I am by no means an expert on baby sleep, but the (very) general sleep pattern that my girls seemed to have followed is:
- 0 to 2 months old: sleeps most of the day, but also wakes up often. She is still getting used to being outside of the womb.
- 2 to 4 months old: the sleepy newborn stage. She is finally used to the outside world and is “resting” from the trauma of birth. (Did you know that oftentimes, being born is much more difficult than giving birth? Think about how traumatizing it must be for the little guys!)
- 4 months onward: sleep goes to crap again, otherwise known as the 4-month sleep regression. She is starting to discover the world and is simply overwhelmed.
We sleep-trained Claire at 4.5 months because not only were we, as her parents, dead-tired and cranky, she was also miserable from the lack of sleep. Getting her from waking up 5-6x per night to 3x a night took about a week, and getting her to nap more than 20-30 minutes at a time took about two months. I used Dr. Weissbluth’s extinction method in both cases, and while sleep-training was one of the toughest things I did as a parent, I also believe that it was also one of the most worthwhile — Claire is such a happier child when she is well-rested!
With Aerin being a more laid-back, happier baby who slept better than Claire from the get-go, we had been hoping that we wouldn’t need to sleep-train her. And as she neared 4 months of age, I kept my fingers crossed that she would skip the dreaded 4-month sleep regression (as some babies do)…
But no such luck. Aerin’s sleep regression hit a couple of weeks before she turned 4 months old, and it progressively got worse. At one point, she was waking up every hour! She also seemed to have the same trouble that Claire had with naps, waking up just 20-30 minutes into her nap just as the deeper, more restful sleep cycle begins.
I had read that some babies just naturally grow out of their sleep regressions (often after just a couple of weeks) so we decided to wait it out a bit. I was petrified of sleep-training Aerin, you see. We live in a small 2-bedroom condo with two babies. And with Aerin still sleeping in our room, how were we, the parents, supposed to make a baby just mere two feet away from us CIO? And what about Claire? If Aerin cries half as much as Claire did when we were sleep-training her, Claire was SURE to be disturbed from her sleep and wake up crying herself.
Two weeks passed. The situation did not improve. We needed to sleep-train.
We decided to keep Aerin in our room for the duration of the sleep-training process because I would rather deal with one cranky baby than two. Aerin had been sleeping in our bed, her bassinet, or the swing — and we decided that with sleep-training, we should just kill two birds with one stone and start having her sleep in a crib. A full-sized crib in our room is a very tight fit (I have trouble reaching my nightstand), but we manage. Besides, this is only until Aerin starts sleeping better through the night, and then we will move her into Claire’s room to share.
(I should also note that we purchased the same exact crib and crib bedding as Claire so that there would be little chance for jealousy and they could share the extra fitted sheet that we had purchased with Claire. The crib bedding set was actually discontinued, so I got it for $80 cheaper than we had paid for with Claire. Score!)
We also purchased a duplicate sound machine so that she would get used to that exact sound. And while we were at it, we decided to stop swaddling and move onto our beloved Magic Sleepsuit. (Claire’s old ones have held up well.)
And, going against most sleep-training advice, I began to sleep-train her NAPS ONLY.
Call me chicken, but I was still terrified of making her CIO at night, knowing that J has work the next day and Claire was sleeping in the next room.
I also took it a step further by making her pre-sleep routine as short as possible. Some may even say that there isn’t a routine in the first place — it is literally just turn off the lights, turn on the sound machine, put her in her Magic Sleepsuit, turn on the mobile (I know that the Infant Stim-Mobile is a popular choice, but both our girls seemed bored by it and like the Fisher-Price Precious Planet 2-in-1 Projection Mobile with its lightshow much better), pop a pacifier in her mouth, and leave.
When we were nap-training Claire, we would do a shortened version of her night bedtime routine: play quiet games in a dim room, read her a book or two, then all of the above. But when I am by myself watching both kids, I honestly can’t leave Claire alone for that long while I put Aerin down for her naps. Do I feel bad about it? Yes. But you gotta do what you gotta do.
On the very nap with which I began sleep training, Aerin fussed (but did not cry) for about 5 minutes before falling asleep, and woke up just 30 minutes into her nap. And I ignored her. To clarify: I knew she was crying, but I did not rush in as I usually did. As for Claire — so that she does not get upset by the sounds of her little sister crying — I calmly took her into her room and closed the door behind us so that the sounds of crying will be muffled, and played some loud games with her. (I did go check on Aerin every 5 minutes or so, just to make sure she wasn’t somehow strangled or had a limb stuck somewhere.)
Aerin cried on and off 20 minutes that day, then went back to sleep for another 45 minutes. And for her next and final nap of the day? She slept a full hour straight!
On the second day, she fussed another 5 minutes before falling asleep, and cried 15 minutes mid-nap. And on the next, she cried a little over 10.
Within just ONE WEEK, she seemed to be nap-trained! She would maybe fuss for a minute as soon as I put her down in the crib, but then fall asleep almost right away. And if she does wake up mid-nap, it’s usually because her pacifier got stuck under her neck or something like that and she will fall back asleep as soon as the problem was fixed.
She also seemed to develop a nap schedule by herself. Her first nap, usually at about 9:30am, will last about 45 minutes. The second, at about 12 noon, will last about an hour and a half. And the last, at about 3:30pm, will last about an hour.
Want to know the most amazing part? She naturally started sleeping better during the night too, within just a couple of days! After giving her a bath, we will do the same exact routine as with her naps, and she would fall asleep almost right away. She wakes up three times a night — which is perfectly healthy for her age — and the first time is almost always when we are still awake, so we do not lose out on any sleep ourselves. And for the second and third times? All we do is feed her, change her diaper, and she falls right back asleep!
And that, my friends, is how my 4.5 month-old second daughter was sleep-trained in just one week.
I am sure that we will hit hiccups along the road — just as we did with Claire — as Aerin begins teething, as she goes through growth spurts and additional sleep regressions, and so forth, but I did it! And having two sleep-trained babies has been a lifesaver, especially since I can coincide Claire’s nap with Aerin’s second, and longest nap of the day.
I know that we got EXTREMELY lucky with Aerin, and I know that many parents will be reading this with envy or even disbelief. But as mentioned previously on this blog, Aerin is our easy baby…and we are extremely grateful and thankful for this.