In just the past two weeks we have been celebrating our son sleeping 11 hours straight on a consistent basis! Sleep has been a struggle for him since the day he was born (he is now 23 months old), so this has been a huge blessing! I thought I would share our story for any other moms out there who might be struggling with the same thing and share some of the books I read that helped us get to this place.
From the day our son was born, he was a really light sleeper. Whenever we would try to lay him down in his co-sleeper next to our bed he would quickly wake up. We chose to co-sleep with him in our bed after reading that it could help with breastfeeding and attachment/bonding. That also helped me get some more sleep initially because I basically just had to roll over every hour or two in the night when he would wake up and want to nurse. However, I had thought that would gradually stretch out and he would sleep for longer periods and he didn’t, so we decided at 4 months to move him to his crib in a separate room.
Another factor in deciding to move him to his crib was that he was also not napping well. He would only nap for an hour or longer if I was holding him or sleeping next to him and this was becoming a problem because I needed to get work done! Occasionally I could carefully transfer him to his bouncy seat and he would sleep in that for awhile as long as I kept it bouncing. :) I really wanted him to be able to start napping in his crib, though, in a separate room so that if I needed to make phone calls or something it wouldn’t wake him up.
A friend of mine recommended the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley. This book helped give us some ideas of ways we could gradually get him used to sleeping in his crib. It wasn’t easy and there were several naps where he would only sleep for about 30 min or so, but I just stuck to it and gradually he started sleeping longer.
Another book that several friends recommended was Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. This book helped me understand the science of sleep and how much sleep our son needed at night for the various stages of his development. This helped us set an early bedtime (6:00pm), and get into a routine for his naps during the day.
But my favorite book which I randomly picked up at a children’s consignment store is The Sleep Lady’s Good Night, Sleep Tight by Kim West. This book helped me realize the need to get into somewhat of a schedule. I say “somewhat” because it just wasn’t possible for us to do the same thing at the exact same time every day – partly due to my personality and partly due to my work schedule. But, I learned that it was important to do things in this order: (1) eat, (2) play, (3) sleep. The reason is because our son was associating sleep with nursing and it was getting harder for him to break that habit. So I started nursing him right AFTER his nap and then having some awake/play time with him and then I would rock or bounce him to sleep and lay him in his crib. That was again a challenge for a few days to get him used to the new order of things, but he eventually got the hang of it and I saw some improvement in his sleep.
At around 6 months our pediatrician was concerned that he was not soothing himself back to sleep at night, but was depending on me to come in and rock or nurse him back to sleep. So at that point we used some of the No-Cry solutions and Sleep Lady techniques to try to wean him off of having to be rocked or nursed to sleep. My husband would take turns going in to him when he woke up at night so that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to nurse as much. This went on for a few weeks until he eventually started sleeping 4-5 hours straight. Though I don’t know how much of it was due to our technique or how much was due to him learning how to roll himself over on his tummy. As soon as he was sleeping on his tummy he started sleeping for longer stretches.
Around 9 months he would occasionally have a fluke night where he’s sleep like 7 hours straight. He would sometimes go for a week where he’d sleep really good with only 1 wake up at night, but then something would come up like we’d have something in the evening that kept us out later than his regular bedtime and it threw everything off again. Also, I’ve read that when babies are teething or learn a new skill (sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking, etc) that they get extra excited about that and it even disturbs their sleep. So when he was beginning to walk, he went back to waking up an average of 2 times per night.
At a year old we started slowly weaning him from breastfeeding (eventually ending at 15 months). We decided that this would also be an opportune time to also try the sleep training again. We started using the Sleep Lady technique and it just seemed like he was ready for it! He started sleeping through the night for like 10-11 hours straight! He also began learning to fall asleep on his own and not depending on me to nurse or rock him.
That continued for a few months until we went into a “transition” time in our life where we moved across country – twice – living with my parents for 3 months and then moving to Ohio where my husband got a job. During this time we fell back into rocking him to sleep, his schedule got changed around quite a bit, and so he went back to waking up 1-2 times each night again.
Finally after being in our new home for a month if felt like it was time to try the sleep training again. I pulled out the Sleep Lady book and we did the “Sleep Lady Shuffle” for about a week until our son was falling asleep on his own, sleeping 11 hours each night on average without night wakings, and even seemed to look forward to naps and bedtime!
All I can say is “Thank you, Lord!” and “Thank you, Sleep Lady!” :)