I am finally back to getting a good night’s sleep! And by good I mean 8-9 hours a night! We’ve been working for a couple months on getting Felix to sleep in his crib and through the night. Before I go into any of this, let me just make a blanket statement - you are the expert on your own child. What worked for us might not work for you and our parenting decisions might be different. We’re all doing our best to raise happy and healthy kiddos and there are many ways to do that! Now… let’s talk zzzzzs!
When we brought Felix home from the hospital, I knew we would all sleep together in the same bed. We created a safe environment with minimal bedding and pillows. Adam and I had our own twin sized sheets and blankets (we have a king) so the chances of pulling the covers up and over our son’s head were unlikely. We also had a little nest like contraption with firm sides so we wouldn’t accidentally roll over on our tiny newborn. He was a loud sleeper, so we tried other things as well - a vibrating bassinet type thing in our room - and then in his room - and finally back to our bed. The determining factor to co-sleep without the nest was my quality of sleep. Getting up to nurse in a rocking chair every two or three hours in another room was turning me into a very very unhappy person. Sleep deprivation is torture!
At seven weeks old Felix started sleeping in my arms and I would nurse him on my side without sitting up. That made an HUGE difference for me. I still woke up and nursed on demand, but I wasn’t fully interrupting my sleep cycles and was able to fall back asleep more quickly. YES!
Once Felix was more mobile and crawling, we dropped our mattress to the floor and moved out our bedside tables and lamps because cords are no bueno around babies.
Co-sleeping really worked for me and for our family. Not only did I get better sleep, but I had better piece of mind. As a new mom I would wake up often just to check his breathing and with him snuggled in my arms, it was easy to check! Bed sharing is the cultural normal in other parts of the world, especially those countries where breastfeeding rates are higher. If you choose this option for your family, do your homework. I’m not advocating it for everyone, but it absolutely worked for us. Ok, back to sleep training!
- Birth - 7 Weeks: Co-Sleeping (with this)
- 7 Weeks - 14 Months: Co-Sleeping
- 14 Months: Began transition to crib for first sleep cycle
- 15 Months: Complete transition
Fast forward another year. At 14 months old, we decided to transition Felix to the crib. Although I did feel like I was getting enough sleep to function, it was really choppy. I was ready to snooze the whole night through, but we really dragged our heels at getting started. It was so easy to just crawl into bed together and the new routine took way more work! We picked a start date (Nov 1) to give ourselves a good block of time before traveling again.
Before putting him down, we established a routine - dinner, bath time, a baby massage, diaper and jammies - at the same time every night. Now he usually goes down by 6:30 and sleeps as late as 7am (but wake ups vary from 5-7). After dinner we ask him if he wants “tubby” and he says “yeah!” and walks towards the stairs. It’s a nice and calm part of the day as we all wind down.
We started our transition by getting Felix to sleep in his crib for the first portion of the night (four to six hours). This gave Adam and me a chance to eat dinner together, watch a little TV and hang out alone. When Felix would wake up we’d all pile into the family bed and I’d nurse him back to sleep and then we’d watch a movie before tuning in.
Before Felix was born, I researched a lot of “gentle” no cry methods for getting a baby to sleep, but when push came to shove, I decided to let him self soothe… and it worked! I had serious doubts on the concept, especially for a lil baby, but Felix was already a toddler at this point. In the end I took the advice of three of my friends that I think are really amazing mothers (and different kinds of moms at that). They warned me the first few nights would be hard, but if you stuck it out, it wouldn’t last long. They were right! I will absolutely do this with my next child around the same age too. The first night I nursed Felix to sleep in his room, and put him into the crib. He woke as I laid him down and started throwing a fit. I told him I loved him and closed the door. He cried for an hour before falling asleep on his own. Yes, it was hard on me. Yes, I wanted to hold him and rock him to sleep, but I made myself busy in a different part of the house so I couldn’t hear him. And weirdly, this kid wouldn’t lay down, so he’d be sleeping sitting up in the corner!! The next night he cried for 20 minutes, followed by 5, and then 1 minute and would eventually just reaching for his mattress.
Another thing that helped us was to put a hand on the back of his head and on his back and gently pat him to sleep once he was laying down. This helped him fully relax and we could slowly back out of the room.
Speaking of the room - let’s talk about that for a moment. We use a sound machine and draw the curtains so it’s pretty dark in there. We have really creaky old floors so the white noise helps us get out of the room without being detected (most of the time!)
I was kind of afraid he’d be mad at me for putting him in his crib and letting him cry, but he actually woke up a happy baby and well rested. And I was well rested and a happy mom!
After a month of going down in his own room for a few hours we decided to go for the entire night. In his crib we knew he was safe and we used a video monitor to check in on him, but we let him cry for a few minutes when he’d wake up between sleep cycles. We also used ear plugs for the off duty parent so someone would be alert enough to get up if necessary. Moving him out of our bed allowed me to night wean him which was a smart first step in the overall weaning process. Mommy was a 24/7 all you can eat buffet and I was tired of it!
In just a few nights he’d sleep all the way through. It was more about us committing to not getting up than him being able to do it. When he’d see us in the middle of the night he’d have a much harder time falling back to sleep than when he’d self soothe. The key really is to just let your child be as long as he’s safe and not in need of immediate attention.
Within two months of leaving a full night in our bed, Felix was sleeping a full night in his crib. And by full I mean 11 or 12 hours! What a huge change in my quality of life. I’m not kidding! Now Adam and I alternate morning wake ups so the other can get an extra hour of sleep and all three of us are so happy.
Where We Are Now
Felix has been sleeping in his crib all night for two and a half months. He’s still ended up with us on a few occasions - while traveling or when he needs extra snuggles (like the other night when he was cutting a tooth!).
Once we had completely weaned, Adam took over the bath and bed time routine - something he really loves as a way to bond with Felix. It’s great! When 6 o’clock rolls around I’m off parent duty for the night! They have their own set of rituals and it makes me happy to see Felix so well adjusted.
I am really glad we finally made the decision to move from co-sleeping to his crib. We did this whole transition out of necessity and it fell over the holidays, which I actually wouldn’t recommend. Instead find a block of time (two months?) so you can develop a consistent routine.
We’ll definitely co-sleep when we have another baby - I loved it so much. But I also love sleeping on my stomach again like a starfish!
I’m not an expert, but I’m happy to answer questions on my facebook page if you have them! Good luck with your own babies and your night time routines!