12.11.2015

sleep training + our tips

Penelope turned three months old yesterday and I go back and forth between feeling like she was just born and that we've had her forever. The best combination. I just love being her Mama!


I've had a few people ask about Poppy's sleep routine so I thought I'd share it below.

We loosely based the routines for both our girls on the BabyWise method:
+ implementing parent directed feedings (PDF) every 2-3 hours versus feeding on demand 24/7 whenever a baby cries
+ establishing a routine of feed / wake / sleep
+ putting baby to bed while they're still awake
+ letting baby cry it out -- though we do a modified CIO (details below)

 For us, this was incredibly successful. I personally operate best with a routine and being able to anticipate and plan my days (and nights!) so we implemented the four components with both Olivia and Penelope in the same way(s).

I first want to say that routines, feeding patterns and infant sleep can be a controversial subject and I understand every baby is totally different, so what worked for us may not work for everybody. And thats okay! Hopefully, if nothing else, you'll get a look into how we do it around here. My hope is that it will help you in your own home even if in a small way. 

Right now at 3 months Penelope sleeps on average from 10pm to 10am. I call her my little night owl, because even if she doesn't eat much in the evenings, she just wants to hang out until about 9:30/10. I've tried putting her to bed by 7:30/8pm and then she seems to be up way more often, so for me keeping her up a bit longer in the evening almost always benefits in a full night of sleep for both of us.

She began naturally sleeping about 8 hours through the night around 8 weeks and added about an hour a week up to 12 hours straight (now 12 weeks).

Below I outline the four pillars of BabyWise we used:

IMPLEMENTING PARENT DIRECTED FEEDINGS FROM BIRTH TO 8 WEEKS+

Because we were in control of her feedings every 2-3 hours for the first 6 weeks, Penelope was already used to a routine of spaced feedings by 8 weeks (which is when BabyWise suggests your child will start sleeping through the night). Had I been nursing her 24/7 consistently day in and day out, that is what she would expect (this is referred to as on demand feeding in the book). Why would she want to sleep through the night at two months (or at any age for that matter) if she knew I would nurse her all night long?! Even if babies aren't hungry, we all know they love to just hang out and suck. There were obviously periods of time (especially the first 2 weeks) where I would nurse and nurse and nurse, because I know her demand on my body would increase my supply, especially right as my milk was coming in. But just because she would cry or fuss didn't mean I would automatically feed her. Babies cry for so many reasons and even now I have times where I think she may be hungry but I move her to a different room (change of scenery) and she chills out for another hour without being fed! Just because she would cry did not mean she needed to be fed. And by spacing out her feedings -- my being in control of when she was fed -- she was already used to that routine.

ESTABLISHING A ROUTINE OF FEED / WAKE / SLEEP

The second biggest takeaway I gained from BabyWise was the pattern of feed / wake / sleep during the day. Growing up I had always been taught that after you feed a baby, you put them to sleep (no idea who taught me that but I feel like that was always the norm?!), but according to BabyWise, instead of doing that you give a baby wake time after each feeding during the day -- to increase their alertness and (hopefully) improve the length of their naps & nighttime sleep. During the night if a baby wakes for a feeding, you obviously do not give wake time, you simply put them back to bed after feeding.

PUTTING BABY TO BED WHILE THEY'RE STILL AWAKE

BabyWise also discusses the importance of putting your baby to bed while they're still awake...this helps them to self-soothe and learn to put themselves to sleep without devices (a swing, carseat/car ride, rocking, nursing to sleep, etc). Even though in the short term it was harder, I've seen with both of them that in the long term we are really benefitting. Sometimes (okay, a lot of the time) Penelope will fall asleep nursing and I'll let her snooze a bit on me because hey, baby cuddles are the best thing ever, but then once I put her down for bed in her bassinet, she almost always wakes up (noticing she's no longer on me/in my arms) and then has to settle herself.

LETTING BABY CRY IT OUT 

For the first 6 weeks with both girls, I didn't implement any strict routine because seriously, life is crazy. Even I would probably have gone nuts had I been trying to schedule my newborn, and you're talking to someone for whom scheduling is pure bliss. So we started when they began to get on more of a natural feeding+sleeping schedule around 7/8 weeks and start sleeping longer stretches because they've gained enough weight to sustain them, plus they're used to somewhat spaced feedings.

So we do a modified version of Cry It Out, beginning around 7/8 weeks:

Put baby down / Set phone timer for 15 minutes

After 15 minutes, if baby is still crying, check on baby but don't pick up -- I put my hand on her chest to let her know I'm there, offer her a pacifier if it fell out, sing a lullaby, pray over her, check diaper, etc. -- I interact without actually picking her up.

Leave / Set phone timer for 15 more minutes

After 15 more minutes (a total of 30 minutes since she was put down), check on baby. If baby is still crying and doesn't seem to be settling, feed if needed. After feeding, put back down and start routine over in 15 minute increments.

It's very rare that Penelope (and Olivia for that matter) was crying after the first 15 minutes, and even more rare that they cried for a full 30 and needed to be fed. I know as Moms we can almost always distinguish a "winding down cry" from a hunger cry so I listen closely to determine if she's just tired or if she truly needs to be fed again. When she is overtired, she cries very fiercely and I have to resist the urge to intervene immediately and give her the opportunity to settle.

Two and a half years into parenthood with Olivia and three months with Poppy, I've learned that it's okay (even though its really, really hard) to let Penelope cry it out because if all her needs are met (dry, fed, safe, warm, etc.) and it's bedtime, she needs to learn to get to sleep without my help or the help of a device. She will eventually outgrow her infant carseat, her swing, etc. I can't depend on those devices long-term so I only depend on them very sparingly in the short term.

And the 15-15-feed has really been helpful for me to set limits -- it helps me give her a chance to settle herself and at the same time, helps me to not feel like she'll be crying for a long period of time without my intervention. I typically lay her in her bassinet in her room, set my timer and leave. I focus on keeping busy for those 15 minutes so I'm not just sitting and listening to her cry. Cue the emotional breakdown from postpartum hormones! I learned the hard way on that one, so now I find distracting myself is the best method and then checking back on her when my timer goes off. To this day, Olivia (who we did the exact same method with) is a great sleeper -- 9pm to 9am and a 2-3 hour nap every afternoon without fail.

I also should say -- I think a big key to solid blocks of nighttime sleep around 8 weeks with both of them was that by that point they had reached a weight (about 10-11 lbs) where they could sustain longer sleep periods without eating every 2-3 hours. Obviously, if your baby is healthy, was born full term and steadily gains weight, that component will happen naturally. I know a lot of babies tend to cluster feed before bed as well, as a way to "store up" for a long sleep. They eat eat eat and then sleep sleep sleep. Both girls did this off and on but not consistently 7 nights a week. I did however let them do this as needed because again, supply and demand.


PENELOPE'S CURRENT ROUTINE

Once she's up in the morning (usually around 10am), she eats shortly after and then I focus on wake time. She's still so little that there's not a lot we can do, but she loves sitting in my lap and looking at me, laying in her crib looking at her bird mobile, laying in her dockatot by the Christmas tree and looking at the lights, or doing tummy time in short increments. Because she sleeps in, I don't give her a morning nap unless she's up much earlier, like 7:30/8am. If that's the case, then she usually naps 10am-12pm.

If she wakes around 10am, I focus on keeping her awake until about 12:30/1pm and then feed her again before her afternoon nap. She sleeps anywhere from 2-4 hours and it really depends on the day, her morning, etc. I put her down awake after feeding her, she cries for about 10 minutes and then is sound asleep. Olivia did the exact same thing -- she would cry for 10-15 minutes and then be totally out! Funny how they're so alike in that way.

After she wakes, I feed her again (usually between 5 and 6pm) and then more wake time. Around 7pm as Dustin is getting Olivia ready for bed, Poppy gets a bath and usually chills there for close to an hour. She loves bath time. She is fed again around 8/8:30pm, a little more wake time and then put down around 9:30/10pm, awake. She usually cries pretty fiercely for 10-15 minutes and then is out like a light! Her smiling face and fluffy cheeks greet me in the morning and it starts all over again!

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Yikes! That was a lot of information and required a lot of brain power. Our routine is so natural now having done it twice that sometimes I forget it! Does that even make sense?! I know there are a million ways to sleep train and ultimately, whatever you are doing with your baby is the absolute best way. There is no right or wrong, this is just what has worked for us!! I hope reading this was helpful and as always, if you have any questions for me, send me an email or leave a comment below! Have a wonderful weekend!! XO

3 comments:

  1. If you are still nursing what do you do about missing the night feedings and supply? Do you still wake at night to pump? Also are you swaddling her? My (almost) 3 month old squirms pretty fiercely if we swaddle but wakes her self up if we don't. :)

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  2. Thanks so much for this. I have a 27 month old and a 1 month old. What is your philosophy on pacifiers? Do you give them to your girls to sleep? I struggle with using one because I don't want my little one to become hooked, but sometimes they are so helpful!

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  3. My twins are 3 months old...1 month 3 weeks adjusted.
    They still eat every 3 hours during the day and 4-5 hours
    at night. It's so exhausting! We do the routine feedings
    and they do cry sometimes...but never seem to sleep
    for long periods of time. I guess every baby is different!
    I hope mine can eventually sleep like yours do!

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