I am totally the mom whose heart breaks into a million pieces when my baby cries. Full on, soul-crushing, sloppy tears. While crying in an inevitable part of the toddler years, (just ask my two year old who is currently noodling on the floor) the true sadness crying from feeling alone is a different level of sadness and one I never want my newborns to experience if I can help it. As a working mom, I also know that in order to be the best mama to that sweet little babe and be the best human that has to work all day, I need quality sleep. I knew I wanted to find a no-cry sleep training routine.
My babes were all night nursers and babes that wanted to be rocked in a white noise room swaddled in a toasty aden and anais blanket. The one thing I knew about my sleep journey with a newborn: I was not willing to let my career get in the way of mothering that way I wanted to. So I knew that both me and my baby were ready for sleep training for mutual sleep benefits. And I also knew I wanted to sleep train in a way that was gentle, loving, and fit the style that I had built with my babe. Just in case you missed it, you can mother your baby any way you want.
My best friend Google shared lots of sleep training methodologies and books including Ferber, co-sleeping, and everything in between. I decided to use the knowledge of what I had learned about my baby and my own style to sleep train in the way that felt right for us. Hopefully the success of our sleep training journey will help another mama out there with some needed support!
Environment For Sleep
The foundation for sleep training for us was first establishing the best environment for sleeping. Both of our babies slept in a bassinet in our room 1for around 3-4 months, but then we worked hard to make their crib and nursery their favorite place. We have blackout curtains with a nightlight in each of their rooms, our favorite breathable cotton crib sheets from Burts Bees, and a white noise machine for our youngest. We spent several weeks before starting sleep/crib training with hours of playtime in the nursery and crib to establish the bedroom as a positive place.
The next thing we did while our littles were still in our room was start a bedtime schedule. And that might sound fancy. It wasn’t. It was 15 mins long. Our bedtime consisted of: pajamas and lotion in the nursery, nursing/bottle, and then reading one book in the glider. The one thing that made a huge difference for us with our bedtime routine was finding a sleep sack that triggered bedtime for our girls. Once the swaddling days were done, we were looking for a wearable blanket solution to maintain that cozy feeling while still being safe and effective. The nested bean sleep sack ended up being the winner for us because it mimics the feeling of being held/rocked which was essential for our girls. Check out my other post on the nested bean sleep sack for more info. Following this routine put our girls in a sleepy mood at bedtime which prepped us for the sleep training portion.
After setting up a great environment and bedtime routine I started sleep training. I will start by saying I am not a trained sleep consultant, and what worked for me might sound strange! It does not follow any specific program and I have only tried it with my own two children. But at the end of it, we had two fantastic sleepers that have slept 13+ hours since that day!They even magically sleep in on the weekends. I KNOW.
Literally the key ingredient to my sleep training was making sure my baby never felt alone. I expected some crying because it was new and even I cry when things change! But I did not want them to cry because they felt left and alone.
Literally, all I did was lay on the floor next to their crib and hold their hand through the crib. HELD THEIR TINY BABY HAND. If you are laughing at how that sounds you can join my husband! He laughed hysterically at me for the duration of the sleep training with each baby. I layed them down in their crib and then layed down next to them and held their hand. The first two nights, they cried a lot because they wanted me to pick them up.
But I continued holding their hand and told them I loved them. I held their hand and told them it was ok. People say all kinds of things about what babies at that age can and cannot understand. I just treated them like my world, like I did during the day. I trusted them to learn and made sure they knew that I was still there for them through it all.
Night one and two consisted of this process for 45-50 mins initially. For night-wakeups I still fed them as normal. But I repeated the sleep routine process again to get them back to sleep (if we are being honest, I slept in a sleeping bag outside the door for the first week.) The first week was long, and tiring. But by the fourth/fifth night, I only had to hold their hand for 5 minutes for the start of bedtime and all the wakeups. Once the night time feedings were no longer needed, I skipped the feeding part and continued with this routine for putting them back to sleep until they no longer woke up at all. Now I lay my kids down laughing in their crib, and see them 13 hours later.
Was I tired for the first few weeks back at work after maternity leave? Absolutely. Did my hair look like it had not been brushed, ever? You bet. But I showed up and worked hard at my career. And I spent my nights sleep training my kids in the way that felt natural and right for both of us: with a little hand holding.
All the best,