Friday, September 20, 2013

Sleep Training the Ahlgrim Clan

We've been blessed with two really good sleepers! Our kiddos are both under the age of two and both have done exceptionally well with sleeping through the night- but that didn't necessarily come without a bit of encouragement. I get lots of questions from other moms about when our kids started sleeping through the night, and how we got them to do that. So in an effort to have a single location to direct these friends to, I've decided to just write it out here.

PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT a how to guide. I am not a doctor nor an infant sleep expert of any kind. This is just our story, and what worked for us. We used a modified cry-it-out method at the recommendation of our pediatrician. Different things work for different families and while I respect the opinions and methods of others, I do not wish to start a conversation or debate here. I do welcome any questions you might have and would be happy to answer them!

Let's start with our oldest, Vesper. We can't take a whole lot of credit for this one. She started showing signs of wanting to sleep through the night and eliminate her late night feeding at six weeks, so we just followed her lead. She slept swaddled and used a pacifier. However, at around 4 months old, she began waking multiple times during the night when her pacifier would fall out of her mouth. Because she was swaddled, she had no way to retrieve the pacifier, and therefore, Mom and Dad were up and down all night long to shove it back in her mouth. 

At Vesper's 5 month appointment, her pediatrician recommended that we stop swaddling her as she was getting close to rolling over and getting a bit too big for the swaddle. He recommended a modified cry it out method. We were to establish a strict bed time and routine and stick to it at all costs for the first several weeks. It's worth mentioning that I truly believe this is the most important part of getting your child to recognize that it's time to go to sleep.

Our routine (for both children) went as follows: bath time, jammies and a fresh diaper, snuggles and some reading, then a bottle and some singing and rocking.

Because we expected she would cry, the plan after laying her down was this: let her cry for a pre-determined interval (this can be as short as 5 minutes, and as long as 15 at this age) and then go in and reassure her that we're still there i.e. pat her back, hold her hand, whisper softly, smooth her hair, etc but DO NOT pick her up. We would stay in the room for less than 2 minutes before leaving again, even if she was still crying. Again, this was a process about which we talked with her pediatrician before doing. We chose a 15 minute interval right away because we knew that seeing us every 5 minutes and then leaving again would only heighten her emotions.

It took her ONE night (30 minutes at initial bedtime, and 30 minutes at a 3 a.m. waking). The second night, she only fussed for about 15 minutes before falling asleep and sleeping all night. I was so shocked! Somehow, between being sick with ear infections all the time and night terrors, she worked the paci back into her bedtime routine, but she's only ever been allowed to have it at bedtime, so we're not too worried about it for now.

For Grey, however, it took a bit more convincing. Grey also slept swaddled with a pacifier from birth. At about 2 months, he was unable to sleep without that darn pacifier in his mouth. Every. Single. Time it fell out, he immediately started to fuss. Needless to say, he slept in his bassinet, right next to our bed for  quite a while. Around 4 months, we decided it was time to break him of the swaddle and the pacifier since it seemed to only be hindering his sleep rather than aiding. We did it cold turkey and used a similar CIO method with intervals. At this point he was still waking for one (or two) night feedings and taking a full bottle, so we didn't think he was quite capable of sleeping through the night. After we weaned him from the swaddle and pacifier, we kept his night feeding(s).

At his 5 month appointment, again, I asked the pediatrician about his sleep patterns and he recommended the same method. I explained that I was concerned that he wasn't ready because he was eating 3-4 ounces at each feeding during the day, as well as a full feeding or two in the middle of the night. The pediatrician explained that he would even out his feedings and that he was fully capable of sleeping through the night at that point, so we used the same method: establish a routine, put him down sleepy (but awake) and go in every 15 minutes if he was crying.

It took him a few hours the first night (I think off and on for about 3 hours at initial bed time, then about 45 minutes at his 3a.m. waking). But each night after that, he got a little bit better. It took him a full 6 nights before he would fall asleep in less than 10 minutes and sleep a full 12 hours, but he did it! And he seemed SO much happier and more rested during the day! Also, just as the pediatrician said, he evened out his feedings. He went from eating 3-4 oz at each feeding to eating 5-6 oz at each and sleeping through the night!

A couple of things worth noting: (1) our babies definitely didn't need a bath every single day at this age, but we gave them one every single night while we were sleep training in an effort to establish the routine. About a month after starting the training, we felt comfortable enough to stray from the routine and skip the bath or move bedtime up or down by a few minutes here and there. (2) Doing everything at the exact same time every night didn't seem to make as much difference as making sure that we did things in the same order (as long as bed time was within 15-30 minutes of the same time each night of course) (3) With both, in the beginning, we would rock and sing to them until they were very sleepy but still awake, then lay them down in the crib. Within a couple of months, Vesper decided she didn't want to be rocked anymore :( and within a couple of weeks, Grey didn't want to be rocked either! It was almost as if, because we had established such a solid routine, they knew what was coming, and they just wanted to get on with it! Time for sleep!

For nap times: Vesper was in daycare most of her first year, so they kind of did the work for us on this one. But for Grey, he took a 45 minute nap 1.5 hours after each feeding until he was about 6 months old. At this point, he's making the transition to 2 solid 1.5 hour naps and one short nap in between.  I had planned to used the same Modified CIO method, but didn't really need to. He seems to be making the transition naturally. For his longer naps, he usually wakes after 45 minutes, fusses for a couple of minutes, then drifts back to sleep.

I'll be sure to do an update to this post a few months from now as their sleep patterns develop and change, but for now, good luck! Let me know if you have any questions!

xo, Chels

No comments: