The Baby Concierge’s Tips for Sleep Training Success
When people hear I put my kids in their crib and they sleep/stay there for 12 hours, they always say – oh, so you just let them cry? The answer is no, I don’t just let them cry. Sometimes there was some crying, but the basis of what we followed was a lot more about nurturing healthy sleep habits.
Our children are HAPPY to be put in their crib. They smile when we say goodnight. I often have to defend my reason for sleep training and my answer is that I believe it is for their benefit. To know how to fall asleep on their own, to put themselves back to sleep if they wake up in the middle of the night, and to hang out in their crib when they wake up in the morning, are things we helped our kids learn to do and while of course we also benefit, it is really them that benefit the most.
I’ve blogged a few times already on 12 by 12, but this post is just a few tips.
My top advice for the smoothest way to sleep train using the 12 by 12 method:
1) From the very very beginning, long before you’re thinking of sleep training, allow your baby to fall asleep on their own. Don’t always rock them to sleep. Don’t always give them a pacifier to fall sleep. Don’t always push them in a stroller to sleep. Feed them, swaddle them, smile at them, kiss them, but put them down and let them fall asleep.
Newborns seem to sleep all day, so I am not recommending waking them up so they can be put down awake. I am just saying, if you find yourself always holding them until they are sleeping and then putting them down, try and put them down at least once a day awake and let them hang out before they fall asleep.
Once you do start the training, it is KEY that they go into their crib awake. If you find they are passing out during their last feed, either make sure they get a later nap before the last feed so they can stay awake, and/or start the feed earlier so they can go down awake.
More often than not I will get a message from someone asking for help and when I ask if they put their baby into the crib awake, the response is almost always “no, they pass out during the feed so we just put them down.” So this is a big one to focus on, and you can start from day 1. You can always have lots of cuddle time, but just make sure you are aware that they are being put down awake at times, and once they hit the training age, it should be a part of the routine. We always change the diaper the very last thing (overnight diaper once there are no more night feedings) and we find this helps them wake up a bit before they go in.
2) The first few weeks are a blur, but if you are using a pacifier and you plan to take it away when you are done sleep training (3 months) then be conscious not to stick the pacifier in their mouth at all times.
Since I have started this blog, I have talked to (and hopefully helped 🙂 ) many parents. I often hear this complaint, “My baby was sleeping all night and now is waking up several times a night for the pacifier.” My opinion is to take it away. Just this morning someone I had recommended to take it away because of this issue posted that she did take it away, and with minimal crying she’s been sleeping beautifully.
I know many people who say the pacifier saved their lives, many of them are my best friends. So of course, this is just my opinion and I believe everyone should do what is best for them. It seems to be a stage where they can’t put it back in on their own so they wake themselves up many times. My friends who stuck through it said eventually they can get it on their own and you just put many pacifiers in the crib. I believe that if you are giving a pacifier to self-soothe, it is not fair to give it during the day and not at night. You are trying to teach them to self-soothe and so you need to give them their “soother” at night too. If you want to stick through that stage and keep the pacifier long term, it is just a phase. However, if you want my opinion, I always recommend to take it away (I previously wrote a pacifier post).
3) The swaddle is amazing in the beginning, but when it is time for training, I recommend a sleep sack. (You know your baby best, so if you think they need to be swaddled then do what is best for you) Some babies are disrupting their sleep because they want out of the swaddle and they want to use their arms and hands to help them self-soothe. Putting on a sleep sack also becomes part of the routine, and should be put on for naps too once they are no longer sleeping all day and are old enough for nap training.
4) Once you start the training, stay consistent with not taking them out of the crib until it is time for the first feed. For me, this has the biggest pay off. The child learns to stay in their crib when they wake up and entertain themselves. At the beginning of training, we offer the pacifier while they hang out and we turn music on through the monitor. When we are done with the pacifier, sometimes they still like to listen to the music. We like that we can turn it on without getting out of bed – selfish reasons 🙂 We also introduce an angel dear blankie very early on. We don’t leave them alone with it, but from the beginning we give it to them while we are there so they start to like it. We sometimes would give it in that morning time when they woke up but it wasn’t time to come out – this gave them a chance to hold it while in the crib but not overnight. Once they are old enough to sleep with it, we give it to them overnight and both my boys loved it.
**At the very beginning of training, when it might be more about moving the feed from 6 am to 7 am, it is more important to hold off the feed than to keep them in the crib. So if the only way they are happy is if you pick them up, then I would go for it. However, be conscious of it and always try to keep them in, (perhaps rub their belly or put a projector toy that they can look at,) especially once they are well adjusted to the new feed time and can handle hanging out.
5) Starting from Day 1, I keep a notebook where I record all the feeds. (I happen to like writing it down, but there are tons of apps that you can keep baby feeding records on as well) Ask a mother when the baby last ate, I doubt she would be able to tell you. Rightfully so – she probably doesn’t even know if it’s morning or 5 pm! The day just moves between feeding and changing diapers and feeding again. Keeping track from Day 1 is helpful for two reasons: 1) When you need to start keeping track for the sleep training, you are already so used to it and it will already be a part of your routine. 2) It is easy to see the natural patterns of your baby – the times they usually wake up in the night, the amount they eat etc. This is all very helpful info for sleep training and you start the process ahead of the game, feeling like you have an understanding of your baby, the amount they eat and their natural waking times.
To conclude, I have detailed posts about 12 by 12. This is just 5 tips that I find I share a lot. Allow your baby to fall asleep on their own, don’t rock them, and put them down awake. Use a pacifier sparingly, it is a very helpful tool in training, but it shouldn’t be constantly in their mouth to make taking it away easier. Transition to a sleep sack and stay consistent with having them stay in the crib until it is the first feed. Lastly, keep a feeding record – time and minutes/ounces.
The overall theme of this post is awareness. As I said, the newborn phase is a blur. More often than not when people come to me with their first question, they haven’t yet even thought of any of these things. If you are pregnant and reading this, it’s very helpful to know these things before hand because even when it is a blur, you can be semi-aware of not creating habits that you then have to break. The training will work even if you do NONE of this. It will just be harder and there may be more crying involved. As I said in the beginning, my experience was really limited crying and I believe that is because they were used to going down awake and on their own, so that wasn’t anything they had to learn at 2 months, it was just what they knew to do.