Sleep training. The two words (aside from "cluster feeding") that instantly stresses me out and gives me anxiety.
The back story. Mía was a "great sleeper" as a newborn, generally only waking twice overnight to fuss and cry and easily soothed back to sleep with a (breast) feeding. We ended up co-sleeping with her from a few weeks in because I found it the easiest for nighttime feedings during my c-section recovery. At around 5 months I tried to make sure she napped in her crib during the day as much as possible and then we transitioned her into the crib for overnight sleeping at around 6 months. It was tough. She was a very mobile baby (rolling around by 3 months, sitting up by 4 months and crawling/standing by 6 months) so there was a lot of battling when it came to bedtime. After a few weeks of tears (from not just her) and stringent bedtime routines we had her down to sleeping on her own in the crib with only one wake up during the night. Then we went to Iceland in June to visit family for almost three weeks and the sleep regression started and basically didn't end until September when we came home from our second trip to Europe.
I was dreading to have to go through the whole sleep training battle with her again, and I kept putting it off night after night. However, I knew I was due to start work in a month and she was going to start daycare intro soon... so the clock was ticking. Now, I should mention that this entire time I was still breastfeeding her, and was allowing her to fall asleep while breastfeeding... I know, I know, I was breaking the biggest sleep training rule out there! But at that point, I was just doing what it took to keep her happy and calm while we were travelling around and staying with other people.
We decided to start on a Thursday (thinking that if it went badly, I would have the weekend and Jon could tag in for some of the wake ups) and we started with baby steps, like I mean very small changes. The first thing I did was breastfed her before she showed signs of being tired and left our bedroom (yes, she was still sleeping in our bed at this point) while Jon read books to her and let her fall asleep on her own. She cried and fussed for maybe 10-15 minutes the first night and by the third night she was falling asleep with Jon within only several minutes. The hardest thing for me was denying her the breast in the middle of the night when she would wake up crying. I had to remind myself that she was feeding at night out of habit and not necessity and because the supply was literally right next to her. So after a few nights of her waking up and literally head butting my chest crying, she was weaned off of the overnight feeds. At this point I'm thinking okay, this is working, now onto the transition from our bed to her crib... the tough part.
I read a lot of different sleep training articles and ebooks, but most importantly I asked a lot of mamas what they did and what they found worked for them. I think it's important to gather as much information as you can (for those of you that know me, know that I research everything to the max before jumping in) and then take away what resonates with you and what you feel would work for your family.
So our bedtime routine was:
Bath, PJs, and brushing teeth (7:15ish)
Books (three, ending with the same one each time and with her teddy)
Dim lighting for books then complete darkness (I had to cover up the light on her wipe warmer)
Crib blanket (Mía loves to snuggle with her Lulujo Luxe Blanket... has to be there or she won't sleep kind of deal)
The first 7 nights:
Lay her in her crib and stood next to the crib and repeated "goodnight, we love you" a few times... mind you, she is at this point standing up and holding onto Teddy and screaming at me
Lay her down and repeat the bedtime phrase but didn't pick her up again
Wait ten minutes after she falls asleep then leave
Wait 5 minutes before going into the room to repeat the whole process (without picking her up) if she wakes up in the middle of the night
Pick up time is whatever time you choose in the morning that fits your schedule best. So no picking babe up before that set time.
The first night was so horrible, I hated hearing her cry but knew it had to happen... I felt better at least being in the room with her so she didn't feel abandoned, or so I'm hoping that's what she felt. She cried for about 30 minutes the first night on and off before falling into a deep sleep and woke up twice before 7am. The second night was better and she only cried for about 15 minutes and then the third night was barely 5 minutes. By day 6 she was down to just a few minutes of fussing then laying down and going to sleep. We continued to stay in the room with her for 5-10 minutes until she was in a deep sleep. We eventually phased out going into her room at night and just used the microphone on our Levana Astra PTZ Monitor to tell her to "lay down" and "ssssssssssh" her for a few minutes and she is back to sleep.
The whole process was not as painful as I had feared, babies like routine and she picked up on the bedtime cues very quickly. Not every night is smooth though, as with anything baby related there will be good days and bad days but we try to stick to the routine and the "rules" as much as possible. We are now to a point (on most nights) that after we read her last book she points to the crib and we lay her down and say goodnight and turn off the light and she is sleeping with barely a peep. Having her sleeping well in her own room has lifted a lot of stress off of me. We have our bedroom and time back. When she was still sleeping in our bed, somedays I felt like I wasn't getting a break and when she was feeding multiple times a night I wasn't getting any sleep either. I don't think I ever slept 100% when she was in the bed with us because subconsciously I was worried about her and where she was at all times. That being said, the first few nights of sleep training I found myself sitting awake staring at the monitor because I wanted to make sure she was OK. At times I still miss her little breaths against my cheek and her tiny hands on my chest... I wish we could have the good points of both scenarios, but then it wouldn't be life.
I apologize for such a wordy and long blog post, but there was just so much I wanted to say. I would love to hear what works for you and your babe for bedtime and nap time... oh nap time, that is our battle currently!