Baby sleep, a topic that I had NO idea would consume 100% of my brain capacity from the moment Everett was born until he turned about 6 months old! Every parent warns you that you’ll get a lack of sleep when welcoming a little baby to the family but I had zero clue that babies needed to be taught HOW to sleep and the sleep science that sits behind it. Let me start by saying that in this post, I won’t be sharing all the nitty gritty details of our sleep training journey, but rather what I’ve learned in hindsight about preparing for sleep training and why while we’re all staying at home to help flatten the curve during the Covid-19 pandemic may just be the BEST time for you to sleep train your baby.
First, a little history.
I was OBSESSED over E’s sleep. It consumed every ounce of me. It was all I thought and talked about. I even used an app (Huckleberry) to track and predict every SINGLE minute of his sleep, every SINGLE day for probably three months straight. I also read just about every popular article on baby’s sleep there is you can find on the Internet. Some thought I was crazy but the type A in me thought it was more than logical to approach baby sleep like a work assignment. Looking back, I wish I chilled out a bit more during those early months (0-3) because I soon learned that regardless of what you, do your baby will go through a change around the four month mark that will reset their entire sleep pattern.
But let’s be real, when you’re knee deep in sleep chaos, desperate to have even just an extra 30 minutes to eat, shower, or some solo time, it just takes over! So mamas, if you’re currently going through this, take a deep breath, it WILL get better, and I hope this post will help some of you get a little bit of relief, even if it’s just mentally.
You’d think with all the knowledge I gained from endless Google searches on baby sleep, I would have had things figured out. NOPE! I learned the hard truth that my baby (like most babies) is a willed little being and he is also UBER sensitive to mental leaps and developmental changes. These changes 100% compromised his sleep patterns. For my little Everett, the sleep chaos started on our sunny Bahamian vacation, just as predicted around the four month mark. He all of a sudden refused to nap and when he did, would only for a short 30 minutes. And at night, would wake up multiple times in hopes to escape his swaddle or wail for his pacifier to be put back in place. I was EXHAUSTED and quite frankly, super irritated and felt terrible because it was affecting my mental health and my relationship with my baby. It was definitely time to begin our sleep training journey and also solicit the help of an expert Sleep Consultant – in our case, Amanda Jewson of Baby’s Best Sleep.
Not everyone is onboard with the concept of sleep training. Many people perceive that the process is cruel but it doesn’t have to be. Amanda gave us all the best advice and right tools to guide us through the process and it was up to us to decide what method we wanted to take base on our comfort level. For the purpose of context, before diving into why this IS the best time to sleep train, I’ll briefly run through what an expert like Amanda from Baby’s Best Sleep did for us:
- Visited us in-home to understand Everett’s sleep environment and observed our current bedtime routine
- Provided us with a custom sleep plan based on understanding of Everett’s development stage, his sleep habits/patterns and what we wanted to achieve based on our challenges
- After following the step by step plan she developed, we successfully un-swaddled and took the paci away from Everett on the FIRST night with ZERO night time wakings. It took probably about a week to perfect this and he’s now been sleeping 7 pm-7 am since
- Phone and virtual check-ins for minimum of two weeks post first day of sleep training
- Naps are a BEAST. It took a little longer to get there. But happy to say the same rules applied and he’s now doing one to two hour naps in his own crib with no aids
Prior to bringing Amanda onboard, I thought sleep training was just following textbook rules but the reality is, all babies and families are different. There may be a set of rules to follow but they won’t work all the time for everyone. Having Amanda by our side during the first two weeks of training allowed us to make real time adjustments based on his behaviour and her experience of working with countless babies. It was so worth it to have someone who I could message for a next step when I was in a bind.
So let’s finally get down to the chase. When this quarantine life started, I thought to myself,
Damn, THIS would be the best time to sleep train,
why you ask? Because…
Many parents that begin sleep training don’t realize that for the first little while (two weeks give and take), you should stay at home as much as you can (sound familiar) during the baby’s nap times. Now, it seems like a piece of cake, right? Just make plans as usual, run those errands as needed and get home in time for baby’s naps. SURPRISE! The reality is, most babies sleep train around the 4-5 month mark, when they’re developmentally ready for it, but their wake windows are still quite short, between 2-2.5 hours long. By the time baby wakes, changed, fed, burped and ready to go out the door… nearly a full hour has passed, and this is IF no explosive poops or projectile spit ups greet you in between. Which means by the time you actually get in the car or baby in the stroller, it’s time for the next nap again.
As for me, I stayed home for five to six consecutive days and then caved and convinced myself that doing one nap on the go in the car was totally appropriate. But guess what, Everett got used to napping in the car while he was still training and began to retaliate again in the crib, so the whole process RESTARTED!
Since we’re all practicing stay at home measures as best as we can during this pandemic anyway, you’ll have NO desire or excuse to be on the go, which makes it just the ideal time to start sleep training.
Sleep training is best when there are zero distractions or activities to get in the way. It will require your full mental and physical concentration and it will take time. When we started training Everett, I devoted my entire days to his sleep schedule. The process can’t be rushed or expedited. Now of course, ALL babies are different, but from Amanda’s experience, most babies start to learn around the two week mark. As for my little man, he did SO well for the first few days and because I rushed the process (as explained above), he needed to be retrained and it ended up taking longer. In addition, when Everett hit his five month mark, he went through a HUGE developmental leap and threw his entire sleep schedule out the door, in which, I had to once again, retrain. As you can see, sleep training requires time and patience but I can assure you from personal experience that it is absolutely worth it.
What better time to embark this when you LITERALLY have unlimited quarantine time at home to practice teaching your child that the crib is awesome! No activities to get in the way.
Something I learned early on, even before sleep training and Amanda can certainly agree 100% is that consistency is KEY when teaching your baby to sleep. I used to get a lot of guff from friends and family on why I don’t just loosen up a bit on when and where Everett wanted to take his nap. But let me tell you, YOU CAN loosen up but AFTER your baby’s been trained. That means, same timings, same order of events, and same crib/bed. You ought to agree with me that quarantine life is MADE FOR THIS.
I can’t stress this point enough. During the first couple of weeks of sleep training, it is hard work. Mentally and emotionally, especially if your baby relied and depended on you or aids to fall and stay asleep up until that point. I know it was for me! There were a couple of really bad days where I felt defeated and helpless and this is where partner support is SO important. I was SO grateful that Kyle was 100% on board with sleep training and he was there to takeover when he got home from work and even just to help me out with dinner or gave me some extra time to rest. Since your partner is likely also at home during this time, he/she will be there to offer more moral support than usual.
If you think you can’t receive assistance from an expert during this time, not true! Sleep Consultants work virtually! You can still get support if things aren’t working on your own and it’s just a click away! And bonus, you can connect with ANOTHER human while you’re staying at home!
I know it’s tough times at the moment during Covid-19 pandemic and we’re all trying to do our best. But I can’t imagine what it would be like being coped up at home with a baby AND not getting a good night’s rest or some quiet time to myself during the day to do what I enjoy while the baby naps. If you and your baby are still suffering from loads of night wakings, short naps, no naps, or if you’d previously depended on car and stroller naps, I’d recommend you to consider sleep training and finding an expert such as Amanda Jewson of Baby’s Best Sleep for assistance.
Sleep Training is hard work but it 100% paid off for my family and would do it all over again if I had to.
Everett now sleeps 7 pm – 7 am with no aids and naps in his crib as soon as I shut the door with very little protest. He is one happy little dude, getting plenty of rest and all thanks to the sleep skills he’s learned along the way.
I hope this post has offered some help if you’re looking for it and a special thanks to Amanda for sharing some of her expert knowledge with me for this post as well!