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.
Our little Aerin, napping peacefully
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.
Sleep training my baby at 3.5mos was also the best thing I could have done for everyone. I don’t understand how parents who haven’t sleep trained their 5+month old baby FUNCTION. I would be a zombie by now.
The bump in the road I’ve encountered is now the baby is rolling over, getting stuck, and THAT wakes him up :-/ Good news is, he falls right back asleep if I flip him back…but I’m going from STTN to needing to flip 4 times a night now!
Yay for easy and successful sleep training, and for you and J to start getting better night’s rest!
I’m one of the jealous ones 😉 While Charlie has always been a pretty solid napper (she’s been asleep for over 2 hours right now, waiting on her to wake up so I can go eat!) night time is, well, a nightmare! We’ve tried sleep training a couple of times, but it keeps getting interrupted for teething or an ear infection. Now that I read your post, though, I think I’m going to give it a go again tonight. At 7 months old, maybe now it will finally click!
Why does everyone associate Sleep Training with CIO? Leaving a baby to cry will probably work eventually, but we just do not agree with it. The alternative is to transition from soothing your baby to teaching your baby to self-soothe, without the shock of leaving it to cry. In the first months most parents will rock their babies to sleep. Then sometime around the 4-6 month stage, parents get tired of doing that. Just imagine the shock of the baby when their parents no longer come running when they cry. The trick is to build the confidence of your baby without soothing it. I have outlined how we did that here:
Good for you that you were able to implement a non-CIO method of sleep-training. We have tried non-CIO but it did not work for us. Every baby is different, and CIO worked best for my kids.
First off, props to you for sleeping training. As a mother of two (4 years apart)I couldn’t imagine how you do it with girls close in age. I can only pray that hopefully it’ll get easier as they grow older.
I ha a quick question, the magic sleep suit- I’m afraid it’ll be too hot for the summer. I have a 4 month old boy who needs a transition from the swaddle. Also I wonder the size. What age is the sleep suit geared towards?
Thanks for the answer. I know you have very little time aside to yourself and very much appreciate your time for answering my questions.
The Magic Sleepsuit is available in 2 sizes: 3-6 months and 6-9 months. We actually have two of each size because we loved it so much with Claire! As for it being too hot, Claire never got too hot in it. In the summer months we just let her sleep in it with a short-sleeve onesie and a pair of socks and she was fine. But then again, we keep our place at around 70 degrees thanks to central air. If you have any other questions, you can check out their FAQs at http://www.magicsleepsuit.com/faq.html
I heard about the Magic Sleep Suit from your original post and it has been AWESOME for us. I really credit it with helping our daughter to be much better at self soothing. I am very nervous about when she has to stop using it though since the one time we put her in a sleep sack it went very very badly. How was your experience with the transition out of the Sleep Suit?
I hate you a little bit. ….okay that’s not true at all, I actually found your entry about Claire when I was researching ST for my baby. But I cannot believe how easy you’ve had it compared to me! My little guy (just now four months old) is 16 days into nap training. It took 11 days before he consistently had at least one nap each day that lasted an hour. For 4 days it went really well and nights went back to normal. Today, all short naps. And one that failed completely. ?! So tired. But thankful for this post. Thinking baby number 2 might be easier is the only thing that allows me to consider having another one….
Hello! I stumbled across this while doing a google on why my 4 month old is suddenly waking up a bazillion times through the night. Interestingly, I recognize you from weddingbee, where I also read your posts when I was wedding planning!
I had a quick question for you – how did you do nap-training over a week with work? We have a nanny during the day and I’m trying to figure out how to get our son’s sleep schedule straightened out when my husband and I both work during the day!