Many people who don’t have children don’t know what “sleep training” is and don’t know how controversial it is. In fact, i had no idea what i was getting into until I became a baba. Sleep training brings the best (and worst) out of parents and this was written for parents and/or future parents based on our experience. Now that I’m a parent, i have a lot more compassion for the decisions we chose to make and how it challenges what we feel instinctually, politically, and emotionally. In the end, it is about understanding the time, place and conditions of your child, household and situation. That should be the main basis to guide your methods.
(Image of Collin sleeping in his crib at month 4 with his blue noise cancelling headphones and blue socks on this hands to prevent him from clawing his face. Collin had many sound sensory issues and these headphones saved us a lot.)
To start with, here are some overall principles that I came up with:
- Develop the interdependence of child and parent (not either independence or dependence)
- Allow them to have agency and build their protagonism
- Meet their basic needs
Meet their basic needs:
- Being fed
- Diaper changed
You can start sleep training at 4 months. It is ok too if you wait it out a little, but the baby also needs to begin developing their own ways to soothe. After 3 months, some call it the 4th trimester, they should be big enough to handle sleep training and developing interdependence. 4 months is when people typically start sleep training.
So how did we do it?
We did it differently than traditional / hardline folks (i.e. Ferber method). Some people do sleep training based solely on C.I.O. “crying it out”. Our method was based on our principles and was more nuanced. But we did agree ahead of time how long we were going to test this method. I suggested to Mychi that we’d try it out for 5 days (weekdays). That was more consistent and easy for routine development. This also meant I had to be more disciplined about his “schedule” and having events and guests for that week. It’s also important to track progress to see what trends are developing. Like for some reason he could only do 30-45 min naps during day but then could sleep 5-6 hours at night starting around 630 or 7 pm. Later on he started doing 1.5-2 hr naps in day. When he was 4-6 months old he generally slept 7 pm-12:30 am and then 1 am – 6 am. Also I chose days that mychi was not home because the crying initially is painful to hear and watch.
The step by step process.
After I fed him, burped him and changed diaper, I would spend 10-15 mins (sometimes longer) in the baby carrier (boba) on the pilates ball to signal to him we are slowing down. He’d usually fall asleep by then. then I’d swaddle him and put him down.
When he started crying (different from making noises and talking), I’d wait 5 minutes. Then I’d come in for 1-2 minutes and assure him I was there next door. Depending on his cry or noise, sometimes I’d pick him up and burp him but generally I didn’t pick him up and just talked to him so he knew I was there. After that, if he still cried, I’d wait 10 minutes the second time around. This interval was harder but honestly after 6-7 minutes he would stop crying. BUT if that didn’t work, I’d come back in for 1-2 minutes and assured him I was there. If he cried again, I’d repeat this and go back to 5 mins and then 10 mins again.
My modification is the end. Hardliners usually go 20 mins, then 30 mins and then longer. I think that is extreme and sometimes (or often times) he cried because of his basic needs. But this all depends on your situation and the baby’s developing personality. Collin as a baby was pretty chill and cried in a particular way when he needed something. So if he was screaming, something was REALLY going down. Generally, it was true like he needed a diaper change or he had gas! He eventually developed his own soothing like sucking his fingers or the pacifier.
The hardest part.
The hardest things about doing this is getting used to the crying. Up until this point, most parents have not heard their baby cry for this long. I few minutes would feel like 20 minutes. I got used to timing everything to put things in perspective. This later proved to be very helpful as a tool to give Collin notification for transitions in the day.
Finally, you will need to maintain this routine at least during the week. Weekends are pretty hard with all the activities. Remember to also train your in-laws, your parents and supporters to stick with it. Not easy, but it will be worth it!
Note: Even though Collin began to learn how to sleep, he was constantly evolving and changing, sometimes regressing. Teething, an illness or just growing up threw off the routine for a couple weeks. We would need to keep assess the conditions and come up with our new approach and experiement. It is honestly just like organizing!
(Image of Collin in the crib sleeping at month 4 in his “magic sleepsuit” (a very thick sleepsuit to give resistance to a baby when they are tossing and turning in bed), with socks on his hands, the baby monitor next to his head and another blanket over him. This experimented lasted around 3 weeks but totally got him used to moving around without waking himself up.)
(Image of Collin awake laying down in a bouncy chair wearing his “magic sleep suit”, a full body picture.)
(This was originally written in Febuary of 2015)