Disclaimer: I am sharing my personal experience. This is what worked best for us. Every family and situation is unique. Only you know what’s best for you and your baby.
If you told me a little over a month ago that I would have a 5 month old baby that slept 7-7 and took two solid 2-hour naps a day I would have laughed in your face. By the time Marin was a month old I was desperate for longer stretches of sleep at night, so we started Moms on Call. I loved the routine and having a schedule to follow. I felt like I was prepared, but as the months went on I wasn’t seeing progress, and by the time she was 4 months old we were going backwards. She wasn’t napping well, if at all, and her night sleep was getting worse. I was at a breaking point, Craig and I were fighting because we were so exhausted and Marin was cranky because she was tired too. I felt lost, frustrated and tired.
This is one of those times where I really love Instagram. Sam (Could I Have That) was talking about having trouble with transitioning Lila out of the swaddle (Lila is about 2 weeks older than Marin) and mentioned getting some help from Tiffany. I immediately sent her a DM (pretty sure it was 1 or 2am as I was awake for the second or third time that night). Sam introduced me to Tiffany and what happened next changed our life. Tiffany hopped on a call with me, talked through my current schedule and gave me a game plan to get started. The first few days and nights were really hard (Tiffany also helped me get Craig to buy in, he wasn’t convinced and I needed him on board for it to work). In less than a week Marin was sleeping 7-7 with two 2-hours naps a day.
I truthfully didn’t think it was possible (and Craig will be the first to admit he didn’t either). I could not have done it without Tiffany’s guidance. She gave me the tools and the confidence I needed. Now I know if there’s a setback she is there to help us get through it. We are all so much happier.
I received a lot of questions about sleep training and Tiffany graciously offered to share some of her advice. Read on for her answers to your most frequently asked questions. She is a wealth of knowledge and I am incredibly grateful for her time (much of this advice helped us get to our current sleep schedule). If you are interested in working with Tiffany you can get in touch with her here.
Sleep Training Questions and Answers
When Can You Start Sleep Training?
The answer is “as soon as possible!” If you are pregnant, start when you bring the baby home, and start an eat, play, sleep routine. You are not “sleep training” from the beginning of life, but the first few weeks you are creating a consistent routine. If the baby is over 7 lbs, gaining healthy weight, and cleared as healthy by your pediatrician, get babe on a 3-hour feed schedule from the beginning. If you have a few week old little baby or a few month old baby, start now. And if your baby is 6 months or older, start now. The older your baby is, the more stubborn your baby is and set in their habits.
It doesn’t matter the age, the younger the better to start a routine. Once your baby is 6-8 weeks old and has gained healthy weight, you can start slowly pushing the baby through the night (with a slow and gradual wean off of feeds).
How Do You Handle the Pacifier Problem (keeps popping out and waking baby up)?
If I had a penny for every time a mom said, “My baby sleeps through the night, but wakes for the pacifier every night/early am/multiple times a night,” I would have a lot of pennies! When will this horrible pacifier cycle stop? The answer is…when you stop going in and putting the pacifier in baby’s mouth, then the baby will then stop waking up for the pacifier. Easier said than done, right?!
Isn’t the pacifier meant to help soothe your baby?! I thought the pacifier is meant to help your baby sleep better, right?! Instead, this pacifier is driving me nuts and we are both waking up multiple times a night, or waking up way too early before the sun gets up. As part of our bedtime and nap time routine, we give our baby a pacifier to help go to sleep, as a sleep prop/routine. But as we all sit on edge, guessing and waiting in anticipation what time we will wake up to that darn paci falling out. This pacifier is becoming a thorn in my side, but I want her to go back to sleep and I know the pacifier will do just that. But I know, it is going to fall out again!
Sound familiar?! Well, hopefully this gives you insight. Babies sleep in 45-minute sleep cycles, so when your baby hits the 45 min sleep transition mark (we all know this dreadful 45 min intruder at nap time), your baby is in a light sleep, about to transition into the next sleep cycle. Instead of allowing your baby to transition on its own into the next sleep cycle, you rush in and pop that pacifier back in its mouth in fear of not going back to sleep. At that 45 min intruder mark, your baby has not learned to soothe back to sleep on its own yet. Because of this, your baby is depending on that pacifier to go back in during this light sleep state, almost an awake transition zone.
So you ask, when will he stop this vicious cycle, the answer is, he won’t until you stop. This annoying pacifier cycle happens between 2-4 months, give or take until they can find their own pacifier by themselves around 6-9 months, or until you stop going in. So the next question is, how do I stop?
For one, you need to stop going in and saving the awful pacifier spitting out cycle. Just leave your baby to let cry back to sleep and he will figure it out in 3-5 days to go back to sleep. If this is not your cup of tea of crying back to sleep, then you need to wait until the 6-9-month period when baby can figure out how to pop the paci back in (maybe throw 5 paci’s in the crib, for multiple chances), and keep popping it in for your baby until he learns this skill.
Do what is comfortable for you and your family. So either just bite down and suffer 3-5 days of crying back to sleep, or be ok with a few more months of going in and popping the paci back in your baby’s mouth, with no solid sleep and consistent short catnaps.
When you are ready, your goal is for the baby to sleep by itself and not dependent on you to sleep.
How Do I know if my baby is hungry or just needs to learn to self soothe?
It depends on the age of your babe. If your babe is a newborn to 6-8 weeks of age, and wakes less than 3 hours during the day, then he needs to self soothe back to sleep. If after 2 – 3 months old and wakes less than 3 hrs, then your babe also needs to self soothe. Then if over 4 months of age, and wakes less than 4 hrs during the day, then your babe needs to self soothe back to sleep. If over the age of 12 weeks and eating every 3 hrs, gaining an ounce a day, then your babe no longer needs to eat at night and needs to self soothe back to sleep.
Any Advice for When Grandparents Won’t Follow Nap Rules?
If grandparents are just watching babe here or there, something that is not often, then you can tell grandma/grandpa what to do, but if they don’t listen, it’s ok and just get back to routine the next day. Not worth messing with your relationship over an afternoon babysit here and there. It’s more of grandma’s loss if she gets a crying baby and the baby isn’t hungry, grandma will have to deal with walking a crying babe around the house. Let her deal and you can get babe back on routine later in the day or tomorrow.
If grandma is going to be part of consistent care taking, then that may need to be discussed in further detail or sit down and explain how this is important to you, even if they don’t agree. It will help everyone to explain expectations in the beginning instead of being let down or ruin a relationship, when it wasn’t communicated in the beginning. If they don’t want to comply, or you feel that it will ruin your relationship, then it may be worth hiring someone that will.
How Do You Get Baby To Sleep Later (for those doing 3/4/5am wake-up)?
It depends on the age of the babe. If the babe is waking up as a newborn – 8 week old (and gaining healthy weight weekly), the babe may still need that 3-5am feed. If after 8 weeks of age (and healthy weight gain), the babe needs to learn how to self soothe back to sleep in the early am hours.
Should Naps Look Different from Night Sleep (black out shades, noise machine, swaddle, etc)?
Naps and night time sleep are fine to look the same. During the day, you will FEED, PLAY, and the SLEEP. At bedtime and during the night, the babe will be FED to sleep without any PLAY time. This is what will look different. Black out shades, noise machine and swaddle are great for day time naps and night time sleep.
How Much Crying Should You Expect?
In sleep training, it really depends on the age. But in general, the first 5-7 days are the hardest and then it tapers off. We are not letting the baby cry all night. It is a guided crying to sleep, with given feed times. Each night the feed times change, and each night the cries change. But about 5 nights in (give or take), baby catches on to the start of self soothing. In the beginning, cries can start around 45 min crying to sleep, and soon will get less and less.
MY BABY SLEPT GREAT AND THEN HIT 4 MONTHS +/-, and now is an awful sleeper, what do I do?
Some babies naturally sleep well and then hit the 4 month +/- mark. There are a few things going on. There are different wonder weeks during infancy. Around the 4-month mark, between 15-20 weeks, the baby’s brain is developing at a quick pace. During these weeks, there are new skills the baby is learning. While the baby is asleep during REM sleep, during the 4-month wonder week (can fall between 15-20 weeks +/- a few weeks), babies wake up easier.
What ends up happening during these weeks, if baby was sleeping well, mom goes in and feeds baby to get baby back to sleep. Now, the next night, the same thing happens and mom goes in and feeds baby back to sleep. Now baby and mom have created a new sleep and feed habit that the baby was not doing prior these weeks. If you haven’t hit this yet, let your babe fuss or cry back to sleep when he has hit the 4-month sleep regression. Always ok to go and check on your baby, but if nothing is wrong, then let baby fall back to sleep on their own.
During this hiccup of the 4-month regression, keep sleep routine the same. If you are still on a 3-hour feed cycle and your baby is 4 months old, switch to a 4-hour feed cycle during the day. The baby will take in more ounces per feed and have longer stretches of awake time during the day. Also make sure the baby has a good sleep environment, the right temperature and a sound machine is helpful to sleep more deeply to make it through the random REM light sleep wake ups.
When your babe does wake up at night during this 4-month sleep regression, leave your babe to fuss back to sleep on his own, and in less than a week, your babe will be sleeping soundly again.
MY BABY TAKES SHORT NAPS; how do they learn to take longer naps?
Your baby may have been sleeping like an angel for its first few weeks of life and now no more. Depending on the age of your baby, it could be a few things. With my sleep training clients, it is usually an easy fix. Once a newborn gets out of their “sleepy newborn state,” they wake up to the world. This means, they are more awake and alert to their surroundings. This usually happens between 2-5 weeks of age. I tell my sleep training clients they have a few options.
First, you can go into their room, try to pacify your baby back to sleep. Some babies will easily do this. Some won’t. And some need to be held for a few minutes, shh shh patting their back, while others need to be sat with for 10-20 min to go back to sleep. Babies sleep in 45 min sleep cycles and we are teaching them to go back to sleep to continue on their own. Once we teach them this, they will learn to soothe themselves back to sleep.
This can get frustrating at times when you have more than one child at home, trying to teach the new baby to go back to sleep, while your other child is peeping in, yelling for you or playing loudly in the hallway while you are trying to put your baby back to sleep. Another option is to let your baby cry back to sleep during their nap. This can be painful for mommy and daddy to hear, but this is not painful for the baby. It is their way of soothing back to sleep. Once practiced crying back to sleep for their nap, be consistent at each nap at home. This can be an easy fix, roughly about 3-7 days, give or take a few.
Turn your TV on loud, put a load of laundry in, turn your music up, do a workout app or go outside and bring your monitor (on silent) and water the yard or read a book. You know your baby will be fed soon, so it is not a hunger issue. Let your baby be and they will figure it out on their own how to go back to sleep…even if it’s off and on crying for 15-45 min. If your baby is just waking early from their nap, sometimes your baby may need 5-10 more or less minutes of awake time, which may be an easy fix as well.
Just don’t get caught in one-day pacifying, one day crying it out back to sleep, and the next day holding the baby rest of the nap. Just be consistent in whatever you do, and give it about 2 weeks of being consistent, to start to see some success.