Welcome tired parents! I’m assuming that the majority of you reading this are exhausted moms and dads looking for answers on how to get your child to sleep better. And if you’re not a parent and you’re reading anyway, thanks for being here! I’m really excited about today’s blog post because I’m hoping it helps desperate parents out there get the sleep they neeeeeed! Or at least give you the information you might be looking for to decide whether or not you want to start sleep training.
I want to begin this blog by saying we didn’t sleep train Riley by ourselves. We didn’t even do it with over the phone or online coaching like we previously did with Molly. This time around we hired Kimberly from Sweet Dreams LA to come to our house and do the first two days of sleep training for us. And that’s because the first two days are by far the hardest. And in many cases, only the first 24 hours are really hard and it’s pretty smooth sailing after that. The reason we decided to hire someone this time around is because sleep training is emotionally hard on parents. I mean, it’s devastating to listen to your child cry. And when you’re in a state of complete exhaustion, it’s certainly easier in the moment to just to go in and feed your baby rather than listen to them cry for 30 minutes. But here’s what our sleep trainer Kimberly told us that I find to be so true, the amount of crying your child is going to do in the first two days of sleep training is nothing compared to how much they would cry over a year with poor sleep habits. Because let’s face it, a tired baby is a fussy baby. So in my mind, the bit of crying Riley did at the beginning of his sleep training is nothing compared to how upset he would’ve been if he continued sleeping poorly during this super important and developmental first year of his life. And let’s be real, this mama needed her sleep to feel like a human again!
Why We started at 4 Months
We decided to start sleep training at four months for a few reasons. The first and most obvious reason is that we were just exhausted when Riley turned four months old. Kevin was sleeping in the guest room because he has to wake up for work at 4 AM every morning and then when he got home from work he would have to be super dad and take over parenting both kids because I was so exhausted after being up all night with Riley.
The second reason we decided to start sleep training at four months is because we felt like we did a disservice to our daughter Molly by waiting to sleep train her until she was 9 months. I remember when Molly was a baby I used to just think she was a really fussy baby. I thought that we were those parents that got stuck with a high maintenance baby. And looking back I feel so bad that I even thought that about my sweet girl. Because the truth was Molly was completely capable of being a happy and content baby, but we as parents honestly failed to give her the tools she needed to know how to put herself back to sleep. And when a baby is not sleeping, they’re not developing as quickly as they would if they got all their sleep. Molly was crying all the time because she was exhausted but didn’t know how to sleep! I know I’m fussy when I don’t get a good nights sleep. So looking back, my biggest regret with Molly and sleep training is that we didn’t do it 5 months sooner. Once we sleep trained, she became a completely different little girl. She was happy all the time and her development skyrocketed. Because here’s the thing, babies just like adults, have sleep cycles where they wake up multiple times throughout the night. Adults know how to put themselves back to sleep whereas babies don’t. You might not even realize it, but I assure you that you are waking up multiple times throughout the night. So basically the training is teaching your baby that when they wake up throughout the night, that they can put themselves back to sleep. It’s a tool that once you give it to them, they will have it and use it throughout their entire life. In my opinion it’s the greatest gift other than love (and food) you can give them.
The third reason it was super important for us to sleep train Riley is Molly. Our daughter Molly just turned 2 a few months ago and she needs us. She’s at a critical stage in her life where having us present is super important for her. And before sleep training we were rocking Riley to sleep anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day depending on how hard it was to get him to fall asleep. Can you believe that?! 2 to 4 hours a day! That’s 2 to 4 hours we could’ve been spending with Molly. When you only have one child, it’s easier to rock your baby to sleep every afternoon or even let them nap on you while you’re laying on the couch. When you have two children, that’s impossible! In fact, I was talking to Jade (you guys know her from Bachelor in Paradise) the other day and she was telling me that her daughter Emi would take all her naps on Jade’s chest. I thought that was the sweetest thing ever! But at the same time, I felt bad for Jade because she must’ve not had any time for herself in the first year of her daughter’s life! And then I started thinking that there’s no way someone could do that when they have two kids. You can’t lay on the couch and let your baby nap on you because your two or three or four year old needs you! So really sleep training was a necessity for us with our two kids.
Ok let’s backtrack now. Riley was just approaching 4 months and I remember sitting at my kitchen counter on my computer feeling desperate. I started googling “how to get your baby to sleep?” I downloaded forms from people‘s websites that I paid a bunch of money for. I remember looking at all the information I had and just feeling totally overwhelmed. Look, sleep training is pretty simple when you break it down. You let your baby learn how to sleep by letting them cry until they figure it out (that’s actually exactly why our sleep coach Kimberly calls her method “figure it out” – I’ll get to that in a minute). So why is it that so many people fail if it’s actually really simple to do? Well, it’s because we love our kids and hearing them cry absolutely breaks us. To us crying means fear, hunger or pain – but that’s really not true, which I’ll also explain in a minute. So basically, I was looking at all this information I had in my hands, knowing that we had done sleep training before so we knew how to do it, but I couldn’t help but feel like there was NO WAY we could do it again. Just because it’s emotional. It’s extremely emotionally exhausting and hard on a parent to hear their child cry for one night. That’s when I started googling sleep trainers that come to your house and do the first few nights of sleep training for you. And that’s when I stumbled upon Kimberly’s website – Sweet Dreams LA. It’s really just coincidence that she was local to Los Angeles because really I just wanted someone that could do it right and that we could trust to be in our home. I wanted the best of the best! I was going to be inviting a stranger into my home and I wanted that person to be highly recommended and the best at what they do. And that’s Kimberly! And FYI, Kimberly does travel so if you’re reading this and not local to LA, you can fly her out to change your life and give you your sleep back too! Anyway, I read the reviews on Kimberly’s Yelp page and I knew she was the person we wanted to hire. Every single revie was absolutely stellar! And all of them said she had their baby sleeping through the night after one or two nights! Even though I’ve done sleep training before, I couldn’t help but read the reviews and think “is this really possible? There’s no way she can get my four month old to sleep through the night after only two nights.” (And FYI, she didn’t get Riley sleeping through the night after two nights. She got Riley sleeping through the night after ONE night!) So even with all these doubts filling my head, we still decided to hire Kimberly because we knew sleep training works and we could tell she was the best!
And I know some of you are wondering if your baby wakes up at night because they are hungry. That’s just NOT true! Obviously talk to your doctor to decide when your baby is ready, but Riley was definitely ready to drop his night feeds at 4 months. Not only is he in the 97th percentile for weight (and off the charts for height! He’s HUGE!), so we knew he was getting enough nutrition, but he also drank so much milk throughout the day! Some days when we would give him all pumped breastmilk in bottles, we found that he was drinking over 35 ounces plus what he was getting at night! Babies his age are recommended to drink between 19 and 32 ounces total a day. He was drinking more than that during the day before we even factored in the night feeds! And at night when I was nursing him, he would only nurse for a few minutes before falling back asleep. It was quite obvious to me he was nursing for comfort. So please don’t assume your baby is hungry when they wake up in the middle of the night crying if your doctor tells you they are ready to drop night feed.
You Have to Commit!
Before you sleep train there is a tendency to feel the need to prepare your baby. But the truth is, you can’t prepare your baby. It’s like ripping off a Band-Aid. You have to start and commit and never look back. If you try to prepare your baby and don’t stick to a solid plan you’ll just confuse your little one. And that would do more harm than good. So during our first call with Kimberly before she came to our home to sleep train, she assured us just to keep going about our days as we had been and that she would give us the gift of sleep in no time! And what absolutely blew me away after talking with her is that she guarantees it! She’s so good and confident in what she does that she guarantees that your child will sleep through the night after she sleep trains them. She’s literally never not been successful with her program. Isn’t that insane?! Even though she was telling me this, I kept thinking there’s no way Riley’s going to sleep through the night after two nights! But Kimberly had such a great energy about her that she made me hopeful! My mother-in-law was actually on this first call we had with her because it was on speaker phone so Kevin and I could both talk to her, and after we hung up the phone my mother-in-law said, “Goodness, I wish we could bottle up her energy! She’s wonderful!” What she meant by that is that Kimberly just has such a loving and positive vibe. It radiated over the phone and even more so when we met her a few days later.
The day Kimberly got to our house I remember feeling a little nervous. It’s weird to have someone you don’t know come into your home and sleep there for two nights. I didn’t know what to expect. But literally the second she walked in the door I fell in love with her. She got right on the floor and started playing with Molly and instantly felt like she had been a friend of ours forever. It was the weirdest thing and something I can’t possibly explain in words. Actually, one of our friends hired Kimberly to sleep train her daughter after we did and she said the exact same thing about her! That she’s one of the coolest people ever and she was so glad that she got to know her! By the way, my friends daughter was also sleeping through the night after ONE night of sleep training. So crazy! Kimberly is MAGIC!
Why Hire Someone?
I’m going to give you as much information as I can about how to sleep train but here’s the thing, sleep training will never work if you don’t stick to the program! And the reason I’m such an advocate of hiring a sleep trainer is because sometimes when your child is crying in the middle of the night you feel like something might be wrong. You feel like a terrible parent for not going in there and helping them. But the truth is they don’t need your help the vast majority of the time! By going in and “helping them” you’re actually not helping them at all.
When we did sleep training with Molly and Riley, I found that it was so helpful having a professional to talk to and tell you that everything was OK. For instance, when Molly was screaming in the middle of the night I could certainly look to Kevin to tell me it’s OK, but Kevin was as new at this as I was so I needed our sleep trainer to tell me that what was going on was OK, and more importantly safe. And that’s what Kimberly did with Riley. The first night of sleep training, we put him down in his crib after zero rocking and he cried for 15 to 20 minutes. Kimberly sat there with us looking at the baby monitor and told us how great he was doing. I remember panicking at first and feeling the urge to go get him. But she put me at ease right away. She explained that babies communicate through crying. It’s really the only way they know how to communicate at this age. It’s either smiles and giggles or crying. So while Riley was crying she explained the different types of cries. There’s a talking cry, a protest cry and a distress cry. I never knew that! She was explaining this to us while Riley was crying and it made so much sense! And the thing about Kimberly is that she would tell us what was about to happen with Riley before it even happened. She legit is a baby whisperer! It’s like she speaks baby or something. That’s what Kevin and I kept saying that she knows “baby talk” and speaks their language. And I know the question a lot of you were going to ask, is her method “cry it out?” Well, I guess it is. But Kimberly calls it “figure it out”. We are teaching our babies how to figure out how to fall back asleep on their own. And they always figure it out.
Here’s the thing, there’s a reason it works for all of her clients after two nights, ONE night in our case. That’s because babies want to learn how to sleep! If we were doing harm to our babies, they wouldn’t learn after one night. They would cry over and over, night after night because we are, as some would say, abandoning them. But that’s just not the case! It honestly makes me so upset when some people refer to it as that. Every parent I have ever met that has stuck with a sleep training program for at least 3 nights SWEARS by it! Because it works! And everyone is happier – you, your significant other and your baby! And in our case, Molly too because she gets more time with us! Trust me when I say sleep training is the best gift you can give your child!
Quick side note, as I’m writing this Riley is napping and I have his monitor in front of me. I just saw him wake up at the 40 minute mark of his nap. Which he always does because most sleep cycles are 30 to 40 minutes. And then I saw him put himself right back to sleep with no fussing. I have a huge smile on my face right now because sleep training gave him that ability! So it was cool to see it on the monitor as I write this.
So How do you do it?
OK, so I’m sure a lot of you are wondering how you sleep train? What exactly do you do? It’s almost impossible to explain in a general blog post because every baby is different and I believe it depends on your babies age. That’s why so many parents end up buying online manuals or reading blog posts like this and feeling frustrated. Like I mentioned above, I really believe that most need the guidance of someone who has done this 100 times before telling you what comes next. Or telling you that your baby is OK and SAFE.
The first night Kevin and I put Molly down for bed first, and then put Riley down for bed with Kimberly‘s guidance. This is his bedtime routine (it’s so important that you stick to the same routine every night! And for naps!)
- Diaper change.
- PJ’s. Make sure they are wearing similar PJ’s to what you wear to bed so the temperature is right for everyone. Slightly cool is best! We keep our temp at 73 degrees.
- Into sleep suit. We are using two different ones with him right now. At first we used this one because it has a light weight on the chest that feels like a hand on their chest and provides comfort. But once he started rolling over we switched and have been using this brand more often. Although we still use the weighted one sometimes too!) It’s important that you put the sleep suit on your baby on the changing table and not in the crib. Before we were laying him in the crib to put the sleep suit on, but Kimberly let us know that the crib is only for sleeping and not for putting on any sort of clothes or anything else. Definitely no playing in the crib!
- Story. Then we will read him a quick story. Another signal that it’s time to go to sleep.
- White Noise and Song. Next we turn the white noise on (we use this white noise machine it’s by far the best and loudest one we’ve found. Some are sooo quiet) and I sing “You are my sunshine” to him. So I’m only holding him with the white noise on for the amount of time it takes me to sing the song. Sometimes I’ll sing it twice if he’s fussy in my arms just to calm him down. But the only time he’s ever fussy at this point is if he’s overtired and I try to avoid that by reading his sleep cues.
- In the crib where I give him a lovey (Always check with your pediatrician if it’s safe to give your little one a lovey for the crib. Riley is super strong so ours said it was totally fine. Plus we use this one because it is breathable which is so important for safety). Babies want comfort at night and Riley loves be able to snuggle his lovey. And chew on it when teething! Btw, Riley has gotten TWO teeth since we sleep trained two week ago and he STILL slept through the night. So teething really isn’t a reason to go in at night!
- Lights out and leave the room.
Keep the lights on during this routine and don’t dim them way low. Lights out should only be for sleeping. So that way the baby knows that when the lights are out and the white noise is on, that means they should sleep and not be held by their mama or daddy. And no rocking to sleep!!! Your baby should be put in their crib awake! I know some people say drowsy but awake. But honestly your baby is going to be tired, so they are drowsy even if they don’t look it. In my mind (before sleep training), drowsy always meant their eyes opening and closing and ready to fall asleep. But really drowsy just means they’re ready to go to bed. And you’ll know that based on when they get fussy. Try to distinguish between on the verge of falling asleep and drowsiness. Because on the verge of falling asleep is too late to put your baby down. They should be awake!
And by not rocking your baby to sleep you’re going to get so much of your life back! Not only are you teaching them and giving them valuable tools for sleep, but you get time! I’m not kidding you, before sleep training we would spend a total of 2 to 4 hours a day rocking Riley to sleep. Now I have all that time back to actually get things done around the house or spend time with my sweet little girl
In regards to what happens the first night with Kimberly’s program, I can’t really say! She did it all, Riley was a champ, and we got to sleep!!!! It was lovely! But when we sleep trained Molly this is what we did. Once we began sleep training with her we pretty much will never went back in the room in the middle the night. Of course unless she was sick. Or if our gut told us something was wrong. You need to use your intuition as a parent if you think something is really wrong when your child wakes in the middle the night. Some sleep trainers recommend going in the room and quietly putting a hand on your baby and telling them everything‘s OK and then leaving the room again. We didn’t do this with Molly because we found when we did, it just made her more upset. Our rule when we sleep trained Molly was that if she cried for 10 minutes straight with no pauses whatsoever (and even a one second pause counts as a pause), then you can go in and check on them. But do not pick them up from the crib unless it’s an emergency obviously. Just put your hand on their tummy and tell them it’s OK and then walk back out. But here’s the thing, Molly always took breaths and pauses. So when they do take a pause it’s their way of trying to self soothe. They are learning. If they take a breath you start the clock over for another 10 minutes. This could mean that they’re crying for an hour and a half straight in the middle of the night. Even two hours! But those pauses let you know that they’re learning to self soothe. You may have a few long stretches the first night but that’s it. But here is why Kimberly method is BETTER than this 10 minute method. She knows how to respond to babies and it’s amazing! Each program she creates is customized for the baby in order to minimize tears. Minimal tears is so much better than what I did with Molly! Like I’ve mentioned multiple times in this post, by the second night Riley slept 12 hours straight! That’s right, 12 hours straight with no wake ups!
Oh, I’ve also gone in to check for dirty diapers if he ever wakes in the middle of the night. Most nights since sleep training he has slept 11-12 hours straight. But sometimes he will wake once in the night and fuss a little. I like to sneak in sometimes (army crawl style) and smell the side of his crib to see if he pooped. He never has, but it eases my mind, so I do it 😉 But Kimberly advised me not to make this routine since babies become more aware as they get older. But if you think your baby has a dirty diaper, definitely go change them! Just try not to make it routine every time they wake up. Because they will wake up, they just learn how to go back to sleep on their own!
During the Day
At four months old we pretty much had Riley on a 3 hour wake, eat, play, sleep schedule. So if he got up at 6:30 AM, he will eat and then play for anywhere from an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and 30 minutes. This first awake time of the day is usually the shortest. I didn’t realize this and before Kimberly came and we were doing the wake, eat, play, sleep schedule and I was trying to keep Riley awake the same amount of time between every nap. And that’s just not how babies work. Kimberly explained that the first wake time of the day will be the shortest and the last wake time of the day before bedtime will be the longest. I didn’t know that before. So even though I say we’re on a three hour schedule, really it’s a 2:45 schedule at the beginning of the day and then a 3 1/2 hour schedule at the end of the day. If that makes sense. And Kimberly might even cringe at me using the words 3 hour schedule because for her, she lets the baby lead the way! It’s funny because I kept telling her that I didn’t really know how to read Riley’s sleep cues. To me he kind of seems tired all the time – let’s face it, he was because he wasn’t sleeping well. But when she was here and we were doing sleep training I would say to her “Riley just rubbed his face and is arching his back I think he’s tired.” And then she would tell me that I actually DID know my baby’s sleep cues! It’s funny how having a professional around to run things by makes you more confident in what you already know about your baby. I didn’t even know that I could read Riley like that! And I feel like I’m not even explaining this well because rubbing their face is an obvious sleep cue. But I feel like I would just question myself before Kimberly was around to tell me I was reading him right. I guess I should trust my mother’s intuition more often.
And to be 100% honest with you guys, we’re still working on naps. It took about two weeks after sleep training for Riley to get to a good place with his naps. He was originally taking 4 naps a day that were anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. I know so many of you parents out there can relate to having a catnapper! But after about a week of sleep training, and sleeping 11-12 hours every night, he slowly adjusted to 3 naps a day. The first one is always the longest and the last one is always the shortest. But he’s doing so much better! It’s really normal after sleep training for a babies naps to take a little bit longer to adjust. But I’m so happy that Riley is getting there!
I hope this gives you guys some good information if you’re considering sleep training. But my guess is you’re probably reading all this and feeling overwhelmed. I know that’s how I felt every time I read something about sleep training! There are so many one-offs and what ifs. I know by reading this you guys are going to get good information but at the same time you’re gonna have 100 more questions! And that’s because no two babies are the same. And there are so many little things that can come up that result in questions. And we all know that babies are unpredictable. They’re not machines. What if your baby wakes up at 5 AM – what do you do? What about a 5:30am wake up? A 4:30am wake-up? What if their naps are 40 minutes all day long – how do you adjust from that? How long do you let them cry after waking early from a nap? Is 40 mins considered early? What about an hour? There are sooooo many questions that a sleep trainer can help you with. Like I mentioned above, Kimberly will travel to help sleep deprived parents all over the country, heck all over the world! And she has traveled all over the world! And look, having someone come live with you for two days isn’t exactly inexpensive. But put it this way, what would you pay if someone told you that in two nights you would get to sleep through the night again? What would that be worth to you? For me, Kimberly’s rate was something I was absolutely willing to pay if it 100% meant I would get to sleep again! And that’s the thing, she guarantees it! If you hire her to come to your house to sleep train your baby, she guarantees he will be sleep trained by the time she leaves—which means he will be putting himself to sleep and back to sleep on his own. And that is worth every single penny! In fact, that’s priceless! I know I sound like a commercial for her, but she truly changed our lives and became a dear friend in the process so I can’t help but sing her praises!And I do know she’s starting to offer remote sleep training! So definitely reach out to her about that!
If you guys have any questions let me know in the comments below! Like I mentioned, I know that every baby is different and there are 1 million what if’s but I’ll do my best to answer what I can. But I’m going to end this by saying, CALL Kimberly! She will change your life! I know I talked about her a lot in this blog but the truth is I don’t think that anything I could’ve read or done could replace what she did for us! She’s the absolute best at what she does and after spending two short days with us, she felt like family and I know she’s going to be in our lives for years to come! Sweet Dreams!