If your baby is over 5 months and has doubled their birth weight, you could be ready to start sleep training!
DO NOT try to sleep train a baby that is less than 3 months old. They NEED to eat every couple of hours. Their tummies are too tiny to hold enough food to last through the night. Also, you cannot SPOIL a new born, it is impossible. The first 3 months, baby needs lots of TLC, cuddling, feeding, and soothing.
The most popular method of sleep training is the Ferber Method, also known as the “cry it out” method. Let me be clear, the point of “cry it out” is not to make your baby cry, it’s to make them sleep. Some parents believe this can be emotionally damaging to a child. The results of a 6 year study came out HERE in the last few months, which prove it is totally fine to let your baby cry for small amounts of time while providing occasional comfort. In other words, your baby isn’t going to grow up and have mental anguish because you didn’t pick him or her up when they cried when it was time to sleep.
The whole point of sleep training is to teach the baby how to self sooth. They can’t learn the skill unless you give them an opportunity to. Up until sleep training, all they know is how to fall asleep with mom’s help. Something you need to be aware of before you start this is that it can be very hard hearing your baby cry, and you may change your mind after a few minutes. My advice to you: DON’T ! consistency is key. It takes about 3-4 nights (pearl learned in 2).
My doctor told me to start sleep training at 4 months. I didn’t feel right about it, so I opted to wait till she was 6 months. I wish I had started at 5 months.
Let me tell you about how I realized Pearl was ready to sleep through the night.
Just over a week ago, Pearl was waking up several times during the night hollering because she spit out her pacifier and wanted me to come put it back in. Sometimes, that wouldn’t even do the trick. She wanted to eat, be rocked, etc. I started realizing, “hey, she uses her hands during the day to put her pacifier back in her mouth, so why can’t she do it herself at night?” She can roll over, play with her toys, and she’s eating plenty during the day. On the night of October 30th, I did our usual routine of bath time, storybook reading, swaddling, feeding, and rocking to sleep. She fell asleep at 7:30 p.m., and I put her in her crib. She woke up crying and did not want her pacifier. She wanted a bottle. I knew she was big enough to sleep the whole night without eating, she just wanted to be soothed.
I put the pacifier back in her mouth, leaned over, put my cheek to her cheek, whispered (do not use your regular talking voice) in her ear that mommy was here and it was time to go to sleep. Then, I patted her on the back for a good 1-2 minutes. She continued to sob.
At first, you want to go in the room every 3-4 minutes and repeat that same process. Patting on the back, whispering in the ear, and assuring them that they are safe. Make sure their favorite pacifier, or sleep cuddle toy is in their reach.
After 20 minutes of entering the room every 3-4 minutes, you want to stretch out your time to 7 minutes, then 10 minutes. We gradually want to increase the time between going to the baby’s aid. Whatever it takes, do not pick the baby up and rock them or else you’re just wasting all of that effort you put in. I’ve heard of babies crying for 2 hours MAXIMUM.
Pearl cried for 45 minutes, then went back to sleep, finally. She slept till 8 am WITHOUT WAKING. Something she’s NEVER done.
The next night, I put her down at 7:30 pm. Two and a half hours later, at 10 p.m., she started crying. I went into her room and looked down at her. She was laying in what appeared to be a really comfortable position, so I knew it wouldn’t be long. I was WRONG. She cried for an hour and a half! The crib sheets were wet with tears. Every time I went in to assure her she was ok, I would just scoot her body down out of the wet spots (a great technique if you don’t want babies head to be all wet). She fell asleep after that, and then slept till 4 am. When she woke up at 4, I said, “ok maybe she’s really hungry now.” I went to get her bottle, and by the time I got to the end of the hall she had fallen back asleep.
So, If you want to start by gradually offering a bottle or breast the second time they wake (if it’s closer to dawn), that’s ok AT FIRST. I don’t recommend it. I have a friend who did it and it took twice as long to sleep train. I say just get it out of the way in a few days. If they wake up again around 4 am, continue to let them cry it out.
So, the THIRD night, I put Pearl down at 7:30 p.m. She slept till 9 am without waking once. She has continued to do the same thing every night after that so far! I am no longer sleep deprived and it’s wonderful.
Make sure baby eats well during the day to reduce your anxiety about whether or not they are hungry. Remember, this is for their own good! They will sleep better and be much more happy
Mentally prepare yourself by saying, “Ok, my baby is big enough to sleep through the night. It is not beneficial for me or my baby to keep waking up during the night because neither of us are getting a good night’s rest. In a few days, my child will sleep through the night, and we will be much happier.”