Does Sleep Training Ever End?

As I write this post, I cannot believe Baby E will be 5 months at the end of this week. Sleep is such a hot topic of discussion among new parents. When is the ideal time to start sleep training? As a new parent, I have heard many different answers. I have heard individuals start sleep training their baby at 3 months, 4 months, 5 months and beyond. Is there an ideal time? Some individuals would say that there is never an ideal time to sleep train as there will always be something new happening be it a growth spurt, teething,  etc.

I personally chose to start sleep training Baby E when she was 4 months and 3 days old. I believed that Baby E hit the 4 month regression early so I felt comfortable at starting to sleep train around the 4 month mark.

What am I hoping to achieve from sleep training? By sleep training Baby E, I am hoping that she is able to develop a strong foundation for good sleeping habits. I wanted to get rid of any “crutches” or “props” I’m using to help Baby E go to sleep. In our case, we do a lot of rocking and bum taps. I want to also be able to tell that when she cries, it’s because she really is hungry or she is in pain (i.e. she is sick or is going through teething pains, etc.).

Based on everything that I have read, sleep training entails some sort of cry it out method. You can choose to follow gentler versions where you allow yourself to “check in” with the baby but there is the plain extinction method where you just let your little one cry it out. Some of the programs I have read said that if you endure this process for 10 days or 14 days, your baby is well on his/her way to be sleeping independently.

To provide a little background information of how we prepped for sleeping training: Baby E has never co-slept with either of us. We moved Baby E into her own room when she was around 6 weeks old. Keep in mind that her room is very close to our room so we were comfortable leaving her alone (with the help of a monitor). We had the bassinet in our room; Baby E slept in it but we could sense that she did not love it. Baby E tolerated being swaddled but didn’t love it so as soon as she hit 8 weeks, we started transitioning her out of the swaddle and into a sleep sack. This transition took about 2-3 days.  The transition from the bassinet to her room also took about 2-3 days.  Baby E also never took a pacifier. We tried many brands but none worked. She spit them out as if they were poison.

Let’s talk a little bit about feeding because I often find that feeding and sleeping are linked. Feeding wise, Baby E was very punctual and ate every 2 hours. Baby E is exclusively breastfeed and is fed on demand. I’ve never woken Baby E for a feeding; therefore, I was always too afraid to do a dream feed so prior to sleep training, Baby E typically needs anywhere between 1-2 middle of the night feedings (once in a blue moon, she would require a 3rd feeding).  At one point in time, my husband would help with 1-2 overnight feedings but because I was afraid my breastmilk supply was decreasing, I asked my husband to stop offering Baby E a bottle. Since that moment, Baby E now refuses the bottle and only takes the breast.

At the 4 month mark, I was also told from many individuals that Baby E should have a more predictable schedule be it for feeding and/or sleeping. I was also told that by 4 months, babies could comfortably feed every 2.5-3.5 hours. I found that Baby E gradually was able to feed every 2.5-3 hours but I never stretched her feeding windows. After the 4 month check up with the paediatrician, I told her I had been doing the sleep training for a little bit. She agreed and encouraged us to continue. This added more motivation for me to sleep train her so that she could have longer naps (she could learn to connect two sleep cycles) and eventually learn to sleep through the night.

My husband and I had a conversation about sleep training and agreed that we would both try the extinction method (just let her cry it out) because we both felt like the frequent check ins would just prolong the crying as Baby E is a very alert baby. We had a relatively easy first night where Baby E was just whining for approximately 30 minutes before she dozed off. Night 2 and 3 were a true test as she had a good cry session for 1.5 hours before she dozed off. My husband and I both couldn’t believe how fast she was able to learn how to self soothe herself and sleep through the night.

We were headed in the right direction until day 6. From all that I have read, it is always recommended that you stay at home for at least 14 days to get the training down. I don’t know if this is reflective of real life even if it was pre Covid times. During Covid, the weekends have been fairly predictable for us as we spend Saturday with my in-laws and spend Sunday with my parents. Like the majority of babies growing up during this period of time, 99% of sleep takes place in the crib. Because day 6 coincided with a visit to the in laws, here’s where the sleep training started to unravel a bit. Baby E took a nap outside of her normal crib; naturally, she fussed a little. With family members around, my husband and I were not comfortable with letting Baby E cry it out. We reverted back to gently rocking her and using bum taps to get her to sleep.

Since Day 6, sleep training had to be modified to a gentler version. We have consistently been rocking and/or use bum taps to help Baby E go to sleep. Generally, she is able to go down for one nap independently (she usually requires 3-4 naps a day). We still aim for a bedtime between 7-8 PM but it is often closer to 8 PM but we definitely need to help her by rocking her or use bum taps. My husband and I both are okay with this method because the overarching goal is that if rocking her and/or using bum taps helps her sleep through the night, that is already a big achievement. Both my husband and I have witnessed that she will sometimes wake up on her own during the night but is able to put herself back to bed without needing our help.

We’re almost 4 weeks into sleep training; Baby E’s sleep pattern isn’t perfect but we’re really happy that she is generally able to sleep through the night. 🙂 We’re still going to continue to work hard to decrease the amount of time needed to rock her to sleep but currently, we’re pretty happy with her progress.

Food For Thought:

  1. It is emotionally draining for both parents. Everyone who has gone through sleep training have warned us that it is not an easy process but it will be worth it in the end.
  2. Sleep training can be a very bumpy journey; it’s not as straightforward as some would imply. Your little one is not a robot so it’s okay to made modifications. You can take the main messages from the information available out there and modify it so that it works for you and your lifestyle.
  3. Play around with the wake windows. Sometimes, it is beneficial to push that wake window a little bit so your little one is ready for bed without much of a fight.
  4. Enjoy the snuggles because the snuggles won’t last forever. 🙂 Enjoy all the special moments.

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