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How I Got My Baby To Sleep Through The Night

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‘Sleep Training’ is a hot button topic, sure. But we were desperate for sleep as most parents of babies are. Elliot was 6 months and she had my number and was ringing it 4 times a night. She knew that if she cried loud enough I would come running, boob in hand, ready to stuff it into her adorable little mouth, to prevent her from waking up her 2 1/2 year old brother who would surely insist on 19 books before returning to sleep. It was getting worse as she was getting smarter. She needed to learn how to sleep on her own. We are her parents. That’s our job.

Here is my stance on the “sleep training” subject: I feel that the happiness of the family trumps the happiness of each individual child. I think that as long as you show love and your child feels loved, then it doesn’t matter how you manage to get them to sleep. I think it’s really, really important to teach kids how to self soothe.

But … I try to avoid “Crying It Out” (the version with no check-in) because it’s stressful for parent and child. The biggest problem with CIO is my fear that they feel abandoned by me, wondering where I am, and that they’ll lose important trust we’ve established. But I don’t think that’s even true or possible. That’s just my fear.

I think we are all on the same page when we say that when your child is a newborn you do not let them “cry it out.” Sure, you can give them a break every now and again, and let them cry for a few minutes (which some Dr’s believe is a stress reliever). I’m not a scientist, but I believe firmly in the “babies can’t be spoiled/loved/held too much” camp and I think that if your 3 week old baby is screaming, you pick her up, and soothe. Please. Babies need to trust you, and I think that it takes months to build that trust.

Emily And Elliot

Ok… But, after 4 months or 15 pounds (some say 5 months) it’s more widely known that they can kinda handle some distress on the way to sleeping through the night. Being neither anti or pro-CIO, again I believe that at the “safe age” you need to do whatever is best for your family. I would advise to try an easier method first to preserve your emotional sanity (Ferber or the one I did, see below) BUT, if you have to do CIO to just get it done (because it works) then do it. They’ll be fine, and it will hurt you more than them. To me it’s a last resort because the sound of my baby crying is painful for me, and doing what we did at least made me feel like she knew I wasn’t abandoning her because I was constantly in there chanting to her. Let’s face it a lot of the “sleep training” methods are made for us, not them.

Elliot was a lot more stubborn and willful than Charlie was at this age, so I put it off for weeks. But like I said above, that little girl had my number and she was ringing it, texting it, IM-ing it, and doing all sort of Facebook notifications with it all night long. So I looked at the calendar, and I saw a Sunday/Monday/Tuesday in a row where I didn’t have to be on camera or have any stressful shoots and I booked it. “Sleep Train Elliot, ” I wrote on the calendar. It was the week before she turned 6 months old. Happy 1/2 birthday, little bird 🙁

But I needed backup (at least I felt I needed backup … don’t we all need backup??)

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do it, and I was desperate for moral/professional help. So, we called our old nanny, Shauna (founder of Nanny Agency LA), who had successfully trained many a baby via a non-CIO method. I had become personal friends with her, she still sits a lot for us and we hang out, plus both kids are super comfortable around her. So, I hired her to help me get through the night. By the way, she has even trained babies without the parents home, which she offered but I couldn’t (if you are desperate feel free to call her and she can place one of her sleep training experts to do the job for you).  I just wanted someone else I trusted there to say “Nope, don’t go in. Wait 1 more minute because she’s winding down.” It’s like I needed a babysitter. The plan was that Brian and Charlie would sleep in the guest suite to eliminate the stress/possibility of waking that toddler up, and also so at least one parent would be able to function the next day (it’s detached from the house and while the monitor stretches that far, Brian still slept out there with him). I didn’t want to do the “sleep training” by myself but I didn’t want both of us being dead the next day and since I had the boob (and he didn’t), I knew that I would take the first night just in case.

Which brings me quickly to weaning – she was nursing at night but mostly pacifying because I was too tired to rock her to sleep. Shauna asked me if I was ready to wean her at night too and I said, YES. I only wanted to do this once and as long as she can healthily go 10-12 hours without food at night, then wean I will.

So around 6pm Shauna walked me through our now pretty strict routine:

The “No-Cry” method (which Shauna loves) recommends this (as most books do, actually):

1. Bath

2. Massage (possibly with some lavender oil).

3. Bottle (without sleep sack).

4. A song that anyone can sing for them -WITH sleep sack.

5.  Lay them down AWAKE, say your “script” and leave.

The key was making sure she doesn’t fall asleep while feeding, and giving her the song/sleep sack and script as her cues that this is non-negotiable, “it’s time to sleep.” 

After that, our plan of attack was to implement The Happy Sleeper method of going in after 5 minutes of crying, saying the EXACT same script in a really happy/positive voice, then leaving. Repeat until no crying. Every. Five. Minutes. Our script was this:

“Its time to sleep, Elliot. We’ll be right outside. I love you sooooo much and I can’t wait to see you in the morning. Good night.”

You must be happy, loving and positive. Kids mirror emotions as we all know, so if you are panicky and stressed, you are making it worse.

No picking them up, rocking, and ideally no pacifier. They are learning to go to sleep without any tools that they can’t use themselves at night. We did the Ferber Method with Charlie (which starts out with smaller increments and then gets longer and longer in between going in, a few have written their experiences with it as well), and it worked (to get him to sleep without rocking, he never needed middle of the night sleep training as he slept through the night at 9 weeks). Recently we had to re-train him when he regressed after traveling abroad, because he was dying to come sleep with us as he had in the hotels. We did the 5 minute/script method for him (at 2 years old) and it worked and we were pretty comfortable with it.

Alright. So how did it go?

She cried from 7:45 – 8:50, not SCREAMING just a “C’mon, please come rock me to sleep!!” kind of thing. We turned the monitor off but we could still hear her. Shauna and I poured a glass of wine and watched something that I don’t remember because all I was thinking was “When is she going to stop crying? When is she going to stop crying? Wait, is she stopping? Is she stopping???” We kept a journal of the time, and I went in every five minutes and gave the script with the most loving, calm “you can do it” kinda voice possible. Sometimes she cried more when she heard me come in and sometimes less. She was definitely losing steam around 25 minutes but technically she fussed for 50 minutes before she passed out. I think I only went in 5 times because if she stopped fussing even for 30 seconds we restarted the 5 minute clock  – you know, those 30 seconds in which you hold your breath and stretch your ear towards the door thinking “is this it? is this it???”

Once she was down for a while, I relaxed and went to bed. Around 2am (are you guys still awake and reading this?) we had another 8 minute session so I only went in once (at the 5 minute mark). And again at 5am for 7 minutes, although that time Shauna went in because I didn’t hear her (thank you, Shauna).

Around 7:00am she woke up like an angel. So happy, smiley, and as if nothing had happened.

Turns out she caught on kinda fast. The next two nights I did it on my own because I felt confidant, and they got easier and easier – she cried less and less. Brian and Charlie came up on the second night and much to our shock she didn’t wake up Charlie.

We were high fiving all over the house. All our problems were solved.

Of course since then she started waking up at 5:30 then 5am then 4:30. At first I thought that she was hungry (7:30pm – 5:30am is 10 hours after all), but when we were approaching 4:30am I realized that we had to do it again. So three nights ago we went back to the 5 minute method. The key to this is feeling CONFIDENT that she isn’t hungry so I make sure that even if her schedule gets messed up during the day that we don’t feed her after 4pm (besides some solids) so we can be sure to give her a full, huge bottle at 7pm. If you want to know all the details, I am only nursing her in the morning and at night and I’m not sure how much milk she’s getting so that is complicating things, too.

We’ve done the 5 minute script again the last two nights in a row and it’s worked. The first night was only til’ 5:30am and the second (Tuesday night) was 7:30pm – 6:30am. That is solid sleep, folks and has worked great for me as that’s when I like to get up anyway.

Baby Elliot Sleeping

There were some props involved. I’m sure you could use ton of different brands, but if you wanted to know exactly what we use here you go:

1. The white noise monitor. Both our kids have these and they are essential to their sleep.

2. The sleep sack. Again both our kids have these (we love those for our winter sacks) and while they are strangely expensive the cheap ones always break or rip.

3. A lovey. Both our kids have teeny-tiny blankets that bring them comfort and signal sleep time. Charlie sometimes wants this while we watch movies but generally these are blankies for when they are ready to go to sleep.

4. A comfortable mattress pad. Due to SIDS the mattresses these days are rock solid. With both our kids, we found that they slept so much better in our bed or in a bassinet than in their hard, hard crib for obvious reasons. Around 7 months with Charlie we added a thick blanket folded on top of the mattress but under the sheet to make it feel softer but tight. With Elliot we cut to the chase and ordered this,  but now I’m realizing I don’t think its organic which is a bummer so I wish I had ordered this. Ours is very soft, though and she loves it. My very unprofessional and purely editorial/opinion advice is this: I wouldn’t add that layer until they are 5 months so they can easily lift/move their heads and are not swaddled any longer. For us (caveat: OUR FAMILY and we hold no expertise), we decided a more comfortable mattress pad was a common sense option and our kids sleep well on the softness.

That’s it. People have asked about co-sleeping and after polling my friends that did co-sleep and that didn’t co-sleep, the jury is in that co-sleeping babies don’t sleep through the night as young, but do at some point and then meanwhile they probably have some really good cuddling time. We didn’t do it because we chose the “let them be independent and let us sleep” route, but with Elliot we were so tempted and definitely slept with her a lot longer (til 6 weeks, I think).

It’s really what works best for you. While I can be super opinionated and even annoyingly know-it-all in many ways of life, when it comes to kids I’m a “do your best” kinda person/parent. Seriously. Get through it with love and crying infrequently.

I’m also now a “I have had 8 hours of sleep and I can perform brain surgery if you need me to” kinda person. I know that this is only temporary and that things will digress, regress and undress over the next 5 years, but she has learned that she can get through the night without me now which means freedom, sleep, and sanity. And that is the recipe for happiness right there. I love that little baby but I’m even more fond of her when she sleeps through the night.

Also, can we all agree that having a friend who has once sleep trained to help you is a really important gift? It should be some sort of rite of passage or tradition. We all need help with that and we should be there for each other more than we are while drinking wine and watching “The Proposal” over and over.

In conclusion, “sleep training” is like giving birth – it doesn’t matter how you do it, it only matters that everyone survives.

Emily and Elliot Sleep Train

So. Let’s get into it in the comments. How did you “sleep train”? Are you anti-sleep training? Is co-sleeping a good thing? Did you CIO, FERBER, or do you even remember because its all a blur and it doesn’t really matter anyway???

Fin Mark

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Elisabeth

Timely post! We have mostly been cosleeping with intermittent efforts at getting our now 11 month old to sleep on her own. She’s pretty good from 8-2am, but then she wants to be in bed and to nurse on demand (or all the time). Needless to say, a year of bad sleep is wearing and I’m ready for her to be independent! Especially as we get closer to her first birthday! I wonder though if a lot of the problem is that humans didn’t evolve to sleep alone and so we’re expecting a lot of our babies… But I love your point that a happy family is more important than a happy individual. Thanks!

Kari

I completely agree that humans have never really slept alone – it’s a lot to be asking of everyone! Parents who have no problem training their babies to sleep away from them right off the bat should feel no guilt – get sleep wherever you can (seriously). But I like to remember that I sleep best with my husband in bed and even as a child, I slept best with my siblings in my room. I had plenty of years sleeping alone, but it was never restful.
I love the verbal method of sleep training – talking to them, but not picking them up. When we need to train our babies to sleep (because we all do at some point), it’s nice to keep that relational tie flowing. I mean heck, I’m comforted from my mother’s words on the phone across the country… it’s the same when we speak to our children.

Elisabeth

I like this idea! And I totally agree! I hate sleeping alone and almost never do.

kate

I wonder if it’s more of a personality thing than a ‘history of humanity’ thing… I definitely sleep better alone. when my husband’s gone for whatever reason I’m in sleep heaven! I miss him of course, but that glorious feeling of total rest is like nothing else. I’m also an introvert. We tried co-sleeping with my (now) 10 month old but my brain could not relax, I was too hyper-aware of her presence & possible needs. My husband wishes we could still be co-sleeping but he’s an extrovert & sleeps like a rock if we’re all together. We moved her to her crib at 3 months then weaned & sleep-trained at 6 months. We tried every method but honestly the weaning & the eating solids probably had the biggest impact. We tried the script, too – she would just get furious with every repetition. Not her favorite. We’ve finally gotten to a place where we respond to certain kinds of cries (teething or not feeling well) but leave her to fuss with other kinds of cries and she mostly sleeps 7 pm to 6 am. I’ll take it. Parenting is not for the faint of heart!

kate

p.s. also, contrary to popular advice, she hated being swaddled, could care less about white noise (it made no difference with or without – we used it a long time before figure that out!), gets very energized by baths & massages (not relaxed!) & really just defies all popular wisdom.
babies.

Emily

Will you say more about the impact extensive travel has on your kids and their sleep schedules? I love to travel but am petrified of disrupting sleep schedules, which are not perfect anyway but making them worse seems like a terrible idea. How do you soldier on and travel and make memories and cope with the reality that a big trip means regression and sleep training all over again when you get home?

Jennie

I’m not Emily, but have traveled cross country and internationally with my 22 month old. Honestly, she’s coped with it surprisingly well. We immediately put her on the new schedule when we get there (and focus on getting outside, into daylight, lots of walks) but maintain our same sleep routines (normal bedtime, books, song etc.) and do the same thing when we get back home and she has adjusted like a champ. It’s not perfect of course – usually there is one bad night during the trip, and one when we get back home – but it’s always better than I feared. We haven’t had to fully retrain when we get back, though it often takes a few days to settle back into old routines. I should say, though, that my daughter is generally a very good sleeper, so it might be different if you have a more restless sleeper.

Smiles_for_miles

We’ve traveled halfway around the world with our two little ones (almost 4 and 2) a few times, and they’ve been surprisingly resilient. We try to arrive at our destination in the late afternoon, so we can unwind a bit, take a relaxing bath and then go to bed early. The first day or two, one or more of us might wake up around 4 am, but it doesn’t take more than a couple days to get on schedule. We pretty much throw naps out the window while traveling, but they do get some sleep in transit (either in the car or carriers) and are plenty tuckered out by 6 or 7 pm. Coming back home sometimes takes longer to adjust, but it’s generally not that bad. I vote for family traveling! 😉

P.S. Overnight flights have really worked for us. Early morning ones are not so easy.

Shelly

Love this post! I’m honestly terrified to say this because…hello internet people backlash but, I used CIO with all three of my kiddos. The crazy thing is we all survived! No one has been scarred for life and they all still love me!!

Andrea

I also used CIO with my 3 kids, starting at 6 months. It was extremely hard for the first 2, by my 3rd I knew it had to happen and it worked and we were all so much happier afterwards. Babies need to learn how to self soothe eventually (we did it at 6 months as well).

kelly

Yeah, I tried (CIO) with my first and I didn’t like it. With my other two, I used a very similar style as emily with the soothing… combined with sometimes laying on the floor below the crib, etc. Whatever works.

Allison

Ha, ha! I feel the same way. I used CIO with both mine–at 8 months with the first then at 4 months with the second. It was quick and effective and we were ALL so much happier for it. They’re both loved, loving, well-adjusted happy kids who still have great sleep habits at ages 6 and 3. No regrets whatsoever. I will say that CIO involved more than just letting them cry, there was a routine and schedule implemented along with it that helps them learn to soothe themselves.

Jennie

I think this is a really good post – and I completely agree with the happy family approach. We sleep trained at 6 months and did Ferber, along with a very similar bedtime routine to what you talked about. So the first night we waited three minutes, the next night five minutes etc. It worked great and I found it much better than the total CIO (for me, that is) because we could set the timer and know that there would be a point when we would go in there. We were lucky that at 6 months she was only waking once at night (around 3:30) so we night weaned at the same time. It worked surprisingly quickly – 4 nights – but we have had to “re-train” at certain times. But our kid is generally a great sleeper now (22 months) – we very rarely (i’m talking 1 time a month) have to go into her room during the night.

And I completely agree that self-soothing is a vital skill, once they are old enough. It’s really important that kids be able to put themselves to sleep.

Thank you, thank you, thank you! I feel like a sleep training failure… My first born slept through the night like a champ at 8 weeks, but my now 7 month old son has my number too and rings it off the hook. Between night potty training with my toddler and a baby who calls me to him every other hour I’m losing my mind to say the least. I felt like we haven’t been consistent, but your post gives me hope and tonight I’m going to implement this method (again, and be consistent about it). Thank you for writing this because last night I didn’t think I was going to make it to today!

Melissa

Thank you so much for this post!! My 16 month old decided that she would no longer sleep through the night (we never sleep trained before – she was always just a great sleeper) and my husband and I are on the edge…we don’t want to use CIO but haven’t found an approach that works for us. I’m going to try this method- this seems like something we can do. It’s nice to see a mommy post on the blog:) I miss these!!

Wish me luck and thank you again!!! xx

Man, I loved you before you had kids, and now I love you even more. I’ve been following your blog for years and you are the real deal. I love how genuine you are. Your posts are the ones I legitimately get excited to read. As a mom of four, I concur with everything you said! So happy you get to sleep! I’m gearing up to start training our little Bea these next few weeks. Your post came at the perfect time! Congrats on this HUGE milestone! ??

Jess

We waited until our daughter was 9 months to sleep train, and immediately were all “why did we wait so long?!?!?!?!” I’m due with our second and am already planning on doing it once we get the go ahead from the pediatrician. Unless of course, the second one turns out to be one of those unicorn babies who sleeps through the night on their own from 6 weeks. Fingers crossed!

Abbie

Thank you for this perspective! I feel like no one talks about sleep training because it really seems to bring out the nastiest comments on the internet–but you are so right. We are a FAMILY and we all have to work together for our health and happiness, whatever that might look like for each individual family. Our rookie mistake was swaddling our guy wayyyy too long when he clearly wanted out. As soon as we stopped he started sucking his thumb which is his preferred way to self soothe. We’re already saving for those braces…

PS That noise machine is the best ever. My husband and I bought one immediately after we started using it in the dude’s room. It seems pricey, but it seems to use way less electricity than the air purifier/fan combo we were using in both rooms for background noise. And it travels so well! LOVE!

Jen

Haha saving for the braces….yep us too! Well no we’re not but we should be because our 2 year old is a thumb sucker and the dentist already said they can see him changing the shape of his pallet….grrr but I love the full nights of sleep we get!

Cindy

What a great post. My boys are now 10 and 13, but I read every single word. Really, really good work.

What I like about your approach is that you really broke down the problem into smaller, manageable parts, then solved each individual part. Sleep training can be so overwhelming, so this is very admirable.

Good job Henderson family!

Sarah Beth

What is that adorable sleep sack? We just transitioned our daughter from being swaddled every night, but she’s still sleeping in the swaddle, just with her arms free. I’d love to get her a couple of cute, cozy sleepsacks that are velcro free!

courtney

halo makes a ton of cute ones!

Thank you, Emily, for sharing our sleep sack! I’m thrilled Elliot likes it. It’s happening, sleep magic!
Friends, I just started our Mother’s Day special discount so you’ll find them on our site,
http://www.la-petite-chose.com
at -20% through Sunday!
Good luck to all the baby sleepers out there and Happy Mother’s Day!
xx Catherine

Kaiulani

Both of my girls started sleeping though the night around 8-10 weeks old. This was a blessing since I had to go back to work at 6 weeks. We did the CIO when there were relapses but turning off the monitor was probably the best thing we did. Our bedroom was on the first floor and their rooms were on the second. So if I could hear them without a monitor that is when I knew it was something more (feeling sick, hungry, wet diaper, etc..). Today they are 21 & 19 and have never had sleep issues as children or young adults.

Thanks this is super fascinating and helpful! Even though I’m not a mother yet, I definitely want to be someday. But losing sleep is my biggest fear, and I feel just a little bit more prepared knowing that there are ways to make it work!

Hilary

Timely post! My 10.5 month old has woken EVERY HOUR since she was 2 months old. It is hell. We tried letting Her cry with us in the room soothing her, but I was a wreck. I think we may need to do something like you did, though, because I’m borderline crazy from the sleep deprivation.

Megan

That is so hard! My little guy has always had a hard time sleeping. Sometime he would be up five times a night and sometimes for hours. It was awful! Come to find out he had all these food intolerances that were bothering him and giving him itchy skin as well. Once we cut out those foods, he started sleeping much better! Like, sometimes he would wake but just once and then fall quickly back to sleep, and sometimes he would sleep all night. It was a game changer for us! I hope you find something that helps your baby sleep better! Good luck!

Leslie

Been there! It’s SO HARD. My daughter had acid reflux–maybe just rule anything like that out? Even with medicine, though, she basically had to age out of it. (The medicine did help, but not THAT much.) Good luck! I never knew how tired I could be until I was awake non-stop for basically nine months.

Chelsea

My nearly 7 month old is struggling with naps! He can get to sleep in his crib, but after 32-38 minutes ALWAYS wakes up crying. Does that method work with naps as well? Does your friend have a sleep guru recommendation in Seattle area?
Thanks! Chelsea

Liss

Sometimes waking up crying from naps is because the baby is too warm, or going through a developmental phase that raises anxiety.

If he’s covered in sweat try taking clothes off and gently swaddling in breathable fabric, then turn a fan on in the room (but don’t blow directly on him). Even better if you can circulate fresh air from the window.

If he’s just grumpy you can see if (gentle) swaddling and an attachment object (blanket like Emily’s lovey, stuffed animal, slip of yours) will soothe. Also adding to your “script” a statement about your whereabouts “I’ll be in the living room. You’re safe.” can help.

Good luck!

Hilary

We’ve been dealing with the 35 minute wake up since birth with our now 4 month old. 20% of babies have this thing where they can’t get from light sleep to deep rem sleep and just wake up instead of passing through this phase of sleep in light sleep. It’s definitely our biggest struggle and we work VERY hard on our naps with 2 out of 3 being able to now be stretched out to proper length (with alot of help from us during the wake up time).

Just wanted to let you know your not alone and yes it sucks big time!

Bess

How did you work on naps? My 4.5 month old is a short napper & still needs to be rocked or bounced to sleep before crib. We use Merlin suit & sound machine too.

Elisa

My baby had the same issue, would wake precisely 30min into his nap, Every Single Time. Crying. For months. Regardless of anything I did, or how tired he was. It’s as Hilary says, some babies have trouble transitioning into the next phase of sleep. It suddenly resolved itself at 5 months. It drove me totally crazy but it was a temporary developmental phase.

All the best!

Caitlin

Chelsea – SAME SAME SAME. 7 months old exactly and suddenly started hating naps in his crib. I’ve been letting him cry some just to get him to sleep, following the 2-3-4 nap routine method, but even when he falls asleep, he’s up 30-40 mins crying every nap. Don’t know what to do!

Victoria

When we started letting our 9 month old CIO his naps went from 40 minutes to 2 hours. I tried ferber for a while but his crying would intensify every time I left without picking him up. I think you just have to try everything until you find what works for your family

Caitlin

Victoria — so I;m clearly desperate, i’m seeking advice on Emily’s comments.. haha…

so when he wakes up after 40 mins, i let him cry for a little.. before going in and he’s smiley and doesnt seem tired so i think huh he must be done with his short nap! BUT should i start up the ferber intervals when he wakes..? i haven’t tried that yet..

Kate

I helped my baby with too-short naps from an idea from The No-Cry Sleep Solution (I’ll warn you that many of my friends thought I was nuts to do this, but it worked and my son went on to take 90 min – 3 hour naps subsequently). I timed his naps and when I heard him start to rouse but before he woke up, I went into his room and very gently shook the crib or bounced the mattress by putting light pressure with my palms until he went back to sleep. I didn’t say anything to alert him of my presence. After about a week of that, he started connecting his own sleep cycles and became a champion napper.

Caitlin

I’ve heard of that! thanks! I’ll give that a shot and check out that booK!

Leslie

Oh man. I really wanted to be able to do this with my last kid, but I couldn’t do it. I wish I could have though because she only started sleeping all night on her own AFTER she turned 2. TWO YEARS of exhaustion. I felt I was doing the right thing but I am almost 100% certain she would have been just fine without me at night. Work suffered, health suffered, relationship suffered. Was it worth it in the end? Probably not. But it’s over thank god and I can’t go back now. I won’t be having any more kids but if I did, I would surely try what you tried above. It sounds gentle but effective. Congrats on rejoining the living Emily and thank you for sharing!!

Eve

I recently read “Bringing up Bebe” and highly recommend it. There’s a long chapter on babies “doing their nights”. A lot of the tips there are written here, like putting the baby to sleep awake and talking to them like they can completely understand you. My main take home was that the sanity of the parents IS ABSOLUTELY as important as the sanity of the kids and you deprive them of much if they can’t self-soothe and connect their sleep cycles by themselves.

Jen

Love love love love the French parenting books! I had no idea which parenting style I identified with until I read those. I recommend them for everyone but I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea.

Tracy

We Ferber-ized our first. And apparently waited too long because she was actually able to talk by the time we tried. I remember one night she stood up in the crib and wailed pitifully “Someone please help me!” We lived in an apartment then and I was sure someone was going to call CPS. She’s 20 now and I’m back to sleepless nights waiting for her to come in the door by curfew. The circle of life!

Kate

When my 3 year old was a baby, I took classes and read everything I could on getting him to sleep through the night, but this post is better than any resource I came across! I love all the detail! And I appreciate the non-judgmental tone. Thank you!

Jen

Did you know the number one distressing sound for a mom is the cry of a baby? For a dad? It doesn’t even register in the top ten. My advice to all mom is go to Vegas for the weekend when you baby is ready for sleep training and have your husband do it. I went away for three days and when I came back my baby girl was sleep trained.

Mallory

Sleep was terrible with our first daughter until we embraced co-sleeping. I loved having her in bed, it was such wonderful snuggly time, especially since I work full time and miss her during the day. When she nursed throughout the night, I barely woke up for a second to help her latch, then passed back out.

Around 10 months she started preferring to sleep in her crib and I was so bummed! She’d still wake up occasionally once in the night to nurse, then back to the crib. At 12 months and onward, she’s 2.5 now, (minus the occasional sleep regression, etc) she has been a rock solid night sleeper, 12-14 hours at a time. Her bedtime routine has been the same since she was an infant, similar to Emily’s, except the adorable recent addition of her now telling me a bedtime story before we say goodnight.

Naps, however, are another story entirely >_< Our second daughter is due in July, so we'll see how that throws a wrench into everything!

mary

Good for you…..you’ve got to let babies cry.

Beth

Just a plug to add a step after the pre-bedtime feed: brush baby’s tooth/teeth!

We did a similar letting her cry for 5 min thing when our daughter was about 5 months old. We weren’t very by the book with it though and have had to re-sleep train her several times because we let things slide. The biggest game changer was when I dropped the before bed breastfeeding and started having my husband put her to sleep which we didn’t do until she was over a year. It is great bonding time with my daughter and her dad after he gets home from a long day at work and she doesn’t demand boob.

Laura

Thank you for this post! I am currently pregnant with twins. I unintentionally did the cry it out method with my son – I had the flu and was too sick to get up multiple times a night. I am very hesitant to do that again because it will wake up everyone. This method sounds perfect.

Zoe

Where is that adorable floral onesie from???

Jill

I don’t have kids yet, but thought this was really interesting. I’ve heard people talk about sleep training before but have never heard details. Thanks for sharing!

Good for you! We had to sleep train our oldest child at 4 months, and his ability to sleep on his own through the night is one of the best gifts we’ve given him. He is almost four now and has no trust or abandonment issues. Each family and each child is unique, and we should all respect those differences and cut the judgements.

K

Your timing is impeccable as our 5 1/2 month old is getting up every few hours and needing constant holding. We also have concerns of the screaming will wake the older child.

We’re going to give it a whirl. Thanks for sharing and with such detail!

Megan Lynch

The timing of this post is spot-on for my 10.5 month old! We did Ferber CIO around 7 months and she took to it great but we never managed to drop the 4-5am wake-up and I still nursed at that time thinking “heck, I can sleep 10-5am and if I nurse her and she sleeps till 7am, perfect.” She even gave us a few 7p-6am nights then we went on vacation and it put us a million steps back with sporadic wake-ups. Concurrently my milk supply plummeted so and we switched to formula and so we’re sure there were a few nights she was actually hungry. Not to get bogged down on the details but thanks for the post. My calendar currently has May 9th as the “sleep training” start and hoping we can get our little one on track and like the idea of the 5-minute interval with the positive sayings!

Jen

Great post Emily! I hope you don’t get a lot of hater mail about it. Sleep training IS such a hot button topic. My first sounds like your first when it came to sleep. He started around the 7 week mark after giving him formula (GASP!) for the first time during his 6 week growth spurt. I loved nursing but like you I worried and didn’t know how much he was getting and one night he was screaming and trying to nurse but nothing was coming out. So he got a bottle of formula and slept the entire night. Well we went with what worked after that! I think it was a combo of figuring out the right time to put him down in conjunction with his bath, and him getting his days/nights figured out finally. He’s been pretty awesome with it. Now at two he’ll have his moments. He’ll go a few days sleeping through the night completely and then some nights he wakes up multiple times. I hate ignoring him but sometimes I do the wait 5 minutes thing and if he doesn’t call out again then we’re good. Of course I can’t go back to sleep! Last… Read more »

Cari

Thank you so much for this. My 2-year-old sleep trained herself, and was sleeping through the night by maybe two months? She’s a genius and the easiest child. Now I’m pregnant again, and there’s no way we’re getting that lucky again. I’m preparing for a monster (a cute one, of course, but terrifying still) and I am keeping this for 30 weeks from now when I’m up crying all night long while my monster laughs at me and demands more milk.

Donna T.

I think this is a very brave, well written post. You’re right that it’s a hot button topic! Everyone has their own way and don’t want to be made to feel guilty about it, so some people go on the offensive and start shaming other methods such as CIO or co-sleeping or what have you.

My personal opinions and methods are different from what you wrote here Emily, but that doesn’t matter because everyone is different! I applaud your post and the open, accepting way that you wrote it.

Michelle

So glad you are all sleeping! Like all parenting decisions, there are many ways to tackle sleep issues and each family has to do what works for them. It’s the best feeling when you finally wake up well-rested with a happy baby!

The one thing I’ll add to anyone looking for advice on this is: make sure both parents are in agreement and a plan is mapped out. There is nothing worse than fighting with your spouse about how to deal with a crying baby at 1 am (and again at 1:40 and at 2:30, and 3:15…) when you are both losing your sh*t from exhaustion.

Julia P

Emily, you’re so awesome! I am also mom to a little one (now 13 months old) and I reluctantly sleep trained at 7 months old. OMG what a huge difference. Your comment that “what is best for the family is best for the child” is so spot on and something every first time mom should get tattoo of. JK but only kinda.

Now I love your blog for fashion, home decor, cute kid pics, and now mom advice. 🙂

Taryn

This is a great article Emily but the really special thing is how fabulous, helpful and non-judgemental all of the comments are. I’ve read many parent things on the interweb and haven’t come across many places as supportive or positive as this. xx

Alison

I totally agree! How pleasant and nice it is to read thoughtful, positive comments. I was reading this post thinking, oh no, her comment section is going to explode with anger but everyone’s been so pleasant 🙂

Lauren

Love the details and the tone of this post! And I’m so happy for you that she’s giving you good sleep. I have a 5 month old and we are in a good rhythm. Every morning I’m so thankful! Us mamas have to support each other! You’re doing a great job Emily!

I have a friend who says that she really really loves her kids…between 7am and 7pm!!! Outside those hours all bets are off! hehehe

Dr. Wiles

This is not funny: it is sick. Being a parent is not a part-time job.

Alli Stark

I’ve heard of sleep training… Is there such a thing as “Humor training”? Because someone needs that real bad. ??

Leslie

It’s a joke. I am not the original poster, but I adore my child. That said, being sleep deprived for months or years is very, very hard.

I am the original poster and yes it was a joke, but as many good jokes are it speaks volumes about lots of issues; how important it is to teach your babies/children the skills they need, that it is ok to need your own time, how we shouldn’t talk about motherhood in a fake way or try and pretend that we are perfect all the time, because there are so many hard times and parents need a support network and to be able to talk honestly. My friends first child woke up every 45 minutes for 7 MONTHS! He also screamed in his sleep so even if he was asleep she didn’t get any rest. My friend almost went mad. It changed her whole world. She is completely entitled to say that motherhood is not easy and frame it as a funny anecdote. She has just recently become a single mother to her three gorgeous, kind, smart, sweet, well adjusted children. She well and truly knows that parenting is not a part time job. I wasn’t going to justify myself, but I guess I just feel too strongly that we need to support the women in our lives and be… Read more »

Sandra

So glad you’re getting some sleep and found a strategy that works for all of you. I did CIO with my twins but with my 3rd tried and failed. Different baby, different needs but we got there in the end. Just wanted to give a word or two of advice on potty training your toddler. Don’t let anyone guilt you into it if you or he isn’t ready. With all my 3 kids I waited til they were 3 and showed sign of readiness I.e. staying dry for periods of time and/or telling you they have a dirty diaper. Then I set aside a few days when we could mostly stay home in only underwear with a potty close by. They can sit on it as much as they like and get a huge party/happy dance if they produce anything on it. All of mine had only 2 to 3 days with accidents then no problems. Don’t try to night train at the same time. Pull ups are fine until they are consistently waking up dry. But pull up comes off as soon as they are awake. Works great and you don’t have to lose sleep. Hope that helps. Parenting… Read more »

Margrethe

We did the Ferber method with all three of our kids at the age of about four months. And it worked like a charm. Although I didn’t wean them at such early age, the sleep training quite quickly resulted in just two nightfeedings in the course of twelve hours, and that I could handle. They all weaned themselves around nine months. I truly believe that Ferber has saved our entire familys health, happiness and sanity. When you have three kids in a row in the course of exactly four years and one week, getting the sleep routine right from the beginning is crucial to survival (at least for the parents!) After all: sleep is one of the best things in the world. Congratulations on teaching Elliot to self soothe, and welcome to the world of happily sleeping parents! Greetings from Norway.

KatieV

I love your take on this and know you must craft these sorts of posts trying not to offend anyone, which is difficult! Our kids are now 11, 9, and 7, and while I looooove babies, I do NOT miss those sleepless/sleep-wrecked nights. I kind of remember what we did sleep-training wise, but it was different with each kid, and now it doesn’t matter. They all turned into fantastic sleepers. 🙂

Dee

Timely post for me as well. Been up since 3:30 since we tried to CIO with intermittent check-ins and it lasted for 2 hours with our 6.5 month old, ending just a 1/2 hour before our 3 year old are up. Your method is up my alley. Will check out the book. Thank you for sharing!

Lisa

Thank you so much for honestly recounting your sleeping journey. I think CIO gets a lot of bad rap from people who don’t know what that hourly wake up and cry routine is. I did a similar thing as you with check ins at 5, 10, 15 and then 15 until they slept. My kids are sleeping angels now at 3 and 5. I am so glad that I did this. I also hired a sleep consultant because I read too many books and got myself confused. The sleep consultant was for me because I also needed the support, “I’m not crazy to do this right?” I used Angelique Millette remotely. My good friend is going through all this right now and I am definitely going to send her your blog post. You are lucky to have a friend to hang out with you through that first hard night. My husband fought me the first time we did it for our son during a rare “fifth night regression.” But he saw that the method worked and with my younger daughter, he was asking me since birth, “Is it time to sleep train yet?” practically every day. I, like you, prefer… Read more »

Emily

I am a parent educator at a hospital and teach newborn sleep classes and I want to hug you!! This is such an awesome and up front way to break it down. I think sometimes it seems so overwhelming to parents. I totally get it as I have three little boys of my own and for real swear I would have three more if it wasn’t for sleep. Our oldest went through a crazy sleep regression at three and my husband and I lost count at 130 times he got out of bed and we put him back in one night…I almost lost it. Luckily we stuck to it and have three well rested kids and and two semi sane parents 🙂

Dr. Wiles

You should resign. This type of pro-sleeptraining bs is incredibly damaging. Abandoning children at night is showing them that your love is conditional. Self soothing is not a legitimate scientific term – emotional regulation is a developmental milestone that is not reached until childhood… A baby has no idea that it hasn’t been abandoned under a rock.

Dr????

A baby may not know its been left under a rock, but a 3 year old should realise that getting up 130 times a night is probably not doing anyone any favours. Just like calling yourself a dr and leaving negative remarks is helping no one either.

Emily

That comment was pretty rough, but it’s right about emotional regulation, which doesn’t happen until about 5-8 for most kids (8-10 for highly sensitive kids). That’s one reason I just can’t get behind full-on CIO methods. BUT, I think a method like the one Emily used is about the kindest, gentlest version of sleep training out there and isn’t the same as CIO. It’s basically a parent scripting behavior for the child since she can’t do emotional regulation, and is totally not abandonment. I do believe co-sleeping is best for most babies and young children, but it’s also really hard and sometimes we have to find a balance between the ideal and the reality (which includes modern life, lack of support, depression, etc) that makes for a happy, healthy family life.

Emily

I should say, coalescing *can* be really hard, or it can be really great, or it can be a mix like so much of parenting (the mix has been our experience).

Emily

^ cosleeping. Ugh, auto correct!

With my daughter I reduced her night feeding (easy to do when you’re bottle feeding) until she wasn’t waking for hunger. She slept through the night for a week and then started waking up 3-4 times a night wanting her pacifier. So we let her cry it out at that point. My first son was a blur but I do know around 5 months I finally let him cry it out. I was nursing so what I had used with my daughter wouldn’t work. My second son slept through the night last night for the first time!!!!!! I moved him to his own room a lot sooner than my other two and I would try to settle him down with a pacifier and bum pat two times before feeding him. Also, having him further away I didn’t hear every little noise he made, which I was responding to when he was in my room and I probably was making his sleep worse.

I was mostly a SAHM (part-time WAHM) when my son was tiny, so I never felt a huge need to get him to sleep through the night (or even close to it) until he started waking every 1-2 hours. Then we worked on just skipping nursing sessions (first wake up eliminated first, then went from there) until he could go back to sleep without milk, then falling asleep on his own in his crib. It wasn’t until after a year that we started even putting him down in his own bed! He’s almost 2 now and he still likes to snuggle at night, but we’re getting ready to move him into his own full-size floor bed, which he’s so excited about. I like that he has a little more agency in the decision at this stage and seems happy about the shift to a “bi’ bed.” ?

Jennifer

Love this post! We sleep trained at 5.5 months with a method similar to what you did and it was pretty painless. Now at 14 months, she’s a great sleeper and if we get off track because of travel, a cold or tooth, it’s easy to get back on with a night or two of retraining. The best gift we can give our children is the ability to self-soothe. Not just for sleep, but for life. And being able to put oneself to sleep when your tired is also a skill that will serve them well. She wakes up happy and rested – and is in no rush for us to get her either! It makes me really proud of her independence to see her playing in her crib for 10 or 15 minutes when she wakes up in the morning – arranging her animals, waving her lovey, walking and practicing words. She’s not afraid to be alone, another important skill. And when she’s ready to see us, she starts yelling for ‘daddy’ and ‘up.’ I will do it agin with the next ones with no hesitation. A well-rested family is a happy family and I agree that trumps all!… Read more »

Oh Emily, thanks for being so candid and thoughtful with this post. So many “public figures” wouldn’t, so thanks for being cool. I thought that “sleep training” meant “cry it out” so I didn’t even want to research it. I realize now that I was surrounded by a bunch of judgmental people when I was pregnant/early on with my newborn. Anyway, fast forward to being at my wits end when my daughter was around 6 months. I finally (in my zombie state and thanks to my wonderful pediatrician) started researching sleep training again. We did something very similar – using the Jodi Mindell “Sleeping Through The Night” book – at around 6 months I night weaned and we went in every few minutes. All the mamas and dads and caregivers out there in the throws of serious sleep deprivation, it gets better! My 18 month old is now in a great place and even when she gets thrown off by travel or getting sick, we know how to handle it and get back on track. As Emily says, confidence is f-ing KEY. xoxo

oh god. i love her little punkin haid. oh my god.

Autumn

I’m actually in the co-sleeping camp, but I would like to say I thought you wrote this post so well with honesty and non-judgment. Moms judge other moms too harshly in general. I felt secretive of the fact that we co-sleep for so long because I didn’t want to hear all the “you need to train that baby!” And “how will he ever sleep on his own” type comments. We lie with them til they fall asleep (10-15 minutes) then have our time together, then when we’re ready for bed we join them. If we dont they always wake up to come find us. If we are just there everyone sleeps through the night. For our family, it’s how everyone got sleep and when everyone is rested, everyone is happy.

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