Beau is now 6 months old. We thought we had turned a corner on the dreaded 4 month sleep regression, but unfortunately it seems as though it was more a u-turn, landing us back where we started again. Beau has never been an excellent sleeper. He's given us nights here and there, revelling in the 8 hours of straight sleep we got when it happened, but those nights were few and far between and we had resigned ourselves to knowing we'd have to do some sleep training of some sort with him eventually.
We read (well listened to) the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth and decided to try implementing some of what we learned. We followed more of a Ferber method of sleep training however also allowing ourselves even more flexibility. We did a gentle approach of letting him cry a little and visiting, but we chose to pick him up and re-settle him in the process. It worked somewhat for us, but he would wake at around 10pm and 1am every night for top up feeds and go back down. We could live with that though as usually we were still up by the 10pm feed, and one wake in the night was manageable and everyone was happy. That being said, this became a crutch that intensified over the next weeks and thus the "u-turn" to him waking every 1-2 hours having a little feed and going back down. Granted, he would do so without a fuss, but this is obvious given he was being soothed to sleep each time throughout the night.
So we finally realized after many sleepless nights we were going to not only have to be more consistent, but also a bit more rigid in our approach. I consider last night the first REAL night of our sleep training journey. Before we were doing some make shift version we made up and were happy with at the time, but long term in hindsight it was never going to work. We reached out to family, friends and the community for their experiences and tips and put together a plan of action. Here is what we did.
1. NIGHT FEED BEFORE BATH
Previously we had established a very consistent night time routine that was working fantastically for us. We'd bathe, diaper, infant massage, sleeper, sleep sack, story time and feed. Story time and feed often overlapping. He'd go down generally without a fuss at all around 7pm, though sometimes basically already asleep. We learned that going to bed awake was vital to a solid night sleep and although we were already doing that with his day naps, we had been much more lax at bed time.
So we've changed the routine to the following:
530pm - feed
545pm - bath time followed by infant massage etc.
615pm - storytime
630pm - in crib for sleep*
*As you can see, he is also in his crib for sleep about a half hour earlier. We believe we've been missing his window just slightly.
This adjustment was hard for me and Beau. Not only do I love and look forward to the night routine, he has obviously also become accustomed and fought us for a good 40 minutes before finally going down. I couldn't be part of story time or putting him down because it would only further confuse him, so I had to stay away for the most part which was heartbreaking. This is how the initial bed time shook out:
630pm - in crib for sleep
635pm - first check in by Eric (no picking up, hand on chest and gentle reassurance)
645pm - second check in by Eric (again no picking up, shorter visit)
700pm - third check in by Liv (still no picking up, reassured with short visit)
710pm - asleep
2. CUT OUT NIGHT FEEDS
Now when I say cut out, I really mean wean off of, but in the end it turned into cutting out. We had every intention of allowing him a feed after 2am (1am if he was really upset and inconsolable) but that never happened.
The plan here was to follow the same principle as when we initially put him down, so visiting after 5 minutes, second one after 10 minutes, third after 15 minutes, and then if needed a 4th visit after 20-30 depending.
This went a lot smoother than we thought. He did end up waking up at 10pm only partially but managed to self soothe very quickly. We never had to check on him. The main wake up came at midnight which was the one big struggle. He then slept straight until 6am. We didn't feed him at all in the night.
1000pm - mild fussing, self-soothed very quickly
1200am - awake screaming
1205am - visit 1 from Eric
1215am - visit 2 from Eric
1240am - asleep... Eric considered going in but he had started to calm down right around the 15 minute mark so gave him extra time and he managed to calm down entirely and go back to sleep.
1am-3am - a few short intermittent cries but very soft and self-settled instantly
6am - awake and HANGRY ;) up for the day
3. PROTECT THE MORNING NAPS
This was something we had been doing regardless, however he wasn't really sleeping consistently longer than 30 minutes for his day naps. We will allow him a little fussing, but if he seems to really be awake, we will get him out. When he sleeps better at night, he generally naps better in the day, and vice-versa. The chicken or the egg? Which comes first I really don't know, but they sure seem linked.
We changed a while back to the eat, play, sleep order which meant "sleep training" for naps since he was going down awake (and hopefully sleepy). This is where we did the checking in increments but still picked him up. It worked for his naps and he eventually learned to go down without much fighting. His last nap of the day is often still a fight though.
He takes his first nap 2 hours after waking, so for today that makes his first nap at 8am. The second nap we generally aim for about the same 2 hour after waking rule, longer if we can push it, but we're always just looking for early sleep cues regardless of where that falls. My goal for the two morning naps is at least one long one, and preferably at least one, if not both, in his crib. I'm much more flexible with his afternoon nap. The one rule that I really try and follow for the afternoon nap is for him to be awake from it no later than 5pm. I really think 430pm is a better cut-off personally as he'll go down for bed a short 2 hours after that.
So that's what we are doing currently. We obviously are only one day into this all and I will be sure to update on our progress. What I can say though is that we got more sleep last night than we had any other night all week. It wasn't easy. I cried. I felt guilty. I battled with whether I was making the right decision or a selfish one, but in the end we ALL felt more rested, and me being more rested makes me a better more engaged mother in the day too. Sleep benefits us all so in the end, the pros outweighed the cons for us. As you can see, we didn't do a strict cry it out. My heart couldn't take that. But if we end up doing a u-turn again here... well, never say never. Here's hoping this sticks.
*** disclaimer - I am no expert. This is simply what we did and what worked/didn't work for us as individuals. I highly recommend reading/researching, speaking to others, and doing what is best for you and your family! ***
I did like this comparison: https://www.preciouslittlesleep.com/ferber-weissbluth-cry-it-out-smackdown/