Today’s blog is all about sleep training! If you’ve been following my blog for a little while now, you know I’ve been one tired mama the past 9 months! Honestly, it got to a point where I just started believing that Molly was a bad sleeper. I even thought that we had a high maintenance baby! Let me explain. Of course I love my daughter. I always have and I always will! But the past few months she was so fussy all day long, it was making me very frustrated! We couldn’t leave her for even 10 seconds without her crying. She even hated playtime sometimes. She would just fuss and wine. Then we would try to put her down for a nap with so much protest from Molly and maybe we’d get 30 minutes out of her twice a day. So we came to the following two conclusions – she was a terrible sleeper and she was a high maintenance baby. I feel so bad even admitting that I thought that about my child! But don’t get me wrong, Molly was all smiles (and the cutest ever!) when she got 110% of our attention, but that just wasn’t possible 24 hours a day! Nor did it foster a good environment for her to learn and develop.
Looking back now, I honestly feel like I was a terrible mother. It’s funny because when I’ve posted about sleep training in the past some people have commented that sleep training is “mean” to do to a baby. I couldn’t disagree more! Not only has sleep training changed our lives because we are more rested and therefore better parents, but it has completely changed Molly! She is so much happier than she used to be! She loves to play now and she’s rarely fussy. It’s like she’s a completely different baby. If anything, I feel like I was doing her a huge disservice in the past before sleeping training. I thought that by going in to nurse her all night long, every 2 to 3 hours, I was being a “great mom”- tending to her every need and sacrificing my sleep to care for her. But, what I was really doing was giving her what she needed in the moment, instead of teaching her how to take care of herself. Obviously she’s a baby and I need to take care of her the majority of the time. But that said, I think the most important thing we can do for our children is teach them how to take care of themselves. Starting when they’re babies! OK, I realize I’m kind of talking in circles so let me start from the beginning…
*** Molly’s pants are by Vermont Craft mom shop on etsy, but they are taking a short break right now.
Molly is an exclusively breastfed baby. Of course she eats solids at 9 months, but what I mean by that is that she only gets breast milk and does not get formula. Because of this, I was under the impression that she just wasn’t able to sleep through the night for a long time. That’s because formula is much more filling than breast milk and takes longer for the baby to digest. So ever since Molly was born, I’ve been going in to nurse her every 1.5 to 3 hours all night long. There was one week when she was around six months old that we tried sleep training and we actually thought it worked because she slept eight hours for a couple nights in a row! So we thought we had sleep trained her on our own and THOUGHT (thought being the key word here) we didn’t need to get a sleep coach. Boy were we wrong! The next week I believe Molly started getting teeth and so we stopped training and I went in to nurse her every few hours. I would learn later from our amazing sleep coach Janey (I’ll get to her in a minute) that I was taking huge steps backwards by reversing all the hard work I did to get her to sleep 8 hours.
Anyway after 8.5 months of no sleep this mama had a mental breakdown! I’m not even exaggerating. One day in particular was especially rough. She was extremely fussy, barely napped, and was crying for no reason that I could identify. I tried everything to calm her down and nothing would work. I was so stressed out and overtired by this point that I started crying. And not a little soft whimper. A full blown sobbing and even screaming. So here I am completely disheveled in the middle of my kitchen holding my daughter while she’s screaming and crying and I’m screaming and crying. I called Kevin because he was at work at that time and just balled to him on the phone saying “I can’t do this anymore!” This wasn’t just because of the lack of sleep, we also hadn’t had anyone babysit Molly, except for the night of our wedding, since she was born. So not only was I not sleeping, but I had no breaks. We also don’t have family local besides Kevin’s brother and his fiancé Jill. Of course they had offered to watch Molly but I think I just wasn’t ready to let go yet. And neither of our moms are nearby so it’s not like we could just drop Molly off while we went out for a date night. So finally at 8.5 months we got a part-time nanny to come help us out at least one day a week. I learned two things from that experience. One, it’s OK to ask for help. We as parents can’t do it all ourselves. So whether that person is a nanny or a family member or a friend, you need to speak up and ask for help when you need it. The second thing I learned was that we needed to sleep train Molly. Not having any good sleep for almost 9 months was really wearing me down. That’s when we decided to hire a sleep coach.
That’s where Janey from WeeSleep comes in. We decided to wait until Molly was nine months to sleep train. Not because we thought she needed to be older, you can actually sleep train way earlier (and we tried to do it ourselves at 6 months). But we were so busy from 8.5 to 9.5 months that we couldn’t dedicate the time to stay home to do the training properly. So once we could find a 10 day span where we could mostly be home to work on Molly’s sleep training (or she could be home with a nanny) we decided to start!
Honestly, I was a bit skeptical at first. Only because I had read every article I could possibly find online about sleep training. I thought I knew everything there was to know! But then (former Bachelorette) Jillian Harris told me a little bit about her experience with Weesleep and I was totally intrigued! Jillian had worked with Janey at Weesleep and she got Leo sleeping 12 hours a night! I believe around five months old!
Janey offered us a 15 minute consultation (her team does free 15-minute consultations btw) so we jumped on the phone to discuss a possible plan for Molly. During that phone conversation I knew Weesleep was the right fit for us! We decided to move forward with her for sleep training right away. She sent over a customized plan for Molly after explaining what was going on with Molly’s schedule. She identified the problems in our sleep routine and sent us over a schedule. The changes she made were so small but they made such a difference! I’m going to share some of what Janey shared with us to help all you other sleepy mamas and dadas out there! However, I will say this. I emailed Janey MULTIPLE times a day asking for guidance on different scenarios. I think that’s why we weren’t able to properly do sleep training on our own. There were so many little one-off things that would happen in her schedule that we needed an answer to and Janey always had that answer! And her suggestions always worked perfectly! Not even kidding. So even though I’m going to lay out some of the things we did for Molly that worked for us, I really can’t recommend a sleep coach more! It is the best money you’ve ever spent! Because really, can you put a price on your sleep and emotional health? Every person I’ve ever talked to that used a sleep coach says it was worth every penny! I couldn’t agree more!
Having said that, I realize not everyone can put aside the money for a sleep coach. So I hope some of what I share below helps my fellow sleep deprived parents out!
I had read so many things out there about different nap and bedtime routines so I thought our bedtime routine with Molly was solid. It wasn’t! What we used to do with her is this:
- Feed her dinner/solids
- Give her a bath
- Turn the white noise on in her room to signal that it was time to go to bed
- Turn lights off with just a touch light on so I could see
- Turn on our humidifier
- Put a diaper on her
- Put her in PJs
- Nurse her (I had always read that you could nurse your baby until they’re drowsy, but not until they’re asleep. So I thought I was doing the right thing by nursing Molly in the dark to get her nice and drowsy and then putting her down in her crib drowsy but awake)
This routine was completely wrong btw! I think the changes Janey made to our routine are the biggest things that helped us! So I’ll get right to it. This is what our routine is now:
- We feed Molly dinner almost 2 hours before bath time (an hour after her 2nd to last nursing session of the day)
- Give her a bath
- She officially graduated from her sink bath to the big girl bath. Well not really. An inflatable ducky bath INSIDE of the big girl bath 😉
- Bring her into her nursery with the lights ON
- Comfy PJs – I LOVE these comfy PJ’s with magnets for easy fastening!
- Put her into a sleep suit
- Nurse her with the lights on
- I don’t let her get drowsy while nursing at all! Because we don’t want her to associate nursing with sleeping in any way. So many things that I read in the past told me I could nurse her to get her drowsy but still awake. This is not the case! She needs to be fully awake while nursing!
- After nursing her, we then read her a story or two with the lights on
- Kiss her good night
- Put her in her crib with a lovey
- This was Janey’s rec and it helped so much because it helps Molly self soothe at night. We use this one.
- THEN turn on the white noise
- Lights off and I leave the room.
- What Janey told me is that by only turning on the white noise and turning the lights off when I leave the room it lets Molly know that when the lights are off and the white noise is on, it’s time to sleep! Whereas before I was turning the lights down low and putting the white noise on when I was in the room with her nursing. So when she would wake up in the middle the night and hear the white noise with the lights off she would think she could nurse. This was such a small change in her routine and it made all the difference!
That first night Molly woke up probably 4 times. And don’t worry WeeSleep’s method isn’t that you leave her in there to scream her head off until she goes back to sleep. Janey allows check-ins throughout the night at different times if the baby doesn’t stop crying. But that all depends on your baby – we were lucky and Molly never needed a check-in because she didn’t cry longer than 10 mins without stopping for at least 10 seconds. That said, sometimes she would cry for over an hour during the night but she would stop and try to self sooth in between so we didn’t go in the comfort her. Sher was comforting herself! And the check-ins are very brief if you do need them (15 seconds) and you never pick the baby up!
Oh and I should mention that daddy stepped up big time and took over the first two nights because he knew it would be really hard on me to listen to her cry (not that it’s not hard on him too). So I slept in the other room the first two nights. We also started on a Friday night so we could be zombies and not have to work the first two days. Because you will be up A LOT throughout the night the first two nights. But it’s worth it!
That first night I didn’t go in once to nurse her! It was such a weird feeling. I was so worried that she was hungry but Janey assured me she wasn’t. And she was right. How do I know this? Molly was totally content for 10 mins after she got up and wasn’t DYING to nurse. Oh and I have to say that we saw an improvement after the first night! The day after the first night of sleep training, Molly took two 2 hour naps! You have no idea how crazy that was to us. She had always been a two 30 minute naps per day baby. That very first day Molly had already completely changed! Kevin and I kept looking at each other and saying “this is magic! How is this possible!?”
The second night I believe she woke up 3 times. But the next day was the same great 2 hour long naps. And a very happy Molly! The third night I believe she woke twice. Same with the fourth night. And by the fifth night she was sleeping through the night!
Another huge myth that Janey walked us through was that keeping your baby up later doesn’t mean your baby will sleep longer! We would sometimes try to push Molly’s bedtime to 7 PM thinking she would sleep later. But that’s not the case at all! We never put Molly to bed earlier than 6 PM but we never try to push her to stay up till 7 if she’s exhausted by 6:15 PM. We always put her to bed 3 hours after she woke up from her 2nd nap. Which brings me to another rule of thumb, your 9 month old should never be up for more than 3 hours at a time (I think it’s 2 hours at a time if your baby is a newborn). And your nap routine should be very similar to your bedtime routine – minus the bath.
Just an FYI everything I’m saying is what works for a baby around Molly’s age – 9 months. All of this guidance is different except for maybe the bedtime and nap routine, depending on the age of your baby. Also, I’m not a doctor. So always consult your doctor before starting any sort of sleep training program.
Anyway, this is by no means a detailed plan of exactly what you need to do because ever baby is different, but I hope I offered some tips to the moms out there reading this that will get them some much-needed sleep! And of course, I can’t recommend Weesleep enough! And she told me that she’s actually expanding to the US (she and her team of 23 consultants are based in Canada but did all this on the phone with me – though they offers in-home sleep training too) and she’s recruiting consultants for Weesleep this fall! So definitely reach out to her if you’re a stay at home mommy looking to start a new career! Or maybe you have a job and just want a new career path! You’d be changing peoples lives and I think that’s a pretty cool job to have!
And no, Janey didn’t ask me to write this blog. I’m writing it because I want to share my experience with other moms out there and I truly just had the most incredible experience with her and wanted to share her with the world!
I hope this sleep training blog post serves as a place for moms (and dads!) to read my experience and hopefully get some tips. Also, please share your experiences in the comments below! I want us all to come together to help each other! I hope all you mommies and daddies out there get some good sleep tonight! I know Molly and I will 😉