How We Sleep Trained Our 2.5 Month Old
I posted about Maverick sleeping 11 hours last night and the messages poured in with questions. So I thought I should blog about it, since he’s sleeping and I feel rested enough to actually process some thoughts and type them out. ;)
Here are my disclaimers:
Every baby is different. I didn’t sleep train Remington until 6/7 months because he was a smaller baby who needed to eat more frequently. Looking back, I could have probably sleep trained him at 4-5 months, but I would not have done it at 2.5 months like we did with Mav. My babes are on opposite ends of the spectrum weight wise and had different needs at different ages.
Every mama is different. What worked for us may not work for you (or your baby), so take everything in this post with a grain of salt. Cry it out is not for everyone and you may strongly disagree with how we did things with our boys. If you are firmly against all forms of cry it out, even gentler forms like we did, then this post is probably not for you. :)
I do not like to let my babies cry. Sleep training is the hardest and best thing we ever did for our boys but it was not easy. I am a highly sensitive, empathic person and I care deeply about my boys’ wellbeing and we sleep train because we believe sleep is beneficial for their health and ours as their parents.
Neither of my boys were naturally good sleepers and both would be classified as light sleepers as babies. Remi is now the best sleeping toddler I’ve ever met. He is HAPPY to go to bed and rarely puts up a fight. He sometimes even asks to go to bed when he’s ready. He enjoys being in his room and falls asleep without crying. He wakes up happy and will play in his room happily for an hour until we go get him in the morning. This has also helped promote independent play time (or rather, reading time, since he’s only allowed to have books and stuffed animals in his bedroom)
We are fans of early bedtimes and I can’t recommend an early bedtime enough. It gives the parents their evenings back and promotes better baby and toddler sleep according to research (which I don’t have the source for but I could probably find it if you’re interested in reading the article). Remi goes to bed in between 6:30-7:30pm depending on if he napped or not, but he’s always in bed before 8pm, and wakes up at 7:30am.
When in doubt, speak with your pediatrician. Our pediatrician is ALL. ABOUT. SLEEP. and it’s one of the reasons I love him so much. He gave us the go ahead to sleep train Mav because of his weight and health and suggested we start implementing good sleep habits at Mav’s 2 month appointment. And he has graciously, practically answered all my questions along the way.
I am not a baby sleep professional. I will list some resources at the bottom of this post that have helped me over the past two years but only do what feels right for you and your family.
When Mav turned 2 months old he was waking up every 30 minutes to 2 hours. The first thing I want to share that helped me tremendously is something called the French Pause (from the book Bringing Up Bebe) which I started implementing around this time. It’s where you give your baby around 5 minutes of fussing every time before picking them up to give them a chance to resettle themselves. I had this problem where I would be half asleep and literally grab Mav the second I heard him wake up. Most the time he wouldn’t even be crying! But I would just assume he was going to cry and I was sleep deprived so I wasn’t even thinking, I would just grab him and nurse him right away. So if he would have gone back to sleep on his own I wouldn’t have known it, because I never gave him the chance. The French Pause isn’t about letting a baby scream his head off by the way. Anytime a baby is screaming and seems in pain, you should go get them and make sure it’s not gas, hunger, etc. But sometimes a baby might fuss a little bit and fall back asleep. So I started this first and this is what I would suggest to every mama of a little babe before beginning anything else. Because it’s the gentlest, easiest thing you can do and your baby might just surprise you and fall back asleep. I also think because of the way a baby’s sleep cycles work, they actually need us to step back sometimes and give them the space to fall back asleep. I wish so badly I had known this as a first time mama! It would have helped so much. For example, babies naturally fuss at about 20 minutes into sleeping because they are transitioning into a deeper sleep cycle. So give them the chance to fall back asleep on their own when possible! When we started doing this, here’s what it looked like: when he woke up either during the day or at night, I would set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes and see if he would fall back asleep. And occasionally he did! Sleep still wasn’t great but we were taking baby steps forward and I was hopeful.
Shortly after starting this, his sleep began to improve a tiny bit and it gave me hope! But there were some rough nights. Again, my babes are not naturally good sleepers and I think I was actually accidentally training them to wake up often because I got them so often without giving them a chance to go back to sleep so they just got used to it! Remi never slept in our bed and slept in a Rock n Play in our room until 6 months. (Which I’ve since learned Rock n Plays have been recalled but we obviously didn’t know at the time! But it was the only way he would sleep!) Mav was moved out of our room and sleeping in his own room by 2.5 months. Crazy right? Before that he mostly slept on me or next to me in bed because it was the only way we could get sleep but he would also nap and sleep one stretch at night in the Snoo Smart Sleeper bassinet by Happiest Baby. We rented ours and got a great military discount and it has been so worth it. It’s only good for babies up to 6 months so it won’t help an older baby but I highly recommend it for newborns!
At 2.5 months my pediatrician gave the go ahead to move Mav into his own room if we felt ready. So we did! He told me that they actually recommend having your baby sleep in your room until they are 1 year old now but he said he doesn’t necessarily agree with this because it means less sleep for everyone! He also told me to do any sleep training by or at 4 months. He says after 4 months it’s only harder. No fear if you’re reading this and your baby is older than 4 months. Remi is the best sleeper ever and we didn't do any sleep training at all until 6/7 months (and we may have had to do it again once at 9 months, I can’t remember?)
Our game plan was as follows: Move Mav into his own room and lay him down with a full tummy, drowsy but slightly awake. We decided we’d set a timer for 15 minutes if he started crying. We also decided I would only get him to nurse him if it had been 4 hours for the first stretch of sleep. If he woke up before that, we’d let him cry it out for another 15 minutes. If he cried longer than 15 minutes but it had not been 4 hours yet, I’d still get him and nurse him. If he woke up after the 4 hours, I would either immediately get him or if I remembered, I’d give him only 5 minutes to resettle and then I’d go get him. So basically our goal was 4 hours (this is how bad things were and how little he slept!) and our time limit for crying was 15 minutes.
Night 1: We laid him down at 9pm (we’ve been trying to shift his bedtime earlier but this seems to be when his body is ready to go to bed for the night so we’re sticking with it for now) and he went down pretty well. 20 minutes later he woke up and started crying. We set the timer and he cried 14 minutes. Literally one minute short of the time limit. Then he went to sleep and woke up about 3 hours later. I forgot to wait the full 4 hours so I just got him and nursed him after 3 hours. He woke up two or three more times that night.
Night 2: Laid him down at 10pm because he cluster fed all night and wasn’t ready until 10. He cried 12 minutes and then fell asleep and stayed asleep for 5 1/2 hours. (This was probably the longest he had ever slept in his life at this point. His longest stretch prior to this was typically 2 hours) Then he woke up two more times that night.
Night 3: Laid him down at 10pm. Cried for 10 minutes. Fell asleep on his own and woke up 5 hours later. He only woke up one other time that night.
Night 4: Same routine but he didn’t cry at all when I laid him down drowsy but awake and then slept for a 6 hour stretch, and woke up one other time that night.
Night 5: Same routine. Cried two different times early on in the night for about 5 minutes a piece. Then slept a 9 hour stretch.
For the nights to follow he slept 5-9 hour stretches consistently every night. And actually the past two nights he has slept 11 hours in a row without waking up! At 3 months old! I can’t believe it either honestly. We still occasionally have hard nights where bedtime is rough and there’s lots of nursing and cuddling and rocking but once he seems ready and content in our arms and we’ve made sure he isn’t gassy or hungry, we give him 10-15 minutes to cry and fall asleep. Nowadays he will only cry for 5 minutes or so if we have a hard night.
We spend all day holding him and cuddling him and he knows his needs will be met by us. And the best part? He’s happier. I’m happier. He’s calm and smiley and literally laughing all day long. He rarely cries much now. I believe it’s because he’s sleeping better and mama is sleeping better so it feels like we actually get in more snuggles and happy cuddles than before.
Basically my advice would be this: use our experience as a guide but follow your babies cues and do sleep training in a way that feels right for you and your baby. We chose to do this because I believed he and I needed sleep more than we needed midnight cuddles and because he was gaining weight so well (and still is!) my pediatrician assured us he was okay to go without middle of the night feedings. Many of you who read this may not agree with what we did or feel the need to sleep train your child, but this was a personal choice for us and if there are any desperate sleep deprived mamas out there like me who feel like their family could benefit from more sleep, it might be worth a shot.
Some things to note:
-The older the baby, the longer they will probably cry and the harder it will be. If you choose to sleep train, you have to believe it’s worth it. Because if you don’t believe the sleep is important and you would rather nurse and cuddle every 1-3 hours in the middle of the night, you’re going to crumble and won’t make it through the first night (and some mamas love these middle of the night snuggles and feedings! So power to you if that’s you! I have a friend who loved her daughter’s middle of the night feedings and snuggles and really was okay with it. I value sleep and some alone time so this is the path we chose. No wrong choices here. If baby is fed and sleeping and clean, you’re doing great!)
-Setting a timer is a great way to give yourself some peace of mind. I definitely cry when my babies cry and it’s honestly just plain hard for me and can cause anxiety if I let it. There were times I got in the shower to cry and calm my mind while Reid kept on eye on the baby monitor. But the bottom line was that I knew in 15 minutes everything would be okay because he’d either be asleep or he’d be in my arms nursing if I had to get him and for some reason just knowing either outcome would end the crying, it gave me so much peace. I honestly never thought I’d do cry it out sleep training of any kind but when Remi turned 6/7 months old, I was desperate and he was still waking up every 2-4 hours at night. So we tried it. Once I saw how much it improved his mood and mine, I was sold. I will say though, he cried longer than 15 minutes when we sleep trained him and it definitely felt a lot harder so keep this in mind if your baby is older and just prepare for it. Get your husband on your team and set a time limit and gradually increase the time limit each night. Start with just 5 minutes if you want! That’s what I did with Remi. I started with just 5 minutes and increased by 5 minutes each night. It took him longer than just 3 nights but eventually he got the hang of it. We also made bedtime a priority. We just didn’t keep him out late. We were ALWAYS home by 6pm which means we missed out on some fun things and often couldn’t go to dinner with friends and family but we just chose to prioritize sleep and my husband and I were on the same page about it and we knew it was only a season.
-Consistency is KEY. If you decide to go for it, fully commit. Enlist your husband for help. Turn on a timer and turn the volume down on the monitor. If you’re like me, you may need to give your husband the monitor and put headphones in and pray. Or maybe you can handle crying but your husband can’t. Just make a plan together, say a prayer, breathe, be calm and know that it’s only 15 minutes. Just commit and trust that sleep is on the other side of this. Otherwise you’re just training your baby to cry essentially. The goal is SLEEP.
-If you travel or the baby is teething or goes through a regression or a growth spurt, after things settle back down you may have to do another 1-3 days of sleep training. This is normal and again, just follow your baby’s cues. This isn’t about letting your baby scream in pain at night and ignoring them. It’s just about helping them learn how to fall asleep on their own when they are full, sleepy, and content.
-I highly recommend swaddling with arms down. Remi didn’t like being swaddled so we used a Swaddle Up, which was a total game changer. (p.s. I’ll link my favorite baby sleep products below)
-Give yourself and your baby grace. My husband often reminds me to think of it this way: my boys have full bellies and they know they are loved. They are safe and God is watching over them. This helps when I feel like I’m a “bad mom” for sleep training them. But I honestly don’t regret it. I’m a bit of an introvert in some ways and I like having some time apart from my boys. I’m not the mom who wants to cuddle all day. I love cuddles but I also need alone time. But I recognize not every mom is built this way and that’s why I know sleep training isn’t for everyone. But if you’re anything like I was, you’re desperate for more than 2 hours of sleep at time so you can function and be a sweet, well rested, happy mama for your kids.
My favorite sleep resources:
If you really want to go for it, I cannot recommend the Baby Sleep Site enough. Especially if you have an older baby and need some serious, in depth help. I purchased a sleep consultation program when I was sleep training Remi and it was 100% worth the money. I think I paid $100 for a full personalized sleep program and a bunch of emails back and forth with a certified sleep consultant. They also help you with scheduling and naps. You tell them how comfortable you are with cry it out or if you’d like to do no cry sleep training and they completely personalize it based on what you’re comfortable with.
The book Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman.
Eat, Play, Sleep routine is great! But honestly Mav does Eat, Play, Eat, Sleep. Haha. We don’t really nurse to sleep, he just eats a lot! Early on, I had oversupply which is a whole other blog post in itself so he couldn’t nurse to sleep because nursing was overwhelming for him and he was basically drowning in milk lol. But now things have leveled out and we’re doing much better (thanks to my friend Sarah over at @milksprouts! Go follow her on insta or check out her website for ALL your breastfeeding needs, she’s absolutely the best lactation consultant ever, hands down!) Anyway, Mav technically does fall asleep nursing sometimes now but I always kinda wake him up when I go to burp him and then I’ll rock him or bounce on the yoga ball until he’s almost all the way asleep again. Drowsy but awake is an art, am I right? :D
Favorite sleep products:
Happiest Baby Sleepea Sack (these are nice because they are fool proof and when your baby is ready to start transitioning out of the swaddle, you can do one arm out and then both arms out)
Merlins Magic Sleep Suit (this did not work for us but I have read so many amazing reviews on it and every baby is different so maybe your baby will love it!)
The Snoo Smart Sleeper (for newborns/babies under 6 months)
My favorite white noise machine (Remi listens to Ocean Waves and Mav listens to White Noise)
Windis for gas (check my baby/toddler highlight to read a bit more about this natural gas product)
Black out curtains
12 hour/overnight diapers so they can sleep more comfortably through the night
A big yoga ball to bounce your baby to sleep if they don’t like being rocked
Please message me if you have ANY questions about sleep or anything! I love helping other mamas out.