We have now officially followed the 12 by 12 method (modified) and sleep trained three children so I figured it was a good time to update and share what we learned the third time around. (I say we because it really is a team effort, my husband is as much involved in the sleep training as me, maybe even more so)
My takeaways from our experience:

1) The first five weeks are not indicative of how the training will go.

To set the stage for you:

I feed on demand in the beginning. (Meaning whenever the baby is hungry, I feed) My first 2 kids ate often during the day and then naturally gave stretches at night (4-5 hours), but my daughter gave NO stretches. She ate every 3 hours or less.

In addition to eating often 24 hours a day, she also would not go down to sleep happily. With my boys, we put them down from when they were born and they were fine to go to sleep on their own. She did not want to do that. In the first few weeks she would pass out at the end of a feed and would be fine to be put down, but if she was awake she wouldn’t fall asleep, she needed to be helped to be put to sleep. She also was a delayed burper. She could still have a burp an hour after a feed and need to be picked up to burp. I’m pretty sure at one point she had her nights and days mixed up. Lastly, she had a late “witching hour.” From about 7 – 10 pm, she couldn’t sleep and was not happy. It was a constant guessing game, “Does she have a burp?” “Is she still hungry?” “Does her stomach hurt?” “Does she want to be swaddled?” “Does she hate to be swaddled?” So we would try to burp her, try to feed her, swaddle her, unswaddle her, and start the process again until she fell asleep.

If you’re close with me, I’m sure you heard from me at some point during that first month, “she’s going to give me a run for my money!” I joked often that my blog would go up in flames if I couldn’t successfully complete the method on my own child. All joking aside, I really was worried that she wouldn’t train. To make matters more complicated, when she was 3 weeks old I ended up in the ER with appendicitis and had surgery. Thank g-d I have a huge support system. In the end, I wasted time worrying because in the end I think she was the easiest of all of our kids.

2) Sleep training is easier for a young baby

What do I mean? Since I started this blog, I have had the opportunity to hopefully help people with babies of all ages. What I find is, they are easier to train and they catch on earlier when they are brand new. People automatically assume sleep training just means letting them cry, but it really doesn’t. When you train a baby so young, you are giving them the tools for healthy sleep habits and it becomes all they know.

I’m just going to highlight the major points. Essentially you shift their schedule of eating over 24 hours, to only eating 4 times a day, and then they can eat whenever they wake up at night. So the very first step in the training, and what we did was start stretching the day feedings. If you’re nursing I either suggest offering a top off bottle post feed to make sure they really got a lot, or to pumping for the training so that you can confidently stretch them between feeds. (Just a reminder if you switch to pumping, you need to pump more often than the baby eats in order to keep up your supply to match their growing demand. I also pump post nursing sessions in the beginning to up my supply right from the start to make the transition to pumping easier. Feel free to message with any questions)

I also recommend you keep a log because everything is so fuzzy in the beginning and you think you are going to remember what time they ate but then it’s actually startling how little you remember from the day before.

At 5 weeks, she was over 10 lbs, I started stretching her feeds and adding ounces. The week before she was eating 4 oz, so I added to 4.5 and then at 5 weeks I offered 5 oz and then within a day or two 5.5 oz. By 7 weeks she pretty much had the day schedule set. 7 am , 11 am , 3 pm, and 7 pm. Pretty much – meaning that as I look at my log I see that most days she ate before 3 pm.

While the day scheduling is happening, the night wake ups still stay natural. Whenever she would wake up, she would eat, with one change. IF there was another wakeup after 5 am, she would not get a full feed – it would just be a snack. The key here is the first feed of the day, in my case 7 am, they need to be hungry for a full feed to get the day on track. If they recently ate, then they either sleep past that morning feed time and/or the first feed wouldn’t be a good feed and then they want another snack soon after. So while we aren’t officially reducing the night feeds yet, we do not give a full feed if it is too close to the morning feed. (**Once they are trained, I let my babies sleep in if they want, hey I like the sleep in too 🙂 And then I adjust the day accordingly, maybe 11:15 instead and then back to 3 pm. It all works out)

At 8 weeks she had 2 night feeds. The first anywhere from 1-2 am and the second just a snack. At 8 weeks we felt the day schedule was set and we were ready to reduce the night feed. We followed the 12 by 12 method, reduced it by .5 oz every three nights. Feeds were done in the dark, we didn’t interact and play. We picked her up, fed her, burped her, changed her diaper, finished the feed, burped her again and back in sleep sack to sleep. (*This reminds me, I start a sleep sack at 4 weeks. Ah too much info in 1 post!) The whole feeding process was 10 minutes.)

On her own she moved the first night feed later, more like between 3 – 4 am so that eliminated the snack (which was already only 1.5 oz). The feed started at 4 oz so we went to 3.5 then 3 etc, and then at 10 weeks old she took 1 oz at 3:00 am and that was it. The next night she slept through, didn’t bother waking up for the feed that we had gradually reduced over 2 weeks.

I know what you’re thinking, so what happens when she wakes up and cries? I have in my notebook a few times where I wrote down what we did. At 8.5 weeks she woke up at 1:30 am but the few nights before she had slept until 2:30, so we put in pacifier and played music through the monitor and she fell back asleep until 3:55 and then we fed her then. (*She didn’t love the pacifier, I didn’t really push it but still tried at times like that and it worked.)

At 9.5 weeks again she woke up earlier than she had been so twice at 1:30 am and at 2:30 am we did pacifier and turned on the mobile and she then slept until 4:00 am. I have notes of a few times when she woke up at 6 am so it was too early to feed her. We put a star projector on the ceiling, played music, and one time she made it until 6:30 am and one time until 6:50 am.

At 10 weeks, her bottles were up to 7 oz a feed. We had reduced the night feeds so she added those ounces during the day. Once she was consistent during the day and no night feed I stop logging the days, but I know it was still about a week after she stopped having a night feed that she would still wake up at some point. She cried out for a minute but not even enough time for us to wake up and register and decide what to do. By 12 weeks, she had her day time schedule totally set, she went to sleep happily in her crib, she slept 12 hours, often she sleeps in because she will wake up at some point and make talking noises and then go back to sleep.

I’m not going to lie and say there was no crying, because babies cry and she definitely cried, but in terms of towards the sleep training there was very little crying. At such a young age it isn’t about changing things they are used to, it is staying consistent in a routine – they thrive on routine. I’ll make that my 3rd takeaway – 3) Stay consistent. Everything starts to fall into place once the day feeding schedule is consistent.**

(I put an asterisk because I like to remind everyone, including myself, babies are NOT ROBOTS. So while I encourage consistency you need to listen to their cues and  remember that they are humans just like you and could just be having an off day.

I realized I didn’t address the transition to going to sleep happy. Every night we put her in with the same routine and eventually she figured out how to do it. Her witching hours disappeared as quickly as they came.

I know this was information overload and I didn’t even get to everything, but she is waking up from her nap now so I will have to continue at a different time. I know I didn’t get into napping because I really don’t concentrate on naps until the night is completed. I did have an easier time with her naps, I think with each kid the training becomes more natural because we had more experience with the same routine for so long already. I think my fellow 12 by 12 followers would agree with that – it just becomes such a part of life. I laugh when I get together with friends and all our babies are on the SAME schedule. But I do want to say that in the 12 by 12 book it says only 2 naps and then the baby stays awake between the 3 and 7 pm feed, I definitely do not follow that. I encourage a cat nap before bath time so that bath and the last feed are not a mess. I also start the last feed at 6:30 pm so that they could be in bed for 7 pm, not start eating at 7 pm.

I feel I can’t end without mentioning that she loves her angel dear lovies as a comfort  – I’m a huge fan! In my house we call them “softies.” As always, I hope this helps and I know I went over a lot and didn’t go through all the details so please feel free to message me at anytime!