get your child to sleep through the night without the tears

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When I found out I was pregnant with Sadie, I had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted things to be.  I was not going to co-sleep.  She would sleep in her own room and in her crib from day 1.  I would put her on a schedule and she would be sleeping through the night by week 6.  I would let her cry it out because in my ‘soon-to-be’ mom’s eyes, she needed to learn how to self soothe early on.

And then she was born.  Everything that I thought I wanted changed.  I couldn’t bear the thought of her sleeping in that big room all by herself.  She had been so close to me for the last 9 months.  It didn’t make sense to be apart now.  So, our plan changed.  Sadie slept in a bassinet right next to my bed.  Sometimes we co-slept during naps.  I let her determine the schedule.  And I couldn’t let her cry it out.  I just couldn’t.

That’s the way it was until baby girl was about 4 months old.  Sadie was an OK sleeper. Bed time was normally around 9:30 and she would sleep until midnight, wake up and eat and go back down until 3 AM.  She would wake up again and eat and then sleep until 7, eat and then go back down before waking up for the day at 9 AM.  I was exhausted but I was used to it.  I was working part time as a nanny and didn’t start until later in the day; so her schedule really didn’t matter. But, we eventually realized we needed to transition Sadie to her own room.  Honestly, this was more for my sake than for hers.  I was getting way to attached to having my little family all in one room.  If I didn’t move her then, it would have hurt so much more to do it later. Okay, that and we were desperate for a full night’s sleep.

I started asking friends and family for advice about how to get Sadie to sleep through the night and how to do it in her own room.  Most of the responses I got were to let her cry it out.  She would eventually figure out how to soothe herself to sleep and sleep in a room by herself.

Disclaimer: I completely understand that many people love the cry it out method.  I know plenty of ‘Baby-Wise’ and ‘Ferber method’ kids who are well adjusted with wonderful parents.  But, it wasn’t something that fit my personality.  That is the beautiful thing about parenting; it can be tapered and adjusted to become what you want it to be.  However, I did not want to let my child cry it out.  I wanted my kids to know that if they needed me, I would be there.  I felt like crying is a call for comfort, no matter the age; and I wanted then to know that I will always be their comforter. I was torn. I wanted Sadie to sleep through the night.  Heck, I wanted to sleep through the night.  But, I didn’t want to let her cry it out.  So, I decided to go against the grain and find something that worked a little bit better for our family.

I researched quite a bit and finally landed on a book by The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley.  I was blown away! I devoured it within a day and immediately went to work. The reason I loved it so much was because it was flexible.  It literally had ideas for any style of parent that you might be.  If you want to be a co-sleeper, no problem!  Have your baby sleep with a pacifier?  No big deal! Nurse to sleep? Great!  It didn’t matter what choices you make for your child, there was zero judgement.  AND, they could help you get your child to sleep with out letting them cry.  They also take in to consideration your child’s age.  They had a specific section for kids under 4 months old, under 1 year old and over 1 year. It not only outlines how to get your child to sleep through the night, but it teaches you how to transition your child into a new sleeping situation (bed, crib, etc.).  It helped me realize that one plan does not fit every child. And, that it doesn’t matter if you started your child on a plan at age 2 months or at 2 years, its never to late to change your child’s patterns with out tears.

Our goal was to get Sadie to fall asleep on her own, not in our arms, not nursing, and to stay asleep.  We wanted her to sleep in her own room and in her crib; and we wanted her to do it with out crying it out.  This book gave us some great ideas and in the end, our goal was accomplished.   Here is how we did it.

1.  Track your baby’s current schedule. For a week, I made a record of Sadie’s schedule.  I wrote down when she woke up, when she ate, how long she ate, what we did activity wise and when she slept.  During the night, I kept a pen and paper on Sadie’s dresser and wrote down the time for each of her awakenings.  Because we did this, we were able to see exactly what we wanted to change.  For example, it helped me to see that Sadie was waking up at least once a night to ‘comfort feed’.  Which meant she was waking up to nurse for about a minute and then going back to sleep. She had so many habits that I had never caught on to until I was recording everything. This will also help you to make subtle changes instead of huge drastic changes, which will make your baby much happier.

2. Establish a routine. After we had tracked her schedule for a week, it was time to make changes.  Establishing a set routine is key.  Write it down and stick to it. We decided that bed time would be at 8:30, sharp.  We began our routine at 7:45 with a bath.  After the bath, we put lavendar lotion on her and got her jammies on.  We read a book, sang a song and then snuggled.  Afterwards, we let her nurse and then it was time to sleep.  That was our routine EVERY night.  We made the commitment to never deviate from our routine. If we got home late, we still did the routine.  If we were at my parent’s house, we did the same thing. Nap time was a shorter version of the same thing.  After about 5 days, Sadie started catching on.  She knew that the bath meant it was time to settle down.

3.  Decide on a sleep queue. A routine will let your child know that its time to wind down.  A sleep queue will tell your child its time for sleep. It’s something you will do after your routine, right before you put your baby down in their bed.  You want to avoid letting your child fall asleep in your arms.  The point is to teach them to fall asleep on their own in their own bed. To do that, you need to prepare them for bed.  Like the routine, you will want to choose it and keep it consistent.  The book presented many different options for getting your child to sleep with out letting them cry.  There were ideas like playing certain music, letting them nurse to sleep, making shushing noises, saying certain phrases.  There were literally tons of different plans.  After you have selected a different ‘queue’, you apply it right after your bed time routine.  For us, it was a shushing noise.  After Sadie nursed, I would gently make shushing noises and lay her down in her crib. I would make sure to put her down right as she was starting to fall asleep, but still slightly awake.  If she started to cry after I laid her down, I would pick her up and comfort her and then do the same shushing noise and put her back in her crib once she stopped crying.  We would repeat that same pattern until she realized it was bed time and would fall asleep.  Each night it took a shorter amount of time for her to fall asleep.  When she would wake up at night, she would eat and then we would do the same shushing noise while putting her back in her crib. Since Sadie had the tendency to ‘comfort feed’, I slowly started shortening the amount of time I let her each during her night time feedings. She started to realize that she really didn’t need to eat.  In time, her night time feedings decreased to only once.

4.  Track your baby’s sleep. Through out the whole process, continue to track your baby’s progress.  Write down the times she wakes up during the night and how long she is awake for.  You should begin to see some positive change.  If things don’t begin to change after 3-5 days of your new routine, try something new.  Different babies like different things.

5. Keep at it. This is definitely not a quick fix.  They say the cry it out method works with in days.  This will probably take longer.  It took Sadie a month to be able to go down without any fuss.  That means that bedtime took almost an hour.  It was a constant marathon of picking her up, comforting her, and putting her back down.  But, the first night she went to sleep on her own was amazing.  Ever since then, all we need to do is put her in her crib or pack n play and she goes to sleep with out a peep.  Now I know, if she ever does cry, something is really wrong.  She has learned that if she cries, I will be there.  If she needs me, I won’t just let her cry it out. We were able to get her down to 1 night time feeding until she was about a year.  Then, all of a sudden, she stopped needing that, too.  She now goes to sleep at 8:30 PM and sleeps until 9 AM.  Every day.  And takes a nap.  She is a champ.

6. Make changes as necessary. Be flexible!  This is a baby.  You aren’t breaking a horse here.  If you don’t like something, change it!  It’s not a race.  Chances are you will start the process out one way and end it completely differently.  That’s the beauty of recording your progress; it makes it easier to change things.

I know this might not seem like a straight forward plan.  That’s the thing though, there is not a quick fix or a one step solution.  If you are dedicated to a non cry it out method, it will take some time.  There will be some trial and error, and that’s okay! Figure out what your goals are for your child and then establish a plan to make it happen.  It worked for us, but it took work.  In the end though, it was completely worth it!

What methods have you used for sleeping?

what we’re reading

Big Baby loves books.  It brings much nerdy joy to our hearts.  Also, that curly hair…I die.

Hollis: 15 months

My First ABC: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
compiled by The (NY) Metropolitan Museum of Art

There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!
by Dr. Suess

what we’re reading: halloween

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I like reading something spooky (not horrifying) around Halloween.  I love being just a little creeped out but my imagination runs a bit wild so we read our Halloween books during the day….here’s our terrible line-up:

What they’re reading:

Noa- first grade- 7, Isca- preschool- 4 1/2

Monster Soup: And Other Spooky Poems
compiled by Dilys Evans

We love the goofy poems in Monster Soup and all the creepy pictures! It will have your kids giggling and squealing with delightful Halloween terror and joy!

Bears in the Night
by Stan and Jan Berenstain

Our copy of Bears in the Night was handed down to us from Luke’s grandmother several years ago. It’s a book she read to him when he was a kid and we are so happy to have that same copy in our home to read with our little ones! It is well loved and has been read by many!

What I’m reading:

Great Tales of Terror
by Edgar Allan Poe

I always love anything by Edgar Allan Poe. It is so fascinating to me how creepy and macabre his writing is. And how brilliant. He is one of my favorite authors when I’m feeling dark and broody!

Do you have any favorite Halloween books or stories? How about your kids?

what we’re reading

Our kitchen and entry floors are being redone today.  I baby-gated us upstairs so we’ll be out of the way.  Our upstairs is BORING.  I keep telling myself I should do some deep cleaning or major closet/dresser de-junking.  Instead, I’ve been on my bed with my girls because they want to look at, read, and in one case, actually eat! our awesome and gigantic collection of books.

So, here’s what we’re reading…

Isca: Pre-school, 4 1/2

Harold and the Purple Crayon
by Crockett Johnson

Counting Colors
by Roger Priddy

I believe Hollis is trying to destroy lovingly explore a Hardy Boys book…don’t tell Noa.

what we’re reading

Noa: 1st Grader, 6 almost 7
Isca: Pre-school, 4 1/2

Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak

Hollis: 10 months
Buenas Noches Luna (Spanish edition of Good Night Moon)
by Margaret Wise Brown

what we’re reading

Noa: 1st grader, 6 almost 7
Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone
by J. K. Rowling

Isca: Pre-school, 4 1/2
by Eleanor H. Porter

This is the drill…every night, in my bed.  It is the best.

Rad Mom Cool Kid

Rad Mom Cool Kid