Typical blog disclaimer – I’m not a doctor or an expert by any means, this is simply what worked for our baby and our family. I researched all of our options and made sure we did everything in the safest way possible. And as usual, this is long. You should talk to me in person – I’m a talker!
When Whitlee came home from the NICU, they told us she’d be on a schedule and used to sleeping in a bassinet. Well I don’t know what we did to mess that up but it went out the window the first night.
We started out with her sleeping in the Rock and Play next to our bed. The first few nights were pretty rough and she wouldn’t sleep in it at all. She’d sleep on me, and that was it. Then we tried the bassinet attachment to our pack and play. No dice. I stayed at it, letting her nap throughout the day in the Rock and Play and she eventually got a little better about it. The problem there was sometimes when we’d lay her down in the R&P during the day or at night, she’d wake up almost immediately, no matter how sound asleep she was seconds before in our arms. It was exhausting.
Then I figured out a trick. I started prewarming the R&P with a heating pad, letting her fall completely asleep while holding her, then we’d careeefully lay her down in the already warm R&P. (just for clarification, I’d remove the heating pad before I put her back in it.) Score! Then our problem lied in the whole letting her fall completely asleep thing. When she’d wake up in the middle of the night to eat, we’d change her diaper, feed her, reswaddle her, and then pat her butt a little until she fell asleep. But sometimes this took an hour and a half to two hours. Then for some reason, she’d rarely make it more than an hour in the R&P before she’d wake up again, even if it wasn’t time for her to eat again. So I did what I swore I wouldn’t do. I started letting her go as long as she could in the R&P, then I’d bring her to bed with me. That’s when she proved she’s quite capable of going even up to 5 hours between feedings at night. But even though I was doing everything I could to ensure a safe co-sleeping environment, I was still terrified of something happening so my sleep wasn’t very restful at. freakin. all. And I didn’t want the ultimate task of moving her out of our bed when she’s like 5 or something. So I started researching…wait for it – sleep training. *gasp!*
Our thinking was that she has proven she’s comfortable going 3-5 hours between feedings at night, so we needed to find some way to get her to sleep as much as possible in those stretches. I basically was aiming for feeding her and putting her back to sleep in the shortest amount of time possible, giving her and us the most amount of sleep at a time. The majority of what I read about sleep training was teaching them to fall asleep on their own without the aid of a crutch – things like being held to sleep, pacifiers, special blankets, etc.. Whitlee doesn’t love a pacifier, and she doesn’t have any special blankets yet, so our main obstacle was her need to be held to sleep.
Because of the odd layout of our house, her crib is super close to our room so we wouldn’t be moving her too far away, but I felt like she and us both would sleep better if she got used to her crib. Plus she’s a super noisy sleeper and moving her to her crib would be far enough to hear her little noises as a comfort that she’s breathing and okay, but far enough not to keep me awake with every little noise. I took everything I read with a grain of salt and devised a loose plan to start getting her to sleep in her crib. Armed with our sleep essentials – Sleep Sheep sound machine, SwaddleMe velcro swaddlers, basic heating pad, and our Samsung video monitor – we held our breath and gave it a shot.
We started on a Friday so that we’d have the weekend to dedicate to it just in case she flat out refused the crib, it wouldn’t be too detrimental to our sleep. Our plan was to get her happy – bath, clean clothes, clean diaper, full belly, swaddled – and then get her drowsy, but not fully asleep, then lay her down in a prewarmed crib. We’d give her 5 minutes to fuss or cry and settle herself, then we’d go in and help her with what they call a shush-pat, where you pat them lightly and “sshh, sshh, sshh” them, hopefully without picking them up. Of course, if she was just completely distraught I would have picked her up.
We gave her a bath, put on clean clothes, a new diaper, and swaddled her. Then Nolan fed her a bottle and snuggled with her a little while I cooked supper. Then we laid her down in her warm-ish crib, turned on the Sleep Sheep to the rain setting, and hoped for the best. I actually think it was harder on me than her. I stood outside her door for a while, even though we could clearly see her on the video monitor. She fussed and cried, then she’d stop, then she’d fuss and cry, then stop. I went in at 5 minutes and shush-patted her and she calmed down. As soon as I left, she started it up again. It took two rounds of shush-pat visits for her to calm down and she fell asleep. Not too shabby.
When she woke up to eat the next time, we kept the lights low and did everything quietly. We didn’t talk much, just quietly changed her diaper, fed her, reswaddled her and let her get drowsy again. Then we went for round two. This time it took 4 times of going in to shush-pat her and calm her down. At this point I was getting a little nervous. I kept telling myself to stick to it and I hoped I wasn’t hurting her feelings. #emotionalwreck
The next time she woke up, we did the same routine. This time, she went right back to sleep all on her own! We laid her down, she fussed a little but never cried and then she was out!
The next day, I put her in her crib for all of her naps and she did great! (I do let her sleep unswaddled and on her belly occasionally during the day, but only when I can watch her 100%. It does make for some super cute pictures. She curls her feet under her like that every time.)
I won’t continue with nightly updates, because after the first night that was basically it. It just seemed to click for her. We do baths every other night and try to treat her feeding at around 7/8 PM as her bedtime. We try to stick to the same routine every time. She still wakes up every 3-4 hours to eat, with the occasional stretch to 5 hours (it’s happened once or twice), but now when we wake up to feed her, it’s fairly quick and she’s back down in her crib usually within 30 minutes at the most. We’re normally “up for the day” around 7/8 AM, then she naps a few times during the day. I do still let her sleep on me occasionally to get in plenty of snuggles. We’ve had a few nights where she was a little fussier than normal, like one time she was awake during the day for over 6 hours and I think she was WAY overstimulated, therefore resulting in a bad night’s sleep, and then after her 2 month shots, but for the most part she’s amazed us with the ability to self soothe and fall asleep. I’m equal parts sad and proud that she seems so grown up to have done this so early. I feel like it’s great for her and will be especially helpful when I go back to work. We’ll be leaving her swaddled in the velcro swaddlers until she’s rolling over, then we’ll swap to a sleep sack of some sort. I’ve been thinking of weening the swaddlers early, because I’m nervous that she may learn to roll all the sudden, and then we’re stuck going cold turkey on the swaddle. The swaddle plus the pre-warmed crib seem to be the two things that calm her the most. If you’re having trouble keeping your baby asleep when changing from sleeping on you to a different sleep surface, I recommend pre warming it with a heating pad on medium heat. I always touch the surface with my hand before I lay her down and make sure it didn’t get too hot by chance.
So it’s not a hardcore sleep training scenario, but I do feel like we’ve laid some really great groundwork for healthy sleep habits. And it definitly doesn’t hurt that I’m getting a little more sleep with it! Next stop – sleeping through the night! 🙂