As far as sleep goes, we didn´t win the baby lottery. The bichin was born with his eyes wide open and this kind of set the scene for how he tackled life. Eyes wide open and sleep was for losers. So yep, no unicorn baby in this house who spend the majority of his newborn days sleeping. Therefore, the advice of “sleep when the baby sleeps” I got from so many people was a little frustrating, what if you have a baby that doesn´t freaking sleep?
Also, the famous “naptime” concept where you could get some stuff done when the baby was napping has long been unknown in this house, simply because the bichin would only nap on top of one of us or in his stroller (in movement, so you had to keep walking). Graphs with info on how many hours of sleep a baby should get during the first 18 months, always made me nervous because clearly, our bichin had not seen that graph. Maximum two hours in a row awake? Wait, what?
After 6 months it got a little better and we managed to get 2 naps in during the day. These naps were 30minutes sharp (and were always greeted with a lot of protests) so still not record material but hey it was better than nothing right? However, slowly he became a better sleeper and there have even been some nights where he was pointing to his bed and waving us goodnight BEFORE we started the bedtime ritual. (Unfortunately, those moments can be counted on one hand but ok).
We have been co-sleeping a lot (both out of convenience to not go out of bed 3x during the night) and because with us he always slept longer stretches. When he started sleeping more in his own bed, both of us didn´t want to go hardcore sleep training (seriously, the book from Gina Ford that got recommended to me, ended up very quickly in the recycle bin because we felt we were supposed to train a dog instead of human) so we went with a more gentle approach where we would sing to him or just simply sit with him in the dark until he was calm and would fall asleep (I got some ideas from this book but mostly just went with my gut). On the one hand this was very time consuming (we kind of had to start negotiating who would put the bichin to bed because the one who would do it could very well be occupied for the next hour or so) but it also gave us a lot of sweet cuddles and quality time with our little guy.
But a couple of weeks ago, we started noticing that he started enjoying this quality time with his parents a bit too much and would do anything to avoid falling asleep. No matter how tired he was, he could go from his eyes literally turning away to fall asleep to a sudden activity attack where the dummies and loveys would fly through his bedroom accompanied by big laughter. So yep, this 17month old was playing with us. So during another night where it took me forever to put him to bed, I had enough. I was done crawling in the dark through his bedroom trying to find the dummy he threw out of his crib for the 20th time. So no matter how much the concept disgusted me, some sleep training had to happen.
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And that´s what I did right there and then. I did go very light because I still don´t like the concept of having a baby cry in the dark for minutes in a row, however, I was strict.
The approach I took was:
- Put him in bed, give him a kiss and say good night. Leave the room.
- My first-time stretch was 1 minute away when he was crying.
- Go back in, put him down if he is sitting / standing up, collect dummy and lovey if they were thrown away, whisper some things to calm him down and leave again
- The time away got incremented but not as drastically as the usual sleep training methods recommend. Usually the idea is to double the time you stay out and leave them cry, but that quickly results in crying for minutes in a row (think about it, the second time might be just 2 minutes but then it quickly goes from 4 to 8 to 16) so we went with incrementing the time but that could be as little as 10 seconds. As long as it was more than the last time.
- Repeat process until he falls asleep
And the first night was ROUGH! He was furious and crying like crazy, resulting in me also crying and wanting to give up already after a couple of minutes. Also, I was really afraid that this would go on for hours and hours (we all know the stories of fellow parents where the first night of sleep training is an hour long process) but I also knew that if I would stop now the minutes that he spent crying would have been for nothing. So with the stopwatch on my phone, eagerly waiting when I could go in again and crying silently outside of his room, I followed through.
Read also: Sleeping through the night?
Honestly, it went much faster than I thought it would: within 28minutes he was fast asleep and the longest stretch I had been out of his room was below 4minutes. But there was A LOT of crying, and he certainly didn´t calm down the moments I came into his room. He was simply too pissed. But hey, it worked. And he slept through the night!!
The second night we repeated this and there was much less crying and it all went much faster. Within 10minutes it was over and he was asleep. Also, this time he would immediately stop crying and calm down when you came into the room. From the third night onwards, it was a walk in the park. We probably go back in once every night but he is asleep within minutes of going to bed.
What a difference with the hour or so it could take before! It is not just less of a fight every night and less of a game (dummy throwing for experts, try to throw the dummy as far away as possible and preferably between a pile of toys so it´s really hard to find it), but we also know that if his bedtime is 7pm that latest at 7.15pm we can go back to work or whatever we want to do. So definitely also less negotiating between us because it simply doesn´t eat up half of your night anymore if you´re the one bringing him to bed.
So I guess, there is something to say for sleep training (apparently it does work) but I still don´t like the idea of leaving a baby alone in the dark crying for long stretches of time so I am really happy we managed to make it work with a very light version of sleep training.
How does your baby sleep?
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