Have you ever tried sleep training? Have you heard of it? Let me tell you about it because it's my new best friend.
Firstly, what is sleep training? Let's start with this (golden) information. Did you know that by six months of age babies are able to sleep through the night? Ahh but the key word here is "able". They have the ability but they probably don't do it quite yet because they haven't learned. For some babies it does come naturally though and those are the best kind. ;) Sleep training is, well, what it sounds like: training your baby to sleep through the night.
Secondly, there are different ways to sleep train your baby. There is the crying approach and the no crying approach. What we tried on our little Charlotte is the crying approach, otherwise known as the "cry-it-out method". The goal of this method is to let your baby learn to self-soothe so that if they wake up in the middle of the night they put themselves right back to sleep without so much as a squeak.
I can honestly say that I don't know much about the no-cry method. This post is meant to talk about the cry-it-out method though. If you're looking for something on "no-cry" you can find it here!
Thirdly, let's talk about the method itself. The method was invented by Dr. Richard Ferber who is the director of The Center For Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Children's Hospital in Boston. It is usually referred to as "Ferberization" because of this. Dr. Ferber has done research on children's sleep for twenty years and is a trusted children's sleep expert.
The method itself is lengthy but so useful. Click here to see a step-by-step guide! You won't regret it.
Fourthly, I want to give my honest opinion and experience with this method. I want to tell you how amazing I think this method is. Let's backtrack: If you've seen any of my monthly baby updates (click here to see the latest one) then you know that sleep was rough for awhile. Charlotte was getting up three or four times a night crying. I would bring her into bed with us and nurse her back to sleep. I soon found myself with the worst aching muscles and neck I'd ever experienced. Nursing her laying down was killing me because my body got so tense and I was contorted around her. I guess my motherly instinct held me in the exact same, tense position all night long so I wouldn't roll over onto her if I fell asleep. After a few weeks of aching muscles and joints in the morning I decided there needed to be a change. Why was I getting up so much at night? Well, she is teething, but she just couldn't seem to get herself back to sleep. That's when I discovered the Ferber method. Praise God! I do believe He sent me the link (so to speak).
I started Charlotte on the Ferber method on Thursday November 13th for her afternoon nap. She usually nurses to sleep but what I did was nurse her until she was a little drowsy, then I laid her in her crib. I'm not going to lie - the first few times were very rough. It's hard to hear your child cry. But, she was learning!
After only 2 days, when I put her in her crib she would only fuss for a moment and go right to sleep. The Ferber method suggests that it should only take 4-7 days for the method to take hold and for the baby to get into the rhythm of putting herself back to sleep. Now, a week later, I can nurse her a little, lay her in her crib and a lot of the time she lays there with her eyes open for a moment then drifts to sleep. Sometimes she fusses for a few minutes, calms down, plays for another few minutes, then falls asleep. At the same time last week I established a good, solid bedtime routine too. Before, when I thought she was getting a little tired I'd just nurse her to sleep. Now, this is her routine each night (roughly):
9:15 - Feed her some baby food
9:30 - Bath (I only use soap every third night. The other nights are simply a rinse off and play time)
9:45 - We read a short book or story
10:00 - I nurse her until she gets a little drowsy then lay her in her crib and leave the room
From there we follow the Ferber method. I highly recommend a good bedtime routine by the way. It has helped Charlotte get to sleep much easier because she knows what's coming. I'll save that for another post though.
***I do want to insert that obviously if your child is sick you should comfort them/give them meds/take care of them throughout the night. I'm not suggesting you let a sick or hurting baby lay there screaming at night. But if you know your baby is only crying because you left the room then let it go. (Cue the 'Frozen' soundtrack here). ***
If you read the link to the step-by-step guide above you'll know that the key here is not to pick your (healthy) baby up. You must stand your ground. Rub their back, whisper that you love them, sing a soft lullaby for a moment then leave the room again. All I can say is that it worked wonders for my baby girl! I know this method is not for everyone but if you are an exhausted mama and need some help this may be something to try! It is hard to listen to your baby cry. You will probably cry yourself like I did a few times. If your husband is anything like mine he will probably go sleep on the couch for those first few nights when she starts up in the middle of the night. He'll probably make some excuse the next morning about how it was really stuffy in your bedroom and he couldn't stand it (I mean...it's November. In Ohio.) so he doesn't discourage you from keeping at it. (Love you, Tom!)
These are only my experiences. Like I said this may not be for everyone. I just thought I'd give some encouragement to other mamas who, like me, were achy zombies in the morning. Dr. Ferber is my hero!
If you're still on the fence about Ferberization let me just say this: Last night was Charlotte's seventh night on Ferberization. Last night was also her fourth night in a row that she slept through the night! Aaaaaa! I'm one happy mama as you can imagine!
Let me know if you have any questions about this or about my experience! As always, talk to your child's pediatrician about this before starting. You'll want to make sure your baby is healthy, at the appropriate age and stage to begin Ferberization if it's what you plan to try.
Love you all!
My name is Hannah and I'm a lucky wife to Tom, and mama bear to two sweet girls - Charlotte & Rosalie. Coffee, lipstick, sunshine, and dresses are some of my favorite things! I love to blog about God, motherhood, "wifeyhood", food, health and much more.
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