I have had a lot people ask me questions about sleep training. We decided to “create” our own method of sleep training. Which basically means we read a lot, got advice from a lot of parents, and combined them all together with what works best for our family. Here is what we have decided to do.
(Disclaimer: this is just what works for us, all children are different. We are not doctors, we are just having a conversation about what worked for us.)
We start “sleep training” around the age of 6 weeks. And this is how we start, we simply observe by writing down what our babies pattern for being asleep and awake is already. It is amazing how they have already established sleep patterns on their own, and as we record them we can start to see them appear. I usually keep a master list on our kitchen table and just jot a note down. The information I find important to write is when they eat, sleep, and are awake.
Once we have recorded a few days, and have observed patterns we start to implement the eat/awake/sleep “routine.” We start each morning with our newborn at whatever time their observed pattern was closest to, (for example if they were normally waking up around 6:00 we would start then, with the goal in mind that we are going to try to get our whole family to eventually all wake up at 7:00 am, which is what the older kiddos are doing at the moment and what works for our family. Once, they are awake from their night sleep we feed and interact with the newborn, keeping them awake and giving lots of love and attention. (The older kids love helping with this … if only you could hear the made up songs they sing to Jesse lately 😉 )
When first starting our “sleep training” we aim for 1 hour of awake time (but could vary depending on the patterns we observed prior). After 1 hour of awake time, we enter into the sleep portion of the time. We swaddle them up, (using the tradition swaddle or the batwing swaddle which we use quickly since our babies are HUGE). We snuggle for a quick moment, but making sure when we lay them down they are not in a deep sleep. It is totally ok with us if they are just shutting their eyes a little and we lay them down. With all the kids we also have done a binky/pacifier, so we give them that when they sleep as well.
After they have slept for 1 hour, if they are still sleeping we will go and pick them up and softly wake them up, to feed them. If they are not waking up we will take note that maybe we should try to keep them awake for 1 hour and 15 minutes and let them sleep for 1 hour and 15 minute the next time (gradually increasing). To help them be fully awake to nurse we will change their diaper. After they are awake, we feed them and the whole process starts over again, UNTIL we reach the final chunk BEFORE you want your night time to be. Ours is 7:00 pm, with a goal being that they will sleep from 7 pm to 7 am. (I know at first this sounded crazy to me but I can tell you all 3 of our older kids sleep from 7-7 now. Madeline started sleeping through at 12 weeks, and the boys a little older.)
The chunk of time before the “night time” goes as follows; after the are awake around 5 pm in this case, we feed them and then we PLAY and interact. This chunk of the time there is no sleeping (if we can, but we are flexible too). During the second hour keeping them awake is when it gets a little harder, we like to do baths, lotion them, jammies, sing songs, talk to them (usually not the same thing every night, we like variety). This to me is the most difficult time of “sleep training” because it really does require one parent to pay attention to the newborn the whole 2 hours. As you know we have 3 other kiddos and the dinner hour, but for us it has been TOTALLY worth it! The end result is something we only dreamed about before we were parents and now we are living it.
So if you are following the eating pattern you will note it is time to feed right before bed. This is the ONLY time we try to feed and put to sleep, with the hope that when we do this the baby will learn that when I feed and lay down that means it is time for my long sleep.
Onto the night time, so from 7 to 7 is our ultimate goal to train to sleep through, but as we all know newborns just don’t do that from birth so it takes some attention. During 7 -7 we have the lights off, soft music, and a set up area for nursing so that the dark and quiet can continue. For us, reducing distraction helps so much when our newborns wake up to nurse during that time. When they do wake up, we get them without too much crying in the beginning, we check the time to see the length between each feeding, and we feed, and lay right back down with the binky, swaddle, and without holding for too long. Does this work 100% of the time: NO! But, if we make it the goal then slowly it does work for us. Then we start the day over again at the wake time.
Here are some charts that help see the pattern we try as we increase their awake and sleep time. And as you will see there are many different patterns and charts so the goal is to pick one that works for you and your baby. I know now from having 4 babies that each one will do it a little different and that is GREAT!
Here are some for 6 weeks:
- This one is 7 am to 10 pm – we have done this so far with Jesse and are slowing getting to 7 pm
- Here is one that includes a dream feed, which we have done with the boys
Here are some for 3 plus months old:
This are some outlines that show you where you are going next:
- Here is a great outline for up to 2 years
- Here is a great outline through 6 months with the saying EASY (Eat, Activity/Awake, Sleep, Your time)
As you can see there are so many, I personally think when I was figuring out what worked for us, I read through a million. I would encourage anyone trying to figure out what works for them to read through some ideas and see what fits your family.
The whole reason we sleep train is so that as a family we will work together. It has been so great for me to know when I will get one-on-one time with each kid based on when Jesse, our newborn, will be resting or when my older kids will be in quiet time. It allows me to know when I will have time to make food, read books or clean without a newborn interruption. (Does it work 100% of the time, NO! But it has given me so much sanity!) Other ways we work together is the kids all get the REST they NEED! From newborn to 4 years old, all the kids benefit from REST, and the right amount of rest! Life happens and when the kids don’t get the rest they need, I CAN TELL! Haha!
Lastly, I have heard so many times, “how do you even have time with your husband, with 4 kids!?” (Well, I want to say obviously we have enough time to make 4 kids happen 😉 BUT instead I explain that with sleep training, Darren and I get from 7:00 pm on together, and truly have enjoyed that so much! It is our time and we get to do so many things together, while all our kids sleep in their rooms. We have even worked out a dating system with some dear friends who also have similar bed times. Where we put our kids down for bed here at the house, they send their beautiful wife/momma over and she hangs here at the house, watching movies, reading, whatever she wants, while we get to go out to dinner (WITHOUT PAYING an arm and a leg for baby-sitting… can you say FREE!). Then we switch and another time of the month I go there and get to watch a movie or show or read. It has really worked for us!
I am happy to answers questions best I can, but what it boils down to is DO WHAT WORKS BEST for your family, by molding together ideas, working as a parenting team and be commitment to trying what you decide. It is easy to give up but commit to your idea and give it a try!
Last comment: EVERYTHING we do as parents, we should do in love! I heard a sweet friend talk to me about when she was sleep training they felt like they didn’t have a connection or bond with their baby and while sleep training (with the baby wise method) she and her husband felt like they were digging a deeper divide with their baby. SO PLEASE STOP if that happens, and most important in all of this is loving our babies!
Please leave a comment with date ideas to be done in the house! (after kids are in bed) Can’t wait to hear your ideas 🙂