By Eirene Heidelberger. Eirene is the founder of GIT Mom, and she’s here to help you Get It Together, Moms! She is a certified parent coach and runs a full-service coaching firm dedicated to helping moms create more time to do the activities they most enjoy, while also giving their children the kind of parenting they need! She has 3 sons and resides in Chicago.
The Cold, Hard Facts of Sleep Training Your Baby
We’ve all heard the horror stories of sleep deprivation, but before your baby comes home it’s hard to imagine the sheer exhaustion from sleepless nights. Only then will these words come back to haunt you: sleep training. And yet, nobody talks about what it means and exactly how to do it.
“Typically, by age 3 months or so, babies have started to develop more of a regular sleep/wake pattern and have dropped most of their night feedings. And somewhere between 4 and 6 months, experts say, most babies are ready for sleep training and are capable of sleeping through the night for a stretch of 8 to 12 hours.” – Baby Center
Take it from the GIT Mom: making life seamless with a baby all rests on sleep. If your baby is sleeping, then so is mommy, which means you can enjoy your new role instead of walking around your home like a zombie. Zombies belong in movies, not handling newborns.
The Mindset Necessary to Sleep Train Successfully: “Help your baby learn to get to sleep and stay asleep.”
Rule #1 – Get Some Guts
This is simpler than you think: it takes one week. After that, you move on. Stay the course and give your baby clear messages to succeed. There’s no turning back now!
Rule #2 – Get Your Partner on Board
You and your partner must be on the SAME PAGE for this. This is key. If you two aren’t both sleepless peas in the same desperate pod, it’s going to be really, really hard to listen to your little one lose his/her cool and not console them.
Rule #3 – Have a Plan
Be armed with a plan of action when your baby wakes up. Some ideas: hit the basement, watch TV, read, or make yourself a pair of noise-canceling headphones with a Rainbow Loom. Figure out a way to distract your brain through all the crying and you’ve won half the battle, trust me.
Rule #4 – Get a Mantra
You need a mantra. Mine was: He won’t die from screaming, but I will from no sleep; he needs to learn to sleep and leave me alone in the middle of the night; he’s strong and healthy and doesn’t need a steak dinner at 2 am.
Rule #5 – Set Aside 3 Days/Nights
I suggest Friday – Monday. Do not plan anything that weekend! You will be a wreck and should not let other commitments come between you and the finish line.
Rule #6 – Determine a “Rescue Time”
You need to determine when you’ll give in and feed your baby, a.k.a the rescue time. Here’s how to do that (assuming your baby’s bedtime is between 7-9 p.m.):
- If your baby wakes up more than 4 times a night, you must hold him/her off until 2 a.m.
- The next feeding will be at 7 a.m. to kick off the day.
- If your baby only wakes up 1-2 times a night, hold off feeding until 5 a.m., or even 7 a.m., to start the day.
- The most important factor is the feeding time you choose, which will always be your rescue time. Never give in before that, and I mean NEVER, because while teaching your baby’s internal clock how to behave you must be consistent. Being wishy-washy will only hurt you, and your baby, in the long run.
After the First Night, It Gets Better
The first night will be the absolute worst, but that’s normal. Your baby is accustomed to having his/her way, and will cry a lot (and loudly). Here’s the silver lining, though: the next night the crying will subside, the night after that it will be even less, and eventually no more tears!
Once sleep training is done and your baby sleeps 12 hours a night, he/she will wake up smiling and rested (as will you). If you start to feel guilty at any point, remember that there is no guilt in doing the right thing; you’re merely providing the parenting your baby needs.
What methods have you used to soothe your baby and stay strong during the sleep training process? We’d love to know these and your questions!