Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Sleep training Clara, Day 1

**Disclaimer: I know there are a million different infant rearing methods out there. With different methods  come different (and strong!!) opinions. Our decision to sleep train Clara is important to us, and what works for us, but in no way does that mean I am judging your method should it look vastly different from what I describe below. Everyone makes decisions for what works best for THEIR family. The Mommy Wars has spiraled out of control, and at the end of the day, is just so unnecessary. We are different people, different families, and thus we make different parenting decisions. Want to nurse your baby until he is five years old? Great. Want to give your baby formula from day one? Do it.  You prefer to co-sleep with your baby for the first few years? Ok! Begin cry it out method from the day you get home from the hospital? Go for it. Rock your baby to sleep until he is in Kindergarten? Sure! You get the idea. All this to say I am not going to fill this post with a million disclaimers as I discuss our sleep training choice. I won't judge you. You won't judge me. Letting my baby cry, in hopes to help better her sleep quality, in no way means I do not love her with all my heart, nor does it mean I wouldn't risk my life to save hers. Because I would. And it doesn't mean that I am an emotionless mother who is not phased by listening to her baby scream for hours. Because I am phased. Yet in order to do this, and do it well, I had to set my emotions aside. The End.**

We have been considering sleep training Clara for a while now. It has always been important to us to help Clara learn how to self soothe, and for her to learn how to fall asleep, unassisted. Meaning we put her down in her crib, awake, and she is able to fall asleep on her own. Well colic kinda put a damper on any type of sleep training plan, and rightfully so. The last thing I need to impose on a super colicky baby is some type of "cry it out" method. The poor girl did enough crying already. She needed us to feel soothed, to feel calm, and we basically did anything possible to make it happen.

As our pediatrician suspected, starting at about three months, the colic began to disappear. I can boldly say that to date, at four months, Clara's colic is now a thing of the past. Sure she has a bad night here and there, but who doesn't?

So even while the colic had passed, over the last few months Brandon and I have developed a bad habit of rushing in to soothe Clara, during the night, as soon as she starts to stir. I mentioned this habit briefly in this post. We felt that by doing so she would not fully wake up and thus fall back asleep quickly. Her waking completely meant we would be up for a good two - three hours. She has never been the type to fall back asleep quickly. It is a process. Well our "plan" worked and she would typically settle within five -10 minutes of us rushing to rescue her. Mission accomplished. But what was also accomplished was one of us rushing to her side all. night. long. Or bringing her in our bed for the last few hours of the morning. Or going out in the living room, on the couch, in hopes that she would fall back asleep. You get the idea. While this routine felt like a dream compared to our colicky nights (because we were actually getting some consolidated sleep), we knew that eventually this habit would need to be broken. And we all know habits are more easily broken the earlier they are tackled.

So. . .  I spent all day Monday, Labor Day, reading up on sleep training and developing my action plan. We are basing our sleep training plan off of Marc Weissbluth's Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. The book gives many options and samples of sleep training (not all involve cry it out, or crying at all for that matter). We are choosing the "cry it out/extinction" method. While the "cry it out/gradual extinction" or the "maybe cry/check and console" options might provide less emotional trauma for us as parents, I knew it would take that much longer for Clara to "get it."

I knew we had to go big or go home.

Weissbluth suggests that post colicky babies have the hardest time with sleep training and experience the most night awakenings when compared to non colicky babies. (Which is why the extinction method is suggested, as the check and console method is more confusing for the post colicky baby, since the parent spent SO much time during the colicky weeks soothing). 

Oh joy.

Let the fun begin.

(I will be documenting each day as it unfolds. I apologize in advance for these super boring posts, but it is the easiest way for me to keep track of how Clara responds to the training. At the end of the training, who knows how long this might be, I will do a summary of some tips and/or things I could have done better, you know, since hindsight is 20/20)

Day 1: 9/4/12
  • Clara woke for the day at 6am 
  • 7am feeding 
  • We played for a while then I started our soothing routine (to prepare her for nap #1). For us this means: going into Clara's room, cuddling, and singing a few songs. Then I lay her down in her crib and say something like "I love you sweet girl, have a good nap." I put her paci in, cover her with a blanket, and leave the room. 
  • She was calm for about 4 minutes and then enter crying, which turned to screaming. I let her scream for 1 hour. 
  • At 9am I go in and pick her up. Repeat soothing routine. She calmed immediately and looked oh so sleepy. I laid her back down, awake, and within 15 minutes she was asleep. No crying. At. All. She slept for 2 hours. (She experienced several natural awakenings during this nap but was able to put herself back to sleep). 
  • Feeding at 11:15, and then we played until it was time to prepare her for nap #2.
  • 12:50pm - began soothing routine for nap #2. Laid her in crib at 1pm. Immediate screaming. She screamed for 1 hour. 
  • At 2pm I go and pick her up. The poor girl is hoarse and covered in sweat from crying so hard. She immediately snuggles under my chin and acts so so tired. I repeat soothing routine and laid her back in crib. She cooed softly for a few minutes and was asleep by 2:05pm. No crying. Slept until 3:30pm. 
  • 3:30pm feeding 
  • Played and read books until 5pm. Was not sure if she would take a brief nap or not, so I put her in her swing with music and at 5:15pm she fell asleep. I turned off swing but left her there and she woke at 5:50pm. Success! A 35 minute power nap to get us to our earlier planned bedtime! (I knew bedtime needed to be around 8pm as her waking a few minutes before 6pm means 8pm is hitting the two hour of wakefulness limit - all this explained/discussed in the book). 
  • 6pm feeding
  • 7:20pm - start bedtime routine which is bath time, lotion, books, bottle, bed. 
  • 7:45pm last feeding before bed
  • 8:00pm - bedtime. NO CRYING. She went right down to sleep without making a peep.
  • 11pm - woke up, started crying. Gave her first (and what ended up being the only) night feeding. 
  • 11:15pm - burped, changed diaper and put back in crib. She screamed, and I mean screamed, from 11:15pm-1:25am. Two hours and ten minutes of screaming. Wow is all I can say. 
  • 1:25am - 6am - slept like a champ. The book suggests controlling the child's wake up time and starting the day at either 6am or 7am to ensure a good first morning nap, and to help set the child's sleep schedule. (So no going to get baby before 6am or waking up baby by 7am if not already awake)
  • 6am - she's awake and happy! run in to my precious baby!!! 
So here we are on Day 2. To Be Continued. 

Did you follow any type of sleep training program? Any helpful hints you want to pass on? We are all ears! 


  1. Hey! I know it'll be not fun but good luck! I'll keep your family in my prayers. But one question, is it possible to get a brief background on how this particular sleep training program works? Like what are the set ups for it (ie. the 2 hours awakefulness you mentioned). Thanks!

    1. THANKS for your prayers. That means A LOT to us! I will be happy to give some background info. I'll try to work on that soon. :)

    2. Here is a great site that has a lot of background info on this particular sleep training method. It compares it to another popular one out there, the Ferber Method.

      Hope this gives you some more helpful info!

  2. As an older parent I think you are very smart parents to get your child started in good sleeping habits. I didn't understand that 42 years ago and as a result both child AND mother ended up with sleep problems. I wish more parents understood that a child's ability to self soothe is important all through life! Keep up the good work!

    1. THANKS so much for your encouragement!!

  3. It sounds like you are off to a good start! We followed a similar sleep training method for Max and have been very pleased with the results. He is great at soothing himself to sleep, but there are a few nights here and there where he needs a little help. :) Just hang in there and it will get better!
    I would say that the most helpful thing we did in regards to sleep was to have a consistent morning wake time - we woke him at (or within 30 minutes of) 7:00am from the very beginning (yes, even on the mornings we felt like zombies.) That really helped to make the flow of each day more predictable, which this type A mama really appreciated. :)

    1. That is great to hear. My goal is to be totally consistent from here on out with the wake time. I am type A too, so I don't suspect this will be too much of an issue. Haha.

    2. I agree with setting a consistent morning waketime like 7am or so. (For babies that will allow it, set it later - they always tend to move it earlier on their own). Kirsa and Elijah's is 7am. I never went to them before 6:30am, and I treated any wakings before 5:30-6am as a middle of the night feeding.

    3. Yes my goal is to gradually get Clara's wake time to 7am but I just don't think I can force that right now from the get go. I'm just following the HSHHC philosophy of not going to your child before 6am but then waking them up by 7am if they are still asleep. Thanks for the input!!

  4. We have been really lucky in that Lily has been a great sleeper from day 1. When we first brought her home, she would wake up at about 2am and 5am only. Now, at 7 weeks, she usually sleeps from about 10pm - 6 or 7am. However!! She's still in a bassinet beside our bed, so transitioning her into her crib soon could mess that up. I may come back looking for more info on this method if so! Good luck, and I hope sweet Clara adjusts soon! Sounds like she's doing great for just one day!! :)

    1. WOW Lily is a great sleeper! That is awesome. Clara still, at 4 months, hasn't stretched that long. Thanks for the encouragement!!

  5. Such a good mama, Britt! I didn't do sleep training at all with Jackson, and we didn't sleep for a year and a half! With Ben and Ruby, we've done it from day one. haha Life is just better when everyone gets a good night sleep! :-)

  6. Who doesn't want to pass along their sleep advice? After a start with Elijah similar to yours with Clara, I knew something had to go differently with Kirsa. We chose Babywise (which, contrary to many opinions, does NOT advocate letting your newborn scream or starve or whatever other bogus info is out there). It was a dream compared to what we went through with Elijah (who we eventually also used HSHHC with - a book I love, although now I disagree with a few of Weissbluth's points, not the crying it out but I think he misses a few important things).

    My biggest problem with Weissbluth is that he doesn't mention or advocate the careful watching of waketimes. This, I have found, is CRUCIAL in the first year or two. 9am was too late for a nap for Kirsa until she was about 15 months old! And she was only waking for the day around 7am or so. Recently, I helped a friend get her 5mo to start taking a 3 hour morning nap and waking only 1-2 times a night (after a start much like Clara and Elijah) by simply shortening the first waketime of the day to 1.25-1.5 hours, and moving her 9pm bedtime for him to 7:30pm.

    If you haven't seen it, the "Chronicles of a Babywise Mom" blog is INDISPENSABLE. Seriously. Her tags have info about nearly every sleep question ever. My favorite posts are these:





    You don't have to do babywise, but in general I think of babywise as a few simple things:

    1. A simple routine to guide the day. As a newborn, this starts out as Eat-Wake-Sleep. By 4mo, it moves into a pattern of waketimes and about 3 naptimes a day, and not-nursing-to-sleep whenever possible. Around 6-9mo, most babies drop to 2 naps a day, and around 14-20mo, most drop to 1 nap a day.

    2. Parent-guided routine. Good parents are always paying attention to what babies needs and wants are, and what's developing and changing with baby, but they are NOT always changing things due to this. They are evaluating, thinking, researching, and figuring it out.

    3. Consistency. I have been SO much more consistent with Kirsa than I ever was Elijah, and her sleep at 15 months old was tons better than his, at 4.5 years old, has ever gotten. (We officially sleep-trained Elijah at 10 months old, although we started with some sleep training around 6 months old).

    Thanks for asking for everyone's advice! :) And good luck to you guys and Clara!!


    1. Thanks for all the links! I have seen this blog and we actually started out with the Babywise Method. It got Clara on a 3 hour feeding cycle pretty early, and she adapted to the eat, play, sleep fairly quickly as well. Now that she has that down I knew it was essential that we started helping her get more consolidated sleep. Her naps were very inconsistent and so was bedtime/duration of bedtime sleep. I was forcing her to stay up late in hopes that she would sleep longer through the night = not my finest parenting decision. Anyways, that is why we are switching over now. I am a fan of both Babywise and HSHHC!!

      PS - I am SO exciting about your baby news!

  7. I loved that book. Such great advice. Sleep training was a big deal for me. I needed my babies to sleep! You can do this! It will be so worth it for you and Brandon.

  8. Good luck! You will need it and stamina! No judgement here, nothing but love and respect and lots of prayers coming your way!

  9. As you know I use both babywise (0-8 weeks) and HSHHC (from 8 weeks on)! I Love them both! I felt like HSHHC was a bit more evidence based and could be tailored to more than one type of baby...I love how he has the colicky option :) I actually think he focused MORE on the wake times than babywise did. He says to start looking for drowsy signs at 60-90 min of wakefulness early on and 90min-2 hours as they get older. He focuses SO Much on watchign baby and being in tune with their signs. You will know her SO well after all of this and see a certain look on her face and swoop her up and run her off to bed. If she's like my kids she will learn to love sleep and being in bed and ask to go to bed when she is older and tired!
    I felt so much more empowered with his book because I had a whole bag of tricks and not just one regimented option. I give that book (and baby wise) to all new moms (you being one of them) because you just cannot replace good sleep! This is a few rough days of her life to achieve a lifetime of great sleep as oppose to dealing with poor habits for YEARS! Kudos to you for giving your child the gift of good consolidated sleep :) Train them up in the way they should go! Praying she catches on quickly

    1. I cannot THANK you enough for gifting these books to me. They have both been SO helpful. I should have started HSHHC a bit earlier but oh well you live and learn. :) I will know for baby number two!

      I do agree that HSHHC focuses a lot on wakefulness and watching for your baby's tired signs so that you get them in bed before they are overtired. Genius! I am already picking up on Clara's drowsy signs so that is a great feeling.

      Thanks for the prayers!!

  10. Can't wait to talk to you more in a couple of weeks. We sleep trained brylee starting at 4 mo and it took us 3 days to master nap & bedtime. We used a slightly diff method, but have been getting full night sleep for a long time now. Occasionally I missed rocking my little baby, but now that she's older she will let me rock her & suggle while she's awake then still falls asleep on her own. Best of both worlds! Love you

    1. I knew when Clara hit 4 months we HAD to intervene and help her sleep better. I was not ready before but something about the 4 month mark and I thought "Ok, let's do this!!" Can't wait to see you!!

  11. Look at all these posts! This is such an important issue and does make all the difference for a family's (ie. Mom's!) health & happiness during the day. I actually ran across this same book HSHHC with #3. She had reflux and we couldn't lay her down until somewhere between 4-6 months. Isn't this the book with the motto, "sleep begets sleep"? This totally played out to be true! Much like a couple of other posts above, I learned that I shouldn't wait until she was sleepy to put her down for naps. Worst thing I could do! Instead, shortening wake time and putting her down still very much awake and happy worked miracles.

    Now, one caveat...#4 being adopted, God had me swing the completely opposite direction to attachment parenting. So, I learned the "never say never" law of parenting. (Smile)
    Love to you, friend, and I'll be praying for sweet sleep for all of you!

    1. Yes this is the sleep begets sleep book!

      And yes - when I was working in adoption I strongly advocated attachment parenting to adoptive parents. It is a MUST in my opinion. Or with any child that has experienced childhood trauma, abuse and/or neglect.

      Thanks for the prayers!

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