I think it goes without saying, that a baby does not equal sleep. Rather, along with the adorable baby cuddles, smiles and adventures, comes sleepless nights. (Well unless you are one of the lucky ones and have a baby that loves sleep!)
While I expected this in the ‘newborn stages’, when I found ourselves at 10 months and Charlotte was still snacking throughout the night, and needing to be rocked and shhh’d to sleep at every nap time, it was clear to me that I had not helped her in learning to self settle. At all.
And I knew something had to change.
So I turned to the dreaded sleep training – in which ‘crying it out’ seemed to be the recurrent theme (despite whatever ‘spin’ was put on it.) I was not comfortable doing this when Charlotte was younger but now, at 10 months, I felt that it was time.
So what did we do?
The first thing I wanted to improve was her overnight feeding. I couldn’t help but feel that her day time meals would get better if I stopped the on-demand nursing at night. And everything I read seemed to indicate that nutritionally she did not require the 3 hourly night feeds she was having.
So at the start of last week, I decided that I would only offer her one nursing session overnight. And it had to be after midnight. When she woke the other times, I would cuddle her and rock her back to sleep.
The first few nights were definitely the hardest. When I would go in to settle her, and she realised that she was not going to be nursed, she screamed and protested, and it truly broke my heart. But I was confident that she was not hungry – but rather just used to nursing for comfort. I was her human dummy.
On night 5, we stepped it up a notch and implemented self settling techniques using the Gift of Sleep program.
That night, I nursed her before her bath, so by bed time, she was put in her cot awake. No more nursing to sleep (that wasn’t really working recently anyway).
I then left the room, and listened to her cry in protest for 5 minutes. After that, I knocked on the door for 30 seconds, but did not enter the room.
I could hear that she was doing a ‘start/stop’ cry, so as hard as it was, I left her for another 5 minutes (after peeking in to see that she was ok).
We continued this for 40 minutes in total until all we heard was…..silence.
Yes she had fallen asleep. And she stayed asleep until 11pm.
When she woke, I knocked on the door, and repeated the process every 5 minutes or so for 30 minutes. Again, after that time, silence. She had fallen back to sleep.
While I had initially planned on not offering a night feed, it was going to take some time for my body to adjust to this new ‘non-nursing’ schedule. So at around 4.30am, when she woke, I went in, avoided eye contact, and gave her a short 6 minute feed (probably more for my comfort than anything else). She feel straight back asleep, and stayed asleep, until her wake up time at 7am.
The next day, it was time to continue this new routine for her naps. At 9.10am or so she looked tired, so I put her in her cot awake.
She cried, she yelled, but by 9.30am she was fast asleep having settled herself. And I was one proud mama.
Slowly over the next week, things got better and better. She would protest cry initially, but then put herself to sleep. She also, gasp, starting sleeping through to 6am, no overnight nursing required.
So where are we now?
Charlotte’s ability to self settle is improving dramatically. Gone are the rocking, and the sssssh-ing, and the overnight nursing. Welcomed back is some decent overnight sleep for all of us – and I hope that this is a trend that continues.
Sweet dreams my little one.
What about you? New mummas – have you had any luck with sleep training?