Sleep Training Your Child Within 2 Nights
Dear sleepy mum,
Two years ago, I was up in the middle of the night – just like any other night before that one.
I remember it so well!
That particular night, I was up with my 10.5 month old daughter for the third time already. I had spent almost 2 hours trying to get her back to sleep.
I tried rocking her and singing to her for an hour in her room. Then I became so stressed and exhausted that I took her out of the nursery and started pacing around through the house.
My husband, who had slept through the other 2 awakenings, couldn’t ignore the cries any longer. The cries of our baby and mine.
Whatever I did, it just didn’t work. If there was even a brief moment where it looked like she had fallen asleep, she’d wake up instantly when her head hit the mattress.
I was hoping that pacing through the house might do the trick. It didn’t. It took another hour of trying to get her down. Eventually, it was my husband who made her go to sleep.
Probably because our girl was just as exhausted as I was and had stopped fighting the sleep.
That’s when I sat down on the edge of our bed, feeling like I had reached my limits. I had come to the end of my sanity, the end of my strength, the end of… anything really.
Motherhood had just been so much more challenging than I had ever imagined it to be. Especially because I had no family to rely on since they’re all overseas.
My husband walked out of the nursery and I looked at him with a defeated look. ‘I can’t do this anymore,’ I said, ‘I need help.’
And so, the next morning, I contacted a sleep consultant. It wasn’t cheap, but I was desperate for some more sleep. Oh mama, was I happy and grateful that I did!
Within 2 nights, our little girl slept through from 6pm until 5am. What a difference it was!
Now, what exactly did we do to make our 10 month old sleep through for 11 hours straight?
1. Changes to the Nursery to Assist Sleep Training
First of all, we changed a few things in our daughter’s nursery. They weren’t too expensive or big, but they made a great difference.
Initially, we only had blinds in her nursery which meant that a lot of daylight was able to come in. Block-out curtains offered a great solution. They specifically benefited her naps, but also limited the early sunlight to wake her up.
Then we also started using white noise. Some people don’t like using it at all, but it really worked for our little girl. In fact, it worked such wonders that we still use it and she’s almost three now!
2. Adjusting Nap Times
This may look a little strange at first. Why would we adjust her nap times to help her sleep through the night?
Well, it turns out that, if your child doesn’t nap well during the day, they won’t sleep good at night either.
At the time of sleep training our daughter, she was 10.5 months old – corrected 9.5 months (she was a preemie). This meant that she needed a nap at 9am for a maximum of 1 hour. Then a second nap at 13pm for a minimum of 1 hour and a maximum of 2 hours.
If she’d sleep less than the recommended minimum, I had to try to put her down again. If she’d sleep longer, I had to wake her up.
In the beginning, this was quite challenging. And in all honesty, it took us a lot longer to sort out her naps than her nighttime sleeps. But, in the end, this worked out perfect as well.
If you’re unsure about how long your little one should sleep and how many naps they’d need, you can download my ‘5 easy tips to help baby sleep better‘. It includes a table with ideal wake and nap times from newborn until 2 years old.
3. Dropping Negative Sleep Associations
In case you’ve never heard of ‘negative sleep associations’… When you constantly repeat a certain action to get your baby to sleep, they’ll eventually link this action to sleep. This results in them always needing this action to get to sleep.
For example, feeding the baby to sleep every time can become a sleep association. Rocking your baby and rubbing their back until they sleep is another very common negative sleep association.
These are best to be replaced by positive sleep associations as the negative ones will require you to always get up and repeat them in the middle of the night as well. Negative sleep associations will prevent you from successfully sleep training your child, so make sure to drop them at the same time.
Positive sleep associations can be a comforter your baby uses to fall asleep, white noise, soft music, … For us, we replaced the rocking, singing, and feeding with white noise and a comforter.
Our daughter still needs her ‘Patty’, her comforter, to fall asleep but that’s okay. As long as she’s able to put herself back to sleep at night, I’m happy with that.
4. Sleep Training Method – Camping Out
There are several methods you could use to sleep train your baby. We used what is known as ‘camping out’.
With camping out, you start with sitting near the crib until your baby is fast asleep. You make sure that they can’t look into your eyes, and they can’t reach you.
Whenever they’re upset or crying, you’ll settle them down by telling them it’s sleepy time, that everything is okay. If you need to, you can gently rub their back a little. Just make sure you don’t turn this into a negative sleep associations. This is just to let them know you’re there for them and will look after them.
If it happens that your baby becomes very distressed, you can take them out of the crib and hold them until they’ve calmed down. Make sure that you can keep them above the crib, so don’t walk away. And once they’ve stopped screaming, you can put them down again and confirm once more that it’s sleepy time.
For 3 nights, you’ll stay close to the crib until the baby’s fast asleep. The next 3 nights, you’ll move away a little more. You’ll repeat this every 3 nights until you find yourself at the door and able to walk out with your little one still awake. This should be completed within 14 days.
Now, you may think: ‘You said your baby slept through within 2 nights’. Yes, she certainly did.
The night when the sleep consultant stayed with us, our girl woke up 5 times and fell asleep again within 5 minutes each time. That was a massive improvement, since normally I’d be up for at least 30 min to 1 hour each time.
Then the first night after, she woke up once for less than 5 minutes. And the 2nd night after? You guessed it, she slept through from 6pm until 5am. Not once did I had to get up to help her get back to sleep. She’d do it all by herself.
We still had to complete the 14 days of camping out, since she was weaning off from us being there every nap time and nighttime before that. And her naps took 14 days to get sorted out, but she slept through after 2 nights. Which was amazing! I never thought I’d see results that quickly!
Now, if you’d like to sleep train your little one, but feel like you can’t do it alone. Or just simply need some more guidance, you can have a look at my blog posts ‘The Perfect Sleep Training Method for Your Child‘ or ‘The One Stop Baby Sleep Resource All Exhausted Mums Need‘. Both will give you more information about different sleep training options to choose from.
Good luck! May you have restful nights again before you know it.
P.S. Please note, that I myself am not an expert. I’m just a mum sharing my own experiences with mums in a similar situation. If you do prefer expert advice, I highly recommend contacting a sleep consultant. It’s worth it!