A few weeks ago I decided it was time for Lily to start sleeping through the night. I had tried a few things at this point to help her and nothing had worked. At the time she was getting up 3 times a night to eat and I had gotten to the point where I was going to have a mental breakdown if it didn’t stop soon. I took about a week after I decided it was time to sleep train to decide on exactly what system I was going to use. I had read a lot about the Ferber method and decided use that as my guide.
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What is the Ferber Method?
The Ferber Method comes from a book called Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problem’s by Richard Ferber, M.D. which, as the title indicates, matches the symptoms of your child’s sleep problems to a solution. The most common one that I’ve seen used the most is his method of sleep training with the intent to help your child learn how to put themselves to sleep. His method is a modified cry it out in which you go in and calm your child in lengthening increments so as to reassure them that you are still there while also helping them learn how to self sooth. His book has several charts one to help with how to lengthen the increments of time between going in and another on how to wean from night feedings.
I found his book helpful and encouraging. It made me feel better to know I was using a method that had worked for other moms and that was recommended by someone who had helped a lot of children learn how to sleep. I didn’t take everything he said as gospel (for example he doesn’t encourage pacifier use and I didn’t think I could take that away from her while sleep training) I changed it up for how I felt Lily would best respond and that seemed to work and developed my own method, the Maria Method as it were.
What is the Maria Method?
I decided to completely stop the night feedings. I had previously tried to slowly wean her by only do 2 a night and that worked for a few days and then she started waking up more and I felt she was confused as to when I was getting her up to eat and when I was just soothing her. Ferber has a method to decrease feedings and I had also tried shortening nursing times but it just made her more angry. Once I had decided that I did a lot of research about how to sleep train and I came up with my own basic steps.
1. Make a bedtime routine
Our bedtime routine starts around 6-6:30 with nursing, getting into her pjs, reading, rocking, and then bed. The key to a bedtime routine is the routine. Pick something you are willing to do every night and then stick to it! I would also suggest starting a routine as early as 2 months before you plan to sleep train so that your baby will associate those things with getting ready to sleep for a long time.
2. Make a chart
This chart is what you will follow as to how long you will wait before you go in to check if they’ve been crying. It’s important to have this made before you start your first night of sleep training. I tried sleep training a few times before this and not having a chart was detrimental, I would sit there timing how long it had been since she started crying unsure as to how long I was going to let her cry, it was so stressful. So, I made a chart and for the most part stuck to it.
First wait: 5min. Second wait: 8min. Third wait: 10min. Fourth wait: 12min. fifth wait: 15min. Subsequent waits: 15min
I used this chart every night. Ferber has you lengthen the first wait every night but I didn’t like that. Unfortunately she did catch on that I would eventually come and just kinda waited for me to come and then cry even more when she saw me. I think that was on the 5th night that I noticed that and I started off with a 15 minute wait and she stopped doing that.
3. Determine to stick it out
In one of the many blogs I read that talked about sleep training suggested to make a plan and then stick it out for at least a week before you decided to quit. This is a really good rule to follow. Sleep training is hard because often at first you are actually getting less sleep than before you started it. There was one night I think it was the 5th or 6th night that she was crying and I couldn’t take it anymore so I started crying. I almost quit then but the next night was so much better I was glad I didn’t!
4. Make a waking routine
This will help your child distinguish between you coming in to sooth them and coming in to get them up. I usually turn the sound machine off and open the curtains before I go to her bed.
5. Keep a Record
The first 7 days I made posts in my insta story to keep track of her progress. I simply put the total number of minutes she had cried the night before. I would defiantly suggest keeping track of how long they’re crying or the number or wakings so that you can look back and see the progress and most likely you’ll see results after a few days.
6. Nap whenever you can!
This should be a rule followed pretty much all the time for any parent but especially while sleep training. Your nights are going to be a lot harder at first before they get better, so you need to make sure you nap during the day whenever you can so that you survive the night.
What were the results?
Here’s how the first 6 days of sleep training went for Lily and I. I tracked how much she cried each night.
Day 1: 2 1/2 hours total crying
Day 2: Very little crying wasn’t even worth timing!
Day 3: 1 hour total crying, she got very distressed this night and I ended up picking her up and rocking her a bit.
Day 4: 30 minutes total crying.
Day 5: 1 1/2 hours total crying
Day 6: 15 minutes total crying, she started rolling onto her tummy in her sleep this night and so it upset her when she woke up that way.
Day 15: I only had to give her pacifier back to her once about an hour after putting her to bed. Once I went to bed I didn’t get up until morning. I haven’t been able to do that in six months…So I was pretty happy.
Not every night is like Day 15, but I was really proud of her for it that I had to mention it! Most nights she loses her pacifier a few times but goes right back to sleep after I give it back to her.
Please Indulge my Soapbox:
I was posting about sleep training Lily on Instagram and got some negative feedback from a mom who doesn’t believe in sleep training. I will never understand someone who singles people out they disagree with just to say something discouraging. If you don’t think sleep training would benefit you or your child then don’t do it! If you think you and your child would benefit from sleep training than embark on the journey! I think Moms who judge other moms for sleep training assume they don’t love their child enough to hold them or rock them to sleep at night. And there are Moms out there who think moms who don’t sleep train are hurting their child and are just taking the easy way out. Either way isn’t easy and most moms truly do love their child and are just doing what they think is best for them. Ultimately, you baby isn’t going to remember if you rocked them all night or let them cry it out for a bit so do what is best for you and your child and don’t try and discourage others who are doing the same but in a different way.
On a lighter note I did get some encouraging messages from moms who saw I was sleep training and those helped me make it through that first week!