Once you have children, sleep seems to become one of your most highly prized commodities. If your children sleep well they are also happier, and it also allows you to get the sleep you need as a parent! I’m a huge advocate of sleep training, as it helps to create good sleep habits early on. I’m not a pediatrician or sleep expert, I’m just sharing my thoughts as a mother of 3 whose kids all turned out to be good sleepers by 6 months…after a little encouragement. I didn’t follow any true sleep training method, just followed my gut. Our techniques probably look most like the cry it out method though.
I shared my tips on getting your baby to sleep based on my experience with my first two children, but wanted to write an updated blog post after sleep training our third child, because she was not quite so easy! I used the same techniques that I shared in my first blog post about sleep (so please reference that post first), but have had to make a few modifications because she was a little trickier and we shared a room for the first 6 months of her life (I only shared a room with my first two children for 2 months and then moved them to their own rooms). Here are the things we’ve done (or used) to help encourage sleep and make nighttime a little more peaceful for all of us.
And if you’re the parent of a toddler or younger child then you’ve got to get a clock that turns green once it’s ok for them to leave their room in the morning! I wrote a blog post on our experience using a green light clock with Jack and it is such a helpful tool (though it does work with some kids better than others). We’ve now upgraded to the LittleHippo Mello clock for Caroline and the Hatch Baby Rest for Jack (which you can control with your phone). Both of these clocks can be set to have a yellow light turn on prior to the green light, as a way to encourage your kids to keep waiting a little bit longer. The yellow “warning” light seems to really help, especially for kids that don’t know how to tell time!
The photos in this post are from our newborn session with Stephanie Hussey on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. She’s my dear friend and the most talented photographer!
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Baby Sleeping Tips
1. Owlet Smart Sock.
I asked my parents for the Owlet Smart Sock as a combined birthday and Christmas gift last year. It’s a relatively pricy piece of equipment ($249), but I have slept so much better this time around, simply because I’m not as worried about SIDS. I’m always incredibly anxious with a baby in the house, always expecting the worst when it comes to SIDS (despite following all of the appropriate guidelines), and this device gives me such peace of mind. It comes with a foot monitor (with 3 different sock sizes) that tracks your baby’s oxygen levels and heart rate. It’s connected wirelessly to a button-type thing that you keep in your room, and it will alert you if your infant’s levels get too low or too high. This monitor and alert button work even without wifi (how we use it when we travel), but if you connect it to your wifi you’ll be able to use the app on your phone too, which shows you all sorts of information, graphs, real time stats, trends, etc. So incredibly helpful and reassuring. I’ve also received a number of messages on Instagram about how this monitor has saved their child’s/niece’s/granddaughter’s life by alerting their parents when their levels got too low. If you’re an anxious mom when it comes to infant sleep then I highly recommend giving the Owlet Smart Sock a try!
2. Zippadee-Zip Sleep Sack.
At the time that I decided to sleep train I also switched Tate from the Love to Dream swaddle to the Zippadee-Zip sleep sack. I love the Love to Dream swaddle for newborn days, but once they start rolling it’s always tough to figure out how to keep them comforted while they’re also sleeping safely. Enter the Zippadee-Zip (as seen on Shark Tank, apparently!). It’s this sleep sack that keeps their hands and feet within the sack, yet it’s designed so that they can roll around, push up, crawl, and have full mobility of their arms and legs. She can even still put the pacifier in her own mouth while wearing it. I don’t know why it works, but this sleep sack is amazing! We just bought the fleece version to help keep her warm at night during the cold season ahead. I’d say they’re true to size.
3. Cry-it-Out Method.
I don’t follow any particular method of cry-it-out, I just try to follow my gut. We decided to sleep train Tate when she was 5 months old. She had been waking up to nurse out of habit 3 or so times a night and I just went along with it because it was easy, but I knew that she wasn’t particularly hungry, it was just comforting for her. My rule of thumb is to not pick them up when you’re sleep training at night. I’ll give a pacifier (though they’re normally so mad that they won’t keep it in their mouths) and comfort by patting them for a few seconds and then exiting. I think that picking them up while in the midst of sleep training is the kiss of death, so to speak, because the second you pick them up it’s impossible to refuse to nurse and you’ve defeated all of the work (and tears) you’ve put in! It was tough and she cried for a very long time the first couple of nights, but by the fourth night she was sleeping through the night and became my very best sleeper. When we’re traveling and when we first moved to our new home (at 6 months) we had some regression, but for the most part Tate sleeps through the night every night. Obviously if she’s really upset I’ll pick her up and comfort/nurse her, but I’ve learned that when I do that we often get a few nights in a row of wake ups because she sinks back into that old habit.
4. Box Fan or Sound Machine for White Noise.
I am a huge fan of sound machines for sleeping…for myself and for the kids. We’ve always used either this standard Marpac Dohm sound machine or the portable Marpac Hushh sound machine. Both make good, deep white noise that helps all of us sleep better. I love the Hushh because you can attach it to the carseat or stroller for on the go naps. I used it for both of my girls and even take it for myself if we’re traveling. A box fan works too, and that’s what we used in the summer in Tate’s room. We tried the Big Red Rooster sound machine that I had heard good things about but honestly I thought it was awful. The sound was higher pitched and not as deep as we are used to. Don’t waste your money!
5. Lots of Pacifiers.
When my oldest was a baby we used small Avent pacifiers and I’d only put one in there with him at night. What was I thinking?! It honestly had never even occurred to me to have more than one in there with him at night until he was probably 3 months old. (Or keep a basket of pacifiers by their crib for you to grab one quickly when you go in to help them fall back asleep.) It makes it so much easier for you to find one and “plug them” so they fall back asleep, but once they’re a little older it also makes it easier for them to find them themselves so that they can put one back in on their own. Tate now sleeps with 4 Wubbanub pacifiers in her crib and she can always find one to sooth herself when she needs one. My second child did not automatically take a pacifier but we tried a bunch of different ones (settling on the Wubbanub, which she was most receptive to) and I kind of stubbornly encouraged it to happen. I knew how helpful they were for sleep training my oldest and I’m so glad she finally decided that that she liked them when she was about 2 months old. As far as weaning goes, here is the tactic we used to wean my oldest who was downright obsessed with pacifiers.
I know that not all babies are the same, but in my experience with having three children in 4 years I’ve learned that as long as you pay attention to their cues (fussy? try a nap!), are consistent with routine, and set an early bedtime (6:30 to 7PM is our baby’s bedtime) you can often train a baby to sleep well without too much trouble!
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