Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Our Sleep Training Journey

If you follow me on Instagram you would have been on Florence’s Sleep Training Journey with us. Sleep Training is the process of supporting your baby to fall asleep, and to stay asleep throughout the night. The process may include implementing a sleep routine, settling down before bedtime, or helping your baby to self-settle back to sleep once they have woken up. In Florence’s case, I needed to help her to settle back down once she has awoken.

Ever since Florence turned 6 weeks old she has been in a Bedtime Routine and it worked very well for all of us. Florence is always placed into her cot calm, but awake. She is able to fall asleep by herself and we are very lucky for that! 

Her last bottle is at 6.45pm, just before bedtime. Before Sleep Training she was then waking up for a bottle at 11pm, 3am, and 6am which was very exhausting!

I had read about Sleep Training beforehand but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. Florence is still only little and I thought that she was waking because she needed the milk, not because she wanted it. She has only ever drunk as much as she needs, and if she’s full then she’ll stop and drop back to sleep. After more research I found that babies may also wake through habit rather than hunger, and this certainly seemed to be the case for Florence. Chris and I could use Florence as an alarm clock, she would wake up at 11.00pm on the dot and we would look at each other as to say “it must be 11pm!” She done this every.single.night. And then again at 3am, and then again at 6am.

Once I had realised that she was possibly waking at night through habit I took a look at what she was eating during the day. Was she getting enough? Is that why she’s waking? It turns out that she was getting plenty of food per day, in the form of milk and solid meals. The recommended amount of milk for a baby who is over 6 months and fully established on solid food is between 500ml and 600ml – or approximately 18oz – 21oz. Florence was drinking anywhere between 25oz and 30oz of formula milk within a 24 hour period. Not to mention she was on three well balanced solid meals a day, plus fruit in between and Pudding after Dinner! I think that we can all agree that she eats well!

I had tried to settle her back to sleep a couple of times when she was a little younger but I cracked after about 5 minutes of trying and gave her a bottle. This time I knew that I needed stronger for all of our sakes. Chris has just started Working again, and I am starting back at University in September. We all needed to be able to sleep.

I decided to try again on a Thursday night. It got to 11pm again and she woke up right on que. I lifted her up out of her cot and put her close to my chest. I shh’d her, sung to her, rocked her, held her. She quickly calmed down but she was crying. I carried on what I was doing until she stopped completely. When she did stop I lowered her back into her cot, holding her hand and stroking her forehead, all while carrying on shh’ing and singing. As soon as I put her down she started back up again. So I lifted her back out and repeated what I had just done. I probably done this four or five times but she cried every time I put her back down. I then started to doubt myself and thought that perhaps I was wrong, perhaps she was hungry, perhaps she needed her bottle. But then I thought about what I had read, and what I had previously worked out about her food intake. We started again. I lifted her out, she cuddled, we sung nursery rhymes, we rocked. It just wasn’t working, she wouldn’t settle back down. This is when I turned her Disco Ball on behind the curtain so that it wasn’t too bright. I thought that it might distract her away from her wanting the bottle, and it worked. She calmed down, she rolled into her sleeping position, she popped her thumb back into her mouth, and she laid quietly while the Disco Ball turned. I kissed her goodnight and I left her Bedroom. She was then quiet for about 10 minutes which is when the crying started again. When she started this time I didn’t take her out of her cot. I sat on the floor beside her and I stroked her head while she calmed down and started watching the Disco Ball again. When she was quiet for a good amount of time I kissed her goodnight again and left. This time she was quiet for about 20 minutes and I felt that it was safe to go to bed, and it was. She fell back to sleep by herself, without the bottle, and she slept until 5am! It may have taken an hour but it was worth it. I did give her a bottle at 5am because I didn’t want to take both feeds away from her in one go. 

On the second night of Sleep Training Florence didn’t wake as usual at 11pm. She slept through until 4am when I gave her a bottle.

On the third night she did wake at 11pm. We repeated what we had done on Thursday night but this time it only took Florence 30 minutes to fall back to sleep without the bottle. She then slept through until 6am.

On the fourth night she slept from 7.00pm – 7.00am and has been doing so since for a little over three weeks. 

Of course, I am aware that this sleep pattern may not last forever. There may be times where she wakes because she’s teething, or poorly, or is going through a growth spurt, and if this does happen then we will repeat what we have tried previously. But for now, this method has worked for us. Florence now gets plenty of sleep and she wakes up in such a wonderful mood which is lovely to see.

There are other methods that you can try to help your baby to sleep through, such as:
  • Make the day time very social and lively, and bedtime calm and dark. This way babies can learn to differentiate and understand when it is time to sleep. 
  • Implement a Bedtime Routine so your baby learns that it is Nighttime. 
  • Offer your baby a security object such as a Muslin or Comforter. 
  • Play White Noise. We have an App called “SleepySounds” and it plays a variety of sounds such as Lullabies, White Noise, and Nature Sounds. You are able to set the length of time you wish the sound to play for which is great. We used to play White Noise all the time when Florence was younger.
  • Offer Water instead of Milk as they’ll soon get bored and stop waking. This method helped Florence once or twice. 
  • Ensure that you baby gets regular naps throughout the day so they don’t become overtired and irritated at Bedtime.
If you are currently Sleep Training then I wish you the best of luck. It can be tough, exhausting, and deflating but with persistence you’ll both get there! 

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