This post will also be full of gratuitous pictures of my son sleeping!
Since we didn't have any sleep issues and P started sleeping through the night on his own around 8 weeks, I honestly didn't think we would ever have to sleep train. Why would we need to sleep train a baby who is such a great sleeper? Well pretty much exactly at 4 months, Preston decided to go on a sleep strike. They call it the "4 month wakeful period" or "4 month sleep regression". Whatever you want to call it, it hit our house HARD. I think really we had been spoiled with such great sleep that it made it really hard for us all (Preston included) to deal with and we had a difficult time with the lack of sleep.
I didn't feel comfortable with sleep training at 4 months (some books say you can start that early - again, personal decision) so we just sort of dealt with the multiple wake ups each night. He wasn't waking up to eat (he dropped his night feedings around 8-9 weeks) - it was mainly a development thing. He could do so much more at that point (roll, scoot, etc.) and he couldn't really get himself back to sleep when he would wake up. Our routine was to go in when we would hear him wake up, soothe him, put his paci back in, rub his head and settle him down. We would go in as soon as we would hear him (typically he'd just be "talking" at that point, not crying) because we didn't want him to get to the point of crying. Some nights we would do this 1-2 times and some nights, we would do it 5-8 times.
After a full month of this (and us feeling like zombies), I downloaded 2 sleep books to my Kindle - "Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child" and "Solve your Child's Sleep Problem" I read both and I liked aspects of each of them. They both have a lot of similarities in terms of the techniques - the Ferber books is a bit more clinical but I was glad that I read both books. I also talked to my pediatrician, who agreed that since Preston wasn't waking to eat and had met several other developmental milestones, we could try to get him to self-soothe to see if that would get him to sleep through the night again.
So right after he turned 5 months old, we dove into sleep training. I was nervous, scared and honestly, sort of dreading it. This is the general plan that we followed:
* Stick to a bedtime routine and earlier bedtime. We start bedtime around 6:00-6:15 most nights. He gets a bath every other night. After the bath, we do lotion, overnight diaper and pj's. He gets his bedtime bottle in the chair in his room and during the bottle, we read 2-3 books. We turn on the music on his sound machine (he's starting to recognize that music is "bedtime music" so he associates it with going to bed).
* After the bottle is finished, we do a few minutes of cuddling, but we stopped rocking/bouncing him until he is asleep/drowsy. That was the biggest thing that we changed - we now put him down pretty much wide awake. He's usually in his crib by 6:45-7:00pm each night.
We did a graduated soothing method - 5 minutes, 10 minutes, etc. So after we put him down, if he starts to cry, we wait 5 minutes before going up to soothe him. We don't pick him up if we have to go in - we typically rub his belly or head and sometimes put the paci back in if he needs it. We stay in his room for 30 seconds. After that, the next time he cries, we wait 10 minutes and repeat the soothing. If needed, we would then move to 15 minutes before going in.
The first night we tried it, he cried for 5 minutes so I went up, soothed him and got him calmed down. But then after I left, he started crying again and I was getting upset (we turned the monitor all the way down but you could obviously still hear him crying - I almost had to go outside). However, he only cried for another 8 minutes - literally I was standing on the steps counting down until I could go up and he stopped and fell asleep. So the first night, we had a total of 13 minutes of crying with having to soothe him one time. And guess what - he slept through the entire night that night with ZERO wake ups. It was crazy and totally unexpected! We all woke up with big smiles on our face that morning!
The second night Jake had to work late, so I was on my own and REALLY nervous. I did our routine and put him down. He cried for 3 minutes...and then stopped and was fast asleep! I didn't have to go up at all - I seriously stared at the monitor and couldn't believe that he soothed himself so quickly. Again, slept through the night and woke up at 6:00am the next day super happy and smiley!
By the 3rd night, he didn't cry at all after we put him down - he rolled around in his crib, talked a bit and went to sleep. And he slept through the night without waking up once again.
The biggest thing is so much happier he is now in the mornings - he wakes up in such a good mood because he's not sleep deprived anymore. Actually, we're all feeling much better and most rested, which is important for all of us!
It's been about 6 weeks since we did the sleep training and P does wake up sometimes in the middle of the night, but we do the 5 minute, 10 minute soothing and most the time, he's able to get himself back to sleep fairly quickly without us having to go in. Bedtime is very easy now - he doesn't cry and gets himself to sleep within 5 minutes most nights. We also do the same thing for naps on the weekends and he is taking 2-3 good naps (about 1.5-2 hours each) so I'm calling sleep training a success!