**please note, all posts about sleep are solely based on my experience with my baby. please talk to your pediatrician before sleep training to make sure it is safe for your baby at that time**
After the nightmare that was 4 month sleep regression, we decided we seriously needed to come up with a plan to begin to help Ella sleep through the night. I remembered reading that 80% of families did some sort of sleep training with young children, and that although sleep is one of the most natural activities we do a lot of children need help to figure the whole thing out.
Although I have tried to never take any one book as gospel; Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Babies really helped with sleep training. It made me realize that teaching Ella to sleep was not cruel, it was a valuable life lesson that would help her (and me) for years to come.
When we sleep trained:
I had read that the easiest time to sleep train a baby was at 6 months, before they learn object permanence. After that , the baby knows that you are on the other side of the door and it takes them much longer to learn to soothe themselves. Ella turned 6 months on Thursday August 25th, and that weekend was her baptism. The following weekend Stephen and I were out of town for a wedding and Ella was staying with my mother in law. I knew it would probably take at least a week of consistent controlled comforting for her to get it, so we pulled the trigger about a week before she turned 6 months. In the weeks leading up to sleep training I stopped feeding Ella when she woke up at night. I wanted to see if she could go this long without eating and she did great. She did not sound starving when she cried, and she did not wake up famished. Once I knew she could get through the night without a snack, I knew we were good to go and she was waking out purely out of habit and inability to make herself fall back to sleep.
How we sleep trained:
Stephen and I decided to use a graduated extinction (or controlled comforting) method to sleep train Ella. I did not have the heart or the emotional ability to do a straight Cry-It-Out method. The plan was on the first night to follow her normal bed time routine which had been the same since she was roughly 8 weeks old (bath, massage, nursing, rocking/singing, bed). But instead of rocking her until she fell asleep, we simply put her down after about 5 minutes of rocking. Of course she cried, she was not used to this! Below is how the whole thing played out:
6:30- bath, massage, nursing, pj’s
6:55- upstairs to rock in her room with the sound machine
7:00- put her down in her crib, started to cry
7:05- first round of comforting
7:15- second round of comforting
1AM- Crying. Started the timer.
1:15- first round of comforting. literally felt my heart breaking as I walked out of the room.
Wow, that first night went so much better than I thought it would. Previously, she was up 4 or 5 times a night. By letting her fall asleep on her own, it looks like she was able to roll over and go back to sleep whenever she woke up in the middle of the night. Maybe she figured out she did not need me to put her back to sleep every time she woke up. Whatever it was, it worked!
Night two was very similar. And by night 3 we had a baby who slept 11-12 hours. Holy crap on a cracker that felt good!
Outside of special nights when she is teething or sick, Ella is a fantastic sleeper. Since we sleep trained she consistently sleeps 11-12 hours at night and takes two long-ish naps a day. One aspect of sleep we have been battling is that she continually wanted to go to bed earlier and earlier, which means wake up time has gotten earlier and earlier. We can generally keep her awake until 630PM, but then many morning she is up between 5 and 530AM. I try to count my lucky stars that she sleep through the night so well, but sometimes that is hard while I am cursing at the coffee pot to BREW FASTER at 5AM while she crawls around my legs with all the energy in the world. But I digress.
The bottom line is that you need to do what is right for you, your family, and most importantly your baby. If a family bed works for you, go for it. If waiting until your child figures out sleep on their own is the best for you, by all means, make that your game plan. No one knows your baby better than you do, and no one can tell you what the best course of action is for you as a parent. We choose to sleep train because it was best for us. We felt that as long as we were attentive and affectionate parents the rest of the time we spent with Ella, that 3 nights of crying out not overshadow that. She is such a happier baby and we are happier parents when we are well rested and functioning on all cylinders.
Would I do it again? In a heart beat. Anything to see this face well rested and ready to tackle the day :)