Sleep training—my top tips

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that we’ve really struggled with sleep. We reached breaking point in January—Jacob was still waking at least 3 times a night to breastfeed, not wanting to sleep in his cot, not wanting to sleep anywhere unless he was touching me and generally exhausting me and my husband. We started sleep training in early February and *touch wood* it seems to have been a success for us! I’m now getting at least a 7-hour stretch of sleep a night, which seemed absolutely impossible a couple of months ago. For those of you in the same boat and considering sleep training, here are my tips.

Move baby to their own room

I’d strongly advise moving baby to their own room before attempting sleep training. I tried it once with Jacob still sleeping in our room. It didn’t work. He could smell me, probably see me, and was just hysterical that I was ignoring him.

It is hard to hear your baby cry, but it’ll be ok

One thing I must confess. It is hard to hear your baby cry. The first night, I nearly caved in when we had an hour of crying at 1am. We were following The Blissful Baby Expert book routine (check out my review), which advocates timed comforting. This is basically a slightly gentler version of controlled crying. As the key to sleep training is teaching  babies to self-soothe, they have to be put in their cot awake. If they have been used to being fed or cuddled or rocked to sleep, they will obviously protest at this. The routine we followed recommends patting baby’s bottom and shushing for 30 seconds, then leaving the room for 2 minutes. If they are still crying, go back in and pat and shush again for 30 seconds, then leave the room for 4 minutes. This is repeated, if necessary, but next time you should leave the room for 6 minutes, then 8, then 10. If baby is still crying at 10 minutes, then you keep the intervals at 10 minutes—never go higher. We have only actually got to 10 minutes once, on that first night!

It’s important you and your partner are on the same page. It’s no good if one of you is likely to crack. You need to support each other.

Although I obviously hate hearing Jacob cry, I’ve decided to look at it from a different point of view. Sleep is really important for children. By teaching them to sleep better you are setting them up for a lifetime of better health. I’ve read loads recently about chronically sleep deprived children and how it’s impacting their schooling and potentially their health. So although it is hard at first, it will be worth it in the long run.

Do not crack (unless they seem ill or to be teething)

We made this mistake once. He was taking a while to settle, we were tired, so we just let him in our bed. It took us a couple of days of being strict again to get him back to sleeping in his cot all night. There are exceptions to this: if baby seems ill or generally in pain, they won’t self-soothe. We’ve had some nights with lots of wake ups—I assume it was teething pain—and I didn’t leave him to cry because he seemed really upset. Those nights I gave him some teething gel, a cuddle and, on bad nights, some ibuprofen.

Things improve quickly

Although it was hard, things did improve quickly. On day 4 we had a 6-hour stretch of sleep. Now, we regularly get a stretch of sleep from 10.30pm until 6am, sometimes even 7am! It is amazing. To manage that, we are still waking him for a bottle at 10pm, just to make sure he isn’t waking up hungry in the middle of the night. Soon, I’ll attempt to see if we can drop that feed and get him to sleep through from 7pm until 6/7am!

If they wake up, give them a minute to self-soothe

One of my biggest tips, and the thing that really helped us get baby sleeping through the night, is to stop rushing in to soothe as soon as they wake up. I started leaving it for a minute or two, and 9 times out of 10, he’d go straight back to sleep again. I didn’t even get out of bed! He now rarely wakes up in the middle of the night, unless his routine is disrupted.

Daytime naps (and routine in general) seem to be key

Routine is not something I am a massive fan of. However, it has worked for us. Jacob has 3 naps during the day—a short morning nap, a long lunchtime nap, and a short afternoon nap. If he misses these naps, often he will wake in the night crying. I think it’s because he’s over-tired and over-tired babies find it harder to soothe themselves. I do find having a routine a bit restrictive, but it has been worth it. It’s a trade-off really. Flexibility versus sleep. Sleep has won for me so far!

Have you tried sleep training? How did it go?

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16 Comments

  1. March 12, 2017 / 7:57 pm

    I absolutely agree with all of these!! We did sleep training for our first, the Ferber method (99% to what you did … the longest interval was 12m), and it worked wonders in 4 nights! YOu are so right that sleep begets sleep – naps are SO important. Good luck on it staying – I’m sure it will because you seem to be doing it correctly and lovingly.

    • Kelly
      March 14, 2017 / 8:54 pm

      Glad it worked for you too! Thanks for your comment!

  2. March 14, 2017 / 9:14 am

    Oh it it so hard but glad you are getting somewhere. We now have a difficult nearly 4 year old to content with and a whole host of new techniques are required! #bigpinklink

  3. March 14, 2017 / 9:16 am

    Oh it is so hard but glad you have made good progress. We now have a nearly 4 year old and a whole host of new techniques seem to be required! #bigpinbklink

    • Kelly
      March 14, 2017 / 8:49 pm

      Eek! I hope you get some sleep soon.

  4. March 14, 2017 / 8:10 pm

    We tried sleep training and it wasn’t for us but know a couple of families who have had real success. #TriumphantTales

    • Kelly
      March 14, 2017 / 8:48 pm

      It’s not for everyone. I think Jacob was pretty receptive to it, which helped a lot!

  5. March 14, 2017 / 9:16 pm

    I would love to start some training with our son but my husband is working on night shifts and it’s impossible for him to fighting with little one to put him sleep in his own cot
    #DreamTeam

  6. March 15, 2017 / 2:26 pm

    My daughter is 2 and a half now and still wakes several times a night. I’ve tried everything… maybe one of these days I’ll get some sleep zzzz ha #TriumphantTales

  7. March 16, 2017 / 10:39 am

    So glad the sleep training is working for you and how amazing you are getting decent sleep again! We sleep trained Leo at about 9months and it was so hard. He always fed to sleep and was still wanting a breastfeeding in the night, I was exhausted so we gave it a go. By day 5 he was sleeping 7 to 7 it was amazing! Although it’s hard it is worth it and if I need to I will be doing the same with Alex when he’s a bit older xx #coolmumclub

  8. March 16, 2017 / 11:16 am

    Great tips it is so hard to hear them cry I remember being beside myself but you’re right things improve so quickly…even as fast as the second night and thank goodness for that too! Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xoxo

  9. thismumslife
    March 17, 2017 / 10:58 am

    These are all fab tips! I think all of them are important, but especially just leaving them for a minute or two, to put themselves back to sleep, is very important. I was very lucky with mine, with night time sleep-they didn’t much like daytime sleep, but both of them were pretty good at night, so we didn’t need to do sleep training, but I’ve often heard that a consistent approach works really quickly!
    Thanks for linking to #bigpinklink

  10. March 18, 2017 / 11:00 pm

    Oh you poor things – but I’m so pleased you’ve had success with this. I was lucky in that Little Man was quite good. we got him into a routine really early and it worked. These are great tips though. Thanks so much for sharing them and linking up to #TriumphantTales. We’d love to have you back next week.

  11. March 19, 2017 / 9:00 pm

    Fingers crossed your sleep training is going well. We haven’t done this, but wish we had. Sleep is such a mind field. Thanks for sharing with the #DreamTeam x

  12. March 20, 2017 / 1:05 pm

    These are brilliant tips and some we do already. I dont know if its because we did a strict routine from the day he came home from hospital (a week old) or if it was just luck but Ben sleeps between 10-12 hours every night plus two naps most days. I do agree with the not cracking tip. Hubby hates hearing Ben cry and is the soft touch. So on the odd occasion this happens, I have to get angry at him to make him stop going upstairs to get Ben out of the cot! Its hard but it means Ben sleeps like a dream.
    Thank you so much for linking up to #TriumphantTales, I hope to see you again tomorrow!

  13. March 29, 2017 / 1:28 pm

    We did sleep training with both of our kids and it really does work wonders. As you say, those first few nights are horrible, and heartbreaking, and every fibre of your being wants to rush in and scoop them up into your arms… but in just 2 or 3 days, they understand! And they sleep! And it’s fab!

    It’s so important that everyone gets a good night’s sleep, and I think this is a really helpful, honest, informative account.

    #blogcrush

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