mild and modified sleep training

As with any new regimen you start with your little please consult your Pediatrician or family doctor. I'm not an expert. I am a mother who has found a method that has worked for us! And before you continue to read please do so with an open mind because not everyone does things the same way. These opinions are my own and I am in no way shaming any parent who chooses to do it differently. This is what has worked for us. It doesn't mean that it's the perfect way it's our way. And I really hope that it's helpful for those of you that want a different method. I'm wishing you all a restful and full nights sleep!

I didn't realize how much I needed sleep until I became a mother! It is so crazy what sleep deprivation does to me. It's as if I'm working at about a 50% level at all times and that can be so exhausting. Recently I had to begin taking proactive steps at getting Cristian to sleep through the night. Cristian's personality is a lot more mellow than Gabriel. He has always fallen asleep more easily and just about everywhere (ig. carseat, carrier, stroller). He is also a breeze to transfer! He actually stays asleep when I move him from my carrier to his car seat or vice versa. Which was unheard of with G. As a newborn he also slept about 5 hour stretches. That was amazing because Gabriel was just as active as ever! While on the other end of the spectrum Gabriel at this age needed to be held, and rocked to sleep. They have two very different personalities! However, in more recent months he was beginning to wake up between 2-5 times every night and I needed to make some changes.

I don't like to group my self into a specific type of parenting style especially when it comes to sleeping. Rather I pick and choose different aspects that work for us. When both boys were newborns I decided that they would first sleep in a co-sleeper next to our bed. I wasn't opposed to having them sleep in our room. I also waited for them to be ready to move into their own beds/cribs (more about that later). Since I breastfeed this was the easiest option for me and I felt that it was the safest way to  co-sleep and bedshare. Although I would end up nursing Cristian in bed with me it was great to have the co-sleeper next to us so that I could lay him back when I was finished.

The hardest part for me about "sleep-training" (and I use that term lightly because it's so very much modified) is waiting until they are ready. Both B and I are of the thought that we cannot put an age/number to when our kids will sleep through the night because they are so different! Gabriel as a 6 month old was so different from Cristian as a 6 month old. I strongly believe that Gabriel has such good sleeping habits now because we waited. Even though those 14 months were tough and I had a very sporadic sleep schedule I am glad I didn't push sleep training until I knew he could handle it.

You're probably wondering well how in the world do I know if my little is ready? Here are couple of things we look for:

They are no longer nursing/eating at night. This is probably the most important for me. Since I breastfeed I am in demand a lot of the time. Now that C is older he's created his own schedule for nursing and he does it about every 4 hours. He is also eating now but his main food source is my breast milk. I knew that both boys no longer needed to nurse at night once they were only using me to suckle. Both boys did this at different ages. I look for whether or not they are swallowing and nursing for more than just a few seconds/minutes.You will know! Cristian started doing this recently and that's how I knew it was time to start our sleep training method.

They are sleeping in their own bed. This one may not apply to some of you because perhaps your little has been in their crib for a while now. However, this is an important step because if your little is still in a co-sleeper or co-sleeping with you they will not learn how to sleep on their own. Basically, you are their sleeping buddy. I know because this has happened with both boys! It's so easy to nurse them in bed and plop them down right next to you to get an extra few hours of sleep. However, it affects everyone in bed and that's why I had to stop and get on the sleep train! See what I did there?! ;) I didn't mind this set-up for a while but once he seemed to have outgrown his co-sleeper it was time to transition him into his crib. I then waited a couple of weeks so that he could become accustomed to his new space. After that time we began.

ALL of these transitions were really hard for me. I was worried about the boys feeling lonely. Worried about them feeling like I was ignoring them. Worried about a number of other things and a lot of them I could do nothing about. However, with all of my concerns in mind we designed a different way to encourage the boys to sleep through the night (and wasn't going to tear this momma's  heart apart!)

These are the steps we take:

We create a night routine. The boys routine consists of dinner, short period of reading, playtime and then we clean up toys. After tidying up we brush teeth and then it's bath time. After bath time, it's lotion/massage, then we brush hair. It's gotten to the point where if I miss a step Gabriel reminds us! Finally it's bed time. We make sure there's no loud music, no screen time, most lights are off and it's a cozy relaxing environment. 

I nurse Cristian. Since Cristian's nursing session are a lot more spaced now  I make sure to 'top him off' right before bed. The boys share a room and I sit on the rocker in their room and nurse him there. Meanwhile Gabriel is usually outside with B saying their goodnights. At this point I make sure diapers are nice and dry, and he has a night diaper on. 

I lay Cristian down in his crib. C will usually be sleepy and at first he was very surprised that I didn't wait for him to fall asleep completely. The trick is to lay them in bed right before they fall asleep. We wanted to make sure that he was able to fall asleep without having me rock or nurse him to sleep. The reason is because when he woke up throughout the night (about 3-5 times) he  would only suckle and would want me to rock or walk him to sleep again. Other times as soon as I would lay him down  he would wake up and cry then would want to sleep on me. I would quit all together and nurse him to sleep! As you could imagine this was so exhausting for me. And C didn't know any other way. 

Once I lay him down I start rubbing his back. This is the tough part because your little will have probably woken completely up right now and is all like what the heck, 'pick me up'! Don't. I usually kneel next to the crib and stick my arm through the boards and rub their back that way. I may make a shooshing sound too. Whatever works for you. They may be crying a lot now and if not: that's awesome! I rub their back until they begin to calm down. Or you'll notice that their cry is not a high pitch. It'll start to even out. This entire process may take 5- 20 minutes. Every baby is different. It took Cristian less than 5 minutes and it took Gabriel about 20. They may not stop crying all together but once you feel right, leave the room. 

This is HARD! 

I time myself between 2-3 minutes then I go back in. I begin the rubbing, kneeling, shooshing process all over again. Again, they may still be crying or they may begin to calm down. I leave as soon as he begins to calm down or is calm. I want to make sure that he knows that I will not pick him up. I do not leave the room for more than 5 minutes. I go in frequently and that is the key for me. I do not want his cries to escalate nor do I want him to become so upset that he falls asleep because he's exhausted from crying. I want him to know that I am there, rubbing his back, in the room but that I will not be picking him up. 

And Repeat...
I continue this process for as long as it takes for him to fall alseep. It helps to have your phone on you so that you know how long you are out of the room. Sometimes it seems like forever when they cry but then it's only been a minute. If he is so upset even before the 5 minutes are up I would go in sooner. What I never do is pick him up.

This process took about an hour and 30 minutes with Gabriel. While with Cristian it took 25 minutes. Needless to say it was much harder with Gabriel. After I went through this process C slept through the night that first night! He woke up around 5 am I picked him up to nurse then I laid him down and he slept until 8 am. It was awesome. I repeat this process every night until I can lay him down without having to rub his back to sleep. We are almost to that point! He has slept through the night for the past week and I have woken up in the middle of the night still in shock. If he were to wake up at any time throughout the night I will offer to nurse. If he doesn't want to nurse I will rub his back and if I need to begin the process I will.

It took about a week for us to get to the point where once I laid Gabriel down he fell asleep. It's amazing that after we implemented this process he would say, 'bye' and fall asleep right away. He knew that it was time for bed. And now it's beginning to be the same with Cristian.

I hope this helps those of you who want a more mild version of sleep training. And as always if you have any questions leave me a comment and I'll try to answer asap!

Buenas Noches! 

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