Sleep Training (done properly this time!)

baby-sleep-training-routine

At the beginning of December I dabbled in some self-settling & sleep training, however it was all lead through Google, Mumsnet and various other online sources or word of mouth. From my blog you can tell it kind of didn’t work and by the end of December, beginning of January we were back to Pippa waking every couple of hours through the night. She would then not settle until she was picked up and rocked back to sleep by me but once I tried to put her back in the cot she would scream as soon as her body even came away from mine an inch!

I was exhausted and at my wits end. How could my baby at 4 and a half months still be waking so much? I literally couldn’t see how I was going to improve things and had various baby sleep books in my Amazon cart ready to be purchased, when my friend called me… Her friend’s sister-in-law was a qualified baby sleep therapist. Even just at this I was ecstatic, I was ready to pay anyone to help! However it got even better. She was just starting up her own business and needed some case studies to practice on – for free! It was a miracle and I didn’t waste any time in contacting her.

I had to provide lots of detail on Pippa and her sleeping habits, how her naps were, where, when and how long they were and what an average, worst and best night looked like. Here is what I provided for what was an average night (Looking back I can’t believe how far we’ve come):

  • Down at 7.30pm and sleep straight through until..
  • 11.30pm – waking crying for a feed
  • I then put on the small lamp in her room and change her nappy
  • I then take her into my bed and feed her
  • She’ll then fall asleep with her dummy in and this will either fall out once she is fully asleep after 10 minutes or so or I will take it out. I’ll then wait another 10-20 minutes or so before getting up and putting her down into her cot.
  • She will wake as soon as she leaves my arms so I cuddle her back to sleep and try again after 10 minutes. Usually I can get her down in the second or third try but all in all, from waking for a feed to back down takes about an hour.
  • Wakes crying at 2.30 but as she can’t be hungry I try and put her dummy in and stroke her head for up to 10 minutes but this has only ever sent her to sleep once! 99% of the time she continues to scream and thrash around and won’t stop for up to 20 minutes. After cuddling, swaying and shhing her back to sleep I attempt to put her down a couple of times before she stays down.
  • Wakes at 4 crying so as its been over 4 hours I will feed her.
  • I then put on the small lamp in her room and change her nappy
  • I then take her into my bed and feed her
  • She occasionally starts smiling as if its morning after this feed and it takes a while cuddling her for her to fall asleep again
  • Try to put her down, she wakes, I pick up and cuddle then put her back down.
  • Wakes at 6.30ish, again I cuddle her back to sleep and try and put her back down. If she won’t go down at this point i’ll take her into my bed and she sleeps on me until 8ish

I then met with the sleep therapist and we went over her plan for Pippa. From the initial email, she was so positive that Pippa would be sleeping through the night within just two weeks and her positivity continued during our meeting. It certainly rubbed off on me and I was so excited to get going so we started that night.

What she emphasised was that consistency and persistence was key, something I lacked the first time around. However I now felt much more confident in what I was doing and that what I was doing was right, having come from a professional rather than google!

She came up with a plan that was gradual so that Pippa wouldn’t feel abandoned or upset, starting with us sitting by her cot on the first night and moving further away each night until we finally can put her down and leave her. We would also occasionally talk softly and stroke her if she needed it. However putting her to sleep was never really the issue, it was the numerous night wakings.

It was here where things became hard. There were no longer any nappy changes during the night, no lights on during the night, no feeding during the night and no picking up during the night. This was the COMPLETE opposite to what we had been doing so I didn’t know how Pippa would take it and I was particularly worried about not feeding her during the night. I had noticed though (and you can see from the average night above) that she wasn’t feeding loads at night anyway and had already thought that maybe she didn’t need it. I was right, and I think it was doing these things (or rather not doing these things) that changed everything for us and Pippa’s sleeping.

So, I’m sure you’re wondering what we did do when she woke at night! We had to leave her crying for 10 minutes, timing it exactly. This was and still is the hardest thing about the whole experience. Coincidentally, H badly sprained his ankle the day we started sleep training and being a PE teacher, was signed off work for three weeks. If it wasn’t for him holding me back from running into Pip’s room and picking her up I don’t think I could have done it! It definitely helped to have him around over the past few weeks! After the 10 minutes is up, we can go in, put her dummy back in (which usually does the trick immediately!) and soothe her.

IMG_1389
It turns out this clue was above Pippa’s cot the whole time!

Another thing the therapist emphasised was that sleep breeds sleep, therefore sorting out Pippa’s daytime naps would be key. I was given a rough schedule detailing when naps should be with a 1hr nap in the morning, 2hr in the afternoon and another 20 min power nap in the evening. Looking at this, I thought it would be impossible! Pippa did nap 3 times a day, however I was lucky if I got 30 minutes, let alone 2 hours!

power nap
We often take a little walk for Pippa’s evening power naps.

To tackle this I was to no longer let her nap on me, or on the sofa, bed or anywhere else, but to be in her cot, in the dark and if she woke before the hour or 2 hour mark to leave her cry for 10 minutes to see if she went back off again. Amazingly, the first time we did this Pippa slept for 2hrs45mins! I couldn’t believe it! Whereas previously I would be straight there getting her up if she stirred, it turned out that most of the time she was still tired and would drop off again before the 10 minutes was up. My main concern with this method was how I was ever going to go out again! I pretty much cleared my diary for two weeks in order to pin down these naps, however now that Pippa has settled into her own nap routine I know what time she will be sleeping and can arrange things around her. As long as she gets one good nap in her cot a day, a nap in a car or pram won’t hurt!

baby-sleeping-through-the-night

So, the therapist had said she would be sleeping through within two weeks… then on day 10, she slept through! This unfortunately didn’t last every night but she has slept through twice since and even within the first couple of days there was such a huge improvement that she is now only waking once or twice during the night, often settling herself without us having to go in. The problem is that it’s the dummy that she is wanting when she wakes and we did try one night without it (on advice from the therapist) but Pippa got so so upset that it made me even more hysterical than her, so we decided to forgo the dummy ditching until a later date.

Not feeding her at night also massively helped with her feeding and she started taking 5oz, then 6oz until we had to up her bottles to 7oz! She now has four feeds a day of 6 or 7oz – something that seemed so far off just a month ago!

3 month baby update
I definitely miss this 😦

Don’t get me wrong, I desperately miss cuddling her to sleep or having her in our bed (trying to get a nice snuggle out of her now without her wriggling away is a mission!) but I don’t miss the sleepless nights and sheer exhaustion and frustration! However I know that in time, the odd nap in my arms here and there won’t hurt as she will be so accustomed to her routine.

So for comparison here is Pippa’s new and improved routine!

  • 6.30am – Wakes (literally like clockwork!)
  • 6.45am – Feed
  • 8.30am – 1.5hr nap
  • 10.45am – Feed
  • 12.30pm – 1-1.5hr nap
  • 2.45pm – Feed
  • 4.30pm/5pm – 20 minute power nap
  • 6.15pm – naked time (for Pippa!!)
  • 6.30pm – Bath
  • 6.40pm – dried and dressed
  • 6.45pm – bedtime story
  • 6.50pm – Feed
  • 7pm – Bed (and hopefully not waking until morning!)
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