Day 5 - Nap Time - Time it took for him to go down: 35 Min.
Entering motherhood has really opened my eyes to the judgmental world of parenting. It's competitive, self righteous, and ugly!! We are all very different parents, and guess what? So are our kids! Don't get me wrong, I have an amazing circle of supportive and loving momma bears, but when it comes to internet advice, people get nasty! There is no right or wrong way to sleep train, but by golly these 'experts' sure act like there is. None of us need to feel like jerks for doing what works for our family. Whether you co-sleep, cry it out, or take the gentle approach, that is your life, and a parent should never be made to feel like they have to defend themselves on these decisions. I am no professional parent, psychologist, or pediatrician, but I have successfully sleep trained 4 babies in a mere 5 months (I'm still working on my little four month tough guy) and that's something to be proud of. Every single child has taken a different approach and I work with them on finding the perfect solution to make us all happy. I want my kids to sleep well and on schedule. I think it is beneficial for everyone in my home, not everyone on the internet world. I don't need to worry about them, and you don't either.
I will be doing a series of posts on sleep training with different gentle techniques that have worked for me. Did you get that part? They worked for ME. I have read every book, forum, and blog on sleep training and I highly recommend parents do the same. Taking a combination of techniques and tweaking them to work with your child's needs can be incredibly beneficial.
I want to make it very clear that crying is and will always be a part of sleep training. Yes, I have read the books that make false promises on no crying, but let me keep this as simple as possible: there will be some crying, so don't think that you are failing. Failure very quickly seeps into your mind during sleep training, and it is totally natural to want to throw in the towel, but stay strong and consistent! Put it like this, if your kid wasn't crying at bedtime, you wouldn't need help! I think there is a major misconception on nighttime crying, and I would like to do my best to squash all of the negativity associated with it. Bouts of crying during sleep training and leaving your baby alone for an hour to cry themselves to sleep ARE TOTALLY DIFFERENT!!!!
We'll start backwards b/c its so fresh in my mind. Four days ago we were placed with an 18 month old boy. Like all of my other babies, he is absolutely beautiful, but this one came with some very heavy baggage. He immediately exhibited severe attachment and anxiety issues. He will not allow anyone to be near him other than me, and screams if I am out of sight. I can not use the restroom, walk around a corner, or take a shower without a full blown meltdown. This will all get better in time, but my biggest fear right off the bat was bedtime. Little J is my most emotionally fragile child, but I had no clue that sleep training would happen so quickly. It's still up in the air on who is more awesome, him for getting the routine, or me for getting him down so quickly without a fight..but we don't REALLY need a winner on that one, b/c we're both feeling pretty high and mighty about it!
I always read to my babes before bed as the last step in our bedtime routine*, but I made a few changes with baby J. I think it was just some weird intuition speaking on this one.
Step One: Go through your usual bedtime routine - hold baby in you lap, rocking, and reading
Step Two: Halfway though reading time lay the baby in his bed and quickly get back to the book and continue reading
Step Three: Baby will freak out! Get up from your chair and lay him back down and again quickly get to your chair and attempt to continue reading
Step Four: Repeat this process anywhere from 5-20 times, make it seem as if you are frustrated that YOU can't finish reading the book! Make sure that you cover the baby with his blanket, give his lovie or stuffed animal, and say sweet things like:
"Can we finish reading the story and find out what happens?"
"Do you not like this book? I really want to finish it"
"What is <charactor name> going to do next??
Divert the attention from baby being upset about being in bed to the book you both are supposed to be engrossed in. It you are upset about your baby crying, or if you are constantly consoling him about being upset, it's just going to perpetuate the issue. Make it about you and your desire to do something with him (read the book).
Let's go back to the 5-20 times in step four. Just prepare yourself for that daunting 20! It may only be a couple of times and honestly it may be much more, but by consistently and lovingly laying your baby back down to indicate'night night' he will eventually not just give up, but understand that you are both in this together. Surprisingly my little J was sleeping like a champ at 7:30pm on the dot 3 nights in. Once he laid down his head for good I continued to read until I thought he was fully asleep. The first two nights he quickly got up in protest the second I got to the door, so I repeated the process all over again (don't worry this second or sometimes third round usually doesn't take long).
No matter what technique you are using, know that every night gets better and faster. The first week can be hell, but once you get to that magical place of a smooth night time, your life will improve tenfold and baby will know that you have been there for him every step of the way.
Even though baby J got this routine down in 3 days, this is not common, but I do feel like my confidence in sleep training is very beneficial. There are many ways that us grown ups can break during the first very crucial week and it can be detrimental to all of your hard work. I will discuss this more on other sleep training posts, but just remember that your baby is secure, loved, and happy, and you are doing a great job. Teaching your little fragile one to sleep on his own can be taxing emotionally and physically, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel and your nighttime freedom is right around the corner!
You may be asking, "how long is this going to take?" "Do I need to sit there and read for an hour?" That is up to you. There are several variations on ways that you can still be comforting your babe in bed without reading the entire time. Nap times are in my experience a lot more work. Today at nap it took about 20+ times of laying little J back down with his blanket. We read for about 10 minutes before I put him down and sat back down to finish this post. I was 2 feet away from him, but not giving him attention, just loving him and comforting him with my presence. Today took about 35 minutes....a huge leap from an hour 5 days ago! You can leave the room if you choose more of a crying out method (or if you need to go to the bathroom, tend to another child, etc.), but make sure that you are returning often to comfort, you can at stand at the doorway, sit on the floor with your back to baby, sit in the rocking chair, etc. I may suggest bringing in your laptop, phone, or a book to keep you busy.
Just remember that every day gets easier and quicker, but you have to put in the time and effort to get there! Make sure that whatever method you chose you are sticking with it. Deciding to rock your baby to sleep one night, then switching to reading in bed, then switching to carrying him around the house is a recipe for disaster. You little on craves consistency and needs to know how their day will pan out (consistency and schedules also reduce tantrums).
Be brave mama and papa bears, you got do this!!!
*The last hour before bed is essential, make sure that you can carve out a tight and consistent schedule for their bedtime.