Warning: extremely long post. Other sleep deprived mamas may appreciate our experience.
There were nights that I thought I'd never sleep again.
Until my son was 9 months old he rarely slept more than 4 hours at a time. After getting up to nurse him it would take me about 30 minutes to fall back asleep again, so his 2-3 wakings a night meant I was running on fumes.
Before having a baby I didn't think I could let my child cry it out. How hard is it to just go comfort your child when they are upset?
If only it were that easy!
Sleeping patterns prior to sleep training
Around 9 months we started a cry-it-out approach to get little man to fall asleep in the crib on his own. It's been a very long, slow, progression getting him into his crib. Here's his history;
- 0-5 months slept in his rock-n-play next to our bed
- 5-8 months slept in a swing in his room. The swing was never on, but it was slightly inclined.
- 8-9 months slept in his crib, but it took forever to get him to fall asleep. I do not miss those nights.
We had a few habits we needed to break; sleeping in his swing, being nursed to sleep, and night wakings. He was also napping only on me after nursing.
When we first put him in the crib I put a pillow under the crib on one end, and rolled up a towel into a 'U' shape and put it under his sheet. This 'cradled' him and had him at a slight incline to mimic the swing. It helped. A little. Looking back I would rather just throw him in there and let him CIO all at once.
After a few weeks we realized he liked sleeping on his stomach better, so we took the towel and pillow out of the crib and he started sleeping longer stretches. It still took almost an hour to get him to fall asleep since we were putting him in the crib awake which is what all the sleep experts on google were telling me to do. By nursing him to sleep we were teaching him that he needed the boob to sleep, so every time he woke up during the night he'd want to nurse again to get back to sleep.
Our CIO approach
I read all the horrible studies on letting babies CIO. How it permanently alters their brains from the high cortisol. I read many more studies that found no differences with kids who were left to CIO. I researched many different methods and almost all of them said by night 3 the babies were putting themselves to sleep within minutes.
Not our kid.
It took five very, very, long nights before we could put him in the crib wide awake and he'd fall asleep on his own. Our approach was to let him cry for about 10 minutes, go in and check on him (less than 1 minute and just verbal reassurance we were there if he needed us but it was time to go to sleep) and go in and check every 15 min after that if need be. Sometimes he'd wake up and just fuss, so we wouldn't count that time. We'd start the 10 min time once he was truly crying.
Here are the notes I took on those nights:
- 6/10. Put in crib awake at 7. Checked at 7:20, on my way up to check again 7:30 and he became quiet. Fell asleep a few min later.
- Woke up at 11:30, nursed, went right to sleep.
- Woke up at 2, checked on him after 5 min, went to sleep a few min later.
- 6/11, put in crib at 7:15. Fell asleep after 12 min of fussing.
- Woke up at 8:30. Alternated between crying and fussing for 25 min. Checked. Waited 10 min. Checked again. Fell asleep 3 min later.
- Woke up at 10:10. Checked at 10:17. Fell asleep 10 min later.
- Woke up at 1:50, nursed, went right back to sleep
- Woke up at 5:20, nursed, went back to sleep for an hour
- 6/12, fell asleep nursing, put in crib 6:40 and immediately crying, checked at 6:50. Checked at 7:00. Asleep 12 min later.
- Woke up at 8. Cried for 8 min, checked. Fell asleep five minutes later.
- Woke up at 10:30, nursed. Right back to sleep.
- Woke at 1:18. Checked at 1:23, poopy diaper so I changed him. Asleep 8 min later.
- Up at 5. Nursed. Right back to sleep.
- Up at 6:45.
- 6/13. In bed at 7:07 immediately crying. Checked at 7:17. Asleep at 7:23.
- Woke up at 9:44, checked at 9:50. Checked at 10:02, fell asleep immediately after.
- Woke up at 1:40, nursed. Right back to sleep.
- Woke up at 4, went back to sleep.
- Woke up at 5:30, nursed, went back to sleep for an hour.
- 6/14 on bed 7:16. Immediate crying/fussing. Asleep at 7:26.
- Up at 9:10. Fussed. Fell asleep 5 min later.
- Up at 10:20. Fussed. Back to sleep.
- Up at 11:45. Nursed, right back to sleep
- Up at 2:30. Fussed. Asleep at 2:40.
- Up at 6:45.
- 6/15 in bed at 7:30, fell asleep IMMEDIATELY
- Up at 5!! Nursed. Slept until 7:30