I want to preface this post by saying that I AM NOT A SLEEP EXPERT, especially as it pertains to babies, toddlers, and children. What I am about to share is what worked for me and my family. Each child is different when it comes to their sleep training needs, and each family should choose the method(s) that work best for them.
The reason I started implementing sleep training in my household is due to the fact that Sawyer, our first born, literally did not sleep in his bed EVER until he was about 4. He would start out in his bed, and scream until he made himself sick at times and I would cave in and allow him to just come in the bed with Tyler and me. When I became pregnant with Colt, I knew that I needed to adopt a different way of going about things with the sleeping situation. Because Colt was an avid nurser (like his brother), and did not take a paci (I was his paci) he co slept with me and Tyler most nights. I tried the sleep training thing around 6 months of age, but it was just really hard when he needed me for comfort. So, I waited until a year of age. I did this with Blair as well. I know that some parents do sleep train earlier than a year, but this is what worked for me and my kids.
The entire process took about a week to create the "habit" of going to sleep and STAYING asleep in their own beds. Here is what I did step by step:
6:00- Dinner time. I feed my kids balanced and complete meals at dinner time. Healthy fats, proteins and some veggies and/or fruit.
After dinner, we play for about 20 minutes then it is CLEAN UP TIME (Cue #1 that it is time to start winding down for bed). This was a bit of a challenge for the first couple nights, but by the middle and end of the week, my kids had this down and it turned into a fun little game to see who can pick up the most and the quickest. After the toys are picked up, I start implementing our phrase, "Night Night time".
7:00-7:15- BATH TIME, PJ'S and MILK (Cue #2 that it is getting closer to bedtime). I do not prolong bath time longer than 10 minutes. Usually it is shorter than that. They need to know that play time is over and it is time to start relaxing their bodies for bed. We are usually in and out in 5 minutes so we can get pajamas on quicker. I continue to say "Night Night time" as I am getting them bathed and ready for bed. This just helps train their minds to understand that they are tired and that it is time for bed.
7:20-7:30- SING, PRAYERS, and LIGHTS OUT (Cue #3 that it is bed time). I sing a special song that is personal to my family and that I sing to all three of my children at bedtime. You can pick any song or nursery rhyme, or if you prefer reading a short book, that would be good too. This just helps get them relaxed a little more. I always say prayers with my kids before bed, including Blair too. I just want them to always grow up with the Lord being a big part of their lives, and this starts early on. I lay them in their beds, give them a kiss, say "goodnight and I love you," turn the lights out, and I don't look back.
Here is what the timeline from start to finish looked like for me and my kiddos:
Day 1: (I recommend you starting this on a Friday night because the first two nights are the hardest. If you have other kids, you might want to send them to grandparents house for a couple nights.)
After doing everything mentioned above, all was well until about midnight. That is when kids would stir for the first time. I knew they were not sick, hungry, and the temperature in the room was right. So I let them cry it out. If the crying persisted longer than 15 minutes, I went in there and patted them on the back and said "It's night night time" (remember that phrase I mentioned above? You're gonna use this throughout the week, even during the middle of the night too). You can say the phrase over and over again for no longer than a minute, then close the door and leave. Never turn lights on when going in to soothe. My kids cried for about 10 more minutes (it seems longer than 10 minutes but I promise that is all it really was) and they were back to sleep. Woke up 1-2 more times the first night and I did the same procedure as stated above. I remained consistent through the entire process. Remember, sleep training is not for the faint of heart. You have to be okay with listening to your child cry it out for the first few nights. As long as they are healthy and fed and located in a safe sleeping place, then you have nothing to worry about.
Day 2: Second night went about like night one. Maybe cried a little less, but I still remember being tired as a mother in the morning.
Day 3: Third night was the turning point for us in the sleep training. I noticed they woke up less and when they did, they were back asleep within minutes of awaking. They also slept longer than they usually did before.
Day 4: Woke up once and cried for exactly 7 minutes and went back to sleep. Slept 12 hours.
Day 5: Woke up once, whined for less than a minute, conked back out and slept 12 hours.
Day 6: Slept all night for the first night in a long time. If he/she woke up, I never knew. Best I had felt in months.
Day 7: My kids have formed what is called a habit and now tell me when they are ready for bed. If they wake up, they soothe their selves back to sleep.
So, in summation- the total time it took for the entire process to fully take into effect was 7 days. It was a hard seven days. I remember asking myself each time I did this with my kids if this was worth it. IT IS COMPLETELY AND TOTALLY WORTH IT. When you are not having to fight your kids to the death to go to sleep at night and you are able to get 8 hours of sleep, you will absolutely think this is worth it.
I recommend to start this process when your child is completely healthy (i.e no sickness, teething, colds, etc.) and has established good eating habits and eats enough during the day. Of course, I do not suggest you try to do any of the sleep training tactics that I described above without consulting with your child's physician prior to doing so.
I hope you find this blog post a helpful resource. This has been the most requested post that I do and I am so happy to finally have it all together for you to refer back to when needed. If you try this out and love it (or don't), I would love your feedback!
Blessings and Health,