A Guide to… Sleep Training

Background

Having had a baby who slept for most of the day in his first 4 months and was sleeping through the night by 5 months, our second child was a bit of a shock to the system. She was born almost 2 weeks past her due date and came out very alert, she must have maxed out on newborn sleep while still in the womb!

Her night sleep started well, waking generally once for a feed until around 12 weeks when she became really unsettled. Daytime naps were not something that seemed to interest her, sometimes only having one or two a day. She also had reflux and spent a lot of the time being very uncomfortable. I introduced a dummy quite early on, around 2 weeks as she was gaining weight and had taken well to breastfeeding. She was feeding a lot for comfort but it was actually making her then feel worse and projectile vomiting became the norm.

At around 12 weeks she started waking every 1-2 hours and was very unsettled. I quickly got into a cycle of feeding her to sleep and bringing her into bed in the early hours of the morning just to get some sleep!

I’m not sure if this was the 4 month sleep regression setting in early or a result of her vaccinations but it continued until 20 weeks when I decided something needed to change. Sleep deprivation was effecting my mood and motivation and the thought of a day alone with our baby and toddler filled me with dread.

Research

I’ve always been big on routine and read various books including:

  • Your Baby Week by Week by Dr Caroline Fertleman & Simone Cave – This is the book I buy friends who are having their first baby, it guides you through each week for the first 6 months including required sleep, naps, feeds, nappies, development, health appointments and common illnesses.
  • 7pm-7am Sleeping Baby Routine by Charmain Mead – This book made me realise that hunger wasn’t the only reason my baby was crying. I started focusing on a nap routine and ensuring a good long feed every 3 hours during the day rather than constant snacking which was making her sick. I liked that this book was a bit more geared towards breastfeeding than the Sensational Baby Sleep plan and gives advice on gradually reducing feeds at night.
  • The Sensational Baby Sleep Plan by Alison Scott-Wright – I saw a few people mention this book, which focusses on getting your baby to self soothe between sleep cycles. As with the Sleeping Baby routine this book emphasises the importance of a nap schedule to ensure your baby is getting enough day sleep.

I also researched ‘The Ferber Method’ which was recommended by a friend. This method involves leaving your baby for gradually increased periods of time before comforting them.

I quickly realised that all of these methods shared certain themes:

  • Baby sleeps in their own cot (preferably in their own room)
  • Implement a bedtime routine as early as possible.
  • Implement a daytime nap schedule to ensure baby is having enough sleep and isn’t overtired for bed
  • Do not dream feed when you go to bed
  • Do not go to them the second they wake up (sometimes they will go back to sleep on their own)
  • Ensure baby is gaining weight well and isn’t unwell before starting any sleep training
  • Reassure baby without picking them up when they cry
  • Aim for no feeds during the night (if baby is gaining weight and is not unwell)

They also all advise not to use a dummy as it prevent them from self settling. I ignored this bit as I found it a useful tool for my eldest. I just replace the dummy when I go in to reassure her if she has lost it.

Bedtime routine

We started her bedtime routine very early as I was already doing bath and story every night for her brother so it made sense to pop them in together. Her bedtime routine is now as follows:

  • Bath
  • Dressed for bed in her dimly lit bedroom
  • Story with her brother
  • Lullaby’s on the Alexa during last feed
  • White noise on and bed

Sleep Training Day 1

I followed Alison’s advice and cleared my diary for the first few days to ensure I could focus on daytime naps in her cot when possible. I also asked my Mum to have our toddler overnight so I wasn’t worried about him being disturbed if she cried. I got her to have 3 naps on Day 1, 2 in her cot. She resisted and took quite a few reassurance visits at first. I didn’t follow set time periods to offer reassurance, just listened and followed my instincts.

Night 1 she was in her own room and woke 5 times which was not surprising as this was pretty normal for her. What was surprising was how quickly she went back to sleep without being fed. It generally took 2 reassurance visits but she was asleep within about 10 minutes each time. At 04:35 I decided to feed her as I was feeling like I might explode and felt like reducing feeds from 4-5 a night to none was unfair. She woke up on her own at 7:20am.

Day 2

Daytime naps didn’t go as well on day 2, her first at 9am was fine in her cot but then she fell asleep at midday for 10 mins in the pram and refused to settle for a lunch nap. She then slept for 1hr 40mins at 3pm so her total daytime sleep was still good.

Night 2 went much better than night 1, 3 awake periods lasting about 5 mins each and only 1 reassurance visit required each time. Again I fed her at around 4:30am. This time she slept until 8am when I woke her up.

Day 3

Daytime naps on day 3 had to happen on the move due to various appointments. nap 1 – 10-11am in pram, nap 2 – 2.15-3:05pm at Grandparents – Nap 3 – 20 mins in the car on the way home from a friends at 6pm (not ideal).

She was a bit more unsettled going to sleep on night 3 as she was so overtired (4 reassurance visits) but once asleep it went really well. She woke for 5 minutes at 2:30 then slept until 6:30, no night feeds!

Summary

For 20 weeks old I am really happy with the progress we made over 3 days. I’ll keep focusing on daytime naps and hopefully she will be sleeping through the night soon! Until the next regression that is…

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