Sleep is fundamental to good health. After we (women) give birth, we go through a very challenging time of excruciating sleep deprivation that comes with taking care of an infant. You have to feed the baby every two hours day and night, and your hormones give you super hearing powers that let you hear even an ants’ foot steps. To top it off, your crazy hormones take you on this anxiety trip that makes you imagine the unimaginable. My husband keeps reminding me that I checked on the baby 5 seconds ago.
When my oldest, Jacqueline, was born, I was a mess. I had to be with her 24/7. I couldn’t stand her crying. I coddled her. I spent months building the perfect nursery, only not to use it. The few times I let her sleep in the crib, I would stay up anyways staring at the baby monitor. I wish someone (that is not my husband) had told me it’s okay to let go, and she would be fine. I never sleep trained her, and we always co-slept. Co-sleeping is nice in theory, but no one sleeps well in reality. Baby wakes up, and wants to be soothed. Many nights, she would just suck on my nipple all night long. I was exhausted and irritable. Then baby brother, Henry, came along. Jacqueline was almost 4 and was forced to sleep with just daddy, so I could take care of her new baby brother. She had night terrors, and would scream for over 10 minutes in the middle of the night. We were all terrified. No one could sleep.
Ultimately, I decided to let my newborn sleep alone in his crib so I could sleep with Jacqueline. I realized Henry slept much better than Jacqueline, and understood why sleep training was necessary. All my subsequent kids are all sleep trained. Even to this day Jacqueline who is 8 has a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. It’s been proven that sleep trained babies grow up to have better sleep habits as adults. It’s not easy to sleep train. Your baby will cry like it’s the end of the world (A LOT). Ditch the guilt, because you are really doing it for the life-long health of your child. And, you will be a much more energetic and happy mama for your baby. Learn from my experience. Here are my tips to sleep train your kids.
MJ’s Sleep Training Guide
- Start Early! It really makes it much easier if your baby is used to sleeping in the crib from early on. However, the first 2-3 months you can co-sleep because of the frequency of nursing. Tools to make the transition easier are either the newborn lounger (you don’t have to get up to get the baby) in our bed or a portable bedside crib.
- Place the crib in its own room (or separate space with a divider). When the baby sleeps for stretches of 4-5 hours at about 3-4 months, I permanently move them to the crib in their own room. During the transition time, I get them used to the crib, by letting them play in the crib and looking at the mobile(I highly recommend the projection mobile, my baby spent so much time looking at it) as often as possible.
- At 3 months, when the baby is able to hold up their neck and move their head at their will, I introduce a soft lovie (stuffed animal) to sleep with in their crib. The lovie should ideally stay in the crib so that when the baby is placed in the crib you can create some excitement about having the lovie to sleep with.
- Get a white noise machine for the baby’s room and your room and other kids’ rooms. It blocks out the noise and helps everyone sleep better.
- I always nursed my babies before they sleep, but the key is to put them down in the crib before they are completely asleep. Do not be afraid to wake them up as you are putting the baby down. The point is your baby needs to learn to soothe themselves to sleep.
- Consistency is key. Babies try to play the power game with you, but you have to be firm. Create a simple bedtime routine. I read a short book, sing the same song while nursing her, put her in the sleep sack, and gently place her in the crib. Then I say “good night Emma, I love you,” and run out the door as fast as I can.
- No hesitation! Your baby may cry or fuss, but eventually she will fall asleep. When I started putting our youngest, Emma, down in her crib, she cried the first week. I waited 5 minutes and picked up and soothed her (nursed her again if necessary). As she seems to be falling asleep in my arm, I put her back in the crib and leave right away. This time I waited 10 minutes. Next time 15 minutes and so on. I stuck with the same routine every time she slept, even during the day naps. She learned to soothe herself to sleep in a week.
- Let them cry it out. Some argue that the crying it out method has a detrimental effects on the baby, but there has been zero evidence to back this up although numerous studies were done on this topic.