Sleep training sounds so scary, but really it runs the gamut from controversial "crying it out" to shushing and patting your baby until they fall asleep, or even creating the elements necessary for them to have a regular nap schedule. However, no matter what method of sleep training you've chosen, using these sleep training habits will prove you've got this and are ready for everyone in your house to be sleeping peacefully.
With our daughter, we chose to let her cry it out but we coupled that with a well-timed schedule that would enable her to fall asleep without even needing to cry. We also went that route because she's the kind of baby who needs to get to sleep on her own. No amount of rocking or shushing was going to get her to sleep. In fact, we quickly realized that black out curtains were a must because we've never seen a baby with more FOMO. To her, any hint of light was a party she was missing.
We've also cared for several foster babies and managed to get them sleep trained in a matter of weeks. The key for us was to make sure we were watching closely for sleep cues, and to wean them slowly from some of their sleep crutches. We had one foster baby who arrived to us only able to fall asleep with a giant bottle. We slowly shifted her to taking a bottle and letting her get drowsy but not asleep before we put her in the crib. After a while, we started shifting the bottle back from nap time so the two weren't always connected for her.
So many people view sleep training as militant, but we treated it a little more like yoga: slowly bending incrementally until the baby was practically saying namaste on her way to dreamland.
You've Got A Plan
Sleep training has to start with a plan, and whoever is going to be implementing it needs to be on board with the plan. You can Google any number of sleep training systems or plans, but don't forget you can mesh one or two together until you find the one that you're most comfortable with.
Once you've chosen a plan, try to stick with a modicum of consistency at least for several days. Maintaining consistency at the beginning is a habit that will pay off quickly. Trust me.
You Play Defense
The best defense in sleep training is to understand your baby's optimal schedule of awake versus asleep. With our daughter, we found that she really needed to be in her crib much earlier than most of the schedules I found suggested. She needed time to settle into her crib before having to be asleep, and she also just needed shorter awake time than most babies her age. Playing defense is the best way to avoid fussiness and crying around nap time or bed time.
When we were initially sleep training our daughter, my mom said to me, "Babies aren't robots," and that has helped me every time I feel like my daughter isn't doing what she's supposed to or sticking to the plan.
She's not a robot, she has different needs and her mood and feelings change and she can't express them. Sometimes you've just got to be flexible with sleep training and change course in the middle. We realized when our daughter was a few months old that she would fall asleep on her own in her crib only to wake up 10 minutes later.
Your Pantry Is Stocked
I've never been a stress eater, but there's something about that particular stress of trying to get a baby to sleep and not being successful that will send me head first into a bag of M&Ms. Stock some favorite treats, dig in and console yourself.
You've Got Back Up
Don't try to go it alone, dear reader. Sleep training isn't the time to try to prove you can do it all yourself. At a certain point when you're shushing and patting for the seventh time that day and you think your head is going to explode, you're going to need a sub.
You're A Serious Detective
The moment I realized our daughter wasn't going down to sleep as we knew she could, was the moment I realized I was missing her sleep cues. That moment, my friends, was transformative.
Our daughter wouldn't give a yawn until she was so tired she could barely cope. Instead, she would stare off into space for just a few seconds when she was starting to get tired. If I could catch that (barely there) sleep cue, we were in business. Sometimes you've got to be a detective to figure out exactly what your child needs.
You've Found Your Zen
There have been more moments than I can count when my daughter goes down to sleep happy as a clam and is snoring away, only to wake up 10 minutes later like the house is on fire. And there's something particularly exhausting about that one hour break being interrupted so soon! It always made me feel like I wanted to crawl out of my skin and return when it was quiet again.
So zen is clearly important but also clearly not my strong suit. It's taken practice (and lots of repeating "My baby is not a robot" over and over) to find my zen so that I can present a calm front that will calm the tiny terror down.