Never Wake a Sleeping Baby...
...Unless it ruins the schedule. Always stay on schedule.
If you've been following me for a short while you've noticed that I love a routine and am Type A. I've embraced it and it works. If you're a new mommy, you know the awful fog you live in for the first few months of motherhood; no sleep, a crying baby, you don't know what's up or what's down. It's a lot. Wrapping that into a nice little package, I was an absolute mess and needed to figure out how to get sleep. Badly. I kept saying to myself, how will I function when I get back to work, and just function in life in general?
So, I did the "mom" thing and called/texted all my friends and got their opinions on baby sleep. Which little did I know was actually a thing called - Sleep Training. Who would've thought?! I figured after a while that babies just figured it out, nope - not the case. AT ALL. So, after friend research and personal research I decided I would read (well, listen to at 10pm, 12am, 2am, 4am...you get it) Babywise and Moms On Call. I'll provide a quick synopsis and some pro tips, that I've learned along the way.
1. Babywise - This book to me, was intense. It was extremely strict on the rules. All naps needed to be in the crib. It made me think that if I were to miss a nap in the crib the baby would explode and all would be ruined (I know babies don't explode). They did not believe in sleep aids to get the baby to sleep (so, I was already doing everything wrong), in my head, I was like I better throw away the sleep sack and the noise machine. Babywise did the Cry It Out Method; but, it was extremely strict on time frames - you couldn't go into the room...really ever. You couldn't touch the baby, ever. The baby would just have to cry and cry and cry until they eventually wore themselves out.
I needed sleep, but not at the level this book was going to make me commit to. You might think..well, Gee! You don't have to follow it step-by-step. I know that, but I don't want to half-ass anything. I like to commit and make sure I follow through with those commitments. It did give some very useful tips and tricks that I did use, eventually.
2. Moms On Call - This was a quick, quick read. I finished the book in one pump session. It started with some housekeeping items: how to know when the baby is sick, signs for XYZ symptom. You know, the shit that you have ZERO clue on. That alone was worth the money. The book goes into the methodology, much like Babywise, MOC does the Cry It Out Method, but this method had a softer approach; start out small, 5 minutes of crying and then go in (never pick up the baby), just gently rock in the crib, then next time wait 8 minutes. It was softer and a little more relaxed. Then at least one of the naps had to take place in the crib (not all of them). They also provide you with sample schedules for the various months (0-3months, 3-6; etc).
This book was a golden nugget for me. If you couldn't tell, this is the method I went with. I liked the chilled out vibe, but also a schedule. It provided you sample schedules, but also ways to fix the schedule if things did not go according to plan (which in the beginning..nothing did). I loved that they gave me a step-by-step approach to the "day of the baby". It was SO HELPFUL. It also allowed for sleep aids; bring back out the sleep sack and sounds machine. I needed those and she did too.
There is a lot of controversy on Sleep Training and times to do it and times to not. I read endless articles about it. I read that if you let your baby cry for a second it will develop serious issues, mentally. I also read that if you don't let your baby cry it'll develop serious issues, mentally. There is always two ways (some would argue three) to view a situation and I feel people gravitate towards the research that falls in line with what they were already thinking as a way of justification. I'm no different.
We started her Sleep Training around 6 weeks. I wasn't extremely firm on the rules yet - but wanted to get a feel for it. One of the key elements was giving the baby their own space, that meant we booted her from the bassinet and moved her into her nursery. We started really slow. We did all naps in her Rock-N-Play to get her used to her nursery (recommendation from my friend), we had it rock (which was a no-no by the books standards). She would cry and cry and cry and we followed the books rules; but, sometimes I would pick her up if I couldn't console her by touching her. I knew this process would take time. Sometimes, I would swing her high until she fell asleep (hello arm workout). I did all the tips and tricks to get her to fall asleep. Again, the swinging part is not in the book. It tells you to swaddle them, sound machine on and then leave. I was not ready for that and to be honest, I don't think she was.
Night time was awful. The book wants you establish a bed time routine, bath time, tender time, bottle time and then bed time. That time with her was magical and we still do it to this day (10 months later). Its a time commitment, but the sweet music and her cuteness is something I would never want to end. However, that was far from the awful part; the awful part was when we would put her down in the crib and walk out, she would cry and cry and cry. You can't help but to think that your baby feels abandoned and that they need you. Which are all things they probably do feel; but you have to think about the end game. The sleep for the baby and...you. As I was going through this process a friend of mine told me that a baby needs the sleep, its good for them mentally and physically. I kept repeating that over and over in my head.
It gets easier; they learn to sleep, you start pushing their wake up times, you stop giving them bottles (or nursing) at all hours of the night and eventually you sleep an 8 hour stretch. The first night I was able to sleep a full nights rest was around 12 weeks, I actually think it was 2 days before I went back to work. I feel like baby girl was like..."ok - the fun is over, lets give mom some rest; she has to be on her A game." Which, I'll forever be grateful for.
I, for one, absolutely love the fact that my baby sleeps. I know some mom's are not as fortunate and don't get me wrong, its not perfect all the time. She's still a baby who needs me, who poops in the middle of the night, who gets sick and has the typical sleep regressions (woof) - but for the most part, I get my beauty rest (sort of) and she wakes up happy as a clam (also, why is a clam so happy?)
My opinion (for what is worth), if you have a need for sleep, a strong mental will (because it sucks to hear your baby cry), do it. Try it out, see what happens.
1. Only take on what you can handle. Meaning, if you can't stand to let your baby cry for 8 minutes, don't do it. If its not natural for you, it won't be for the babe.
2. Still be strong. Taking the above into account, you will also have to come with some mental preparedness, that means - your baby will have to cry. They do not know how to sleep. You got this.
3. Be Strict. Be an absolute crazy person with the schedule. If someone tries to steer you away from it, don't let them. Babies like routine, if they do not have a routine, they will not learn how to sleep (including naps).
4. Make sure to not miss the bed time routine. The bed time routine; including; Bath time with sweet music, getting ready for bed (lotions, medicine, butt cream), bottle and soft play time after if time allows. All of this reminds the baby that it is indeed bedtime.
5. It will not go according to plan. Yes, this takes TIME. Lots of TIME. Most of the time, there is something else going on with the baby. They are either going through a growth spurt, sick, teething; whatever the case - don't give up. A few days will not mess up the routine.
6. Give yourself Grace. A favorite word of mine lately with a baby. It will seem like you'll never get sleep and how could you possibly sleep train and you'll want to give up. It will work out. Stick to your guns and breathe. Just know, I felt the same way and my baby sleeps from 7:30pm-6:30am (75% of the time).
7. If all else fails...WINE. All of it. In fact, prep your house for wine beforehand.