I have been avoiding sleep training baby in her crib since day one. I have gotten so used to sleeping next to her, I couldn’t stand the thought of her sleeping in another room. Every week would bring a different excuse. After she gets her shots, after the 4 month sleep regression, after we’re done traveling. And the longer I took to move her, the more anxious my heart grew.
The truth is, I am the one with separation anxiety. Not her. And when we got back from our summer trip to Spain, I knew it was time because neither of us had had a good night of sleep in weeks.
I unintentionally broke my sleep training into three phases. Phase 1: get her into her crib. Phase 2: use monitor. Phase 3: Ferber method.
In order to mentally prepare myself for sleep training, I laid out a few ground rules to get myself comfortable. I knew what I needed in order to make this transition successful.
First, I gave myself a week to sleep in the room with her (Phase 1). The thought of depending on a monitor sent me into a full panic. But if I stayed in the room those first few days I’d be able to monitor her myself. I could see how she behaves in her crib, how she moves, what noises she makes, what they mean. I thought it’d help me feel more confident using the monitor later on, and it did.
Second, I slept on the floor. My husband kept suggesting I move a bed into her room. But I knew if I did that I would never leave. So I made my sleeping conditions less than ideal so I couldn’t stay there indefinitely. By night five my back was a wreck and I had to sleep in my own bed.
Third, and most importantly, I cut myself some slack. My personality is very “all or nothing”. I’m a perfectionist. And there’s just no room for that in motherhood. This thing takes so much trial and error. So that first night, I let her cry for a bit. I think it was like 15 minutes, but it felt like multiple eternities. I was curled up in fetal position on the floor next to her, silently sobbing into a pillow. I eventually picked her up and rocked her, then I nursed her back to sleep. This is a big “no no” according to the experts. But you have to do what feels right for you and your baby.
PHASE 1: GET BABY INTO CRIB
Like I said, it takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what’s right for your baby. That first week, while I was on the floor, I tried letting her cry it out. Sometimes she put herself back to sleep, sometimes she didn’t. I gave her my shirt to sleep with. That worked really well, but then I got super paranoid about her suffocating so I took it away. She’s been able to sleep without it just the same. I had her in the dock-a-tot with a blanket underneath to keep her at an incline. I tried removing it one night and she didn’t sleep well at all, so I replaced it. Now she sleeps in an empty crib with just a lovey. I also put up a mesh bumper.
PHASE 2: USE MONITOR
The first night I used the monitor was brutal. I did our same nighttime routine, nursing her to sleep. And as soon as I walked out of her room and shut the door behind me, I fell apart. I walked into the room and sobbed into my husband’s shoulder for a while and then spent the entire night staring at the monitor, watching for her chest to move up and down.
The routine stayed about the same, however she started waking A LOT more. And I was nursing her back to sleep each time. At one point she was waking every hour. It was a rough week and neither of us were sleeping so I knew it was time to make a real, consistent, significant change. That is when I started looking into the Ferber method. A few different friends of mine had told me to try it but I hadn’t really looked into it. Then I watched a video where a mom documented an entire week using it with her baby girl, who was about the same age as mine. After watching her video, I was convinced. I knew that night I needed to start.
PHASE 3: THE FERBER METHOD
In short, the Ferber method calls for letting your baby cry it out in their crib. This is the exact opposite of how my mom brain works. When she cries, I’m immediately swooping in to soothe her. But I was starting to see how that wasn’t a healthy habit to form when it came to sleep. Sleep is so important in order to be healthy and grow.
Basically, you put baby down drowsy but awake. If they begin to cry, you wait 3 mins. before the first check in. When you do go to check on baby, you don’t pick her up. You just rub her and soothe her and tell her she’s okay. Then you leave. If she continues to cry, you wait 5 mins. and repeat the check in process. Then again at 10 mins. The following days, the waiting time increases incrementally.
I’m putting together a entire post dedicated to my week of using the Ferber method, but in general it is going very well. I completely understand why it’s so popular. I have witnessed her learn to put herself to sleep. She has cried. And so have I. I’ve picked her up to nurse once or twice just to soothe her. Some nights have been better than others. Naps started out awful, but now they’re way better. It’s working. And I’m so happy to be giving her this gift. The gift of being able to calm herself down, soothe herself, put herself to sleep. That’s an invaluable lesson that she’ll keep for her entire life…I hope! The check ins let her know that I’ll always be there, but letting her cry let’s her figure out how to settle herself down.
I really believe this whole sleep training thing is a crap shoot. There have been plenty of studies and everyone is an expert, but at the end of the day all you can do is try until you crack your own code. We’re still figuring it out, but I’d say so far, so good.