Putting the night shift to bed

At the end of last year, I wrote a post called ‘Goodnight all nighter’ detailing Isla’s day to night sleep and feed routine but quite a lot has changed since then so I thought I’d post an update! Don’t all cheer at once… (que the tumbleweed!)

Now, now, in all seriousness I’m quite impressed with my little human. In the last 6 weeks I feel like we have moved mountains. She has dropped her 4am feed and is now sleeping through the night – there is a God afterall! She has gone from eating one solid meal a day to three, and we have even started using a potty. We are totally on a roll here at no.24!

Up until 6 weeks ago, myself and James would always assist Isla to fall asleep with either cuddles, rocking, patting, ssshing, a dummy or even sometimes a feed. We have even been known to harmonise twinkle twinkle little star – anything for some baby shut eye!

It wasn’t until 4am one December morning, that Isla woke and refused a feed that made me realise that she was waking for comfort rather than milk. This was our light bulb moment and from this point onwards we haven’t looked back.

Now that she had dropped the 4am feed but was still waking, I knew I needed to teach Isla to self settle and so we decided to practice a sleep training technique called controlled crying. This is possibly one of the most researched and educated decisions I have made as a parent and it’s one that I won’t ever regret. Prior to making the decision to use this technique, I spent hours reading online literature about the advantages and disadvantages of this technique and together, myself and James, decided that the ‘disadvantages’ where massively outweighed by the positives seen by hundreds and thousands of parents.

If you are interested, take a look at this great article by the Blissful baby expert: https://theblissfulbabyexpert.co.uk/self-soothing-and-sleep-training/

It took us 5 days from start to finish and by day 5 we had a baby that was happily laid down in her cot wide awake and would fall off to sleep without any assistance for day time naps and bedtime. Hell motherf***ing yeah!

I must admit though, it was a rough 5 days. Each day was filled with masses of doubt, guilt, upset and tears (not just Isla’s!). Anyone who knows Isla will agree, she has never been a crier and so listening to her cry was quite an ordeal for the both of us, but it was short lived and well worth the frantic cleaning of the kitchen (and munching of cookies) whilst trying to distract ourselves!

We practiced the most common form of controlled crying, following the guidelines below –

Safety first

  • You shouldn’t use controlled crying with babies less than 6 months old
  • Always make sure that your baby or toddler isn’t hungry, thirsty or ill before you put them to bed and use controlled crying

The technique

STEP 1: Put your baby in her cot awake, say goodnight to her and leave the room

STEP 2: If she cries, wait for 2 minutes before returning to the room. Pick her up, give her a cuddle until she is calm then place her back in her cot and leave the room

STEP 3: If she continues to cry, leave her for 4 minutes before going back into the room and repeating the resettling process.

STEP 4: If she continues to cry, leave her for 6 minutes before resettling. If she still continues to cry, leave her for 8 minutes, resettle, then 10 minutes, resettle etc ensuring to extend the time by 2 minutes each visit until she falls asleep.

The main focus of this technique, is that your baby falls asleep on her own and that she is not placed down in her cot asleep. We used this day and night, for every single sleep, and ‘wake’ when she was supposed to be asleep – you know those annoying ones when they wake 20mins into their 2hr nap!

We also used a number of sleep associations:

  1. All sleep is to be had in her cot – the days of co sleeping and cat napping in her swinging chair are done and dusted!
  2. She wears a sleeping bag for all sleeps including day time naps
  3. We play white noise for the first 30 minutes once she is laid down in her cot
  4. We give her a bunny to cuddle that she only has when it’s time to sleep
  5. She always has a bath before bed, in the following order – bath, bottle, bed

These are all used as indicators for Isla to realise its time to hit the snooze button and I must say, the more committed we are to the associations, the better she settles.

Both myself and James felt that trusting our instincts played a big part in using this technique. Sometimes, Isla would sound like she was crying down (this is when the gaps inbetween cries gets longer leading you to believe that the baby is settling down) but then she would ramp it up 10 notches and our instincts told us to enter the room and resettle her before the time period was up. This, we now know, didn’t derail our hard efforts and still resulted in a baby that can self settle. Guidelines are there to be used, but no one knows your little one like you do! Midwifery degree or not, we are still her parents and we know best!

For us, it was important that we greeted Isla with big smiles and lots of love and positivity when she woke from her sleep. We wanted her to know that she is never on her own. Despite the tears had before the nap, we wanted her to be sure that a happy mummy and daddy will be waiting for her on the other side of her sleep.

I will also add that Isla had a dummy when we first started this method which now she doesn’t use. When she cried, she would lose the dummy and I wouldnt give it back to her as I didn’t want her to see me. This has now resulted in her not needing a dummy to sleep.. winning!

There have been very few occasions since day 5 when we have had to practice the technique again (mainly when we have people over to the house and she doesn’t want to miss out!) but on the whole, Isla now sleeps like a dream and getting her to sleep requires far less exertion from us. Gone are the days of pacing up and down the hall way or being baby trapped on the sofa with the remote control just out of reach!

All in all, I would most definately recommend this sleep training technique to other parents. There’s nothing I want more than for Isla to feel comfortable and happy on her own. This might sound like a strange thing to say because I hope she is never on her own, but coming from a person who struggled to be apart from her mum when she was younger, I want Isla to grow up fiercely independent! Believe me when I say, the crying is short lived and tolerable because you know you are doing the right thing. Thanks to this technique, I now have a baby that sleeps 7pm-7am! Hallelujah!

Once Isla could self settle, we were able to drop the 10:30pm feed which we done fairly easily by decreasing the amount of ounces over a 10 day period. She used to have 8oz at this time but we cut it down slowly, one ounce at a time, and she now sleeps through. This is most definately helped by the fact that she has 3 solid meals during the day. For parents looking to cut this feed, it is advised that you should not expect to drop the 10:30pm feed until your baby is consuming 2 solid meals a day. Check the blissful baby expert website for more details.

I’ve had lots of questions about Isla being able to self settle since I mentioned it in a previous post so I hope this helps!

Lots of love

G

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1 Comment

  1. Georgia
    January 31, 2018 / 4:15 pm

    My favourite post so far! Thanks for sharing X

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