10 tips to help you sleep train your baby or toddler
What is sleep training?
Sleep training is the process of training your little one to fall asleep on their own, by comforting themselves independently. It’s also one of the hardest things you will ever do as a mother besides give birth. Shout out to the dads that help out too by the way, hate to leave you out.
Ok, so let’s get into this sleep training fiasco. I have to give you a break-down from how it started for me to how it’s going.
The first year
Both of my boys started with me in my bedroom next to our bed in bassinet. I breastfeed both of both of them for exactly one year. If you know anything about breastfeeding, then you will understand that the struggle is real and the closer that baby is to you, the easier it is for night feedings.
I started sleep training my youngest son Adonis around 8 months. Adonis woke up every 2-3 hours to nurse, so having him in my room just was easier, but waking 2-3 times a night was starting to take it’s toll on me.
Ready for a Change/Doctor’s Orders
Sleeping through the night became a foreign concept to me and I desperately needed my room back.
At his doctor appointments, his pediatrician kept asking how he was sleeping. I told her that he often still would wake up every 2-3 hours each night to nurse and the only way I could get him back to sleep was by putting him back on my chest and patting him back to sleep. She informed me that by now he should be sleeping through the night. This became frustrating to hear because he wasn’t and neither was I. However, I knew that I needed to take the plunge and rip off the sleep training bandaid.
I wanted to see if we could sleep train him in our room first. We have a 4 bedroom home, which consists of our room, a guest room, my oldest son’s room, and an office (my husband works from home). I didn’t want him to go with his brother until we at least got him sleeping through the night first.
The pediatrician said that because he could “see” us, when he woke at night was part of the problem. Adonis slept in a cushioned pack n’ play, so we put some blankets over the mesh when we laid him down at night something the doctor suggested us to do. Let’s just say it was an epic fail!
He would stand up and scream until I or my husband took him out. We tried patting his back, and not taking him out the pack and play but he refused and did all he could until one of us gave in.
Hail Mary..Our Process
Needless to say, my husband and I were beyond exhausted, frustrated, and tired, so pulled a Hail Mary Literally, it was all or nothing, and it was the best decision we made.
Well, he screamed and screamed, and screamed some more. We set a rule where we would take turns to check on him after 5 minutes. My husband and I took turns going in and out of the room throughout the night.
The first night, it took maybe a total of 40 minutes to an hour of this rotation to get him to go to sleep. He woke up the same amount of times at night, and each time we went in the room and attempted to get him to go back to sleep which took about five to ten minutes each time.
We followed the same exact routine, put him to sleep at the same time, nightlight, story, prayer etc. This time, he didn’t cry for as long. I’d say that we had to go into the room maybe half as many times as the first night. He still woke up the same amount of times and we continued to go check on him and comfort him. Our second rule was whatever you do, don’t cave in!
Nights 3, 4 & 5
We repeated the same steps, and by night three he put himself to sleep on his own! It felt like the stars were finally aligning. He continued to put himself down with ease after night three.
We started to realize that now he wasn’t waking up as much as before, and when he did, instead of rushing into the room to provide support, we waited, and after 2-3 minutes he would put himself back to sleep.
We repeated the same exact steps. At this point we could literally walk into the room, lay him down and walk out. He would lay quietly until he fell asleep. He would wake one time in the middle of the night, but could now easily put himself back to sleep.
10 Takeaways: What we learned…
1. Consistency is key.
Whenever you decide to start sleep training, it is a must that you have some guidelines set up for yourself. How long are you going to wait before you check in on them? What is their bed time? Are you going to take the baby out of the bed to comfort them or leave them in their bed? Whatever your policy is, stick to it. The more consistent you are the faster this process will go.
2. Don’t rush in as soon as you hear the baby crying.
This defeats the purpose. The point of sleep training is to get the baby used to comforting themselves. If you rush in right away, they will still depend on you to soothe them.
3. Try not to take the baby out of their bed.
This sends mixed signals. My little one often would get more worked up after trying to lay them back down after being picked up. Keeping them in their bed sends the message that they are not getting out, and that it’s time for bed.
4. Adjust when you see something is not working.
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Our little one started to revert, after he went through almost 3 months of battling congestion. He was in our bed because that was the only way he could get comfort, so after he got better, we had to start the sleep training process all over again (ugh). This time we added a soft bear to his bed. We noticed that he likes to lay against someone so we added the bear in his bed and it seems to be working well.
4. Keep the T.V. off.
It may be tempting to cut on the T.V. and pray the baby falls asleep to Mickey Mouse Club House, but trust me this only makes it worse. There are several studies done on how T.V. before bed causes restlessness for children and adults, and after trying this myself. My little one would often think it was time to play and not time to sleep.
5. It’s ok to cut off the baby monitor.
Ok, I know this one is controversial, but it works for me. I’m a light sleeper, so I’m comfortable doing this because no matter if the monitor is on or not, I can hear my son cry. I decided to do this so I won’t be tempted to rush to the bedroom when my little one wakes in the middle of the night. Often, he wakes and whines, if I let him whine for a while, he typically goes back to sleep. So having the monitor off allows me to get some rest, and not lay awake listening to him whine. Again, I’m a light sleeper so once my sleep is broken it takes me a long time to fall back asleep.
6. When checking on the baby, don’t talk too much.
My husband was bad at this at first, he would go into the room and start talking to him. Saying, “It’s ok”, “Calm down” etc.,. This only woke Adonis up more, so I had to tell him instead of talking just say, “shhhh” one or two times, then rub or pat his back.
7. Don’t be hard on yourself.
This process is not easy. You may start, then throw in the towel (like I did the first few times), but keep trying. Success may not come on your first attempt and that is ok, try again. You need rest, and so does your little one. Trust me if you stick to it, you and your little one will reap the benefits.
8. Get help (if you have it).
If you have a spouse, boyfriend, partner, get them involved. Sleep training is difficult and you will need support too. If you don’t have help try to stick it out for at least 5 days. Another strategy, is to try and sleep train when you have time off from work so, that you don’t have to worry about running off fumes the next day at work.
9. Every child’s sleep journey is different.
With our first, all he needed was a cup of warm milk and he was out for the count. What worked for your first child may not work for the next. What works for me may not work for you. So take everything with a grain of salt. Try what works for you, and don’t try what you’re not comfortable with.
~Peace & Love,
Thanks for reading this article. Comment below if you have tried or can relate to any of these tips, or drop some of your sleep training tips down below. Let me know if you tried some of my takeaways and give me some feedback of how they worked for you and your little one.