A few months ago, we had had enough. Sleep was nothing but a five letter word and had little to no part in my life. While I am not trying to throw myself a pity party (okay, maybe just a little bit), I handle drop-off and pick-up for both of my boys every day due to Mike’s crazy work hours, I am still breastfeeding Lincoln and pumping whenever I am away from him, and I work forty hours a week at a job. Oh, and one more thing. At seven months old, Lincoln was still waking up four times every. single. night. I could count on one hand the number of nights that he had been generous and only woken up once, and perhaps on two hands the nights he had stuck to two wakings. On the regular, though, I had been up four times a night, every night, for seven months. While I know I am not the first mama who has gone through this, the icing on the cake is that I have a full time, professional career outside of the house. Everyone was suffering. Mike is up by 4am for work every day, but between both Jackson and Lincoln he very rarely was able to actually sleep until that early alarm went off. I was not exactly pleasant after being up all night and then going to work hoping to do a decent job. I was yawning in people’s faces during meetings. I cannot put into words how rude and uncomfortable I felt whenever that happened, but it did happen, and a lot.
Pity party aside, the fact of the matter is that we needed to do something. We never did any sleep training with Jackson, and as a result, we have had battles of epic proportions with our now two year old who is just finally learning to put himself to sleep. We have made some progress, but rules basically have never applied to a bedtime routine with Jackson. And we knew that we did not want to go down that road again with Lincoln. So, we made the decision to cry it out, and loosely follow Baby Wise. We made adaptions and modifications, sure, but for the most part, especially during the first few days, we really did stick to these methods. And wouldn’t you know, it worked! It was not the easiest thing we have ever done, but after coming out on the other side, I would truly do it a million times over. While I know experiences are likely different for all babies, I wanted to share what we did, our challenges and successes, and why I would recommend this to any parent in need of a good night’s sleep!
1. Have a plan
We agreed on when we were starting. We planned it out. We knew it would likely take a few days of tough love, and with that in mind we started on a Friday night, knowing we would have all weekend to handle it ourselves, and sneak in naps during the days if we ended up staying up all night. I also had to speak with my mom, who watches Lincoln during the week. She is a grandma and, bless her heart, is way softer with my children than I am, and cannot bear to see them cry. But I told her this was non-negotiable. She had to follow what we were doing, or else everything we did that weekend would be a wasted effort. She was on board, and we were ready to communicate regularly on how things went throughout the day and if there were any challenges.
2. Stick to your guns
We were in it for the long haul. On a few occasions with Jackson, we dabbled in letting him cry, and always ended up caving. With Lincoln, we knew the long term consequences of not sticking it out, so we decided that even if it meant a night of screaming from dusk until dawn, we were going to do it. Nothing breaks your mama heart more than hearing your baby cry, but being a mom isn’t always an easy job and it requires doing things that we don’t want to do!
We set out on our plan on a Friday night, and, as expected, Lincoln screamed his little head off. We would go in to check on him every 5-10 minutes, pat his back to do some slight soothing, and then would leave. To be honest, he seemed to be even more upset after we would go in to soothe him. It felt a bit like we were teasing him, as he would anticipate being picked up, and then he would be disappointed. I hated it.
After about 45 minutes of screaming, Mike mentioned trying to give him a nuk. As a side story, both of my boys declared a hatred for their nuk’s around 4-5 months of age. I have never been able to figure out why, but almost do the day, they both figured out we gave it as a means to induce sleep, and both of them were angered by this! However, as we were desperate as the screaming was not quieting at all, Mike suggested to dip the nuk in sugar (dentists and dental hygienists, close your eyes) to see if that would get him to take it. And he did! Once he got over the rage of being offered the nuk and realized there was sugar on it, I couldn’t get the darn thing out of his mouth. He sucked for a few minutes, and fell asleep. I felt like I had just won the lottery, he put himself to sleep!
That night, he did wake up around 2am or so. I was told that, while you can go in to soothe during the bedtime routine, in the middle of the night, unless your baby appears to be sick or unsafe, to not go into their room. It creates the expectation that, whenever they wake, you will go in for them. So, we had to listen to him cry. However, it only lasted 15 minutes or so, he put himself back to sleep, and he slept until 7am! I was seriously amazed, and could not believe it.
Later that day, I was dreading naptime because I knew there would be more tears. And you guys, I gave him that pacifier, zipped him up in his sleep sack, laid him down and he put himself to sleep with ten or so minutes of fussing for a two hour nap!! He had been a terrible napper, never giving much more than a half hour or so at time, which made daytime with him almost as difficult as nighttime. I woke him up around the two hour mark, and later in the day he went down without a fight for another two hour nap! Part of Baby Wise is to keep baby on a schedule, so while it went against everything in me to wake a sleeping baby, it really led to providing us with more consistency and predictability as we established a new routine. To say I was feeling like the mom of the year at this point would be quite the understatement.
Saturday night, there were more tears at bedtime, but it was again in that 5-10 minute range, and he put himself to sleep. He woke up crying once during the middle of the night, and was back asleep within minutes. And then Sunday night it happened. We put him down with little to no fuss, and he slept straight through the night, not once did he wake up crying! Since then, we very rarely need to go into his room during the night, and he is sleeping through the night like a champ.
Since tackling sleeping through the night, his daytime schedule really smoothed out as well. It really seems that by fixing his nighttime schedule, his daytimes fell into place beautifully. While he certainly has off days (for example, only sleeping 45 minutes for each nap yesterday), for the most part he takes two solid naps, has a predictable bedtime, and goes down without a fight the majority of the time. Everyone has so much more free time, and it is so amazing to roughly be able to anticipate when he will be due for a nap or bedtime.
Another funny side effect of this process is that he is now IN LOVE with his pacifier. Whether he is sleepy, sick, or happy and playing, his nuk is with him at all times. He loves it, and will grab it and stick it in his mouth whenever he sees it. I do not know how we would have gotten through all of this without the nuk, to be honest. We now lay him down for bed and he rolls right over, snuggles with his nuk (which is attached to a wubbanub bunny) and is so happy to be there. He will wake up in the morning and just babble to himself in his crib. It is so incredible to have broken through that barrier and to have made the crib a place that he enjoys versus fears.
So, of course my conclusion in all of this is that I would sleep train my baby a million times over. It took being a second time mom to do it, because while I hate to see my babies cry, it took a LOT more tears and frustration to get our two year old to sleep well than it did with our infant! We saw such a shift in not only our baby’s schedule, but in his temperament because he was finally getting the sleep he needed. We were honestly surprised by how easy the whole process was. While I anticipated a week of no sleep and lots of crying, it really took us one rough night! It is amazing how quickly they can learn to self soothe. If you are on the fence, or feel guilty, my advice would be to go for it. Your baby will never remember a few nights of crying, but everyone will be happier once sleep becomes normal in your household once again!
Linking up with Annie today!