Sleep training: a 10 day log

I’ve bragged in the past about how early my babies sleep through the night.  Did anyone notice that I’ve been strangely silent on that topic for the last few months?  Go ahead.  Yuck it up, people.  Laugh me to scorn.  After a brief but glorious stint of 7 hour nights, Parker is back to waking up every 4 hours or less.  At 4 months, my boy is still waking up at least once/night, usually twice – especially if you, like me, consider 6 AM to be part of the night.  If I’m not up yet, it’s night.  That’s how the definition reads in my dictionary.

I think I’ve become soft in my old age.  I used to wait until my babies got good and angry before I got them up, and all but one slept through the night by 2 months.  Now, I value sleep so much that I’m not willing to lie there listening to a cranky baby complain.  I’d rather get him up and feed him so we can both get some sleep.

THE RESOLUTION

Like a good adult, I finally woke up to the fact that a short-term sacrifice of sleep might be a win for the longterm cause.  If I buckle down and exert some tough love, we’ll all sleep better and be better people.  We’ll be doing our bit to further world peace.

It helps that I have suddenly realized that he’s just toying with me.  When he wakes up at 2:00, he doesn’t cry.  Not really. He fusses.  He whines.  He tosses and turns, and complains that he can’t get back to sleep.  He asks for a drink of milk.  Then he wakes again at 4 AM and does the same thing.  The boy is bored, not hungry.  Boredom just doesn’t tug at the heartstrings like a wailing hungry little babe.  Proof: when I get him up to feed him, he falls asleep before he finishes.

And so I resolved to take my own advice.

TIPS TO GET BABY SLEEPING ALL NIGHT

  1. Wait to get him up until he really and truly cries.  Once he works into a genuine cry, give him a minute or two to make sure he means it.
  2. Cut feedings short, ending them as soon as the baby begins to slow down.
  3. No socializing: keep lights out, and don’t talk or play.  Don’t change diapers unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Put baby back to bed asap.  DO NOT doze off and let baby sleep at the breast.

Let me clarify: There is nothing wrong with doing any or all of the above if you don’t care whether your baby sleeps straight through the night.  If you’re convinced that your baby is waking because he’s truly hungry, by all means feed him.  If your baby is scared, comfort him.  If you enjoy his company at 2 AM and expect to continue enjoying it, then don’t let me change your mind.

But if you long for a full night’s sleep while your baby is waking up because he thinks sleeping at night is just boring and he has better things to do, you might want to try my tips.  This is the method that has helped all of my babies to sleep through the night at very early ages.

Here’s what happened the first 10 nights after I decided that I really did want to sleep through the night and actually took my own advice.

CAPTAIN’S LOG

Unless otherwise specified, Parker usually goes to bed around 11 PM.  Then…

NIGHT 1

On the first night after my resolution, he fussed for nearly 2 hours from 2 AM until 4 AM before he finally got angry and started wailing.  At that point, I brought him to my bed for a quick feeding.  He was asleep and back in his own bed in less than 15 minutes, without even taking time for a full feeding.  He slept until nearly 7 AM that morning.

NIGHT 2

The second night, he didn’t wake up until 4 AM.  He fussed for about 40 minutes, then fell back asleep without ever crying!  He woke at 6:30, moderately hungry but not famished as I would have expected.

NIGHT 3

This time, he woke around 3 AM.  He talked to himself and quietly complained for about 40 minutes before dozing off.  He didn’t make a peep until 8:30.  He woke up good and hungry this time.

NIGHT 4

Parker went to bed around 10, and woke up at 1:50 AM. That could be my fault, since Perry and I were sneaking into bed just about that time. I let Parker fuss, expecting that he would doze off as he had for the past few nights. Not so. He fussed for over 30 minutes, and then finally broke into a real cry, so I got him up and nursed him. After that he slept soundly until 8:30 AM.

The fact that I had to give him that nighttime feeding was a little disappointing since he’s been doing so well during this transition, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. I didn’t expect him to progress so quickly anyway – I’m thankful that we’ve seen such immediate changes already, and if really is hungry now and then during the night then of course I’ll feed the poor guy!

NIGHT 6

Pickle – did I tell you his nickname?  That’s how Bethany pronounced Parker at first, and it stuck – Pickle went to bed early this night, about 9:30.  I didn’t expect him to make it through the night, and he didn’t.  He did sleep until 4, a stretch of 6 1/2 hours.  He woke and fussed as usual, finally breaking into a cry after about 20 minutes.  He dozed off 15 minutes into a feeding, and slept until 8:30 AM.

NIGHT 7

Fell asleep around 10, up at 5 to eat.  We’re still not where I’d like to be, but a 7 hour stretch is nothing to complain about.  I’m proud of my little guy.

NIGHT 8

The little guy slept from 11 to 5:45, woke for a quick half-hearted feeding, and went back to bed for a gloriously long time.  This is progress!

NIGHT 9

We seem to have a new norm.  Once again, he went to bed between 10 and 11, and woke for a brief feeding around 5:30 or 6.  This is a nice stretch, but I’m hoping it lengthens gradually – or better yet, I’m hoping it lengthens quickly.  Just another hour would make it a full night’s sleep!  We’re so close!

NIGHT 10

Ten nights into this effort, Parker finally slept an 8 hour stretch!  Unfortunately, he went to bed earlier than usual so the end of his 8 hours came much earlier than the end of mine, but I’m not complaining!  I wonder if he’ll give an encore performance?

NOTES

You might be wondering if sleeping through the night will affect your baby’s daytime routine.  Every baby is different, but in our case improved sleep patterns at night seem to help with daytime sleep as well.  My babies seem to take longer naps, sleep more deeply, and wake in a better mood if they’re sleeping well at night.

This link between daytime and nighttime sleep patterns carries over to something we’ve noticed about our 4yo boy:  He still needs naps.  If he misses his nap, he seems fine until after bedtime.  Then he’s far more prone to wake up crying or angry during the night (often multiple times) or to wet the bed – something he never does if he’s had a nap.

This isn’t just about sleep for a tired mama.  A good night’s sleep makes life easier for the little ones too.

Comments

  1. After I saw that adorable picture I couldn’t read anymore. I’m in love with that face! I scrolled down to write that right away…now I’ll go read your log :)

  2. faith marandola says:

    With each of my children, we co sleep for the first 4 or 5 months. Our routine consists of putting the baby from birth to bed for the first stint of the night in the cradle or crib. When they wake for the first feeding of the night they stay with us until morning. When the baby hits the mark of triple the birth weight and I notice them trying to nurse all night long for comfort, we start our version of sleep training. I have also noticed this is about the same time that the middle of the night yucky diapers stop. The first portion of the routine stays the same,. Like you, we listen for real cries and do not go back until the morning unless we hear real distress. What i have found, is that baby monitors are a bad idea. They make me neurotic and crazy. If a baby has a real problem, they will let you know. All of my children sleep through the night at a relatively early age, and sleep well as toddlers too! I rarely go back to a toddlers room for a night time awakening. It seems to me that at each new stage of development there is the potential for sleep disruption. In my experience, the less you disturb them, (unless its a true night terror, which are rare. we have experienced 2 in our childrens lives, and they are almost always associated with illness) the better sleep habits they develop. I think a lot of people do more harm responding to every peep. That teaches such bad sleep habits and does not allow the child to develop their own coping skills.

  3. Kim I was wondering if you use pacifiers with your babies while they sleep? I find that it helps my 9 month old sleep, but if she wakes up in the night she can’t go back to sleep on her own without it… since your babies sleep so well at night I was wondering your take on this. Thanks!

    • Claire,
      That’s exactly the reason that I have never used a pacifier with my babies! I don’t want my baby to need my help finding the pacifier every single time it falls out during the night, and I know we would constantly be losing it in our house anyway. That would make for some sleepless nights!
      Most of mine have become finger or thumb suckers to one extent or another. I know some parents use pacifiers to prevent that, but it’s only affected the teeth of one or two of our daughters, and I’m not even sure the thumb is to blame for that – the jaw of both girls is shaped very much like The Boy’s and mine, and we never sucked our thumb or fingers.

  4. I read posts like this one so eagerly! :)

    I am a tired tired mama, trying to do this kind of sleep training right now with my FIFTEEN-month-old son who has yet to sleep through the night, while I am 32 weeks pregnant. He HAS to learn to sleep through so that he can move in with the other children in time for the new baby to arrive!

    All my children are boys (4 outside the womb and one inside!) and none of them slept through the night before 18 months old – well, except actually I think #3 did sleep through for the first time at 16 months, but never consistently. He’ll be 3 in January and still wakes some nights. They all nurse on demand as babies, day and night. Most have woken 1-2 hourly through their first year, and I am always pregnant again before they turn one. I’m so tired I am not sure what to do with myself!

    I am desperate for things to be different with baby boy #5, but I am not sure how. Tips like this are really helpful, and I will definitely be putting them into practise! Thanks!

  5. Katherine says:

    Kris, thanks for your response. I am feeling guilty about the food thing because he has slimmed down ALOT since he started pulling up/crawling/diving at things. I NEVER stops moving. I do nurse him often in the day, ever 90 min to 2 hours even now at this age. Last night I practiced really hard what I have been reading here, and he never really cried, but did fuss so long I finally took him to bed but did not nurse him and he went right to sleep. Will keep trying. I have always nursed on demand, but had three kids in three years for the first batch, and so had kids end up on formula very young as they would not nurse when I got pregnant again, and they slept sooner I think. I am just a tired mama who wants what is best for all 6 of us, and need to be there for the older three whom I homeschool.

    • Katherine,
      I agree with Kris. If he’s really hungry, he’ll let you know. It sounds like your son is waking out of habit and wants you to comfort him back to sleep, just like mine did.
      The training does seem to take a little longer with boys instead of girls, and it took me 10 days to see real progress with Parker, while most of my girls responded within a night or two. But it can be done without trauma to baby or mom!

  6. I was by-the-book with my first 4 kids. They all slept through the night by 6 weeks. I put them to bed in their cribs at night and didn’t mind if they cried for a bit. Then #5 came along and I put her in our room. She still transitioned to her crib at around 3 months and slept through the night fine. Now with #6, I find that I actually enjoy those 3 or 4 am feedings. It’s the only time of the day that I get him to myself! Of course, he’s only 11 days old and I might change my tune by 4 months! It’s good to know the same old tricks still work, though.

    Celee

  7. I thought about you last night… at 3 am when my 6-month old baby girl was hollering for attention.

    At about 6 weeks, she’d started sleeping 6-7 hrs at night, which I can live with just fine. But over the past month, she’s been waking and wanting more feedings at night, until this week, she woke me 4-5 times. That, I can’t live with. I’m exhausted! The nurse practitioner told me to start her on solid food… but I can hardly bring myself to do that. I did try giving her a tiny spoonful, and she’s just not ready. I was convincing myself that my milk supply was just too low due to dehydration, so she was needing more feedings.

    And that is when your post showed up in my inbox….

    It isn’t as if I’m not intelligent enough to tell when a child is trying to get attention vs. real needs, just sometimes we need someone else to point it out to us.

    So I determined to start sleep training immediately. The baby woke up around 2:45 am, and started fussing. I waited for a real cry, but she never started one. I felt badly, because I’ve always responded to her promptly, so decided I’d start transition by putting my hand on her. Her cries were loud and woke up my husband, but never did get more serious than “pay attention to me now because I want it”. She did everything she could to try to stay awake, flapping her arms, kicking the crib rail, and jamming her head against the bars… I thought about what I would write you in my sleep-dazed state, but I don’t think what I came up with was nearly as poetic as it seemed to me then! I finally won out and she slept until 6 am. At that point, I was exhausted, but fed her anyway.

    We’ll see what tonight brings. Hopefully more sleep for mommy and daddy! I’m not counting on it, though. I’m looking forward to next week! :)

  8. I just noticed Katherine’s post and felt I had to respond. Katherine, E is waking up out of habit (way too often for a child that age) and I think you are going to have to bite the bullet and train him if you want to get any sleep. I can’t imagine how tired you are.

    I delay food with my children, too. Do you nurse him a lot during the day? One of the things that works for me is I stuff them full of Mama milk all day long, and they usually sleep through the night by 7 weeks old.

    I have found that boys nurse and want Mama more than girls. I don’t know if any of you have had that same experience. They nurse on demand and I have never been able to “schedule” them, ever.

    If you want to add some food, the first thing I would add is banana, and then raw cream. The calories and fat in the cream will be good for him. Babies can’t digest grains until after they are a year old, so giving them cereal only creates digestive problems, which will probably equal less sleep for you. Unfortunately, many Mothers don’t know this. I didn’t know this with my first children.

    Darlene, I’m sorry, but in my experience, that is the trade off, especially with boys. Having and taking care of children is a sacrifice and sometimes that means we don’t get everything done that we want. At least, until we have older children who can help out more around the house! I am finally getting to that stage and it is lovely!

  9. I just have to say that he is REALLY CUTE. What a doll.

  10. Kim your methods sound very similar to Marc Weissbluth’s Health Sleep Habits, Healthy Child, although he is an advocate for an early bedtime. I strongly recommend the book for anyone that can’t seem to get their baby sleep trained. We started at 6 weeks and it has worked so well for us.

  11. Katherine says:

    Hi, I have been reading your sight for a few weeks now, and I love your insight on baby sleeping (have read your other post about it too). My baby is 7 mo. old, and I have been trying your ideas for a week now, since I read the other post about this. My issue is, my son wont eat food, which I dont normally push ( this is my 4th) but feel he needs as he is WAAAAAY active and is really struggling at night. He is also teething in batches, which doesnt help. We are on tooth three…
    Anyway, E goes to bed between 8 and 9 and wakes at 11, 1:30, 3, 4:30 and 5:30 or 6. I am very tired needless to say. What would you suggest? I co slept with all other babies, but E and I both like our space so crib is his best place. He is a fast nurser, no more that 10 min needed per side.

  12. My babies NEVER sleep through the night, and I still have a fusser at 20 months. You’ve got my attention!!! I do have a question: It seems that when my babies slept longer periods at night, they’d nurse more during the day, like every 2 hours or so. I’m a pretty “busy” momma (not much for sitting still), so sittng to nurse that often is frustrating. Is this the tradeoff? They will nurse more during the day in order to sleep through the night? I am expecting my 7th in 5 short months and am ready for a change. I love my kids! But I think they’d appreciate it if I had more sanity. :o)

  13. With ya 100%! I function better w/ nighttime sleep & so do my littles! Thanks for sharing this- I think we mamas sometimes feel guilty about letting our babies cry. Oh, and Parker is ADORABLE!!!

  14. He’s such a sweet little man!

    I too don’t have a problem with feeding my babies at the first snuffle, it just works better for US.

    But I love that you wrote this post in such a gentle way. It’s so easy for parenting tips to come across as “Thou shalt do all I say. Or else.” I wanted to say I think you’ve done a great job keeping that OUT of your post.:-)

  15. We co-sleep with our 4.5 month old (I think we had the same due date and mine was actually born on hers :-)

    I love snuggling with her but most of all, I like not having to get up to nurse at night. She goes to bed around 7 and I’m pretty sure she normally wakes up more than once but I couldn’t even tell you when she got up last night. I just nurse her more or less on instinct when she starts fussy or wiggling then we both go back to sleep without having woken up enough to be aware of it. She might wake up more than if she slept alone (I don’t know because she never has, we don’t even own a crib), but it doesn’t bother me so I don’t care.

  16. He looks so small for a 4 month old. He probably really needs to eat at night.

  17. My youngest and first boy was not the best sleeper, we did the same, and now at 13 months sleeps 13 hrs Yay.

    Well done good job mum.

    Your little boy is beautiful

  18. I’m fairly new to your blog & my first baby is almost 8 months old. Our son started sleeping 7-8 hrs each night at 4 weeks old but has recently started waking 1-2 times per night so your post was very timely.

    I’m curious – do you co-sleep with your babies (have you in the past)? how long do your little ones sleep in your room? does baby sleep in his/her crib? Thanks!

    • Megan,
      Our babies usually sleep in their own bed in our room. I don’t co-sleep on purpose, but when I accidentally fall asleep with the baby at the breast, he inevitably wakes up far more often than if he sleeps in his own bed.
      We usually move them out of our room when they are old enough to reliably sleep through the night. This is not the same as when they are old enough to generally sleep through the night. The former seems to happen around 9 or 10 months, while the latter is usually 2-3 months. As you can see, Parker is a little behind schedule, but that’s ok. We like him anyway.

  19. I’m kinda jealous that you think waking every 4 hours is doing bad. Seriously, my kids never slept longer than 2 or 3 hours TOPS between feedings. My first daughter I let get screaming mad before picking her up. My son I jumped at the first squeak. I am trying a happy medium with my second daughter but so far the results have not been a significant lot better than the first 2. And it’s not uncommon to have 4 hour long colic sessions in the middle of the night. Sometimes multiple times a night. Until they outgrow the colic around 5-6 months old. Even then they still wake every 3 hours for a snack or every time there’s a noise. My babies are super light sleepers and wake up if I roll over or adjust the bedding, if hubby snores too loud, if the street sweeper goes past the house… So the only way to get them to sleep through is to put them alone in the quietest room until they are in the habit of sleeping all night. Which I don’t do until they’re 10 months and I’m good and desperate. At 10 months old I put them in the crib in the other room and let them learn how to sleep through the night. I can’t bear to be away from them at night before that- they’re so little and fragile and it feels unnatural!

  20. Your little one goes to bed way later then our little one (she is too week older then yours)

    I put Rachel down at 7 pm (same time as her older sisters goes to bed) she will need to nurse at 2 am then sleep until 7 am, to me this is sleeping trough the night, right?! Even with a 2am snack?

    She still take 2 or 3 naps during the day! She like sleeping I guess LOL I don’t mind it one bit!

  21. Aww, love the pictures! My babies went to bed early, so when I was ready to go to bed I would get them up for a late night feeding. I didn’t really wake them, they pretty much nursed in their sleep, but it helped stretch them so they would sleep later the next morning.

  22. We are expecting our 4th baby here in 3 1/2 weeks. And I was mentioning to my husband just the other day that I dread the sleepless nights. So he says….”Well Kimberly Coghlan gets her babies to sleep all night when they are new babies… I wonder what she does exactly.” So Thank you for posting this. I will take note of this and try it out with my new and up coming baby. The Lord knows that with a 14 month old and a newborn I will need my sleep at night to handle the day. By the way your little boy “Pickle” is just so cute!

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