It is now officially three short weeks until my little lady turns the big Zero – One. Crazy, right? Where on earth did that twelve months go?! There were two things I had wanted to achieve by her first birthday, and that was to have her weaned off breastfeeding, and to have her sleeping through the night. Or you know, just not crying every half hour from 5:30pm – 8am. February rolled around and I realised I’d failed miserably on both counts. Lila is still very attached to my boobs, and if I had a dollar for every time I’d gone back into her room to resettle her during the night for the last six months I’d be a seriously rich individual.
If there’s one thing I’ve learnt in the last twelve months, it’s that as a parent you are going to change your mind at least fifty times a day about every aspect of parenting. Beliefs you once had about your parenting style, like ‘I’ll never use a pacifier‘ will change faster than you can stand in babies’r’us yelling ‘GIVE ME EVERY PACIFIER YOU HAVE!’ I change my mind on parenting decisions more often than I change my sheets (Actually, that’s not hard. I change my sheets very infrequently, because I’m just grody like that). But it is my god-given right as a parent, dammit! I remember saying in the very beginning “Nah, I won’t let Lila cry it out. It’s barbaric!” Ah, the naivety of the new parent. Fast forward to eleven months later and I’ve tried at least thirty different settling techniques and read more books on baby sleep than I care to count, but the longest stretches of sleep Lila has done thus far has been one ten hour night, and one twelve hour night. That’s over twelve months. Sleep deprivation is nasty business, but getting a baby to sleep without driving yourself insane in the process is even nastier. So here I am, embarking on the controversial practice of ‘sleep training’, which is the nice way of putting it. Really what I mean is – I’m about to let my baby cry it out while I sit outside her door pulling out my hair and pretending I’m not absolutely dying inside, which really is no different to what I’ve been doing every night for the last six+ months anyway. I figured I’d keep a record of this whole ‘journey’, because while googling ‘sleep training for an 11 month old’ I came across nothing specific except for a bunch of very tired mothers like myself having heated debates over mummy forums about whether Ferber is an evil genius or just plain evil, and then just lots of your general non-age-specific advice on sleep training babies, which all says the same shit, really.
Because I am a c̶o̶m̶p̶l̶e̶t̶e̶ ̶n̶o̶o̶b̶ first-time parent, I seem to have made some seriously bad boo-boo’s when it comes to helping my child learn how to self-soothe. I always nursed her to sleep, I generally went in as soon as she cried in the night without waiting to see if it was just random sleep noises she was making, I rocked her and let her sleep on me and when she protested to someone else putting her to sleep, I’d run in and take over instead of just letting her get used to it. Bad mummy. I’m also the worlds most inconsistent person and never followed through with any particular sleep training methods, (until now, RIGHT LAUREN?) so it really isn’t any wonder why my daughter is so completely confused when it comes to bedtime.
But now that Lila is almost a year old, and I’m pretty confident she knows what’s what and can last all night without a feed (contrary to what she might think) I’m ready to bite the loudly crying bullet and begin navigating the tricky bitch that is CIO sleep training.
My main rules in this little endeavour are the following:
- Stop nursing her to sleep – feed her before the bedtime routine instead of right at the end
- Follow the bedtime routine of bath, massage, story, bed.
- Put her down awake, say goodnight and leave the room
- Check on her every 10 minutes until she stops crying
- Same goes for MOTN wake ups.
I’m also aiming for her to have two naps a day. She was trying pretty damn hard for a while there to convince me that she only needed one nap, but that seriously wasn’t working out too well for her, or for me. She’d be crashing by 4:30pm and then she’d wake up a couple of hours later ready to party until midnight. No bueno, baby.
The main problem I had previously encountered with CIO methods was that she would get so worked up that she’d end up vomiting. And then I’d just feel like the worst mother on earth and I’d cuddle her and let her stay up for the next hour, only to try to put her down again and she’d be like But what do you mean? We were having so much fun together just now! Cue vomit #2, 3 and 4. I couldn’t find any clear answer on what to do about this, some people said to leave the baby in the vomit all night so that they’d learn not to do it, others said to clean it up quietly without getting the baby up (What kind of wizard do you have to be to do that?) and some just said if it gets to spew point, abort mission altogether. So, I decided to just meet in the middle and if she has a vom, to pick her up, change her, clean up the spew, and put her back to bed with minimal fuss and start all over again. Luckily I haven’t encountered that problem yet, even with the scream-fest that happened last night. Here’s the rundown on day one.
Lila had two naps(!) 11am – 12:30pm, and 1:45pm – 3:45pm
I nursed her at 6pm, then gave her dinner, followed by a bath, a massage, a story and a song. I put her down in bed at 6:30pm, awake and showing tired signs but also looking at me like what the hell, mum? Despite her confusion, there was no initial crying, and she went off to sleep.
8:47pm – Lila woke up crying. I let her cry for five minutes to see if she’d put herself back to sleep. No luck.
8:52pm – I went in, replaced her dummy, stroked her cheek and left. She then went absolutely hysterical.
9:05 – Still crying hysterically but also seeming to be simmering down. I decided not to do the next check as in my experience, the checks just seem to make her more agro. She sounded as if she was on the verge of puking and I figured if I went in there she’d definitely chuck.
9:09pm – Stopped crying
9:20pm – Ramped up again
9:40 – Stopped crying
From 9:40pm – 11pm I could hear her playing in her cot, babbling away to herself. It seemed ridiculous that she was chatting away in there considering the way she’d been screaming the house down only minutes before, but there you go. She was clearly pretty unaffected by the whole thing.
She must have gone back to sleep around 11pm as I didn’t hear anything after that.
7:30am – Lila woke up but instead of crying for someone to come get her like usual, she was just happily babbling away to herself again. When I came into the room she wasn’t even standing up staring at the door like she usually does, she was just lying in the cot playing with her teddy bear.
So here’s the stats for the night – Total time crying: 54 minutes
Hours slept: 10.5 hours
Hours napping: 3.5 hours
MOTN feeds: 0
So all in all, I think day one was a pretty massive success. It was only really unbearable for 30 minutes, when she was really inconsolably crying. That was pretty bloody hard, but like I said to my friend who was there with me at the time – I’ve done exposure sessions that were just as hard, and made it out alive (but with less damage to my ear drums). Honestly, when I went in this morning to get her and saw her playing happily like she couldn’t have given less shits whether I was there or not, I felt 100% better about it all, because I knew she was rested and content. I’m not counting all of my chickens – or sleeping babies – just yet, because I know with this kind of thing it can get worse before it gets better, but so far I think we’re kicking goals. I’ll update tomorrow after Night #2!
Once again my little girl decided to be a superstar and have two naps during the day, the first at 9am – 10:30am, and the second at 12:30pm-2:30pm. She seemed pretty tired for most of the day but definitely not grizzly or clingy.
I followed the same routine as day 1, nursing her before dinner, and then a bath, massage, story and song. When I put her down she didn’t cry at all, just rolled over with her teddy bear and closed her eyes. So,
6:30pm – Put Lila to bed, presumably she went to sleep straight away
3:15am – I woke up to Lila crying. Went in to the room, replaced her dummy, patted her chest and walked out. She seemed pretty furious that I wasn’t going to pick her up and nurse her, so she kept on crying.
3:25am – Lila stopped crying
7:30am – Lila woke up. This morning she did wake up crying but I think that’s because I was slow to respond.
Here’s the stats for Day 2 – Total time crying: 10 minutes
Hours slept: 13 hours
Hours napping: 3.5 hours
MOTN feeds: 0
So far so good! I’m stoked that I managed to stay focused during the MOTN waking – as that is usually when I’m so delirious that I completely forget what I’m supposed to be doing and do whatever gets her back to sleep the quickest. High fives all round!
Once again Lila had two naps (seriously? After a month of fighting me tooth and nail on the afternoon nap!?) the first from 9:30am-11am and 1pm-2.45pm. The afternoon nap probably would’ve been longer if my dog didn’t wake her up barking at nothing like usual! I nursed her at 5:30pm followed by the usual bedtime routine. The night went as follows:
6:30pm – in bed, grizzling but not crying, quiet by 7:30pm
11:00pm – Lila starts crying
11:10pm – I went in for one check, replaced her dummy, stroked her cheek and left. Lila stopped crying immediately after I left the room.
10am – Lila woke up(!!)
Stats for Day Three – Total time crying: 10 minutes
Hours slept: 15.5 hours
Hours napping: 3.15 hours
MOTN feeds: 0
Once again there was no MOTN feeds at all. I know this for sure because I woke up with rock hard basketballs on my chest. It was both excruciating and really, really impressive.
Day four was where we went a little bit wonky. To be fair, both of us came down with a cold so I wasn’t surprised at all that Lila’s sleep went a bit off. The poor little thing had a river of snot running down her nose and that combined with a random 40°C day made for a really ‘fun’ time. And by fun I mean miserable and booger-filled. Her naps were also thrown off for the day considering she didn’t wake up until 10am, so she only had the one nap from 12:45pm – 1:30pm. I nursed her before dinner and followed the usual bedtime routine.
6pm – put Lila to bed, she went down pretty much straight away.
8:30pm – Lila woke up crying
8:40pm – I went in and replaced her dummy, she rolled over and went back to sleep. I think she was just angry that her nose was stuffy.
1:30am – Lila woke up crying, I went in, put her dummy in, walked out.
1:40am – did another check as she was still crying. She must have gone to sleep shortly after this.
3:10am – Woke up to Lila crying again. I went in and did the cardinal sin – I let her breastfeed. She was so snuffly and uncomfortable that I just thought she needed the extra TLC. She went right back to sleep when I put her back down.
8:30am – Lila woke up for the day.
Stats for Day Four – Total time crying: 30 minutes
Hours slept: 14.5 hours
Hours napping: 45 minutes
MOTN feeds: 1
I really wasn’t bothered by the extra wake ups on day 4. I’m totally okay with her getting up more often if she’s feeling unwell – that’s a normal thing to do. It’s just so nice having that as the odd occasion, rather than the every-night routine. I am stoked so far with this sleep training business, and the fact that my little lamb chop is now sleeping longer at night AND during the day is really making me feel like I’ve done the right thing. And if I needed any more proof – Jordan used to comment that she doesn’t giggle as much as other babies, but she has giggled more in the last three days even WITH a cold than she has in the last couple of months. I’m not an expert, but I’m pretty confident that I haven’t a) ruined my baby for life or b) made her feel abandoned or c) caused her to lose brain cells (I did question this when she was laughing hysterically at the hinge in the door frame today, but I’m preeeetty sure she was just laughing at her reflection in it. Jury is out on that one, will report back in 10+ years.)