Our little guy recently turned 6 months old, where does the time go?! Even more recently, we started sleep training. While sleep training isn’t exactly a walk in the park for you as a parent or your baby, it’s definitely worth it in the end.
Sleep is a precious thing, and a lack of it can lead to a number of chronic and mental health problems. So after a solid 6 months of waking 2-4 times a night with our son, we decided to give it a go!
I think an important thing to note here is that newborns are supposed to wake in the middle of the night. I’m not a professional, and I’m not claiming myself to be one; however, I have read numerous amounts of articles relating to infant sleep and eating schedules to the point where I feel comfortable enough to talk about it! Most articles suggested starting sleep training between 4-6 months of age. We waited until our son was 6 months old to begin sleep training for one good reason: He wasn’t ready any sooner.
Harvey (our son) was eating homemade puree’s in the morning and evenings, and was slowly began introducing him to solids around 6-months of age as well. So we were confident he was eating enough throughout the day that he didn’t need to wake in the middle of the night for a feeding anymore. We knew it was time!
I read somewhere (again, not a professional) that 6 month old babies should be getting about 14-16 hours of sleep within a 24 hour period. About 12 hours of sleep throughout the night and the rest distributed between two longer naps, or three smaller naps throughout the day.
By 6 months our napping schedule was becoming pretty solid, especially those morning naps. However, the rest of our day was still pretty up in the air. Afternoon naps were a hit or miss and we were still waking up 2-3 times a night with feedings. When he would wake in the middle of the night, nursing him back to sleep was sometimes the only thing that would put him back down. Honestly, I was terrified to try this whole sleep training thing, but I craved a routine and a little bit of structure in this new mommy life! So, here’s what we did:
Get into a “Bedtime Routine.” This is crucial, babies love routine. Make sure you start sleep training during a period of time when you know you’re going to be home every night for at least a few weeks. We made the mistake of going on a little getaway one week into sleep training – don’t be us!
Needless to say, we confused the heck out of our little guy right when he was starting to get the hang of this whole sleep through the night thing. Here’s a look at our bedtime routine:
Dinner around 6pm. This was usually a puree, but now we’ve switched to solids (Baby-Lead Weaning).
Bath time immediately following dinner. This was just easiest for us because Harvey was always super messy after eating.
Pj’s and light play time.
Read a book
Bedtime 7:15/7:30pm with goodnight kisses and bedtime “phrase.” Our phrase is something along the lines of, “It’s bedtime. Goodnight, Harvey. Mommy and Daddy love you so much, we’ll see you in the morning.”
I set a timer on my phone for every night at 6:30pm to “begin bedtime routine,” which is great way to make sure you don’t lose track of time and get behind schedule. I was very strict on sticking to this bedtime for at least two weeks, this way Harvey knew all of the signs leading up to bedtime.
All in all, the whole bedtime routine took us about an hour or sometimes a little bit longer. I know all of this might sound a little tedious (especially giving a bath every night) but try sticking to it for at least a couple weeks, then slowly phasing a few things out of the routine goes unnoticed.
Putting your baby down for the night:
Luckily for us, Harvey is usually pretty tired at this point and he doesn’t cry any longer than 3-5 minutes before rolling over and going to bed on his own. However, if your baby continues to cry, go in after 10 minutes and say your “goodnight phrase.”
The key here is: no picking up or feeding. Only comforting by rubbing their back and letting them know that you’re there. Try not to stay in the room any longer than 30 seconds before exiting. Continue this pattern every 10 minutes.
Easier said than done, right? This is super tough. Make sure you talk to your partner before you begin sleep training so you can discuss what to do if your baby continues to cry even after you’ve gone in to soothe them. We had a 40-minute threshold. Meaning, if we had to go in there 3 times (over 40 minutes of crying) and he was still upset, we would pick him up and soothe him. Luckily for us, it never got to that point.
Waking up in the middle of the night:
The same rules apply for when your baby wakes in the middle of the night. Once you hear them crying, wait 10 minutes before going into their room to soothe them. Again, no picking up or feeding here. Rub their back, say your goodnight phrase and try exiting the room all within 30 seconds. To be honest, I always had my husband do the first “middle of the night soothe” because we were still nursing at the time and Harvey would immediately get even more upset if he saw me and I didn’t feed him.
The longest it ever took our son to fall back asleep on his own was just under one hour, and this was on our first night of sleep training. The only reason I didn’t pick him up after our “40 minute threshold” was because he was calming down on his own, I didn’t need to go back in there and disrupt him. If you see your baby starting to calm down on their own and it’s been more than 10 minutes, try not to go back into their room! This is exactly what you want them to be learning – how to self soothe.
We treated all of his wake ups like this until 6am. If he were to wake anytime after 6am and not fall back asleep on his own after 10 minutes that would be the start of our morning.
How to start your mornings:
Once he was up for the morning, we would go in his room, turn on the light and joyfully say, “Good morning, Harvey!” You can also open up the curtains, or leave the bedroom door open. All of these things signify that it’s finally morning and it’s okay to wake up now!
Luckily for us, it only took Harvey a couple of nights to catch on to this whole sleep training thing, and we were all sleeping through the night within only three nights! Every baby is different. If it takes you and yours a little longer, try not to get discouraged!
A little more than a month has passed now, and we’ve only woken up in the middle of the night a handful of times since! Most of time, Harvey will put himself back to sleep after just a few minutes of cry and/or stirring. Things like teething or stepping out of our routine (going to my husbands hockey games at night) have caused a few bumps in Harvey’s sleep schedule – that’s life! By now I can decipher his “I’m in pain because I’m teething,” cries between his, “I woke up and now I’m cranky,” cries. If he does wake up in pain because he’s teething, I will usually scoop him up and give him a small bottle with some infant Tylenol and he goes right back down.
Parenting is tough! Each day (and night) brings new struggles, joys and lessons learned. We all have our own strategies and plans for parenting, and I’m not one to judge on however you decide to parent your own child. I strongly believe that “Mom knows best.” You have to do what’s best for you and your family! I hope this post can help you if you’re currently struggling with sleepless nights. Just know that I’ve been there too, and you will sleep again one day, promise! If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!