Last week I shared the first part of our sleep journey with Oliver – in case you missed it, you can catch up here 🙂
We got off to a really good start with sleep training and Oliver caught on to putting himself to sleep at night pretty quickly. We then hit a very rough patch at the beginning of June (you can read my last Life Lately post for the full story) but between teething, two colds and Oliver having his first surgery, sleep and sleep training took a huge backseat. Once we were over all those hurdles, I knew it was time to start again as Oliver was back to catnapping in the day (no nap lasted longer than 30 minutes) and started waking up every 2 hours at night. He also became increasingly difficult to settle (regardless of whether he was in his cot or in our bed) and to say I was exhausted was an understatement. I felt like I was slowly losing my mind and not functioning particularly well on so little sleep. I decided to do a little more research on routines and catnapping and I came across Little Ones sleep program which had received a number of really positive reviews.
I selected the Older Baby Sleep program (6 – 24 months) which addresses a number of sleep challenges including catnapping in the day, linking sleep cycles and waking every 2 hours overnight. The program is an electronic guide and after purchasing, it was immediately available to download. It gives a lot of information on babies sleep (and how they sleep) and explains the concepts and logic behind babies’ sleep including the timing and duration of their naps which I found really helpful. Little Ones focus on two naps a day for babies 8 – 10 months with a short morning nap and long lunchtime nap, with the goal of achieving a lunchtime nap of around 2 hours. I had read a few books which focus on a long lunchtime nap which is designed to coincide with the natural dip in energy levels between 12 and 2pm (this is true for adults too). They also share nine different options for self-settling but I stuck to Meg Faure’s Sleep Sense for this as it had worked so well for us for bedtime. I also didn’t like the idea of leaving Oliver to cry for as long as the guide suggested and preferred Meg’s gentler approach. As I mentioned in my last post, we had created all of his sleep associations and we needed to help him learn and adapt slowly.
When I told my husband I was going to start sleep training Oliver in the day, he laughed and we both had zero hope of it going particularly well based on the previous attempts. I chose to start his new routine on a Monday when we had no plans for the week so if things went haywire, it wasn’t the end of the world. Surprisingly enough getting Oliver to self-settle for his day naps was was probably the easiest part of the process and my only conclusion is that he was actually ready to start putting himself to sleep in the day. After we’ve read a story, had a cuddle and sung a song, I put him in his cot and he goes to sleep – something I never thought would be possible. Some days he takes a bit longer to fall asleep but on average he’ll jabber away and do some gymnastics for about 5 minutes before going to sleep. When he’s really tired he won’t want a story or a cuddle but actually just wants to go to sleep in which case I put in down and he’s asleep almost immediately.
A lot of the books I read said that you can expect things to get worse before they get better while babies adjust to their new sleep times and nap lengths – as day sleep improves, night sleep may get worse and visa versa because they are used to the amount of sleep they have been having but they will slowly regulate and consolidate their sleep to reach an equilibrium. What I found the most interesting about babies catnapping in the day is that they actually become overtired by the evenings because they have not had a long, restorative sleep during the day and this can cause them to wake up repeatedly during the night – again, this isn’t a problem for all babies but it most definitely was the case for Oliver. The first three days went well (too well in fact!) and then things got a whole lot worse. So much so that I was ready to give up on his new routine after 10 days. He was doing really well and managing to sleep for close to 2 hours during the day for a couple days a week but nights were still a disaster with him waking up almost every hour at one point (really though, who needs sleep??). But we persevered and after 3 weeks, something clicked and things fell into place.
Getting him to link his sleep cycles was a big one and took time for him to get it right. If he woke up earlier than planned, I’d leave him in his cot for up to half an hour as long as he was happy and not crying. If he cried, I’d try settle him but after a few minutes accepted that his nap was done and aimed for an earlier bedtime to compensate. After a few days, he started going back to sleep and sleeping for the full 2 hours. Something else that has helped tremendously is white noise in his room. With wooden floors, the noise in our house travels a lot so having the white noise blocks out the sudden noise and it also helps him to put himself back to sleep. And a tip – you don’t need a fancy white noise machine! Google Play on an old cellphone on repeat works perfectly (Relaxing Rain is the current favourite).
His nights are still not perfect but they have improved dramatically. He usually wakes up at about 4.30am for a feed but some nights he needs a feed at about 1am – I’ve worked out that this is usually when he’s fallen asleep too quickly during his evening feed and hasn’t taken a full feed. Some mornings he’ll stay in bed with me from 4am and this is my absolute best. There is nothing better than baby snuggles in the early morning and this is something I really treasure (and I’m actually a little disappointed on the mornings he’s wanted to go back to his cot 😉 ) Regardless of where he wakes up, he generally sleeps until 7am which is huge as we rarely made it to 6am!
Aside from getting more sleep at night, the biggest change for me is Oliver’s day naps. He has a morning nap of around 30 minutes (some days I cut it short if we are going out or I let him sleep a little longer if he’s had a bad night). On average he sleeps for an hour and a half to two hours over lunchtime which is life changing. Having more than 30 minutes to do some work in the day is a novelty that definitely won’t be wearing off any time soon! Not every day is perfect and some days he’ll cut his nap short – a lot has to do with how busy we have been in the morning though as some days he’ll go to 2.5 hours.
The aim of sleep training for us was not so much to get Oliver to sleep through the night – although that would be nice, I feel like you are winning if you only getting up once or twice 😉 – but rather to help him put himself to sleep, sleep longer in the day and stop waking up every 2 hours at night. While I know that things constantly change with these little people (and they really love to keep you on your toes!), I feel like we’ve laid the foundations for a good routine going forwards. It will also be easier for him to keep his long lunch nap when he drops his morning nap (I going to hold onto this one for a long as I can though!)
There are so many options and thoughts on sleep training but if you’ve read both my posts and you are thinking of sleep training, the one thing I hope you take away from it is that there is no one size fits all and every baby is different. Whatever method or guide you choose, use it as a guideline and remember, your baby hasn’t read the book so do what works best for you and your family. No one is going to check up on you to see if you followed their rules! Drawing on a few different resources and making our own rules worked the best for us. It was hard work to get to where we are now but it was definitely worth it and we are all a lot better for it. Some night’s Oliver falls asleep in my arms, some night’s I still feed him when he wakes up and some night’s he sleeps through but he won’t always be this little and won’t always need me this much so for now, I’m soaking up every inch of his littleness, the feeling of him nuzzled in my neck and breathing in his delicious babyness because I know this too shall pass – and all too quickly.