Sleep Training Survival: 10 Helpful Tips
Sleep training. We have a love-hate relationship. I love it when it’s taken care of, but I hate being the one to take care of it. If there was ever a time I wish I could pull out a Magic Mommy Wand, it would be at sleep training time. Us moms need sleep too. And after 12 months of co-sleeping and lackluster attempts to suck it up, we finally succeeded in getting Jax to sleep through the night in his crib! Our little man had to be sleep trained or I was going to lose it. I knew I wanted to successfully get him to sleep in his own room before he was able to crawl out of his crib, so the transition to a big boy bed would be that much easier! We did it. I don’t need a wand, or a medal or anything because I get the best present I could ask for – a full night’s sleep. Six hours counts as a full night, BTW.
And now, we’ve recently moved him into his big boy bed since he’s turned 2! Okay, so he’s still in his crib, but we turned it into a ‘daybed’ which is basically a toddler bed. We were waiting until he could crawl out of his crib, but he’s on the smaller side, so Chris and I figured 2 years was long enough to wait. He did SO well – I was so impressed. And it got me thinking back to our sleep training days, and how difficult those were. Having had successfully sleep trained two kids now, I wanted to write my 10 tips to help you survive sleep training – because it’s a doozy!
Choose Method Of Sleep Training
The method that worked best for us with Jax was the Cry It Out method. I’m sorry, I know I’ll get a lot of frowns for that, but it’s the truth. And I am always really honest with you guys. It wasn’t what I had planned, and definitely wasn’t my first choice by any means. Motherhood hardly ever listens to what I want to do…if it did, I would have two girls and no under eye circles, ha!
Things were different with my first born, Max. He slept through the night from 6 months on (by some miracle), and the transfer from crib to toddler bed was easy and seamless. Every child is different, and needs a different method. Consider yourself lucky if one thing ends up working for all your kids – we will induct you into the Mom Hall Of Fame – until then, take some notes. And know that whatever method you choose needs to be comfortable and consistent for both you and your partner.
Here are a few common sleep training practices:
- CIO (Cry-It Out) – For this sleep training method, you place your baby in their crib, leave the room, and allow them to cry until they fall asleep. Most parents can start this method as early as 4 months old.*
*It’s important to note that with this method, you should consider whether your baby is truly ready to sleep through the night. If your little one is upset from being wet or needing to eat, then CIO isn’t going to work for them. Your baby’s crying should be because they don’t want to fall asleep in the crib alone (which is safest), not because they are hungry.
- Chair Method – After placing your baby in their crib, sit down in a chair next to their crib until they fall asleep. Do not look, touch, or talk to your baby (all that’s needed is your presence). Your goal is to simply reassure them that you are there. Each night, you will gradually move your chair further away from your baby’s crib until you are outside of the room. By the time your chair is out of the room, your baby shouldn’t need you there any longer to fall asleep.
- Ferber Method – In this method, you will place your baby in their crib and let them cry, but coming back in the room to check on them and console them. Consoling should only last about 2-3 minutes. You should let the stretch of time between consoling grow by 5 minutes each time so you are allowing them to cry for a longer period before checking on them. This method allows your baby to understand that while they are in the room and upset, you are still there. It’s a softer approach to CIO.
- Pick Up Put Down Method – This method requires you to comfort and console your baby each time they fuss in their crib until they grow drowsy, and then place them back in their crib to sleep. You will repeat this process until they are finally asleep – all night long. This one requires a ton of patience.
- Fading Out Method – This method has you gradually fade out the work you put into getting your baby to sleep. Once you are in the nursery, you will shorten the amount of time you spend (or limit the activities) you do before placing your baby down for the night. For instance, if you rock your baby to sleep each night, you will gradually shorten the amount of time you rock them before placing them in their crib. Or, if you read a story together, and then sing a song, you would shorten the time of these activities or nix one/both of them completely in time.
Consider your child’s personality, needs, and age before trying out this whole sleep training biz. It’s no joke, and it takes a lot of patience and hard work to achieve. Unless you are incredibly lucky like we were the first time around. Remember that just because you think a method will work for your little one doesn’t mean it will, and you should be prepared to consider another method of sleep training if that’s what your little one needs.
You might attempt one method and realize it isn’t for you or your family – and that’s okay! The goal is to help them sleep in their own bed, in their own room. You’ll land on something that works
Any sleep training method takes patience (especially if you’ve been co-sleeping – take it from me). Try to understand the big change your little one is going through as they adjust to falling asleep on their own, within their own space. Consistency is key, as any new routine you develop will most likely be fought against by your child especially as they get older. Just keep trucking, mama, you’ve got this.
Ask For Help
Ask your partner for help with sleep training! You need help establishing this new normal with your little guy or girl, similar to the way you needed help with nighttime feedings and changing diapers here and there.
Also, while I don’t like to admit that I’ve taken advice from anyone (because I’m just that stubborn sometimes), my MIL and mom are true fountains of knowledge. If you aren’t really sure if you’re trying the best method, it can help to ask your pediatrician or even see what your sister/neighbor/friend ended up doing to sleep train her kids.
Remember It Won’t Last Forever
Sleep training is a real pain, but it’s temporary! You won’t be circling through all of the methods for months before settling on one – eventually it will happen and STICK. Just remember to breathe through the process.
Don’t Do Anything You Aren’t Comfortable With
If your pediatrician recommended CIO, and you don’ feel comfortable with that, don’t do it! This training process is stressful enough with our brains being programmed to stop our babies from crying as soon as we hear them even start to whimper, but trying something that doesn’t feel right is jus going to make everything that much harder.
Put Baby Down Drowsy
When you are ready to start your first day training, be sure your baby is drowsy first to up your chances for success (no matter the method).
Keep Baby On A Solid Schedule
Once you start your sleep training method, do your best to keep your sweet pea on a schedule. Now that they’re learning to sleep on their own, your current schedule might need to be rearranged.
Consider Sick Days
All your hard work sleep training is going to come to a quick halt if you baby becomes sick, and you are probably going to go off schedule. It’s key to keep plugging along as best as your both can, but try to grab a few things to make it easier on you both (like a humidifer, some tylenol, and a white noise machine).
The white noise machine can even become your saving grace ;).
Get A Really Good Video Monitor
I’ve already mentioned grabbing a good video monitor but I wanted to mention it one last time because it really gives you the peace of mind you need while your are sleep training. Whether your little one is crying and you need to make sure they’re okay without walking in and stimulating them (and waking them up even further), or you want to peek in on them while they are finally asleep to see that they are well and breathing – video monitors are fantastic for keeping us overly tired mamas sane. **Tip: Don’t turn the sound on, just the video. Here’s the one we use -I can even talk to Jax while he’s fussing to help calm hi without taking him out of his bed or the room.
What sleep training method worked for you? Did anyone have any special tips or tricks that you used? Share with me in the comments below 🙂