I had low expectations for sleep after Ryder was born. L-O-W. Chase was never a good sleeper and, couple that with the fact that his small 5 pound 10 ounce size had us following doctor’s orders and setting alarms to wake him up every 2 hours to feed all throughout the day and night, sleep was pretty horrible for months and months after Chase was born.
We had little glimmers of hope here and there with a few weeks of good sleep peppered in but eventually I just threw in the towel and embraced the fact that Chase was going to be up in the night. I truly wouldn’t say he officially slept through the night consistently until we weaned and I stopped nursing him at 15 months.
For those who might be in a similar boat with a child over one year old, there IS hope! Chase is a great sleeper now and rarely wakes in the night. So everything I read about how important it is to establish consistent, long stretches of uninterrupted sleep for infants now makes me think — yeah, that’s probably fabulous and admittedly preferred, but if it’s not working for you or your baby, it will be okay. Your child won’t be ruined forever.
With Ryder, things instantly felt different. He was bigger at birth — 7 pounds, 7 ounces — and in general just seemed to be a better sleeper and a more laid back baby. Almost immediately, we had longer stretches of sleep and I’d find myself awake in the night starring at him shocked that he wasn’t awake because I was anticipating consistent nighttime feeds for months on end.
By the time he was 2-3 months old, Ryder was often waking only one time in the night to nurse and I was thanking my lucky stars for a “good sleeper.” I thought we lucked out and would coast through dropping his one remaining nighttime feed when the time was right.
And then the four month sleep regression hit. And it hit us HARD.
Seemingly overnight, Ryder was up at least three, often four, times a night. At first I thought it was just a fluke but then weeks passed by and I was still feeding him on demand and nursing him every 2-3 hours at night. It was BRUTAL and after two months of this, something needed to change. My mom instincts told me he was more than capable of longer stretches of sleep because we’d seen him do it before. He was growing and gaining weight but his new middle-of-the-night snacks meant that his daytime feeds were becoming much shorter and snack-like, too. I felt like for both his sake and my sanity, we needed to work to getting him back to longer stretches of sleep. Sleep training happened for us after the 4 month sleep regression. Here are some methods we tried.
The Gentle Cry-It-Out Method
This time, unlike with Chase, I didn’t read a bazillion sleep books that made me feel horrible about my baby. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with Ryder when it came to sleep training. I didn’t fear letting him cry in his crib a bit but I also didn’t want to let him wail in his crib for hours on end. Then, during a media visit to Great Wolf Lodge, I met Lexi from the blog Glitter, Inc. She was so bubbly and friendly and I found myself spending a little too much time on her blog after we met because it was gorgeous and her upbeat personality was evident in her posts. And that’s when I stumbled upon her post about the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method. It was a method she learned about after a phone call consultation with her husband’s friend — a neurologist who specializes in pediatric sleep — and it sounded PERFECT!
A quick note: In Lexi’s blog post about the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method, she mentions implementing a sleep schedule during the day and then focuses on eliminating nighttime wake-ups. I really only followed the part about eliminating nighttime wake-ups because creating a sleep schedule for Ryder during the day is just a little complicated with Chase in the mix. I hope to establish some kind of a pattern when it comes to Ryder’s daytime naps but right now he’s a pretty good on-the-go napper and I don’t want to mess with that!
Also, if the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method interests you, PLEASE read Lexi’s post. It’s incredibly thorough and I’m only sharing a rough highlight of how we used it in our house in a way that worked for us. Lexi’s post has a lot more information so just consider this my super-short summary of what worked for our 6-month-old and how we applied aspects of the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method to our sleep training experience.
Here’s a brief overview of the way we implemented the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method to eliminate nighttime wake-ups with Ryder:
- Watch for signs of sleepiness. These are very, very obvious with Ryder. Since he’s generally not a fussy baby, when he gets fussy, he’s usually either hungry or sleepy. At the end of the day, it’s both… and it’s time for bed!
- Eliminate all distractions. This means heading up to Ryder’s nursery for a diaper change with the blinds pulled and lights low. I change and nurse Ryder with only the soft glow of the salt lamp in his nursery.
(Note: The blanket you see hanging off the crib was just there for decor purposes when I took pics of Ryder’s nursery before he was born. He sleeps in a crib free of anything other than his Wubbanubs.)
- Put Ryder in his sleep suit. The Magic Merlin Sleepsuit is a lifesaver and it seems to instantly calm Ryder down. I worried it wasn’t going to work for Ryder (it was crucial for sleep for Chase!) but I think that when I initially tried putting Ryder in it, he was a little too young. I waited a month and then tried again and it worked like a charm for transitioning out of the swaddle and calming Ryder before and during sleep. (Note: The sleepsuit is not specifically part of the GCIO method but it is critical for us so I had to include it! They mention swaddling or whatever works for your baby’s sleep.)
- Turn on white noise machine. This is another big-time MUST for Ryder’s sleep. His white noise machine seems to help him relax and, as a bonus, it covers up random household noises that might wake him up in the night (Sadie barking, the heat coming on, etc.).
- Nurse Ryder and put him in his crib drowsy but not fully asleep. Thankfully this wasn’t a big change for us, as I’ve been doing this since Ryder was a teeny baby. I still always try to put him in his crib before he’s completely zonked out.
- Give Ryder a pacifier, gently place my hand on his belly, say “shhhh” over and over again as I walk out the door. Note: When I say “give Ryder a pacifier,” what I really mean is “give Ryder a pacifier and surround him with three more pacifiers” before I walk out the door. Wubbanubs/pacifiers are KEY for Ryder’s self-soothing abilities right now and I want one to be within his reach at all times if possible.
- Follow the Gently Cry-It-Out timeline for checking on Ryder if crying begins. Here’s where the “sleep training” aspect of the Gentle Cry-It-Out method kicks in. See below!
As noted by Lexi in her words, here’s the timeline for checking on baby if implementing the Gentle Cry-It-Out method:
- If baby cries, set an alarm on your phone for 5 minutes and stand and wait just outside of the door. The first few nights, they will, in all likelihood, cry for a full 5 minutes. Let baby cry for a full five minutes. (It will seem much longer, but remember, it’s just 5 minutes.)
- When your phone alarm alerts you that 5 minutes have passed, quietly go into the room, put your hand on baby’s chest, and in a soft soothing voice comfort them. If they use a pacifier, give it to them, and then quietly walk out of the room again.
- Set your alarm for another 5 minutes. When the alarm sounds, and if baby is still crying, go in again and repeat the above. At no point should you pick up the baby, feed the baby, etc. I KNOW it’s hard. The first few nights, I myself stand outside our baby’s door and tear up myself. It’s brutal, and I hate it. But do you know what happens after that second 5-minute interval? Baby falls asleep. Sometimes it takes a third visit. At that point, set your alarm for 10 minutes, and ONLY go in after 10 minutes if baby is still crying.
- Repeat this process for as long as baby cries, extending the time you leave baby alone by about five minutes each time until he or she falls asleep. Repeat the same exact process on the second night, and again on the third.
Our sleep training coincided with transferring Ryder into his crib for the first time. I am not sure whether this is ideal or not, but I wanted to establish Ryder’s crib as a place for sleep and — hopefully — GOOD sleep from day one. We followed all of the above bullet points as we attempted both the crib transfer and sleep training at once.
Here’s a five-day timeline of what the Gentle Cry-It-Out Method looked like for us:
As I anticipated, this was our roughest night by far. I nursed Ryder and put him in his crib drowsy but not asleep. I’ve been doing this from day one with Ryder, so I wasn’t anticipating too much fussiness as he drifted off to sleep. He fell asleep fairly easily but, like clockwork, he woke up crying at 10 p.m. for what would’ve been his first feed of the night. As noted in the Gentle Cry-It-Out method, I let him cry for 5 minutes before going into his room giving him his pacifier, placing my hand on his chest and quietly walking out of his room.
I feel fortunate that Ryder seems to be an “intermittent crier.” I’m not sure if that’s a thing or not but he never really seems to wail and wail non-stop. He’ll often cry but his cries almost always hit a peak and then taper off which makes it a little easier on my mama heart when it comes to staying out of his room when he begins to cry. (Basically when his cries taper off, I am given a little glimmer of hope that they might stop altogether!)
On night one, Ryder woke up at 10 p.m. and needed his pacifier replaced twice before falling back asleep. (I followed the five minute timeline each time before replacing his pacifier.) Ryder woke up again around midnight and that’s when the fun began. We spent the next two hours playing paci-pong, setting timers and going back into his room to replace his pacifier in 5, 10, 15 and 20-minute intervals. I never stayed out of his room for more than 20 minutes but didn’t really need to because eventually he fell asleep. It was almost like he was crying then resting then crying briefly again before sleeping. (Again, he seems to be an “intermittent crier” and never really wails and wails.) Ryder was never crying for long stretches during any of the paci-pong stage but I was awake the whole time and it was pretty hands-on as I set timers and replaced his pacifier at the designated intervals.
After finally falling into a deeper sleep at 2 a.m., Ryder was up again at 4 a.m. for another two rounds of paci-pong and I went in to replace his pacifier twice after five minutes. This happened again at 5:30 a.m. And then he was eventually up for the day.
In the morning, I walked into Ryder’s room to find a smiling, happy baby which was wonderful. (He wasn’t even crying for me to come in… just peacefully playing with his Wubbanub!) Ryder ate like a champ in the morning which was also fantastic since his morning feeds were becoming really short and snack-like prior to sleep training thanks to his middle-of-the-night snack sessions.My breasts were hard as rocks and felt like they were going to explode and I’m pretty sure I was more pumped for our morning nursing session than Ryder!
So, in summary, our first night was a rough night for sure but I felt like I saw small progress after the long round of paci-pong at midnight when he seemed to take his paci and go back to sleep much faster at his 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. wake ups. I already believed we were on our way to better sleep!
Night two marked a little bit of progress but began on a rough note. Ryder made it until 11 p.m. before crying — one hour later than the previous night — but spent the next 90 minutes crying on and off as I set timers and went in and out of his room replacing his pacifier at the designated timed intervals. He woke up again around 4 a.m. and I replaced his paci twice but then he didn’t wake up until 7 a.m. when he was ready for his morning feed. Since he already missed one of his usual wake up times, this felt like MAJOR progress and I began to really trust that the Gently Cry-It-Out Method of timed intervals would work for us. I was honestly shocked night two went as well as it did after a pretty intense first night.
Night three looked a lot like night two but the crying time decreased dramatically which felt like another major victory! Ryder was up twice but both times I only needed to replace his pacifier one time before he fell asleep. HUGE progress!
Night four Ryder woke up a few times and each time he fussed a little bit but fairly quickly found his pacifier and put it back in his mouth himself and went back to sleep almost immediately. On night four, I never had to go into his room and I was pretty darn psyched after this night!
Night five was a great one. It looked like night four but with even less wake-ups for Ryder. This is the night that I truly felt like I could say Ryder officially “slept through the night” which felt incredible.
What Nighttime Sleep Currently Looks Like Over Here: One Month Later
We’re just under one month into our sleep training experience and I figured a little update about how sleep currently looks might be of interest. Once we implemented the Gentle Cry-It-Out method for nighttime sleep, we seemed to coast through nighttime sleep for a couple of weeks. I was convinced everything would be derailed when we traveled to Florida for Christmas, but Ryder shocked us by sleeping through the night every single night. It was incredible and I was so thankful! And yes, I packed all of his baby sleep essentials — noise machine, sleep suit and FIVE Wubbanubs! I wasn’t taking any chances!
Since then, we’ve had a few rough nights but, for the most part, nighttime sleep is going much, much better. Ryder seems to be able to self-soothe with the help of his pacifier almost every night buuut there have been a few nights where I’ve gone in to nurse Ryder and have picked him up to soothe him because something seemed off. The one major hiccup we’ve had with nighttime sleep occurred last week and seemed to coincide with Ryder’s first tooth coming in.
There have also been two instances where I’ve felt like we had to almost re-train Ryder to sleep and both of these happened the night after I had previously nursed him or picked him up the night before. Clearly he remembers!!! But, the good news is, it usually only takes one semi-rough night for us to get back on track with decent sleep. Phew!
Why I Think This Method Was Successful For Us
I am not over here claiming Ryder’s nighttime sleep will be permanently fantastic from here on out. I know enough by now to know that baby sleep ebbs and flows and can be a rollercoaster. (I was convinced we had Chase mostly “sleep trained” at 6 months and then we had major regression. It is what it is.)
I attribute most of the success we’ve had with this method with Ryder’s age. I knew I needed him to be old enough to replace his pacifier himself before we started sleep training because that’s definitely his preferred method of self-soothing. Without his pacifier, I believe crying would’ve lasted a lot longer and would have been a lot harder for me personally to handle.
(Side note: If you’re looking for a baby monitor with multiple camera compatibility, we are loving our Infant Optics monitor. When I asked for monitor recs on Instagram, the Infant Optics camera was by far the most recommended and we’ve been really happy with it. The monitor cycles through the cameras in Chase’s room and Ryder’s room every 12 seconds and can work with up to four camera.)
Also, I waited until Ryder was nearly six months old to start sleep training for another important reason: I wasn’t personally ready to start sleep training until he was six months old. Could we have started sooner? Probably. I read all the time about kids who consistently sleep through the night much earlier but I wasn’t ready to move Ryder into his crib let alone begin sleep training until he was nearly six months old. I know some people tackle baby sleep much sooner and some much later. Different methods and timelines work for different babies and that’s awesome. Everything related to babies seems to vary so much kid to kid so knowing your child and knowing yourself is key!
And that’s my very long-winded way of catching you guys up on our latest sleep training experience! If you have any questions about something I may have missed or something you’d like me to dive into a little deeper, definitely let me know below!