If you have a baby and you have a job, then you have to sleep. The most misleading thing about parenting is the notion that you will never get any sleep. Never. Again. I’ll be the shining light that says you CAN. My own mother did not work until I and my brother were a solid two years old. Many of us don’t have that luxury (which is what brought you here). She was amazed at how easily I plop my baby in her crib with no tears from either of us. She could never get her babies to sleep in their crib so easily. According to her, that is because we were just difficult. But I know better. A lot of these skills are acquired out of necessity. And frankly, sleep training is a necessary skill!
***It is advised to keep the baby in your room [affiliate link] (we used a second-hand Arm’s Reach Co-Sleeper and I highly recommend it) for the first 6 months. This is more than enough, so feel free to start sleep training sooner. But remember, that you will be making longer trips in the middle of the night. Our pediatrician is very confident with baby’s sleeping capabilities at 6 months and beyond. The sad fact is, as long as baby is in your room, they will wake up and cry. Those little humans just KNOW that you are there and trying to sleep. And they learn real quick about how fast you are to comfort them for your own benefit.
I’ve slapped together 10 tips to help you (and your babe, but mostly you) achieve sleep!
1. Bedtime Routines
This concept is suggested a lot. It’s great, but most suggestions are a little overzealous for the working mom force. What I mean is, I don’t have an entire hour each night to spend getting baby ready for bed. I have maybe half of that, on a good day. A solution is a simpler routine. Instead of an hour hanging out, reading, playing, and bathing. We spend 20 minutes bathing and quietly hanging out AWAY from the bedroom. The bedroom is for sleeping. If there is too much fun staring them in the face, then you’ve concocted the recipe for a restless child. I do everything I can to NOT work the baby up after eating and bathing. That is the time to get your whisper going. Avoid anything too playful, like tickling or dancing. It will make going to bed a sad thing to be forced to do. If everything around your babe is boring, then they will “beg for sleep”. That is a commonly used phrase in our house. Make them “beg for sleep”! At that point, they will go down easy.
2. Reasonable Timeline
Obviously, you can’t just pick a time and make it work. At 6 months, it is reasonable to expect a solid 8 hours of sleep. Most pediatricians will say 12 hours, but that’s a bit ambitious for a GOOD day, if you ask me. But when it comes to a bedtime, focus on the past instead of the future. Don’t bother planning for when you’d like them to wake up. Instead, consider when they’ll most likely be sleepy. About 3-4 hours after they woke up from their last nap is your best bet. As the routine solidifies, you can just put baby down at bedtime, and they will go with it regardless of whether they are very tired.
Complete. Darkness. Get some light-blocking curtains, and make that room dark. Where ever they sleep, make it as dark as you possibly can. I’m talking no night lights. No anything light producing! We are facilitating sleep. Remember that.
This is not necessary, but it was a good starting point. It can also be part of your routine. In the beginning of our sleep training journey, I would nurse my babe in the darkness of her room with a lullaby playlist from Pandora/YouTube. This was probably my only true routine activity for a little while. After a few months, this became more of a distraction for the baby. However, it definitely helped me drown out any outside noise and keep the bedroom noise consistent. NOTE: Keep the volume pretty low, and beware of Ads!
I used an acronym, because using the words Cry-it-Out can be… offputting… for some of us. As sick as it may sound, it frickin’ works. Anyone who has truly given it a shot will agree. Within 5 days, if you play your cards right (with steps 1 through 4), the time it takes to fall asleep will go from 40 minutes to 0 minutes. Everyone I’ve reached out to has vouched for this! It is unbelievable, but there is something about it! You might think it is harsh, but remind yourself of all the things YOU remember when you were 6 months old. Or hell, even 3 years old. As long as you set that baby up for success, and get rid of any hazards (blind cords, mobile, anything over the crib, etc), then you’ll have nothing to worry about or feel guilty over. The hardest part is for you, the parent/sleep-trainer 😉 and the methods only get harsher as the baby gets older… Follow these rules! They are pretty simple, but they are especially simple for an exhausted mama who just can’t sacrifice one more night of sleep.
- Make sure diaper is dry and clothes are comfy.
- Place that baby down in his/her bed. Sweet words and a quick back rub are all you need to leave them with.
- [When] they cry, wait 5 minutes before going back in.
- After 5 minutes of crying behind closed doors, go in. Place the baby on their back, and be careful not to succumb to the strong desire to cuddle them!
- Do NOT turn on any lights… and DO NOT PICK UP THAT BABY…
- Even if the baby is not calmed by you coming in there, leave after a sweet “goodnight” situation.
- Let the baby cry for an extra 10 minutes (if they have it in them)
- Repeat until the sweet relief of sleep sets in.
So, it definitely will not feel awesome to just let a baby wail. But nothing worth having comes easy!
Amongst my mom friends, the first night takes about 40 minutes. It is more than likely that the baby will crash before you have to go in for a 5th time. Crying is tiring.
Night 2 will be closer to half that (~20 minutes).
Night 3 will be closer to ~10 minutes.
Sooner than eventually, you will lay that baby down and they won’t even fight it. And THAT is why it is so damn popular. It really is amazing.
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6. the 5-minute rule
After you’ve embraced CIO… back to acronyms… you will be randomly faced with middle-of-the-night fits. Sadly, these may be nightmares :/ but this is a great time to apply the 5 minute rule. When you wake up to the baby crying, don’t run out to their crib right away. Give it 5 minutes.
Most of the times my babe wakes up, she will pass back out within a minute or two. And EVERY time I am SO HAPPY I didn’t throw off an otherwise perfect night of sleep by grabbing that baby and starting the bedtime process all over again around 2am….
Anything past 5 minutes should be addressed. (With as little light as possible.) This is a good time to use a nightlight (with a diaper change, IF necessary). Along with that, avoid taking them out of their room/sleep space. Get on that rocker and hum a bit.
7. Dream Feed
You may start to notice a trend. One of the tricks to sleep training is keeping them in sleep mode as much as possible during sleep time. If a baby wakes up in the middle of the night, and the 5 minute rule has been applied, then your best bet is to give them a shot at some food. Bottle or boob, keep it in the bedroom with the lights as off as possible. A nice calm transfer and easy feed is all you need. No words necessary. Keep it dark and quiet. Let them think they are dreaming of you comforting them (there are worse things)!
8. Save a Diaper
Unless there is a midnight diaper blow-out, save a changing for the morning. Undressing a baby and cleaning their bum is a sure way to really wake them up. If you are worried about a rash, think ahead and use some cream before bed. As long as the sheets and PJs are dry, you’re better off just letting them endure a damp diaper. Under normal circumstances, change the baby. But these aren’t normal circumstances. You have somewhere to be for several hours the following day. And for many days after that. Also, you are creating a schedule. Save a diaper for the desired wake time. Babies catch on quick, and won’t bother you for anything less than necessary.
9. Wake up routine
Time for your saved diaper! A solid wake-up routine is predictable. I like to let baby wake up on her own. She makes noises (which aren’t sad ones anymore), and I come in as soon as possible. Bright smiling faces (you’re so rested, after all) and a happy “Good Morning” will do the trick. Change a diaper, get breakfast going, and keep that baby happy. Morning is my favorite time after we’ve all slept. Wake up, yawn with each other, and talk about your dreams. They’ll be so happy to see and hear you!
10. Stay out of your bed
Last but not least, a critical aspect of sleep training is not encouraging unwanted behavior. It can be tempting to get your wake-up routine going, and then realize you weren’t quite as ready to wake up as the baby. Only to go back to bed with baby in hand for a peaceful snuggle sesh.
This is where I break my own rules, and it is not worth it guys!!! Spare yourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we love cuddling in my bed from time to time. But when it comes to any part of your sleep schedule, we need to be consistent. Otherwise, they absolutely WILL get way too comfortable finding any excuse to sneak their way in. For example: After months of successful, sleep-filled nights, we hit a roadblock…. My baby learned that we were bringiing her into our bed after waking up and changing her. Little 9 month old thing that she was… Next thing I know, she is “waking up” at 2am every night. Situations like this create more work. After all you’ve worked to achieve, you’ve created a whole new bedtime in the middle of the night. So, as I said, spare yourself!!
There you have it! Follow this ten step guide starting on any day of the week. But keep in mind: CONSISTENCY IS KEY. Don’t try it one night without committing to the following two nights. Give it a try, and I promise your baby will start going to sleep faster and easier… in their own bed!!! Let me know if you want any more suggestions or explanations of my mad methods lol
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