Monday, August 22, 2011

how sleep training worked for us

Not too long ago, putting Elliot to bed was getting to be so difficult that I dreaded bedtime every night. As bedtime drew near, Elliot would start screaming, kicking, and arching his back. Nothing I did seemed to help. After one, two, or sometimes even three hours, he would finally fall asleep... only to wake up an hour or two later. This continued ALL NIGHT LONG.
Before we started sleep training, he was waking up an average of five times between 10pm and 8am, and was drinking 24-32 ounces of formula throughout the night {which is unheard of at his age}. We were both exhausted and cranky, he was soaking through his diapers, I was washing his sheets daily, and we were going through a LOT of formula.


Desperate for something, anything that would help, I started googling different sleep training methods. I decided to try the "less tears" Dr. Sears method.

The rules:
• Put the baby down in the crib awake
• Whenever your child cries, console and comfort him, using any method you want, as long as it doesn't involve removing him from the crib

Click here to watch a video that we found helpful.

Those rules seemed awfully tough to me. Especially since Elliot was still drinking so many bottles at night, and not being able to pick him up meant he wouldn't be having bottles, either. In fact, I broke the rules often, picking him up and continuing our tiring routine of walking him around the bedroom until he fell asleep and then trying {in vain} to put him in the crib without waking him up. I also picked him up the minute I walked into his room in the middle of the night. At this point, though, when I was only trying sleep training here and there, breaking rules as I pleased, Elliot continued to wake up every 1-2 hours, and he would still cry miserably every night at bedtime.
It wasn't until Elliot became extremely cranky during the day {due to lack of sleep} so clingy that he literally wouldn't sit by himself for even a minute that I decided something needed to be done. I couldn't eat or go to the bathroom unless he was sitting on my lap. He wouldn't play with toys unless I was playing with him. It was exhausting. I couldn't stand it anymore. So I decided to give sleep training another try, for real this time.

Here's what I did:
• Followed our usual bedtime routine {going for a walk outside at 7:30-8:00, bathtime at 8:30, followed by a bottle. Then, I rocked him for a couple minutes before laying him in the crib.
• At first, he would start crying the minute he touched the mattress. In fact, he'd stand up and shake his crib bars angrily. I'd gently lay him back down, while talking or singing softly, and pat his back. He'd stand back up. I'd do it again, and again... and AGAIN. The first few nights, this was a long process. He cried a lot, but I was always there to comfort him. Eventually, he'd fall asleep, and I'd cover him up and leave his room. Whenever he woke up in the middle of the night, I'd do the same thing- lay him down, pat his back. Thankfully, he always fell back asleep quicker in the middle of the night.
• As the days passed, I could get him to fall asleep in his crib by tickling his back after only a few minutes. He'd usually wake up after I stopped, though, so I'd resume the tickling and patting, and try to leave again, however many times it took until he didn't stir once I stopped and left the room.
• after about 8 days {Elliot is stubborn like his parents}, Elliot got the message. He realized that bedtime wasn't scary, that he didn't need bottles at night, and that it was perfectly okay to fall asleep without being held.

IMG_7981 copy
Elliot happily standing and waiting in his crib after a nap.

Now? About two weeks after we started sleep training, Elliot falls asleep in about five minutes {while I tickle his back and face}. He usually sleeps 6ish hours before waking up around 4am, and then doesn't wake up again for at least another six hours. Lately, he's been sleeping in until nine or even nine-thirty! He's a happy, balanced baby again. He will happily run around in his walker and play with toys while I clean or cook or eat. Bedtime is no longer a long and stressful process. I actually look forward to it.

I couldn't be happier that we finally decided to try sleep training, and how well it worked. I have my happy baby back, and we're both getting more sleep!
I highly recommend Dr. Sears' less/no tears method of sleep training. It might not be for everyone, but it worked very well for us.


  1. I'm glad your getting more sleep now and hopefully now your settled in the new house he should stay that way ... My josh sleeps brilliantly and i hope he stays like it *fingers crossed* if not I will deffo try this :)

    p.s did you find your camera?

  2. Nope, the camera is still MIA :(

  3. Elliot has such an adorable smile!! :-)

  4. I honestly feel like I wrote this post because this is something we are currently going thru with Laila. At first, she slept amazing but the past week/week-and-a-half has been HARD. She refuses to sleep in her pack n play or crib. The second I put her down, she is wide awake, screaming at me. And all of the sudden, she is back to waking in the middle of night, demanding to lay in bed with us.

    A part of me feels like her sleep issues are MY fault. But I'm thinking about maybe trying to do this! So glad to hear it worked for you and Elliot!! Gives me hope it'll work for us as well.

  5. Can you please link me to some info about this?

    I'm confused, because I assume (perhaps wrongly) that you're talking about Dr. William Sears or one of his sons, like Dr. Bob. But I have never heard any of the Sears promote sleep training ever.

    I'm trying to find an approach for Milo. I have the same issue you described, with the being with me constantly, hard to get to sleep, wakes up over and over and over. I won't go into all the details and bored you to death in this little comment space, but I can commiserate on how hard that is. I have conflicting feelings, because I don't do CIO. But I recognize, that sometimes a little crying has to happen with the transition.

    I'd like more info if you could share.

  6. Nicole- I'll email you.
    Dr. Sears does promote sleep training, but only after 6 months and with constant comforting, never CIO. Dr. Sears does recognize that crying will happen. He always advocates the parent to instantly console, and that is what we did- just not in every way that Elliot was used to.

  7. PS- we're talking Bob Sears, here.

  8. Thanks for posting this Rylin has NEVER slept by herself despite almost every attempt so we gave up for a while but this is really encouraging me to try again.

  9. awesome! welcome back to the land of "well-rested" (for mom and baby both!)

  10. I'm so glad this is working out for yall too! This is kinda the method we're using, but mine was more a 'wing-it' sorta thing. I don't know how you've made it this long without him sleeping through the night. I would have lost my mind by now haha You're a strong mama!

    ps: good luck finding the camera charger

    pss: asked the hubby about a cat and he jokingly told me to stop reading your blog haha

  11. I'm glad that you found a sleep training method that works for you, Jess! We did it with Braden between 5-6 months and I'm so happy we did it. I was going insane and it was a "no other option" deal for us. Congrats!

    Nurse Loves Farmer

  12. I am glad Dr. Sears' method worked for you. I tried some sleep training with E. during Dan's first work up and she would just crycrycry for more than an hour and I just couldn't handle it. That was when she was 4 months old or so.

    Just this month we tried again and it went much better than the first time we tried. Sometimes she'll sleep through the night, other nights she'll wake up and I'll bring her back into bed with us. Yay for finding routines that work for our families. :)

  13. great post! we've got a 14 month old and recognized that he will wake up around 1am and cry for 2-5 seconds.. yea.. seconds.. and i used to run in there to see what was wrong and it would wake him up fully.. but then realized that he would fall right back asleep and stay that way until 8am. sleep is amazing for little ones.. they need it to grow and develop!

  14. yay!!! so glad that it is working for you.
    we pretty much let Aydan cry it out for a few nights (going in in 15-20 mins increments to pat him) and in no time - he was sleeping through the night and putting him to bed is a breeze!

  15. Way to go! That is the best when they do sleep through the night. We did something similar called babywise.... but the gist of it is even when you do go in to tend to them, do not make a big deal and do not lift out of the crib if you can help it. THere is much more to it (like doing a schedule during the day) - but Julianna was sleeping thru the night at 7 weeks b/c we planned this from before she was born LOL - however you decide to do it, and if it works for you, then that is soooo awesome and the key to happiness!! LOL

  16. that photo is soooo cute!

    made my way over from samantha's blog and will be back :)

  17. Congratulations on your success!

    Along the same lines, I've developed some sleep training tools and tips as part of our materials at ABC Moms, a parenting training/consulting group in Chicago:

    Hope it helps other moms out there!


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