How to sleep train your baby

How to get your room back:

So you research, read, and look through a million pins on Pinterest. You’re trying to gear yourself up for what will most likely be the month from hell, as you hope to transition your little one from your bed into theirs. If you’re like me, you’ve probably read through a billion parenting blogs and come up feeling just as stressed as you were before you started. Now, unfortunately, this is more of a “trial and error” type deal. I wish I could tell you that the Mayo Clinic just released a fool proof “put your baby to sleep kit,” but they didn’t… You and I must suffer alongside our fellow parents. Whether you are transitioning from a bedside bassinet or your own bed, this post should hopefully give you some tips on how to tackle this beast.

Now, if you have read my blog, you probably already know how much I LOVE co-sleeping, and I still do! I think it’s a great option for most parents. If you want to try that, we had a lot of success with it. The reality is though, that your little one cannot sleep in your bed with you till they go off to college. At some point, your little one will become a big one and you will want to transition them into their own sleeping space. In most cases, this happens sooner, rather than later; they grow so fast. As your little one grows out of the newborn phase and into a more independent phase, you will notice them flailing, tossing and turning throughout their sleep cycle. This will of course become a sore subject for you and your spouse. Co- sleeping works great while you are trying to get your new addition used to the big wide world around them. It helps to make them feel secure, as well as increasing your milk supply, and helping them learn from you on when its day and when its night. If you’re interested in more information about Co-Sleeping or Bed-Sharing, Click Here for my post on it. At some point though, your little one will have adjusted well to the world and will try to tell you they need some more space. So I’m going to let you in on some cues that your little one might need their crib, and I’ll also tell you what we did to finally get some sleep!

Your baby is getting big, and most likely their curled-up froggy position that they seem to stay in for the first 6 weeks, has changed into a more “adult” style of sleeping position. I won’t lie, the first six weeks she slept tightly curled up on my chest; reminiscent of what she probably looked like in the womb. It was so sweet. As she gained weight and got bigger, her legs started to stretch outward and so did her arms. This is a typical transition for babies as they get used to not being scrunched up inside your tummy. As most of you probably guessed; more weight made it increasingly difficult for her to sleep on me, so I began laying her next to me. We spent another blissful two months that way, getting the most sleep I had probably gotten since pre-pregnancy. However, almost like clock work, one night she began tossing her head back and forth. She did this for what felt like HOURS; my husband was getting so frustrated. I would nurse her back to sleep, but about 30 minutes in, same thing… all night. It seemed like she just couldn’t get comfortable. Soon the head flinging morphed into her wanting to eat herself to sleep ALL NIGHT LONG; It was torture, and none of us were getting sleep. I tried scooting her more towards the middle of the bed thinking she needed more room. That appeared to work for about a week, but now my husband and I were forced to the very edge of our sides of the bed, and once again, no one was sleeping. Then she began letting out brief wails in the middle of the night, and would suckle again until she passed out. That was it, we had enough of the no sleep. It was time, and I knew it was time. Our little one was trying to tell us she was ready to “leave the nest”. Head tossing, flailing, and seeming like they can’t get comfortable are all signs your little one is telling you they need their space. It’s time mama. As hard as it is, they need some rest.

So like any other mama I did a tremendous amount of research on different methods to use, what to buy, and what to expect while transitioning. I knew I didn’t want to do a full blown “cry-it-out” method, but I also didn’t want to spend the next month of my life as her sleep crutch. So here’s what I purchased, and what we did, and let me tell you; it’s been an amazing and easy transition.

First off, when you know its time to transition your baby into their own room, whether it’s from sleeping in your bed or next to it, you need to get them used to their room. I’m no sleep doctor here, I can only tell you how we were successful, and obviously every baby is very different. I spent about 2 weeks getting our little girl used to her room. To do this, you’ll want to help them spend as much time in there as possible. I would lay her in her crib and read her books or play with her toys as she laid there in the crib. I would sing, laugh, play and do as many fun activities with her as I could, to make it a “less scary” environment for her. Then, in little spurts, I would leave her in her crib to either entertain herself and see if she would fall asleep. She learned to play alone and be content, which also gave me some free time to get other things done as well. Then we started doing nap time in the crib after about 2 weeks of getting used to it. We did this by waiting for her to fall asleep, wherever that normally is; rock-in-play, pack-n-play, wherever. Wherever your child normally takes naps, even if it’s in your arms, wait for them to get super sleepy, then start putting them in their crib for the remainder. Now for nap time, we would repeat this as much as we had to. But once she started crying, I would pick her up as if nap time was over. I would then try to wear her down again by playing, reading, and would nurse her again and try to lay her back down. Eventually after a few days, she started taking some real naps in her crib!

Now once this happens, in my opinion, your baby is now ready and comfortable in their surroundings.
Our main problem was that our baby had, and still has, a serious startle reflex. Throughout her naps, I started noticing that she would flinch or move and wake herself up, and this is extremely common in babies. Most parents swaddle their babies to help counteract this, but what do you do once your baby starts trying to roll over? Or if your little one is like ours, and from day one, screamed if you try to swaddle them. Our daughter seemed to have a pet peeve about needing her arms free, and swaddling just wasn’t in the cards for us. So to get to the point here, I pretty much knew there was no way she was going to sleep through the night without something. So I prepared myself for the worst and purchased a cheap air mattress. I figured sleeping on the floor in her room, at least for the first week or so, would eliminate some of the annoyance of continually getting up throughout the night to rock her back to sleep. Well then I heard through talking to some girlfriends about Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleep Suit.

Okay, yes, the name is a bit corny(my husband loves it)… But here’s the basic idea of how it works. It’s a big puffy suit that helps your baby feel safe and warm, as if they’re swaddled, except their hands and feet are still visible. Now the cool thing about this is, if your baby likes to suck their thumb or hand, they still can. It doesn’t make them immobile, but it DOES muffle the startle reflex so they won’t wake themselves up every single time they move during the night. This was a HUGE help. I swear to you that from the very first night, our little girl went from eating every hour in our bed, to sleeping through the night, only waking once to eat.
The key was using this in a bed time routine, which helped her learn when it was time to go to bed, and not just another nap. Around 7 o’clock, I would start getting her geared up. We would wind down a bit; no more play time and loud toys. I would clean out her nose so she was boogy free, give her a warm bath, then put her night-time diaper on her. After that, I put on a very light weight cotton onesie, followed by the sleep suit. At this point, I turn out her lights in her room, and the hallway lights on the way to her room, and then turn on her sound machine. The last feeding of the night I do in her rocking chair, which is in her room. Once she starts getting sleepy, but still slightly awake, I lay her down and leave the room quietly.

We repeat this every night, although instead of using soap EVERY night in her bath, I sometimes use just water (to not dry her skin out, babies only need washed every 2-3 days). The warm water in her bath seems to calm her, so I still like doing that as part of her bedtime routine. She goes down for nap time in her sleep suit too, and it helps get her to take an ACTUAL nap, and not just a cat nap. She now sleeps pretty much through the entire night, usually only waking once for a feeding.
I will say, that after a few days of using it, she started to realize when bed time was near and we had a few nights that she cried after I set her down. My pediatrician had told me at the last visit, while we were talking about sleep training, that a little bit of crying is good for babies. They learn how to sooth themselves. She said, “try not to think of it as abandoning them, but as teaching them a new life skill they need to learn.” That concept helped me a lot with the idea of crying. So instead of a full blown cry-it-out, I set a time frame; I watch the clock from the time she started crying and give it 5 minutes. If she has not calmed down within 5 minutes, I go in and pick her up and try getting her back to sleep. Magically, after about 3 nights of going back in once or twice to get her back down, she now does really well at getting herself back to sleep without much fuss. It’s awesome, and trust me mama, it hurts you more than it hurts them.

This has been great because now she pretty much only cries during the night for her feeding, so I have a clear indication of what she needs. So I go in, feed her, then put her back down and she goes right back to sleep; as do I! I do still have an air mattress blown up on her floor, just in case, but I’ve honestly yet to use it.
Although I do miss my little cuddle bug, my husband and I are so happy to have our bed back. The important thing is to remember that every baby is different and so are every babies needs. Some babies may want to stay in your bed till they’re 2 years old, and that’s okay, as long as it’s still working for you and your spouse. Other babies may feel comfortable in their crib from day one, and that’s okay too! The important thing is to watch for is cues from your baby. You know your little one more than anyone else in the world, so trust what your gut is telling you. My biggest advice is:

Get them used to their room
Set a strict bed time
Set up a bed time routine
Get an air mattress, just in case
Identify what’s waking them, and try to address it
Be consistent
Be patient

You will get through this sooner than you think, and pretty soon you’ll be sleeping like a queen! My guess is, it won’t be nearly as bad as you think. Our transition went very smooth, with little crying, and was very painless. Make sure to talk with your pediatrician to see how much your little one needs to eat throughout the night, and always make sure to complete necessary feedings. Try to remember that this is a learned skill, and give your little one the time they need to learn it.
Be sure to comment me with your tips and tricks below! I’d love to hear what you have to say!
Good luck mama.

Sweet Dreams,

Your Trusty Mama

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