I thought I’d write about the sleep training I did with baby Ethan as people ask me how he sleeps 12 hours a night and two hours in the day, (I’m aware that ALL babies are different and some need more sleep than others – I have a friend who’s baby only sleeps for two 30mins naps a day). As a new mum and one of the first of my friends to have a baby, I was screwed, I had no idea what I was doing and how to add any form of structure to this little being’s life.
Ethan had colic (or so we think – he cried every afternoon / evening for four months), and the only way we could shut him up and/or get him to sleep was by us holding him and bouncing on a Swiss ball. This, of course, built a lovely little rod for our backs as he would only go to sleep while being rocked, which as you can imagine, was soooo fun.
Also by eight months we still hadn’t managed to drop the 4am wake up for a bottle, it was like clockwork and it was horrible. He had slept through a couple of times between six – eight months so I knew he was capable. We also clocked on (slow I know) that he’d received all the milk / food he needed in the day and so the night feed was a habit, which we then had to break.
We tried a few different methods, the soothing with the ‘shhh-ing’, the sound machine, lights, and even the let him cry it out which was horrible. My mum mentioned a programme was on called Bedtime Live which we proceeded to watch, actually I recorded the series in case I needed a revisor. They focussed on three different families per week who all had issues getting their children to bed and sleeping through the night, from babies through to older kids. So I watched the series and then when I was ready and felt mentally up for it, I did it.
They used the slow or gradual retreat method on a baby and so I went for that method. Its about having a set bedtime routine and then eventually the baby will go to sleep in their cot on their own. Here it goes:
1. Wind them down whether it be a story or bedtime tv about 30mins before you put them down. We start at 6:30pm with a bath, 7pm milk and baby bedtime tv, 7:30pm in cot. Every night.
2. Put them in cot and if they cry place hand on chest until they stop, avoiding eye contact. Then remove hand, when cry again, put hand back on chest – keep repeating, the settle time between each cry should get longer and longer over time. The first night you might have to keep your hand on them until they’re asleep! Or possibly sleep on the floor.
3. Gradually you will be able to step away a bit further each time, and going back and putting your hand on their chest to settle when they cry.
4. Over the nights you will be able to get closer and closer to the door and eventually outside the bedroom door, and pulling it to. But each time they cry head back in to settle. If you’ve made it to outside the door, they cry to test that you’re still there, and show them that you are by putting your head round the door, but no eye contact.
5. When I got to outside the door phase and Ethan was still awake I would sniff or clear my throat so he could hear that I was still there without seeing me. This took about four nights to accomplish.
6. I used this method for two weeks really sticking to it and not giving in to picking him up, sound machines etc and just settling with a hand on the chest. By the end of the two weeks, I could put him in his cot, kiss him goodnight and walk out and leave him. I wouldn’t hear a peep, he would be asleep within 20mins, on his own with no crying. Hallelujah!
7. Tackling the 4am wake up call. I used the same method of hand on the the chest and settling his cry. If it was going on for longer than I wanted I would offer water instead of milk. But again, by sticking to method and not giving into milk or picking up, after the two weeks he didn’t wake up and would sleep through.
8. The waking up at 6am. This was tackled a few weeks later, but every morning we would leave him a little bit longer, like 10mins a morning until we would get him up. We left soft toys in his cot to play with as well. So over the week we went from a 6am wake up to a 7am wake up.
9. Sticking to it is key. When they have a bad night assess what the issue is. If its teeth then medicate accordingly, if its nightmares, hand on chest and sooth them. But the next night, get back to the routine so they know its not changing because they will test the boundaries.
10. Now Ethan goes to sleep on his own, we put him down at 7:30pm and he wakes up between 7am – 7:30am. He goes down in the day for two hours and easily because of the sleep training.
So after eight months of struggling to get him to sleep and broken nights, we saw the light and did the sleep training and its the best thing I’ve done. We get our evenings and eight hours of sleep. Sleep makes for a happy household.
Spanner in the works – We’re moving Ethan into a bed in the new year and so the sleep training is going to start all over again when he realises he can get out of bed himself and come into our room at any time. The Bedtime Live programme covered this so I was sure to take notes. I’ll report back when I’m in the thick of it…