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Sleep Training...Can It Be Done?

If you're reading this then you've had enough..if you're reading this then you have a baby who won't sleep unless they're rocked or sang to or held or hushed or given the horn of a wild unicorn. Either way they won't sleep without you. It's a nightmare I know but I have the solution.
This isn't a magic potion or a little white pill. This is mistake after mistake before I got it right. This is literally tears and sweat and judging eyes that can't wait to tell you you're doing it all wrong. It took me 6 months with my eldest daughter before I started and a few days to work. It will take time and effort but if done right and consistently, It will work. I promise.

There is one golden rule to my sleep training method.

Lay your child down still awake.

I know you want to kill me right now but bare with me.

Set a sleep routine from about 2 months old (or whatever age your child is now) There's no point starting earlier than 2 months because your baby is still too young.
Set the sleepy atmosphere before bedtime, find what works for you - whether it's a lullaby or quiet play time or a story book, let your child know that it's bedtime, dim the lights and don't do anything exciting or loud. Use the same phrase every night.

"It's bedtime sweetie" or "little bunnies sleep"

Whatever it is, use it every night to let them know they will be sleeping soon.
One mistake I constantly made after I'd established 'bedtime' was assuming my daughter was fed and she was fine. No. Feed them, even if you've just fed them. Let them fill up as much as they can before bed. That way you can at least rule out hunger when they are screaming murder in an hour or so. I would do everything for her including swaddle again, sing, rock, change but never assumed she was hungry. Also a hungry baby will sleep for shorter time and wake up almost as soon as you've put them down whereas a full baby will have a deeper sleep.

Then comes the hard part. Whatever it is you're doing now to put them to sleep, you're still allowed to do. So if you're rocking them, then rock them till they're drowsy. If you're singing a lullaby then do it until they are drowsy. The keyword here is drowsy. Don't let them fall asleep in your arms or anywhere other than their bed/cot. This will take some getting used to but I promise you it'll be well worth it.
Once they are drowsy lay them down. If they cry then stay with them, look at them and let them know you are still there. If they are still crying then pick them up, give the all your love and cuddles and place them back. There is nothing wrong with showing your child love. I have always disagreed with the notion that you should let a child 'cry themselves to sleep' I always thought it was absurd and beyond cruel. Show them your love. Cuddle and kiss them. Comfort them. Feed them. Whatever you want. Then put them back drowsy or awake. Once they sleep you can move onto the next step.

Next bedtime instead of standing over them while they sleep, move a bit further back, maybe straighten out the bedroom, brush your hair. Let them know you're there but not as close as last time. Once they have dozed off move on to the next step. Bare in mind that it could take a day or more before you can move onto the next step. It all depends on each child. But be persistent and you will get results.

Next bedtime do the same thing again, put them down and then leave. If they cry come back, let them see you and then leave. If they cry then linger around the room till they sleep.
Once they've gotten the hang on sleeping without physically touching you or seeing you then you've hit the jackpot! The most important thing is to be consistent and don't fall back into your previous sleep methods.

Here are a few tips to help you.
  1. Babies are comforted by their mother's smell. Spread a shirt or piece of clothing that you've worn recently underneath them so they can smell it and think you're with them.
  2. Sprinkle some breastmilk on a blanket or soft toy and place it by their head in a safe position so they can smell it, this has the same effect or even better effect as the previous tip. 
  3. If you like you can pick out a specific toy or blanket your child will sleep with every night. This can be both good and bad. They will always sleep if its there. But might not sleep if it's not. It's your choice whether to risk it.
  4. It won't always work - there will be days when your child won't feel well or will be unsettled and will need you just a bit longer. Throw away the rule book and snuggle with them under the blanket. As long as it's a one-off and you go right back into the routine the next day or as soon as they wake up again.
  5. Don't let your baby get overtired...otherwise they won't want to cooperate.
  6. The golden rule includes mid-night wakings and feedings. After you're done put them right back into bed drowsy but still awake.

Have you tried this out? Does It work? Let me know in the comments below!


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