Happy Motherhood Monday and happy October! This past weekend was such a special and fun weekend as we celebrated Andrew’s baptism with our friends and family. I hope you had a good weekend! For today’s Motherhood Monday post, I wanted to talk about sleep training.
The number one question I get asked when talking about Andrew is, “So is he sleeping through the night?” This question frustrates me so much because Andrew has never slept through the night! Before about a week ago, he had not slept more than a 4 hour stretch at a time. When I would hear about babies his age that slept more than four hours, I was in disbelief and jealous. I’ve been perpetually exhausted since Andrew was born! I figured his sleep habits were normal for him. Not all babies slept through the night (STTN) I thought.
Before Andrew was born, I had heard and read about sleep training mostly from the Moms on Call (MoC) book, which a number of moms had recommended to me. Patrick and I agreed we would give it a try once Andrew arrived. However, when he arrived five weeks early, the idea of sleep training went out the window due to a couple factors that came with him being premature. First, in those first six weeks, Andrew ate on demand all the time because he needed to gain weight. This made sticking to any kind of schedule nearly impossible. During this time Andrew would want to eat at least every two hours day or night. During his growth spurts, it was every hour!
The second factor that made it hard for us to stick to a schedule and thus sleep train was Andrew’s acid reflux. Again, those first six weeks were rough because after every feed we had to keep Andrew upright for 15-30 minutes. It felt like by the time we laid him back down, he was ready to eat again. And if it wasn’t that he was ready to eat again, he would just be fussy when we would lay him down due to the reflux bothering him. A few nights when we were just too exhausted to deal with it, we would let him sleep in the rock n’ play by our bed. Looking back, I wish we would’ve just let him sleep in this every night during those rough reflux weeks but I was so paranoid about having him sleep on a hard, flat surface to prevent SIDS.
Anyways, with all that being said, we did not actively sleep train Andrew until about a week ago. If you read this post, then you know we went a couple weeks where Andrew was incredibly fussy in the evenings. And by fussy, I mean he would cry inconsolably from 4 – 7 pm some nights. Well I feel like a total first time mom for having to admit this but it was because I wasn’t forcing Andrew to take naps during the day. You see I thought if a baby was tired, then they would nap on their own. So since Andrew wasn’t napping, I just figured my baby wasn’t a napper. Boy was I wrong!
After posting a picture of Andrew and I on Instagram stories saying he refused to nap, a friend from high school messaged me suggesting I try utilizing the Moms on Call schedule. Although I was hesitant due to the fact that sleep training hadn’t worked in the early weeks, I decided I had nothing to lose by giving it another try. So, the next day, I put him on the 4-8 week MoC schedule. I went with the 4-8 week schedule because he was already naturally following this schedule as far as waking up and bedtime times went. Plus, if I adjusted his age for being premature, he was actually 7 weeks old (12 weeks minus 5).
We followed this schedule as strictly as possible. It was a struggle to get Andrew to nap. While he definitely wouldn’t nap the suggested two hours, I did everything I could to at least get him to sleep for some time during his designated “nap time.” This typically meant 30-45 minutes for him. After just two days of this, his fussiness in the evening practically went away! I quickly realized he was fussy to begin with due to the fact that he was overtired!
As I acclimated to the nap routine, I figured out what tricks worked for getting him to take longer naps. I found that for his morning naps, Andrew went down relatively easy. It just required us calming him down with his paci, rocking, dimmed lights, and white noise. However, his afternoon and evening naps are a little harder. Since he typically falls asleep in his car seat, I started doing his afternoon nap while running errands or going to the gym. Finally, the evening nap usually happens while strapped into the swing.
Seeing such positive results after just two days, I vowed to continue following the schedule. By night three, Andrew slept for five hours straight. This was a new record for him! By night five, he slept for 7.5 hours!!! We are now on night eleven and he has done one 8 hour stretch! However, most nights he has been doing 5 hour stretches. So, we are still not STTN but I have to say it is 1000x better than where we were which was waking up every 2-3 hours! On top of that, he only eats once during the night now, where before, he was eating every time he woke up!
I’m not ready to let him cry it out (honestly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do this) so I continue to practice what MoC recommends for middle of the night wakings. Give paci, check swaddle, gently comfort while in their crib, leave. If they cry, wait 5 minutes, then repeat two more times before feeding. So far, this has worked anytime he wakes up except for the one feeding he is still doing around 3 or 4 a.m.
This sleep training has been a lifesaver and has honestly helped me to be more in tune to Andrew’s needs. While I knew his I’m hungry cry during the day, thanks to sleep training, I’ve learned his I’m tired and ready to nap cry. I try to follow the schedule as strictly as possible but I’ve also realized that Andrew has his own preferences. Thus, I’ve adjusted for those. For example, as soon as he wakes up from his evening nap, he’s immediately ready for his bath, last feeding, and bed. The MoC schedule has bath time starting around 8 p.m., but Andrew usually has his around 7:15/7:30. So, as you can see, we don’t follow it perfectly but we are trying, and I’m confident that one day, he will STTN!
I’d love to know, did you sleep train your babies or did they just naturally nap and STTN?