Wednesday 6 June 2018

BABY #2: Our Sleep Training Approach with Results after just Two Days

BABY #2: Our Sleep Training Approach with Results after Two Days
Sleep and babies must be the most searched terms on google for parents, as so many of us search for answers and techniques to help support our baby in sleeping through the night. When my return to work after maternity leave started to approach we decided that something had to be done about Poppy's (our second daughters) sleep habits. I'll start with a bit of a back story when it comes to Poppy's sleep; she was a really good sleeper as a newborn baby with her first 'full nights sleep' being at 8 weeks old. It was a rare occasion when this happened, but compared to our eldest daughter we felt positively refreshed. Sleep with a newborn baby is always going to be sparse and being a second time parent you know that all too well, but on the whole we felt that Poppy was a good little sleeper.

That was until she hit the renowned four month sleep regression, which is where it all went a bit wrong. Poppy went from sleeping good four hour stretches to waking up at least every two hours, some nights it would be every half an hour. Now, I could sit here and blame teeth or illness or a million and one other things, but there doesn't seem to be much point. She wasn't sleeping well and we were exhausted. In fact that has been one of the most refreshing parts of being a second time mum; the lack of reliance on google searches and parenting forums. I just try to tackle each challenge with my own experience and without spending hours trying to come up with an answer why because in all honesty a lot of the time there isn't an answer. It got to the point where Poppy would only settle if I fed her back to sleep, even my husband couldn't settle her anymore. By the time she was weaning I knew that she didn't need to be being fed multiple times in the night, but when your baby is screaming at you what can you do? We were starting to get into a routine that just wasn't positive for anyone really - we weren't sleeping, Poppy wasn't getting enough sleep, she wasn't napping very well during the day either and I knew something had to change.
I left it to the very last minute because I really didn't have any faith in the world of sleep training. We had tried a version with Isabella and it didn't work in the slightest; I remember going into her room to lay her back down over one hundred times one night and she still didn't settle. But after someone reminded me that every child is different I decided to look into the world of sleep training again. I know that there is a lot of emotion and opinions on whether sleep training is a positive parenting technique or not, but each to their own I say. After reading up a lot about the softer and slightly more harsher approaches I decided to take the parts I felt comfortable with and try it with Poppy. 

It was the week before Poppy was due to start her settling in sessions at nursery and after yet another seriously broken nights sleep (in fact it was the night after their joint birthday party, so as you can imagine we were all exhausted) I decided it was now or never. As she was going to have a big change when starting nursery and then I was due back at work it was really the only time we had left to crack her sleeping through the night. I started the sleep training on the Monday and to my shock by the Wednesday she was sleeping through the night! I left it almost two months before writing this post  because I wanted to make sure that she was now sleeping through the night consistently, which I'm so relieved to say she is. Through teething and illness Poppy has slept through the night every night since we started sleep training and I honestly can barely believe it. Each child really is different. This is what I did...

1) Do our usual bedtime/naptime routine of book, bottle and cuddles
2) When Poppy had finished the bottle I kissed her goodnight and put her down in the cot
3) Rested my hand on her back for 1 minute (I used my phone as a timer because I knew otherwise I'd hang around for too long)
4) Left her bedroom for 3 minutes (to begin with this is when Poppy would start crying and standing up in her cot)
5) Return for 1 minute, lay her back down in the cot and gently rest my hand still on her back for reassurance 
6) Leave for 5 minutes, then repeat going in for 1 minute and leaving for 5 minutes

A lot of the sleep training techniques suggest leaving them for prolonged periods of time each time you leave, but that isn't something I felt comfortable doing. Absolutely no judgment if that is what you plan to do or have done; we all are only trying to do the best for our little ones. As Poppy took to this more gentle approach so quickly we had no need to change it and I really think the key to that was consistency. To begin with my husband didn't do any of the 'get ups' with Poppy because it was me (or more specifically my milk!) that she was using as a comfort during the night. It seemed pointless for him to be part of the sleep training journey to begin with, but he was there as a shoulder to cry on for me instead. Once Poppy had started to settle quicker when I had left her he started going in and following exactly the same technique I had. 

These are some other aspects to our sleep training journey that helped:

Started at nap time - there were a few reasons for this, but mainly because it meant I wasn't tired and could focus solely on supporting Poppy to fall asleep by herself. 

Played white noise music - Poppy loved white noise as a little baby, but then we stopped using it with her when she woke up so much. By putting on white noise (we use the Summerinfant Soothing Turtle) it helps her to drown out any external noises around her and we've really found this has helped. It is also an essential in my opinion if you have more than one child because it means that if the other one makes a noise/cries then there is less chance of it waking them up.

Consistency - It really is key. Deciding that after one hard night sleep training (or whichever technique your using) isn't working just isn't long enough. It's common knowledge that it takes around a week (sometimes two) to break a sleep habit and with my experience the older the child gets the longer that time becomes. Before starting the journey you have to be prepared to lose sleep, be emotional and ideally, if you have a partner, have them there too. 

Focus on the outcome not the journey - Though our sleep training journey was short we didn't know that at the beginning. When I did get upset about Poppy crying or missed our night time cuddles I tried to focus on the outcome of us all having more sleep. The journey there was hard at times, certainly emotional but most importantly short lived. Remember that the outcome will hopefully outweigh the hard journey getting there. 

Only do what you feel comfortable with - If you don't want to leave your baby when they're upset then don't. Only do what you feel comfortable with otherwise you're likely to only do it half heartedly and become stressed by the whole process. There are plenty of even softer approaches to sleep training, including staying in the room until your child settles and then gradually getting nearer to the door as they learn to settle themselves. 

Use a timer - Time can run away with you, especially if you and/or your little one are upset. I found that the easiest way to make sure I was leaving Poppy for the length of time I wanted to and then returning only for one minute was to use a timer. It requires self discipline and can give you comfort that they've not been upset for that in the scheme of things. 

A still hand - it is so tempting to rub their back, which in turn slightly rocks them. I was conscious not to do this, but instead keep my hand very still and lightly rested on Poppy's back. That way when I left the difference wasn't as noticeable to her, so she could continue to settle herself to sleep.

We were very lucky that after only two nights and two nap times of using this technique Poppy was able to settle herself to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night. I really feel for you if you're reading this thinking I've tried all of this before and my baby still won't sleep throughout the night; I've been there and it is incredibly hard. Try to focus on the fact that it won't be forever and before you now it these difficult sleepless nights will be a thing of the past. But also have faith that one day you'll find something that worst for you and your baby. My experience is that you have to be strict with yourself; leaving our baby to cry (even just for five minutes) is hard, really hard. I cried the first night, questioning whether this was the right thing to do. But then I see Poppy's exhausted face in the morning from the lack of solid sleep and I knew that for us the time was right to try and support her to sleep properly. I knew we had to be consistent and firm with ourselves and I'm so glad we were.  

Which techniques worked best to help your child/ren sleep through the night?

Feel free to leave a comment - I love reading every single one :)

Helen x


  1. Some great tips and advice here - I think lots of parents will find this very useful and will enjoy reading about your experiences. I used to work for a parenting service and it never failed to amaze how mums and dads coped on such little sleep!

  2. We took a similar method as you when our son was 1. He was more affected by the 9 month regression and after returning to work something had to give. It took 3 days with us and despite a few setbacks with illness it did us all the world of good. I agree with you, each to their own.

  3. We co sleep so won’t be needing this just yet , but some really good tips for parents who are trying this method :) Kira

  4. We are very lucky with both our kids that they slept through most of the night after their night feed. I guess a lot of it had to do with the methods that you have suggested here like feeding, kissing, night light, white noice music, and checking on them periodically. It worked wonders for us.

  5. These are some great tips and I’m definitely going to have to bookmark this page. We are due our second in July and until reading this, I had completely forgotten about sleep regression. This gentle approach seems to have done you both really well so I will have to try it out when the time comes.

  6. My friend is a baby sleep trainer and she has so many amazing results, plus she doesn't resort to controlled crying - wish she had been around when mine were little

  7. Charlie has just reached the 4 month sleep regression!!! It's vile... Some nights he's fine, others he wakes me up every hour. So glad this is working for you - will keep in mind for when he's a bit older xx

  8. Fab advice here. I sleep trained my twins at 3 months. It was hard at first but we got there in the end.

  9. what great advice and so happy to hear your experience using the techniques!

  10. I think taking it at your own pace is great advice, I don't have kids yet but with my nephew they took it at his pace

  11. I have always been a bit wary of sleep training, but this does sound like a sensible approach. My youngest has always liked having a hand on her back to help her sleep so this could have made a big difference for her

  12. Great tips - I am so lucky that all my four slept really well from very early on. Kaz

  13. Really great advice here in this article. It's so important to get a good sleeping schedule together.

  14. These are all such good times! Consistency is sooo important! I was lucky and my littles were all very easy to sleep train. Now we struggle with nap times (which used to be easy), even if I try to do the same exact thing I do at naptime. It's crazy! I'm going to try some of your tips at tomorrows nap time. Thank you for sharing. :)

  15. I know a few people who have just had babies, so I will send them this post for help!


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