sleep training

Sleep Training – My Personal Game Plan

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Sleep training is a spot of tension among many people. I have been reluctant to do sleep training with John for quite awhile now. It is agonizing to listen to your baby cry, even when you know that his crying is purely out of anger. Pre-baby me thought I would be a ‘tough love’ type of mom. Post-baby me now knows better. I am easily swayed and manipulated when it comes to John’s crying. I want to fix all of his problems. Even so, this doesn’t change the fact that everyone in the house needs sleep. My husband made the point that, although I am technically fixing the immediate problem, I am not fixing future problem.

I am not a medical professional. This is my family’s personal experience with one sleep training approach. Always consult your doctor before trying a sleep training approach.

Our Background

John is the cutest and happiest 8 month old. However, he has never seemed to need a lot of sleep. We have had a few nights where he has slept for more than 4 hours at a time. In the past 8 months, I can think of about 2 times where we have had a full night sleep. He really only likes to nap when I lie down with him or hold him. Frankly, he just loves being awake and being with his mommy. 

For over a month now, John has been waking 2-5 times between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. In addition, he has been waking up between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. every morning. Some mornings have even been as early as 3:30 a.m. I do Iove spending time with my son, especially when he is so happy in the mornings. But there have been many times where I am at my wits end. On average, most nights he is up every 2 hours. When I get a 3-4 hour stretch I think I can run a marathon! I know sleep training will be hard, but giving John (and mom) the gift of sleep is critical.

The following is my experience with sleep training.

Follow Ferber’s Plan

Since John went through the 4 month sleep regression, I have read several baby sleep books, asked questions on Mommy Facebook pages, and have exhausted Google searches about sleep. I do not want to act impulsively and implement CIO, Cry It Out, without a plan. I imagine it would not go well. Instead, I want us to go into sleep training prepared. Thus, our first step towards some blissful sleep will be reading and preparing.

With all of our research and knowing who our child is, we have decided to implement several different strategies we believe will work with our situation. Our plan is to follow the methods Ferber’s layed out in his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. We will use our own discretion to make modifications necessary.

sleep training

Introduce a Lovey Before Starting Sleep Training

Many books and online resources mention introducing a lovey. According to Ferber, introducing a lovely, “Can help him to prepare for and accept his nighttime separation” from his mommy. Thus, we have decided to give John a small blanket he likes. It is suggested that the mom wear the lovey in her bra for a day so the object has her comforting scent.

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Sleep training

Diagnose Causes of Sleep Problems

It appears we have three main problems with John’s sleep. First, he must fall asleep nursing. Second, he wakes up too early. And third, he wakes out of hunger at night and can’t fall back asleep with nursing.

Before implementing Ferber’s Progressive Waiting Approach (Sleep Training) to solve his sleep association with nursing, we want to work on fixing John’s early waking problem. To do this we need to determine John’s sleep phase. A sleep phase is the time where your child becomes tired enough to fall asleep for the night until the time your child naturally wakes up. Our bodies have rhythms that are set for time asleep and time awake. John’s sleep phase is happening from 7:00 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. Thus, John is a lark. This means John wants to go to bed early and get up early. Ferber believes the whole schedule needs to be altered to fix a problem like this. This will help alter his sleep phase altogether.

In order to fix John’s issue with waking out of hunger, each night he needs to be expected to go longer and longer without eating. We decided that for the first few nights we would only work on hunger and then move to the actual sleep training. Ferber believes that excessive feeding at night causes several problems such as, there are more soiled diapers, the body temperature raises because the metabolism is working, and overall, needing to eat disrupts continual sleep. The more I read Ferber’s research, the more I feel night feedings really need to disappear.

Possible Schedule Solution  

    1. To begin, we want to make sure John learns to get hungry later in the morning. He wants to wake and eat at 4:30 a.m. and then he has a hard time falling asleep again.
    1. In addition, we want to remove the early morning nap (7:00 a.m.). Ferber mentions that early morning naps can act as the last sleep cycle of the night, just broken off. We believe that moving the nap later might separate it enough from night sleep to allow him to sleep later in the morning.
  1. Ferber suggests you move all scheduled times 15 minutes later every day, feedings, naps, etc. But John’s schedule is so sporadic  that we are going to create an entirely new schedule. I am going to slowly move his bedtime back for the first few days. I know he wants to go to bed earlier than the time we wish, so I will try to not push him to0 hard until he has started adjusting. We are also planning on naps only lasting 1-1.5 hrs. He should be getting 9-10 hrs night sleep. Ferber believes expecting babies to sleep for 12 hours a night is unreasonable. They do not need this much sleep.

Ideal Schedule

Wake up 6-6:30 a.m.
Breastfeeding 7:00 a.m.
Family Devotions 7:30 a.m.
Family Breakfast/ Solids for John 7:45 a.m.
Matins 8:30 a.m.
First Nap 10:00 a.m.
Family Lunch 11:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m.
Second Nap 2:00 p.m.
Walk 5:00 p.m.
Dinner/Solids for John 6:00 p.m.
Last Feeding

Reading/quite time

7:30 p.m.
Bedtime Routine 8:00 p.m.
In Bed 8:15 p.m.
Asleep 8:30 p.m.

Ditch the Sound Machine

Next, we want to get rid of the sound machine. My husband loathes the sound machine.  When I read in Ferber’s book that it is better to use one, Andrew was beyond ecstatic. If my husband didn’t hate it so much I probably would keep it, but removing this crutch is probably for the best. John has to learn to cope without it eventually. I plan to start by slowly turning the sound machine down and then turning it off completely.

sleep training
Sleep? What is this sleep you talk about?

Ferber’s Progressive Waiting Approach (Sleep Training)

As a family, we have decided to do Ferber’s Progressive Waiting Approach as our sleep training method. Although this might change, I would like to start with a less aggressive approach than cold turkey CIO. I do know that John’s crying gets worse when we enter the room. This is why I plan to be flexible. If we need to do CIO without checking in, we will do this. The main goal of doing the Progressive Waiting Approach is to remove sleep associations. We cannot blame babies for needing us to fall asleep when they have not had a chance to fall asleep independently. As an adult, I need my hands and pillow a certain way to fall asleep efficiently. Right now, John needs to be nursing to fall asleep. That is all he knows and it is the sleep association we must break. We will start with a later bedtime to make sure that John is good and tired. Also, John will not be allowed to make up sleep the next day.

Originally we did not plan to let John cry at each waking in the middle of the night or during nap time. However, in our final plan, we decided that if we were going to do sleep training, we must do it for real.

If you plan to use Ferber’s methods, I highly recommend reading his book, Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems. It would be really hard to make a plan without the background from this book.

A follow up post will occur soon so you can see how our first-hand experience with sleep training goes.

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