Updated: Jun 29, 2020
At 3 months old, Taylor was sleeping GREAT. Matt and I weren't those wide-eyed, crazed from exhaustion parents that we'd heard about. We thought "we've got this! It only goes up from here!" I know that sleep regression is a thing, but my understanding was that it comes and goes and generally only lasts a week, maybe two. As his sleeping patterns began to deteriorate, we blamed it developmental milestones, teething, gas, basically anything that excused our own role in developing healthy sleep habits for our son. As we entered 9 months, Taylor's sleep "routine" looked a little like this:
7pm: 8oz of milk, followed by a book in his dimly lit room, with the sound machine in the background
7:15pm: rock him in our arms until he's asleep and lay him down gently with one pacifier in his mouth and one in his hand. Keep a hand on him, soothe him and ensure his pacifiers stayed in place until he's for sure asleep.
7:45/8pm: inevitably he'd realize he's been left. He wakes up crying, stands up in his crib until we come back and we start over again. This could easily go on til 9pm some evenings.
10pm: we finally get ourselves into bed and its as if Taylor KNOWS we just laid down. He's standing up in the crib again, crying for us to come back - so we do.
2am-5:30am: he wakes up 2-3 more times throughout the night and we'd either feed him, rock him or console him until he feel back asleep.
We lived with this for MONTHS. Once quarantine hit, it wasn't so bad since we were able to laze around just a little extra in the mornings, but over time it really began to wear on us. I've always applauded my husband and I's ability to get through anything. We rarely fight, rather we just suck at communicating sometimes, and overall we've done an amazing job co-parenting our child. But in the last few months, we've been tested more than ever before. We're both exhausted, trying to keep up with our jobs in this new routine (thankfully we have Matt's parents still helping out throughout the week - I don't know how you working parents do it without help!), and going a bit stir-crazy from the monotony of everyday life now, on top of the endless house projects that our beautiful 1940's home offers. The last few months have felt like we were moving really fast... but not actually going anywhere. Something had to be done.
Taylor has been self-weaning himself off of formula and is eating mostly solids with 3 meals per day, so we know he's eating plenty of food to feel full. Additionally, he's moving around a lot more so he's much more gassy during the day than he used to be. Knowing that we could confidently scratch hunger & gas off the list of reasons he was awake at night, we decided to give the Ferber Sleep Training method a try. This method requires a tough heart, but I promise you, by day 7 you will wish you had done this sooner!
Ferber Sleep Training is a modified "cry it out" method that when properly paired with a sleep routine helps your child develop positive sleep habits & associations. It aims to help children fall asleep more easily, to sleep throughout the night and to fall back asleep if they wake up in the middle of the night with little to no crying. It can take up to 7 days (give or take a few) and each night/attempt you increase the wait time before heading back in to soothe your baby. The key is to stay for no longer than 2 minutes and to leave them in the crib and do not feed them! If your baby wakes up in the middle of the night, restart the waiting intervals from the beginning.
The first few nights were tough- Taylor cried at intervals for almost an hour before finally falling asleep. As hard as it was to hear, we felt that one hour of crying (while being soothed and re-assured in between!) was way healthier for him that an entire evening and night of waking up, crying and getting poor sleep. As we settled into night 4 and 5, he was falling asleep within the first or second interval and by day 8, he would cry for about 5 seconds when we said goodnight before tucking in and falling asleep. The best part? He would STAY ASLEEP! Throughout our week of sleep training, we watched as Taylor began to develop habits of his own that allowed him to self soothe and fall asleep independently. For example, we used to lay him down on his back, but we noticed he would flip over and tuck is arms and legs under his body with his booty in the air - he never did this previously. We started laying him down on his tummy and he immediately settled into that comforting position and that has become part of the routine. For weeks now, my husband and I have been getting 12+ hours of uninterrupted sleep out of him and we can tell he is a much happier toddler for it.
Sleep training is challenging! No one likes to hear their baby cry, but I promise, once you start seeing the results, you will be happy that you gave it a try. Very Well Family has a great article for reference if you plan to get started, but here are a few quick tips:
Make sure everyone in your care circle is on-board! Sleep training will not be effective if its only implemented at bedtime.
Start sleep training when it works best for you. You're more than likely to lose some sleep in those first few days and as mentioned, consistency is key. Don't start sleep training when you have a big meeting or vacation coming up.
If you find the waiting game tough, try using a countdown timer and find some distractions in the meantime.
If you're struggling with your baby's sleep patterns and are considering sleep training, I hope you found this helpful. It's challenging, but you and your baby will be happier for it! I would love to hear about your own experiences with sleep training, whether you used the Ferber method or another.