Baby Sleep: How I Got My Baby to Put Herself to Sleep
Every new parent probably wonders if they’ll ever enjoy a full night’s sleep again. Sleep was ok, but things did a 180 when we were hit by the 4 month sleep regression. Sleep deprivation is hell. Torture. Today, I’m going to talk about how we struggled with sleep, what we did wrong, and what worked for us. It’s not perfect, but it’s gotten better. This post might be a little all over the place since I’m recapping 5 months of sleep, and I’m just so tired. How I Got My Baby to Put Herself to Sleep.
Baby Sleep: How I Got My Baby to Put Herself to Sleep
Let’s start at the beginning.
The biggest takeaway from Bringing up Bebe was “le pause.” Do not pick baby up right away when she starts crying. From the beginning, I always gave Margot a moment to fall back asleep.
The newborn stage felt pretty easy overall.
I’m not saying that to make other moms feel bad because it did not stay that way. If you’re struggling, know that every stage is a season and things will get better and worse and better again. I got very lucky and had a great labor and delivery. I was out to brunch when Margot was 5 days old and we were hosting brunches at home. It was not at all what I expected those first few weeks to look like. Since breastfeeding didn’t work out, Conor and I alternated night feeds. The lack of sleep was really fine for both of us. We expected it.
It’s crazy how much you forget. It all feels like a distant memory now, but about two months in, it went downhill. Iff she was awake, she was fussy. We were so in love with her but in all honesty, that stage was pretty hard on us.
I remember going to meet my friend Katie at the mall. Her son Liam who is just a few months older than Margot was so mellow! Margot lost it, screamed to the point that she threw up all over herself (escalated in about 15 seconds), and once we were in the car heading home, I had to pull over on the side of the road for a half an hour to calm her down. I called my friend Gina because I just needed a friend to listen, and I held this little baby I loved more than anything and felt so awful because I didn’t have a way to soothe my own baby.
Margot’s mood got much better around 3 months.
And sleep became horrible. At this point, Margot was sleeping in our room in the SNOO with the blackout shades and white noise. She went from sleeping 7-9 hour stretches at night to waking up every 1-2 hours, and screamed for a good 1-3 hours (screamed!) every night before falling asleep. It was so sad and upsetting to watch, and as her mom, not being able to fix it felt terrible.
I was so grateful to have a healthy baby but hours of screaming before every nap and bedtime and a lack of sleep will take a toll on you. The wake-ups felt so awful not because we were getting up (that’s expected) but because she was upset and we couldn’t soothe her with anything but a bottle which was not what we were “supposed” to be doing. I think Margot wasn’t ready to sleep and that there wasn’t anything we could have done to fix it. At this point, she was about 4.5 months old, and I had a feeling she wasn’t taking comfort in being swaddled in the SNOO any longer. I was alternating between the SNOO and the merlin sleep suit to slowly help with the transition from the SNOO.
Then one day, it got a little better
A few days before Thanksgiving, Margot stopped screaming before going to sleep. We didn’t change anything – she just stopped. I think she was just adjusting to life after the regression. Even with middle of the night wake-ups, it felt like a weight had been lifted. Bedtime was peaceful again.
Baby sleep training didn’t work for us
We hit a major wall and in desperation, hired a sleep consultant in Chicago. She was a very nice person but that night was misery, and it 100% did not work for us. I was advised to stop rocking her before bed, which was how she fell asleep. I knew that needed to happen. Cutting rocking, the SNOO, turning off her night light, going from the merlin suit to a wearable blanket, and just putting her in the crib and sitting by her to soothe her with my voice and touch every 10 minutes was so heartbreaking.
The only thing she got to keep was her white noise. Two hours of screaming (on and off) was terrible. I cried, picked her up twice because I felt like I was torturing my baby (I know that sounds extreme but it felt so bad). She eventually fell asleep, then woke up screaming 10 minutes after the consultant left. We rocked her to sleep that night. I knew she wasn’t ready for that much change and ultimately, had 2 goals for her. 1. For bedtime to be a peaceful, enjoyable experience. Her day ended with screaming and crying. it was awful. 2. To get her sleeping through the night for her and for us. Margot always sounded so unhappy when she woke up at night and it felt like there was nothing I could do to help. Worst feeling ever and we were all exhausted.
Trying again at 4 months
So we gave it a go on our own early last week, when Margot was 4 months and 3 weeks old. We kept the same routine every night of books, bath, bottle, rocking her, and going to bed. It was always our goal to get on an eat, play, nap schedule. Margot would wake up, refuse her bottle, want to play, and not eat until she was supposed to go to bed. She’d then fall asleep with her bottle and we’d put her in her bed asleep.
I put Margot down drowsy but awake in her crib with the merlin and let her fuss for 5-10 minute increments, but went in sooner if she sounded truly upset. Sometimes, right away. I did not follow a 10 minute rule and went in if she ever sounded upset. The first night, she fussed on and off for an hour and 20 minutes but stayed pretty calm overall. Then she did it. She fell asleep!
We planned on just soothing with touch and our voices for the rest of the night but she sounded really upset when she woke up, so I picked her up and let her sleep on me. It was what she needed and I wasn’t ok letting her scream. The next day, our nanny Silvia (who we love dearly) put Margot in the crib with the merlin. We were all on the same page and Margot took shorter naps, but she started falling asleep on her own with just a little fussing. Again, it was 5-10 minutes of fussing before soothing (rubbing her stomach, offering a pacifier, and talking to her), but we’d go right in if she sounded upset. That laid the foundation for great sleep that night, and she went to sleep pretty easily on her own.
Looking back at the last week, it took Margot an average of 21 min to fall asleep on Tuesday, 15 minutes on Wednesday, and 3 minutes on Thursday night. Day naps have been going pretty well, and she’s getting really good at falling asleep on her own. We still have a ways to go, but we’ve made so much progress, and Margot has been a much happier baby.
This sleep sack is so so soft and easy to take on and off baby. Both my girls used them even after they were old enough to have a blanket in their crib (age 2).
The best baby monitor
The Nanit monitor was a splurge, but I’m so happy I bought it. Being able to look back at how long she slept, how long it took her to fall asleep, and how many times we went in to soothe her, has been really helpful. Here are our insights from week 1 of sleep training.
We are still working on getting Margot to sleep through the night. She wakes up a handful of times each night but is getting so good at putting herself back to sleep. One of us usually goes in there pretty quickly because a pacifier and lovey always helps soothe her right away. We use this breathable one and keep it tied in a knot so she can’t cover her face with it. The biggest and best change for me as a mom is to not see my baby upset. I am all for a slower approach, even if it means Margot waking up each night. Turning things upside down and letting her scream for a few nights didn’t feel right for us.