My daughter started off being a great sleeper. She slept through the night by about 8 weeks, put herself right to sleep when we put her down, and gave us long stretches of naps. After a few great weeks, the downfall started.
She had always used a pacifier to soothe, as well as fall asleep and it worked great to help us when she was crying or as an immediate sleep aid. We could just pop it in her mouth when we needed her to calm down or fall asleep and it worked like a charm. That was until she got dependent on it.
Around 3.5 months, she started waking more through out the night when she noticed the paci wasn’t there. From then on, it got increasingly more frequent until about 5 months when she was waking every hour to suck.
I thought I would just wait until she was old enough to find it and put it back in by herself, but that day didn’t seem to come quick enough. This was taking a toll on me and I knew I needed a solution, and it was to get her off the pacifier so I wasn’t waking up every hour to put it back in.
So I researched a lot about sleep training and it seemed like the right thing to do. Once I started, she was sleeping THROUGH THE NIGHT within 1 day! It may not be for everyone, but anyone I know who has tried it has had success and say they wish they did it sooner.
These are the strategies and guidelines that I used. Try these tips and before you know it, your child should be sleeping like a baby (literally)!
Update: After trying this method with my second baby, it didn’t work as well so I attempted a new sleep training method. It’s very similar, but was much more successful. Read about the Best Sleep Training Methods that Worked for my Babies. I explain the difference between the two and why sometimes different methods work for different children.
Start with good sleep habits
I outlined specific tips to establish a daily routine for your baby in this post. It’s so important to get your infant on a schedule so they have a predictable day. This will lead to less irritability and a more pleasant baby. It should also help their nighttime sleeping habits.
Make sure you’re following those guidelines to start healthy sleep habits before you tackle sleep training because they go hand-in-hand.
Yes, this is the cry-it-out method. I know it sounds very harsh when you say it that way (that’s probably why they call it sleep training instead), but it really works! If you knew you would only have to go through your baby crying 4 or 5 times and then you and your child would be promised a full night’s sleep, doesn’t that sound like a no-brainer?
When to start
I read a lot of things that said you should not start sleep training until 6 months, but I just couldn’t wait that long. We started at 5 months and I think it was perfect timing. She wasn’t teething yet and not at a point where she could remember or already had a bad habit in place.
You don’t want to start when they are teething because your baby could actually be in pain when they’re crying and you may not realize it. You may just think they want the attention or to suckle/eat. Also, if you wait too long, they may be more stubborn and it could be harder to break a bad habit. When they are newborns or earlier in the infancy stage, you should use gentler methods of sleep training and soothing, not just letting them cry.
Take the pacifier or negative sleep association away cold turkey
Originally, I was trying to let her fall asleep with the pacifier and take it away after she fell asleep. This didn’t work because her suck would be so strong on it, that pulling it out of her mouth would wake her right up crying. Even if it didn’t wake her up from pulling it out, she would wake up at some point wanting to suck on it because she knew it was there when she fell asleep. So step 1 of sleep training was NO MORE PACI.
When you know the pacifier or any other negative sleep association (rocking or feeding to sleep) is a quick fix to calming down your child, it can be difficult not to give in and give it right back to them when they cry, but you have to be strong! As soon as I decided to take the pacifiers away, I hid them in a box, in another box, in a closet, at the far end of the house, just to make it more difficult for me to get to them if I wanted to cave!
To be honest, my daughter was a much happier child once the pacifier was gone. Even though it was a great way to calm her down if she was upset, she became completely dependent on it and if it fell out of her mouth (even during the day) she would cry. Now that she doesn’t use it anymore , she never really cries because she’s just used to not having it.
Start with the first nap of the day
I woke up one morning after a terrible night’s sleep, determined to start sleep training. At that point (5 months) she was taking 3 naps a day so I started with the first nap (around 9am) and trained her for all 3 naps and then nighttime sleep that day.
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This was the basic strategy I used: Each nap and bed time, I put my baby down swaddled in her crib with no pacifier. I made sure she was drowsy and ready to go to sleep. I went in after 5 minutes of crying to soothe, then 7 minutes of crying, then 9 minutes, and gradually increasing 2 minutes for every interval.
For the first nap, she cried for 21 minutes total. The second nap was 15 minutes, and the 3rd nap was 11 minutes. By the time we got to her night sleep on the first day, she was crying for less than 10 minutes before soothing herself to sleep. From then on, she never woke up in the middle of the night to suck or eat.
She occasionally would cry a little when we put her down before she would fall asleep, but it didn’t last too long and she would put herself to sleep. She never seemed to cry for more than 6 or 7 minutes (usually it was even less) and the cries were not screaming cries, but more just like I don’t want to go to sleep yet whimpers. At times we would go in and have to soothe her again before she fell asleep, but this was still worlds of a difference from before and I’ll take that over middle-of-the-night wakings any day!
After the time interval was up, if she was still crying, I would go in, put my hand on her belly, tell her that mommy’s here and I love you, and whisper shushing sounds to calm her down. Do anything you think would be soothing to your baby.
When I went in the room to soothe, I would only stay about 1 minute. Usually she would calm down a bit when she saw me and then I would walk out and she would start crying again. Then I would wait until the next time to go in and repeat until she put herself to sleep.
Both my babies calm down from shushing close to their ear (a sound machine or Baby Shusher helps with this). If your baby is also particularly fond of the shushing sound, the Baby Shusher will really help you out. I also love my Dohm sound machine for white noise that I leave on through the whole night of her sleep.
For newborns up until they start rolling, these SwaddleMe swaddles are my favorite! The velcro and tightness is what made my daughter sleep so well for the first few months of her life. However, once she started rolling over, they aren’t safe anymore.
Once I had to stop swaddling her with her arms down, I used the Nested Bean Zen Sleep Sack. It still gives them the tightness around their body of being hugged, but their arms are free. By this point their startle reflex should be gone though, so you shouldn’t have to worry about them waking themselves up from flailing.
If you think they’re easing up on crying, don’t go in to soothe
If it’s time for you to go in and soothe and your baby is still crying, but quieting down, don’t go in! This may mean that your child is starting to soothe themselves and you want to let that happen naturally. However, if they start wailing again, then you can go in even if the timing is off.
I did this technique with every nap and bedtime once I started and didn’t skip any. Keep it going consistently until your baby is going to sleep on their own without crying. It will happen soon, trust me!
Do the same time interval and soothing techniques if they wake up in the middle of the night, as well. Don’t pick them up or feed them (at this age they are able to go the whole night without a feeding).
Naps and bedtime
Some people are afraid to start with all sleeps so they just do nap time or bedtime, but this will just confuse them more. Again, consistency is key and it should be done every time they are put down.
Your baby doesn’t hate you
It makes your heart hurt to see and hear your baby crying. It makes you feel like an awful parent and that your baby will resent you for the rest of their life for making them cry. Just wait until you see them after their nap and they’re so well-rested and wake up with a huge smile! They immediately forget and forgive so easily so don’t worry about hurting their feelings.
Zone it out & don’t give in
Another thing that sounds cruel, but it’s for the best. During the day it’s easier to let them cry because you have things to occupy yourself so that you don’t hear it. Try taking a shower, watch tv, or make lunch. In the middle of the night is when it’s hardest to hear because there’s nothing to distract you and you don’t want to completely wake yourself up by turning on the tv. However, if you can, do something that will take your mind off the crying.
It’s not easy to hear your baby crying (or screaming), but know that this is something that will improve both of your lives!
If you have been doing these strategies for more than 5 days and not seeing any results, just quit for the time being and try again after another week or two.
Good luck with getting better sleep! Hopefully these tips help you and comment below if you have tried it.
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