in 22 minutes (2 Pop-In)
Night 3 / Asleep in 24 minutes (2 Pop-In)
Night 4 / Asleep in 16 minutes (1 Pop-In)
Night 5 / Asleep in 14 minutes (1 Pop-In)
Night 6 / Asleep in 17 minutes (2 Pop-In)
Night 7 / Asleep in 20 minutes (2 Pop-In)
Night 8 / Asleep in 12 minutes (1 Pop-In)
Night 9 / Asleep in 9 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Night 10 / Asleep in 11 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Night 11 / Asleep in 5 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Night 12 / Asleep in 10 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Night 13 / Asleep in 10 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Night 14 / Asleep in 7 minutes ZERO CRYING!!
Let me be honest, no amount of crying is fun. Whether its 42 minutes or 5 minutes. Hearing Otis cry makes me want to break down in tears myself. It takes commitment to get through sleep training that is for sure. The wine helped a little bit. I am a big believer that because we were consistent we got through it pretty easily. Another amazing bonus from doing the sleep training is that Otis pretty much weaned himself off his pacifier during this process. We were not even intentionally trying to take the pacifier away all together but after learning to put himself to sleep without it, he stopped taking a pacifier cold turkey from that day forward. WILD. He didn’t need a pacifier in his car seat or to go to sleep. Kind of amazing that this process weaned him off it.
INTRODUCING A LOVEY
While I collected some loveys and let Otis play with them, I never really created any routine with them until we decided to sleep train him. Our program encouraged giving a lovey in the crib so I did a few things to get him acquainted with it before our sleep training started. Every time I breastfed Otis, I would hold the lovey on us so it was a part of our special time together. At this point Otis was already fully moving around in his crib so I did not have any concerns about it being a hazard. This is a great question for your pediatrician if you are wondering if it’s a good time to introduce something like this. The lovey became something special for him to snuggle and cuddle while he fell asleep and he is obsessed with them now. Otis’ favorite lovey is this one from slumberkins. They are so incredible soft and easy to machine wash. I wanted him to get used to something that was easily replaceable since he would likely get attached to it and we would likely lose it. We actually recently lost his yeti lovey at Disneyland but because Disneyland is the happiest and best place on Earth, luckily someone turned it into lost and found and we go it back! Talk about a Disney miracle.
OTIS SLEEP AT TODAY 10 MONTHS
Not that Otis is 10 months things are still sailing just as smooth as they did before. The beauty about doing sleep training is that whenever you might hit a regression or run into any issues, you can come back to these principles again and again. We haven’t had any major setbacks at all. The only time we had trouble getting Otis to sleep was after our trip to Hawaii when he went through the time change. But after 3 days of reinforcing our practices, he was back to himself.
Sleep training has been a really amazing experience for us and Otis. Always love hearing from other Mamas and what worked for you with your little ones. If you have a story to share, feel free to share in the comments below. These photos aren’t really related to sleep training at all, just some sweet moments with my little Oats. Him standing at the bench with that sweet little face… melts me.