Baby Whisperer — Sleep Training
Our sweet friend Dorothy, the baby whisperer, was awesome enough to share some of her tips on sleep training/schedule. She swears by this routine and has gotten every single baby she's taken care of to sleep through the night! I, being pretty desperate for more sleep, was all ears and tried her ways on Theo.
Not everyone is a schedule type of person; honestly, I'm not at all. I like to have my boy go with the flow incase we are out on the town. But I like the idea of my baby sleeping through most of the night, so we'll be doing this for a while.
Please know that this is from my personal experience thanks to tips that I learned from sweet Dorothy. We know everybody has their own opinions on sleep training, so know this post is from my experience with sleep training Theo. This is what worked for us, and I hope this can help someone else! So without further ado, this is what I learned from Dorothy
As far as when its appropriate to start a sleeping schedule, that is up to you. Dorothy say's you can as soon as you bring them home, but she believes up until 6-8 weeks a baby should be fed on demand, for good weight gain and bonding. I didn't start this with Theo until month four, because neither he or I were ready.
The most effective way this will work will be when your baby is in his or her own room. Babies can smell their mamas! Mine did and woke several times at night just because he knew I was there and wanted me to nurse him for comfort.
Putting him in his room wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be. Could be because his room is literally around the corner and I knew I was close. Plus, it was nice to stay up and watch tv in bed with my husband without worrying about waking Theo up! (we had started Parks and Rec. so we we're kinda obsessed with binge watching every night!) The video monitor helped calm my nerves too.
We started in January when Theo turned 4 months. He is now 7 months and is sleeping 7pm-630am. He naps from 9am-11am then again at 1pm for an hour and then again at 3pm for an hour or two. I lay him down in the crib with his paci, 'his lovey', and a sound machine. Then I quietly creep away as he snuggles in. Its awesome!
But it wasn't always that way.
It took about one month of being strict with his bedtime and naps. The biggest habit we had to break was picking him up when he cried. He expected to be rocked and nursed to sleep. Took about two days of "crying it out" at night; two weeks of staying home and being strict about naps. All in all, it took about one month of being intentional. After two months, he was officially sleeping through the night, not needing me to put him back to sleep if he woke up at 3 or 5 am! Here are the main tips Dorothy gave me to get to this point:
Know your baby's cries.
Know the difference between a whine, a fit and a real "come soothe me mommy I need you" cry. The reason you want to know this is, when the baby wakes at 3am you don't want to immediately go in there. If it's a whine- you let baby whine it back to sleep and give him a chance to soothe himself. If its a fit, he's on his way to learning to manipulate you. Don't let him think every time he does this mommy is coming to get him. The first couple nights of cry fits are miserable, but once they know you're not coming to play, they'll learn and go back to sleep.
What to do when he does the real cry? I pick him up and rub his back. I don't cradle him or rock him. Just let him know I'm there and I'll "shh" and hum the same song every time. I snuggle my face to his little head and most of the time pray over him. Once he calms down, I lay him back down. One hundred percent of the time he starts crying again. Determining his cry, I'll pick him back up. Once he calms down, I lay him back down. I once did this 8 times in a row. He eventually grows tired and goes to sleep. But I need him to fall asleep in his crib, not my arms. (I was strict during training time. Now that he knows the rules, I break them all the time :)
No feeding to sleep.
The BIGGEST tip I learned from Dorothy was switching the routine I had going on. We would wake up, play, feed and go down for a nap. She says by doing this you're basically teaching him to get sleepy by eating. So every time he is sleepy he's expecting a feed. Including at 3am when he wakes and is trying to go back to sleep. So we switched to- Wake up, FEED, play and go down for a nap. This was a game changer!! He had learned to go to sleep during his naps without feeds that when he would randomly wake in the middle of the night, he could put himself back to sleep!
Try not rocking to sleep.
Before this, we would rock and rock Theo to fall asleep. He's a big boy, so that quickly got tiring (but I now have incredible thighs from squatting and swaying!) Not to mention he expected it every single time to go back to sleep. And at 3am? Yeah, I'm not squatting. So we started to simply just lay him down in his bed. Did he immediately go to sleep? Oh heck no! He would immediately cry. I would let him do a good cry for about 5-10 min to get him tired. Then, go back and put the paci back in. I know every baby is different, but Theo would tire quickly and whine himself to sleep after a couple times of putting paci back in.
Now this one might sound contradictory...but Dorothy introduced me to doing a dream feed at 11pm. Dream feeding is when you feed baby without waking him or her up and then putting them back in crib. Why would you pick up a sleeping baby? Because its better to feed at 11pm than 4am. Theo was still needing one nighttime feeding to get through the night, so instead of doing it at the early hours of 3/5am, its a little better to do it at 10/11pm. The dream feed helps keep their tummy's full to make it through the early hours. They wont always need this, Theo actually doesn't need a night time feed anymore!. We only did this for probably a week and a half or so. But I have friends who have done it for months. It just depends on the baby.
These are just tips I implemented into helping Theo learn how to soothe himself to sleep. Like I said before, every baby is different and possibly needs different tactics, same with mama :) My biggest advice would be to follow your mommy gut and listen to it. You know whats best for you baby and your baby will also start to let you know when its time! Its such a beautiful time so I hope the so call "dreaded" time of sleep training is seen differently for you. Our babies are only babies once, so don't see this as a burden but an honor to be a part of teaching your baby how to do the one thing he will be doing everyday of his life, sleep! If you have any questions, shoot us an email or comment below. We can also connect you to Dorothy if you need extra help, she's amazing!
If you have any other tips from your experience, do share in the comments for other moms to read! —Jo