Sleep Training

So several weeks ago, or maybe even a month ago, we put Little O on a sleep schedule for the first time. There of course are different schools of thought on how and what to do about your baby’s sleep. Ultimately, we decided that a schedule was in order because O was up with us until midnight (and often later) every night. Then he’d wake up between 8:30 and 10:30. During the day, he was unpredictable. Maybe he’d take a 2 or 3 hour nap. Maybe he wouldn’t take a nap at all. And the only way I could ever get him to sleep was to nurse him. We realized that many days, he was going on only 7 or 8 hours of sleep a day. So we decided that we needed a schedule.

I had already read much of Dr. Weissbluth’s book, Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. So I read a little more and specifically focused on the section of the book that applied to babies who were 7 or 8 months old, like O. He basically says to sleep at night from 7:30-7:00, nap at 9, nap in the early afternoon, and then to bed at 7:30 again. Here is how it’s happened for us:

First day: I woke up O at 7:00. He took his naps like a champ. And then at 7:30 when we put him down, he cried, of course. He was crying for a while, which was absolutely killing Mike and me. Finally, he stopped crying, and of course I had to run and check on him. I peered in the door, and saw his little body sitting up, slumped against the bars of the crib, which broke my heart. I thought for a second or more about what I should do, when all of a sudden his head popped up and he looked at me. Obviously there was no way that I was going to abandon my child again that night, so I took him downstairs and he fell asleep an hour or so later. He stayed asleep most of the night, and woke up briefly to cry for a few minutes but then was back asleep again.

Since this was the first time that O was sleeping out of our room, I had a horrible night’s sleep because I was waking up every hour or so and sneaking into his room to check to see that he was okay.

Second day: I woke up O at 7:00. He did well on his naps. At 7:30, we put him down again but this time we let him keep crying. It only lasted about 30 minutes and then he was asleep. Miracle! I got a bad night’s sleep again, but better than the night before.

And so this has continued. Basically, the routine is this: We get him down to sleep between 7 and 7:30. He cries usually 30 mins max. (He’s never cried more than 45.) He may or may not wake up briefly during the night, but this typically lasts on a couple minutes before he’s asleep again. He wakes ME up at 7. We go for a walk and we play and he eats. He goes down for a nap at 9. He is never asleep when I put him in the crib and he always cries like I’ve just done the meanest thing in the world. But within 15-30 minutes, he’s asleep. He wakes up happy, we repeat our routine, except this time I let him play while I work. Then I put him down when he’s ready for a nap again. He’s awake, he cries, but within 15-30 minutes, he’s asleep. In the evening, after dinner, Mike and I give him his bath and I nurse him and then if he’s not fussing, Mike will read him a story. Then we sing his bedtime song. This causes him to cry every night. Then we put him in his crib awake and we leave the room. He always cries.

I have to admit that I hate the crying. It’s nowhere nearly as bad as how I felt the first night. I’ve gotten quite used to it. But it still makes me sad. But the thing is, I really think that it’s just part of what he needs to get to sleep. Before this method, he was getting 8-12 hours of sleep a day, and never consistent. Now, he’s getting 12-16 hours of sleep a day. I know that people have a hard time letting their babies cry, but I guess the way I see it, a lot of the time, O cries when I’m changing his diaper and he wants to be doing something else. Or he cries when I’m trying to get his clothes on. And if I just stopped what I was doing to prevent his crying, then he’d run around all day naked and poop on the floor. So the sleeping thing is much the same. If I just stopped what I’m doing to prevent him from crying, he wouldn’t get all the sleep that he’s getting now.

(And as an aside, I might mention that while it was O’s sleep that motivated us to make this change, there have been some benefits for us. Namely: The grocery store is empty at 7:30 a.m. so I can do my grocery shopping in peace. I get out and go for a walk every morning, whereas we weren’t getting any fresh air before. I have periods during the day when I know that I can work and get things done. I have the entire evening to either work uninterrupted, or spend time one on one with Mike. So we’re happy with the other consequences of having a baby on a sleep schedule, too!)

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  1. Petit Elefant :

    If there's a sleeping philosophy I can get on board with, it's that of the author of Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child.

    It's a painful process all around, and I hated the month of getting C to sleep in his own bed. But we're all happier now….

  2. Melanie :

    I struggled like a mad woman with letting my little guy cry. . . but at almost 2, he's a sleeping CHAMP now, and I know I wouldn't have made it much longer on the sleep deprivation. You are SO doing the right thing for all of you.

  3. Sarah :

    I do the same sleep schedule with Lou. She sleeps great and it is nice to know when they will sleep because you can plan your day around it. do you find he is happier now? I know we have pretty mellow babies, but I notice a difference.

  4. Pam :

    There are soooo many people out there who would criticize you for letting him cry, but I think you have a very healthy perspective on it. Sleep is SO important, and crying is not harming him. I guarantee he won't remember it when he is 10. Congrats on finding something that is working for you!

  5. Jen :

    I have a deep and abiding love for that book. I wished very much that I had read it before I had my first child.

    Also, there is the cry of distress v. the just complaining cry, and as a mom, you totally know the difference and if baby was distressed you would be all over it.

  6. Artsy Aut :

    Thanks for that post! I have a 3 month old and Im getting ready to start getting him on a better schedule. Especially since I have to go back to work in a week! You have made me feel a little better about the crying that I know is coming!

  7. Alycat :

    LOVE that book! My daughter is the best sleeper because of it!

  8. Hazel's Mommie (aka liz) :

    that's the boook we used for our little Hazel, starting at 7 months when she was waking in the night for no reason. MIRACLE! she is now 26 months, and she still sleeps 730pm-8am, with a 2-3 hour nap! Let's hope this next baby is as easy (yeah, right!)

  9. Laura Ferry-Jimenez :

    believe it or not, I never really got the guilty feeling of my baby crying. I read an article once that said it's the best gift to give your child and makes total sense! aren't we all in great moods and ready to learn after a great night's sleep? win-win for all! :)

  10. undonegirl :

    I scheduled my 2 boys (birth children) and they sleep like champs, always have and have a healthy perspective on sleep. They're 11 and 13 now. My daughter, I adopted at 4 years old and she never had a schedule before that. She still, at 9 years old, has a hard time going to sleep. It takes her HOURS once we put her down and she is always tired. I hate it for her. Congratulations! It's a choioce you'll never regret and a gift to O.

  11. Donna :

    Thank you for this post!

  12. Amy :

    Our little one did the exact same thing. Eventually, though, we got past the crying for 15-30minutes and now he goes right to sleep on his own at 16months old.

    Crafting by Candlelight

  13. MiaKatia :

    I am all about a sleep schedule for my kids. All three are great sleepers (ok the baby is getting there). It really is a blessing for them to be able to put themselves to sleep.

  14. Megan :

    I love that book! We've been following it since Little P's birth and it's never lead us astray! The crying will definitely become less and less. When I leave her for naps, she now only sometimes cries, but it's only for when I'm in the room. The second I close the door behind me she is quiet and falls right to sleep. Sneaky! She's quiet, though, most of the time now so it was worth the effort to follow the plan.

  15. Trainer Momma :

    That book sits right next to my scriptures. I'm telling you, IT WORKS. Congrats on the slumbering child! Yahoo!

  16. Natalie :

    Great post! It is so difficult to hear your baby cry, but you're right – they cry in protest to so many things. Kiddos are so much happier when they get the sleep they need. And when the sun comes up and they are well rested and giving you a big smile you practically forget the tears…that is, until the next nap :-)