This is a photo of the first time Alden took a nap in his crib, during the day, without a swaddle. It was such a big deal that we took a picture :) When this happened, I naively thought that we were maybe going to skirt around the sleep training monster.
I was wrong.
Like I mentioned briefly in this post, around 16 weeks we saw a drastic change in Alden's sleep behaviors. For a couple nights we chalked it up to teething (which it very well may have been) but when it lasted for more than those couple of days, we realized that we were facing something different. In search of an answer to why our wonderfully sleeping baby was no longer sleeping wonderfully, I came across articles and blog posts that mentioned the 4 month sleep regression, or the 4 month wakeful period. After reading a few lists of typical 4 month sleep regression "symptoms", we were officially ready to declare ourselves right smack in the middle of it.
These were useful links:
This regression happens to many babies around 4 months and is generally thought to be a result of their newfound interest in the world around them (leading to distraction while trying to fall asleep), their brain's incredible growth spurt around this age and the changing of their sleep patterns away from newborn sleep cycles and towards adult sleep cycles.
Many recommendations, including our pediatrician's, are that this 4 month wakeful period is a good time to start sleep training if you're going to start at all. Since Alden had essentially stopped sleeping and was close to impossible to put down without him wailing, we figured that sleep training was, in our house, pretty much a necessity.
I'll admit that we jumped into sleep training unprepared. We knew just a little about a couple different methods and felt like we had to start something so we spent 3 nights or so doing what we thought was sleep training, but was really just torture (for me, at least). We attempted (what we thought was) the Cry It Out (CIO) method those first couple of nights. (disclaimer: it turns out that we were letting him cry longer than we should have those first couple nights and I still feel horrible about it. this method, when done correctly from the beginning may be a great option for some families) We had had so many people tell us that it worked well and we were feeling lost so we dove in. I HATED IT. It felt cruel and horrible to me and I knew there had to be a better way for us to teach Alden good sleep habits while at the same time keeping us all emotionally sane. The first time we tried CIO, I had to sit outside on the deck because I couldn't listen to him cry and not go get him. The second time, I stood in the kitchen with Nick and cried the whole time Alden did. After that, we sat down and made a plan. We did some reading and we had a discussion about what we felt were good options for us and since then the sleep training journey has been much better. It's still rough at times and I still hate seeing Alden upset while he's trying to learn to fall asleep on his own, but knowing that we have a plan and that Nick & I are on the same page makes it feel a little less insurmountable.
I'm in the process of reading the following books that have been recommended to me by other parent friends:
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.
The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
On Becoming Baby Wise by Robert Bucknam, M.D.
Sleepless in America by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka
I'm learning a lot about both sleep training methods as well as about baby sleep in general. I already feel better about starting this journey and am hoping that, armed with tons of information- in true Laura fashion, we'll clear this hurdle and come out the other side with a better rested, happier little man :)
As far as what's working for us so far:
We've combined some of the CIO/Ferber techniques with a method recommended by a friend called the 5/1 method. We put him down in his crib when he's calm and we think he's ready to go to sleep, give him 5 minutes by himself and, if he's upset after the 5 minutes is up, one of us goes in and soothes him for 1 minute. We put our hand on his stomach, talk to him and make sure he knows we're there until he calms down again. If he gets really worked up (generally only if he's gotten overtired to begin with), we'll pick him up for a minute or two to cuddle and calm him down before we put him back in his crib.
We've been doing this for 4 or 5 nights now and the first 2 nights, it took him about 18 mins of off and on fussing/soothing to fall asleep but the past 3 nights have been so much smoother! It took him about 10 minutes the third night and last night there was essentially no crying or fussing at all! :) Some nights his eating schedule works out so he nurses right before bed and on those nights, he usually gets drowsy enough while he's eating that he falls right to sleep when I put him in bed but, we've had 3 nights where he didn't nurse right before bed (another change) and he still went to sleep in 10 minutes or less.
Our fingers are crossed that it continues to be this smooth! Wish us luck! :)
much love, L&N