Sleep training.. This is something new to me being a first time mom, also our culture was more the "cuddle-and-rock-to-sleep" type. My first encounter with the idea of sleep training is with my friend, when we went to their home to have a bible study. In the middle of our discussions, she said it was time for her 2-yo son to go to bed - so she brought him to his bedroom and placed him in his crib and kissed him goodnight, walked away and closed the door. I was stunned (and impressed), she said he will fall asleep on his own (and he did!). Years later, we had our boys and when they were little, I had no problem rocking them to sleep or holding them as they sleep. Sleep training for us had to happen because it was no longer an option to hold my two growing babies as they sleep, I eventually developed a wrist injury because they were just getting too heavy. I also noticed that they would just fall apart because they needed to sleep but couldn't or didn't know how to fall asleep without me holding them. I then began to do a quick research and talked to our twin mommy groups about how they sleep trained their twins. I also realized how controversial this topic is, from mommies who are hardcore CIO advocates to moms who would cuddle and rock their babies to sleep and refuse to let them cry it out. I am more of in the middle, I don't claim to have researched a whole lot about the effects of each sleep training method (whether it is rocking your babies to sleep or letting them cry it out). I read and tried to follow the Sleep Sense program by Dana Obleman as it was the most accessible to me (I just bought an ebook and speed read), I felt more comfortable with it and it was something that was more in line with my values and beliefs about sleep and babies. I did not strictly follow the steps, I did some modifications that suited our family and our boys personality. I am documenting this not to say that this is "the way", but could maybe encourage moms that it is possible to sleep train your babes and that it is hard but so worthwhile in my opinion. Also, I realized that as they get older, I begin to forget the details of how we sleep trained and the emotions that I felt while sleep training them. So this is also to help me look back and remember what happened and what I did back then.
Here are a few information about how we sleep trained our boys:
1. We sleep trained the boys at around 6-7 months, when they were just too heavy for me to carry and rock to sleep both at the same time. They never really liked their bouncy chair, so carrying them was my only option.
2. I browsed through Dana Obleman's Sleep Sense Program and then formulated a plan in my head on how we will execute it. I talked to my husband about it to get him on board. I feel that it is crucial to have your partner and yourself on the same page, because consistency is crucial to the success and/or failure of your sleep training. Also, sleep training can be very difficult and emotionally draining (for me it was), so the support and understanding of your spouse is very important, especially when you are beginning to doubt yourself or when you want to give up. I remember many nights when I would breakdown and cry because I felt so lost and such a failure because it didn't seem like it was working. It helped that my husband was more firm and was committed to the sleep training so he was able to take over for me when I couldn't take it anymore, or talk me out of quitting when I felt like it was just not working.
3. Have a plan and stick to it - but also trust your gut when you feel like you should make some changes to the plan. I know this is confusing, but to give you an example. The Sleep Sense program I was following said that we had to sit with the boys in the room so they feel like we are not abandoning them but we minimize touching them or helping them sleep. But after weeks of doing this, our boys would just escalate and would be hysterical because as long as they see both of us, they want us to carry them - this is our boys personality and up until now, they still do this. As soon as we leave the room, they stop crying in a few minutes. I made a judgment call based on what I saw was happening (it was also an experiment), so I would put them down, give them a goodnight kiss and leave the room and it was much easier for them to fall asleep that way. Sitting there in the room just prolonged their agony and did not help them sleep at all, so we had to change our plan.
4. There will be times when you just have to make changes your bedtime routine (this happened to us after our sleep training, when they have already established a bedtime routine), and usually this happens when they are sick/not feeling well or when they just need an extra cuddle time. Once in a while, one of my boys would do this, so I would take him out, hang out with him and they put him back to bed, and he will usually go to sleep quite easily after. I acknowledge that while we do have a bedtime routine and I don't want to mess that up, sometimes they (or I) just need extra cuddles. There was also a time when one of the boys would wake up in the middle of the night hungry, so we'd have a late night snack before he goes back to bed. He eventually stopped doing this, I think it was just a growth spurt or something! Point is, you might have to tweak your routine as your baby grows and have different needs.
5. Have a bedtime routine. Our bedtime routine is bath time, story time/quiet play, milk, brush teeth, pray and then go to bed. Note that during our quiet play, it is usually the adult that needs to be quiet, I find that when we have family over, they tend to be too rambunctious with the boys and it doesn't help them feel relaxed and ready for bed.. I also make sure that it is quiet in the room and the lights are dimmed (so no TV too).
6. The boys did not sleep through the night until we dropped their night feedings. And we did this per the advice of their pediatrician that it was not good for their teeth to drink milk in the middle of the night, so she said to switch to giving them water instead if they do wake up. They woke up a few nights but after that they just stopped waking up in the middle of the night, I'm assuming it's because they felt like water is not worth the effort of waking up. Haha. Works for me! They also started sleeping through the night once we moved them to their own room. Our boys are really sensitive, so when we shared room with them, they would wake up when they hear us come in the room.
7. We play music for the boys in their bedroom - I have a playlist of mostly classical music that we play for them while they sleep. I don't know if it really helps them sleep, but it's just our habit.
I'll add as soon as I remember some more details about sleep training the boys. It is a journey, and when you are in the middle of the storm, it's hard to see the light in the end of the tunnel, but it does get better! Wishing you all the luck mommas!