At 7 months old, my daughter was sleeping in her crib, in her own room, from 8pm to 7:30am every night.
This post is long, so in case you don’t feel like reading yet, there are cute family pics at the very bottom of this blog post, so feel free to just scroll down. You can always bookmark it for later 🙂
The one thing my husband asked for when we had our daughter was that she not sleep in our room “forever.” My husband is the kind of go-with-the-flow guy that never asks for anything, so I easily agreed. I told him that first we would abide by the AAP Recommendation (I am a registered nurse with 6 years of mother/baby experience) of having your baby sleep in your room until they are 6 months old. But, once our daughter turned 6 months, I promised to transition her into her own room. To date, our daughter is almost 15 months and I have successfully sleep trained her not once, but twice. It has been a God send! Check out my sleep training reel on IG before reading all of the details below.
2: If you don’t like sleep training and it’s not your thing, then just press the little X in the upper corner.
If you are into sleep training, keep reading 🙂
“Tae, please tell us how?!”
So, this post is longer than I thought it would be…
but sleep training was work and it required a lot of intention and consistent effort, but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
Before we started, I researched A LOT. There are many sleep training methods out there and it can be extremely overwhelming. Remember, whether or not you choose to sleep train your baby and at what age is a personal choice and no one else’s business. Do what makes you and your partner happy.
I must admit- having our bedroom to ourselves makes me and my husband very happy.
The Methods I Chose For Sleep Training
First of all
Something I wish I had been told as a new postpartum Mom is- Newborns are biologically engineered to be near their parents, to be held, to be worn. You cannot ‘baby’ a baby too much. If I had been told this truth, it would’ve saved me a lot of frustration in those first 4 months when I was convinced I must have been doing something “wrong” since my baby would only nap if she was close to me or her dad. So after that learning experience, I only have rule:
For the first four months, as long as it’s safe, there are no rules. It’s all about nature at this stage and nature says mom and baby need to be together.
Remember that for very young babies, “sleeping through the night” is 5-6 hours at first. And, per our pediatricians, we stuck to the belief of no sleep training before age 4 months. Our pediatricians (which included two Black women physicians practicing in Chicago) believed that babies younger than 4 months are not ready, cognitively, for sleep training. So basically, prior to 4 months old, our baby girl did whatever she wanted lol- she fell asleep in our arms, we did contact naps every day, all day, etc.- we had no rules. We didn’t begin the first steps of sleep training until just after her 4 month birthday.
Beginning at Four Months Old
Our ultimate goal was a baby that would fall asleep independently, sleep in her own bed, in her own room, and for at least 11 hours every night. We achieved this over the course of 3 months. We purposely decided to take it slow. I wanted our daughter to feel secure and supported. Our daughter first slept for 7 hours straight, then 8, 9, and we worked our way up to 11.5. Here’s how:
Eat, Play, Sleep
Starting at 4 months, when we fed our baby, we always did an activity (for at least 10 minutes), before we allowed her to fall asleep. “Eat Play Sleep” is: Feed the baby first, next Play with the baby, then put the baby down to Sleep. The purpose: to prevent your baby from believing that they need milk in order to fall asleep. Babies get used to routines and habits very quickly. They say that if a baby gets used to falling asleep on the breast or on the bottle, then when they wake in the middle of the night, they will believe that they need to be fed before they can fall back asleep, thus preventing them from falling asleep independently. We used Eat, Play, Sleep to prevent our baby from being dependent on a bottle in the middle of the night.
Use of a Pacifier
We have always used a pacifier for sleep and stress. That being said, we only allow our daughter to have a pacifier for literally those two reasons. She has never been allowed to just chill with a paci throughout the day. For every nap, as well as every night at bedtime, our daughter is put down with her paci. Starting very early, at about 7 months, whenever our daughter would wake during the night, she would find her pacifier in her crib, put it back into her mouth, and go right back to sleep on her own. It’s how she soothes herself. She still does this at 15 months.
Have a Bedtime Routine
Some things it can include are a certain song you always a sing, a bedtime playlist, reading a book, a massage, bath time, whatever you like! We just try to be consistent.
Put Baby to Bed Drowsy, but Awake
Starting at 4 months, we avoided letting our baby fall asleep in our arms before putting her in her bed. Why? Because that would not teach our baby to fall asleep independently. Remember our goal was to train our baby to fall asleep on her own. Beginning at 4 months, we would sing to our baby, rock her, and let her eyes get heavy, but before her eyes closed, we put her into her bed and walked away to let her finish the rest on her own. Now at 15 months, we simply rock her and sing her a quick song, and she goes straight into her crib with her eyes wide open. She puts herself to sleep from there.
Decrease and Then Eliminate Overnight Feedings
Once our daughter reached four months and a certain weight, per our pediatrician, we could work on cutting out middle of the night feedings. We started this while our daughter was still sleeping in our room in our bassinet. Our daughter always woke to feed at the exact times every night: 10pm, 1am and 5am. At four months old, we started working on cutting out her 1am feed. When she woke up at 1am we took these steps:
1) We gave her the pacifier while laying in the bassinet
2) If that did not soothe her, we picked her up and rocked her
3) If that still failed, then our last resort was to do a feeding.
We stuck to this pattern every single night and eventually just the pacifier was enough to soothe her back to sleep. We continued doing the 10pm and 5am feedings until the baby was 6.5 months old.
The 10pm feeding I mentioned above became a “dream feed.” A dream feed is feeding your baby while they’re still sleeping and typically is done between 10 and 11pm. The idea is that a baby will sleep longer through the night on a full stomach. The caregiver does not unswaddle the baby or change their diaper (unless you smell a #2) during a dream feed.
Beginning at 4 months, we did our daughter’s last feeding at 7:30 and put her to bed at 8pm (8pm is the bedtime recommended by sleep experts for children 3 months and older). Around 10pm we would sneak quietly into the room and pick her up out of her bassinet and do her dream feed. Because our baby had reflux, we always held her upright in our arms for 10 minutes after she finished her bottle.
At 6.5 months old, we followed the same 3 steps listed in the last section to eliminate the 10pm feeding.
Create Happy Memories in Your Baby’s Bedroom
Before transitioning our baby to a “strange new room,” we spent about a week just playing together in her bedroom so that it would feel both familiar and safe for her.
Don’t Run To The Crib The Second Baby Wakes Up
We constantly watched over Aliya while she slept with baby cams (and still do), therefore we would be aware the very moment that she awoke. Instead of running to the room to pick her up immediately, we would just wait. If she was quiet, we would watch her roll around and play until she started to whine. If she woke up and immediately started to cry/whine, we would set a timer on our phone (seriously, we did this every single time) and wait 60 seconds before going to get her. The purpose: To teach her that when she awoke in the middle of the night, she did not need someone to immediately pick her up and that it would be perfectly okay to fall back asleep without a parent first intervening.
Cry It Out
Our pediatrician told us that it was okay and safe, as long as the baby was not vomiting, to allow her to cry it out for up to an hour. My husband and I were not comfortable with an hour of crying, so that’s when I learned about “Controlled Crying.” Controlled crying isa sleep training method where you allow the baby to whine or cry for a gradually increasing amount of time before going to comfort them. The purpose: to encourage the baby to learn to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own, particularly in the middle of the night.
We literally started with 1 minute of crying (again using the timer on our phone) at 4 months. When we put Aliya down for bed, if she began to cry, we would leave her alone in the room and let her cry for one whole minute before going back in to pick her up. We did the same thing any time she woke in the middle of the night. We increased the baby’s “cry it out time” very very slowly. Our daughter is now 15 months and her max cry it out time remains at about 30 minutes. From the beginning and still today, of course there are occasions where we ignore the “rules” and pick her up before the timer is up. It’s not often, but yes sometimes we do cave lol. So this is where parental intuition enters the chat.If we are traveling or something has happened to disrupt our daughter’s familiar environment, or any time our baby is sick or in teething pain, we don’t do cry it out.
I’m Ashamed to Admit it, but….
I slept in my baby’s crib with her for the first week after transitioning her to her own room. We still put her down drowsy, but awake, but if she was still crying when our “cry it out” timer was up, then yes, I crawled my big self into a baby crib and slept there for an hour (sometimes two) every night (for about a week) to help my little princess fall asleep. After she fell asleep, I would summon my inner ninja and try my best to sneak out of the crib without waking her. Although embarrassing, it worked!
After about a week of this, she no longer needed me to fall asleep with her. At 7 months old and one week old, my daughter was officially sleeping in her own crib, in her own room from 8pm to 7:30am every night. *Hallelujah! God is Great!*
At 15 months old, bedtime is still between 7 and 8 pm. We always read our daughter a book every night while we cuddle her. After the story, we take her into her bedroom, where the sound machine is always playing the same sound (rain), and all of the lights, except for the night light, are already off. We slow dance while we sing her one song, the same song every night since she was 4 months. I like to whisper a prayer in her ear, kiss her, and then into the crib she goes. She watches us very closely as we walk out and close her door. Lastly, using the baby monitor, we watch her roll around until she finds her comfy spot and she is out in less than 90 seconds!
I Am So Happy I Used These Methods (and my husband supported me)
These methods really worked for us and the only reason I had to do it twice was because when my daughter was 9 months old, we did a major cross-country move. During the move, we lived in corporate housing for 2 months, and then moved again into our permanent home. That was a lot of change for the adults, let alone for a baby, so to help her feel safe and secure in our new home(s), we kept her crib in our room for about 3 months. Once we got settled, I started the sleep training process all over again.
Sleep training has been so worth it for my own mental health.
I needed my baby to sleep at night, I needed her to have an appropriate bedtime, and my husband needed him and I to have our bedroom to ourselves. I am very proud of myself for sleep training my daughter. We are all happier and healthier for it. Thank you so much for reading!