Nothing can prepare you for the lack of sleep as a first time parent. Figuring out a routine, working out who is doing what and when, actually getting some sleep and then acting as if everything is perfect to outsiders. Although this is basically a year ago for myself, we are still working on our bedtime routine and getting Abel to sleep better.
When Abel was about 3 or 4 months old he started sleeping through the night, we couldn’t believe it and thought we had cracked the code and life would be bliss from then on… how wrong were we?! When he started to roll over he would wake himself up but it was easy to just go through and turn him back over then he would fall back asleep eventually on his own. When he was able to sit up and crawl around it got a little harder, then when he could stand… wahhh!
We got into a few “bad” habits along the way. At the time its great as you get some much needed sleep but when you are still doing them months later you wish you hadn’t sometimes. We got into a habit of rocking Abel to sleep and waiting until he was asleep on me then transferring him to the cot. Yes it saved tears at bedtime but as soon as he woke up he was like “WTF where is my cuddle” and then it was the same to get him back in bed so many times through the night. This led to letting him sleep in our bed sometimes, we really do not mind him sleeping in our bed and I actually enjoy the cuddles but it started to get more and more frequent and I know it may cause issues in the future.
So a few weeks ago I started looking into sleep training methods yet again, I knew I definitely didn’t want to do the cry it out method, I just couldn’t face doing that. We had kind of tried the soft approach “no tear” methods in the past but it didn’t seem to work at all (or it was just taking too long and I lost patience). After speaking to friends and reading about it I decided to try the “controlled crying” method but adapt it to suit.
I am in no way saying this is the best method or that you should all go do it, I just want to share our experience with it and how it has went for us. I have always found other parents stories really helpful and reassuring. Please no nasty judgments either.
So what is controlled crying? – “a technique for training young children to fall asleep on their own, in which the child is left to cry for gradually increasing periods of time before being comforted.”
First night I was feeling very nervous. For a year I have rocked him to sleep so the thought of him being able to settle himself seemed impossible! After his usual bedtime routine I took him up to his room awake and lay him in his cot, told him it was sleepy time and left the room. I just stood out of sight and could hear him get up straight away. I had decided to leave him for 2 minutes then 4 then 8 and so on. I felt like the worst mother ever, when I went back in and said it was sleepy time again and lay him down he shut his eyes and was cuddling into his toy, again as soon as I left he got up and started crying. This went on for about 45 minutes then he was asleep. I felt awful. He slept in his bed until about 3am and then I let him sleep in our bed.
As the nights have went on he is only taking 5 or 10 minutes to settle himself after just making noise rather than actually crying. He still wakes during the night for a feed but he goes straight back down and some mornings doesn’t get up til after 9! I have also gradually increased the time between going back in to reassure him, at the moment I’m at 10 minutes if I need to actually go in. I feel those few really horrible nights will be worth him being able to sleep better himself and us getting our bed back!
The way I have adapted it to suit us is I probably stay in the room longer than I should and I let him hold my hand or I rub his back if it helps him get a little sleepier before I leave the room. I also still let him sleep on me for naps or fall asleep on me. I also find it impossible to stick to a rigid routine for bedtime, sometimes he is falling asleep at 7 and sometimes he is up til the back of 9! I had read about a method called “flexi sleeping”, basically it means having fixed points where a baby is familiar with it being bed time rather than a set time routine. So Abel has the same order of things that happen before bed, I say the same thing before I leave the room and I always give him the same toy for bedtime. As my other half works away our routine can change so having this means some sort of familiarity with bedtime rather than a set time.
There are so many methods out there and people will make up their own too, this works for us and we are still working on it every night. It’s easy to get into a slump and feel there is no way out, I hope this helps at least some of you or reassures you that you are not alone in the ultimate parenting battle! I have put a few comments from some of my instagram followers below who shared their stories with getting better sleep.
from 5 weeks we started to introduce a routine in the evenings, bath, bottle quiet time and then put him in his Moses basket. At 7 weeks he started sucking his thumb and by 9 weeks was sleeping 12-13 hours 6-6.30am and has done ever since. If he ever stirs or wakes in the night he just sucks his thumb and settles himself (which I’m not looking forward to trying to break that habit in the future ) I don’t know if it was the routine or just luck, I’m sure I’ll find out when I have another – @xgeorgierodwayx
we implemented a bedtime routine from 3 weeks of age for our first son and from the first day at home for our second! Both go to sleep in their own beds and in their own rooms without issue. In fact our eldest often tells us he’s ready for bed! Our routine? Age old and simple: bath, bedtime stories with milk/feed and then straight to bed. Our eldest has just moved into a bed from a cot so we now read his stories in his bed. I honestly believe it’s this routine that has helped us secure good sleepers! 🙂 – @mealsbell
I often wonder if it is just characteristics. Azalea slept 10 hours through the night from 6 weeks with very few regressions. When she did regress she came in with me. She was breast fed to sleep until 10 months when we sang/rocked her. At 12 months she started to self settle. I never really put huge amounts of effort in – she’s just a good sleeper. I did remain consistent though in my approach – @azalea_and_mum
Henry is still in with us (mainly because the room that’s going to be his has a horrible draft and always feels a lot colder then the rest of the house!) He was having trouble getting to sleep, sometimes staying awake until 11pm. So we implemented a routine. Shower at 7.30, then I give him his bottle in his cot and he feeds himself. When he’s finished, I put ewan on and read him a story. I turn out the lamp and just have fairy lights on. He’ll fall asleep within 5 mins. He sleeps from 8-7 ish but on a weekend, he can be happy in his cot until 9! It’s not a strict routine but we tried everything else and this is the only method that’s working..for now! We’ve been doing it for about 3 months now x – @henryledweaning
We got into the habit of having little one in with us when he woke crying during the night (once he’d gone into his own room at 6 months). We also spent a lot of time going in when he couldn’t find his dummy. Everyone said to try controlled crying and when we eventually did (around 8months old) it worked after 3 nights, and he only cried for 20 mins. I don’t regret having him with us for some of the night most evening and I don’t regret going in to see to him early on. I don’t think we’d of have much success with CC before 8 months, plus as I was on maternity leave it didn’t seem to matter about the lack of sleep! X – @alison.denny
I used cc from about 4 months and he only cried for about 15 mins for 2/3 days , self settled a dream and absolutely loves his cot and his sleep ! Goes down for two naps a day and bed at 7pm-8/8.30am sleep training is the best thing ever , I’ve been called all sorts online forums etc for advocating cc but I have a very happy confident and amazing sleeping 10 month old because of it ! X – @thecharliez