Disclaimer: I am not a certified sleep trainer nor am I a doctor. I am sharing my personal experiences of what worked for my kids and everything shared is my personal opinion.
I’ve always been someone who loves structure and schedules so when I had my firstborn son, I knew that I wanted to get him on a schedule as soon as possible. At the time I was working and my job offered me three months of maternity leave which I decided to take. During my maternity leave, one of my goals was to ensure that by the time I had to return to work, the baby would be on a schedule. So I started to research different sleep training methods until I found the one that I thought would work for us, the Ferber method (aka check-and-console method).
WHAT IS THE FERBER METHOD?
Also known as the check-and-console method, it is basically a cry out method that teaches your child how to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. This way they do not depend on you to put them to sleep through other methods (such as rocking, singing, or falling asleep in your bed first). You want to put your child to bed when they are sleepy, but still awake so they can learn to go to sleep by themselves. Mostly all babies will cry at first because this is something new for them. So the idea is to go in and check on them in intervals such as every five minutes the first day, every 10 minutes the second day, and so on. However, some people choose to increase the time intervals on the same day. It’s entirely up to you what you decide, both ways have worked out just fine. I personally went every 5 minutes on the first day, every 10 minutes on the second day, and every 15 minutes on the third day. On the fourth day, my son went to sleep on his own after crying for only about 2-3 minutes. Then by day five, he fell asleep as soon as he was placed in the crib. It is important to remember that when you go in to check on your baby, DO NOT pick them up unless they need a diaper change or a feeding. You can gently pat them and let them know that everything’s ok.
Also, if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night during training, don’t rush in to their rescue right away. Give it about 5-10 minutes to see if they fall back asleep on their own. Sometimes they are just startled or had a dream and will go right back asleep. You don’t want to get them into the habit of depending on you in the middle of the night each time they wake up. Remember, the point of this method is to teach them to self-soothe and go to sleep on their own. If your baby continues to cry after the “waiting period”, then go in and check on them.
SO I HAVE TO LET MY BABY CRY, ISN’T THAT CRUEL?
If you know your baby has a clean diaper, was recently fed, and has nothing else wrong with them, then rest assure they are just trying to communicate to you. Since you are trying to adapt them to a new process, it is normal that they cry about it. Remember a baby’s way of communicating is through crying, so it doesn’t always mean they are crying because they are hurt or need something. Again, as long as you know they just ate, they have a clean diaper, and are good to go, its ok to let them cry it out for a little bit. If you are in doubt, you can test your theory by picking them up. If they immediately stop crying when picked up and then start crying again as soon as you put them back down, then you know that they just want to be held.
AT WHAT AGE CAN YOU START SLEEP TRAINING?
I started sleep training my son at six weeks and by eight weeks old I can say he was on a solid schedule, sleeping eight hours through the night. Most sites recommending you wait until 4-6 months to start this sleep training method but honestly it worked great for me early on! Again, you have to try to see what works for you but I personally believe it is never too early to sleep train your kids. I speak from experience when I say the earlier you train your little ones the easier it will be.
Once my second son was born, I started implementing some of the sleep training habits as soon we got home. Now that doesn’t mean I left him crying already because as you know, a newborn does not run off of a schedule the first couple of weeks of life. But I did things such as leaving the house quiet and dark at night, giving him a bath around the time I wanted his bedtime to be, and not putting him to sleep by any means other than placing him in his bassinet/crib.
I also believe its never too late to sleep train a child. So if you are reading this and you have an older baby/child that you want to try to sleep train, go for it! Give it a try. Just know that it may be a little tougher but it’s so worth it!
KEEP A LOG
For both of my sons, I kept a log of their feedings, nap times, and nighttime sleep. This helped me track their sleeping patterns and let’s face it, it’s hard to remember all of the tiny details without writing it down! At the end of each day, I would review how much the baby napped during the day and how much he slept at night. Once I noticed a pattern, I was able to establish an exact bedtime and wake-up time and his naptimes easily fell into place. Before I knew it, my baby was taking his naps and going to bed/waking up the same time every day. That is your goal!
WHY YOU SHOULD ESTABLISH A BEDTIME ROUTINE AND INCORPORATE IT INTO YOUR SLEEP TRAINING
An established bedtime routine helps children wind down and mentally prepares them for bedtime. When you have the same repetitive daily routine, they know what to expect and they associate the bedtime routine with bedtime. Be sure to stick to the bedtime routine you choose and do it at the same time every day. Knowing what to expect soothes your baby. The result is a better nights rest for both baby and you. It is so important to establish an early bedtime for your child to promote healthy sleep habits. For more information about bedtime routines, be sure to read my blog post “Bedtime Routines and Why They Are Important.”
HOW LONG DOES SLEEP TRAINING TAKE?
Using the Ferber method, it took a good 4-5 days to sleep train my sons. However, I had had friends whose children took almost two weeks long to sleep train and they wanted to give up! But after what felt like the longest two weeks of their lives, that baby was sleeping through the night and both mom and dad were happy. With that said, the time can differ for each chid. It could take 3-4 days, 5-6 days, or two weeks for your child to adapt.
Also, it is important to make sure that you are home every day for their bedtime routine while you are sleep training. Remember, consistency is key. You should be doing the same thing every day at the same time in order to be successful. Once your child is fully sleep trained, and I mean has a solid sleep schedule for a couple of weeks after training finished then I would say you can go out past their bedtime. Because let’s face it, no one wants to be locked in their house forever. However, it is important to make sure you continue to complete their bedtime routine whether you choose to do it at someone else’s house or once you get home. Getting off the schedule once or twice a week once your child’s sleeping habits are fully established should not harm the sleep training. But when you start being inconsistent time after time and getting out of the routine, then you can mess up all of the hard work you did.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOUR BABY BE SLEEPING ONCE HE/SHE IS SLEEP TRAINED?
Honestly, that depends on how old your baby is and what their eating needs are. Like I previously mentioned, my first son slept through the night for a total of eight hours without any feedings by two months old. However, my second soon suffered severe acid reflux so he still woke up to eat every 3-4 hours for the first five months of his life. But he still had a bedtime routine, went to bed every night at 7:30 pm and went right back to sleep on his own after his nighttime feedings. So it’s important to not put high expectations on your little one and expect that they will sleep 10-12 hours so early one. Again, every baby is different and they each have their specific needs.
*I do encourage that you establish an early bedtime so that when your baby does start to sleep longer, they will eventually be waking up at a normal time in the morning and not sleeping until 10:00-11:00am.
HOW CAN I TEACH MY BABY DAY FROM NIGHT?
A baby doesn’t know the difference between night and day so one of the first things you need to do is teach them. How can you do this? In the daytime have lots of background noise, music, TV, etc. Don’t keep the house super quiet because the reality is during the day noises occur. Then at nighttime, when the baby goes to bed, turn off lights and keep the house quiet so the baby can understand its time to sleep. As you continue this, they will soon be able to distinguish nighttime from daytime. Without our help, they will be lost.
BUT WE’VE TRIED SLEEP TRAINING BEFORE AND IT DIDN’T WORK, NOW WHAT?
It is possible that the sleep training method I used for my kids may not be the best method for you and your family. You know your child best! There are different sleep training methods out there that you can try. I am a firm believer that every child can be trained in anything that we want to teach them. A child will adapt to what we accustom them too! I encourage you to try again and maybe try with a different approach and I guarantee you, you will see results!
IS IT POSSIBLE TO SLEEP TRAIN EVEN IF YOU LIVE IN A ONE BEDROOM APARTMENT AND THE BABY DOESN’T HAVE IT’S OWN ROOM?
Yes, it’s possible! When we slept trained my first son, we lived in a one-bedroom apartment until we moved to a two-bedroom apartment when he was about four months old. What we did was place his bassinet away from the side of our beds on the other side of our room, and laid him facing the wall so he wouldn’t see us. Then, of course, we had to make sure we didn’t make any noise in our room and would spend our time out in the living room until we were ready to sleep. It was a bit challenging at first because we weren’t used to the new quietness and darkness in our room, but it worked out just fine. And with the baby facing the other direction, he thought he was sleeping alone which helped him in the training process.
IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW THAT…
Sleep training doesn’t always mean that the baby won’t wake up at night to feed. Some babies still need to wake for feedings at such a young age (experts say some wake until 6 months which is when the stomach can go 12 hours without eating). And while that’s perfectly fine, they should still go to bed at the same time every night, keeping their bedtime routine consistent.
However, something my doctor taught me with my first born and I firmly believe it to this day, is to never wake a sleeping baby at night to feed them unless it’s medically necessary. If your baby is hungry, he/she will wake up on their own and let you know.
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT WAKING THEM UP?
Because you run the risk of getting them into a bad habit of solely “wanting” to feed at nighttime even if they aren’t hungry. Of course, this happens more so over time, but the earlier you start healthy sleeping habits, the easier sleep training will go for you. Also, if your baby does wake up for a nighttime feeding, be sure to feed them in the dark. You don’t want to engage with them a lot that way they know it’s time to go back to sleep. The same goes for nighttime changes. You can use your phone flashlight or a night light in the room for you to see, but you never want to turn on all of the lights because it will make the baby think it’s time to wake up and they will have a hard time going back to sleep. Once you finish and place your baby back in their crib, they should fall right back asleep. Remember, it may take a couple of days for them not to cry at first since you are still in sleep training mode, but remain consistent and your baby will be sleeping on their own in no time.
THE BEST ADVICE I CAN GIVE YOU IS TO…
I can’t say this enough; be consistent and don’t give up!! Inconsistency will throw everything off and the baby will notice it. Consistency also helps soothe babies. And its important to remember that some babies have stronger characters than others and are fighters. So just as you are trying to be persistent and adapt them to a new schedule, they are trying to be persistent to get their way. Stay strong and hang in there mama! You got this!
LAST BUT NOT LEAST…
I want you to be successful in your sleep-training journey and because of this, I have created a printable sleep-training log that you can download for free! This will help you track your baby’s sleeping patterns, as well as their eating patterns and anything else you might want to track. I hope you find this tool helpful!
So are you ready to get sleep training?! Be sure to Download Your Free Printable Baby Sleep Log today and get started! If you try this sleep training method and it works for you or even if you choose to try a different sleep training method, I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below! I would also love to help out with any questions you may have as much as I can.
Wishing you the best of luck, YOU CAN DO THIS!
Until next time.