While I will never consider myself an expert on infant or toddler sleep, I will say I’ve had my fair share of restless nights (just like any other mama)!
I certainly don’t have all of the answers but I know what it’s like to feel lost and at your wits end over a child that doesn’t sleep. In this post I want to share my experience on infant/toddler sleep and what worked for my family. I encourage you to try what you feel most comfortable with.
How We Got Jasper Sleeping On His Own: Our Version of Gentle Sleep Training
My husband and I decided early on that co-sleeping was what would work out best for us, and then decided to safely bed share for seven months. While there are many articles debating bed sharing, and even co-sleeping, I will say bed sharing is perfectly okay if it is done safely. I would never encourage unsafe bed sharing. With that said co-sleeping vs bed sharing is a different conversation for a different day.
At around seven months we decided it was time to put Jasper in his own space. However, it wasn’t an easy transition. We had our bedtime routine (shared below) that included a nursing session and rocking him to sleep before placing him in his crib. Often times this worked until he got older and started realizing what was happening. At that point you could find me or my husband hunched over his crib holding his hand or rubbing his back to get him to sleep. No matter how we got him to sleep he would always wake up anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours after falling asleep. Then started the endless game of going back upstairs to put him back to sleep. He was also still nursing in the middle of the night so we were flexible with middle of the night wakings!
At ten months old I decided it was just too much having to do this elaborate bedtime ritual just to get him asleep and wake up a few hours later and do it all over again. For my husband and I, the “cry it out” method made us uncomfortable. We knew it was okay for infants to cry, we knew he was physically okay in his crib, and we knew there had to be a light at the end of the tunnel. So, we did what I like to call, our version of gentle sleep training.
I started this one day when Mark was away on training. It was just myself and Jasper for one week and I could focus on getting him to sleep all by himself. I would complete his bedtime routine start to finish, including nursing and even sing him a song. I’d give him a kiss and tell him it was bedtime and that I love him. Placed him in his crib and walk out of the room. Of course he cried. I allowed him to be upset for no more than three minutes. Then I’d go back in, comfort him for no more then one minute, lie him back down, and walked out. Again, he cried. This time I extended the time for five minutes. I repeated this cycle, increasing the time he cried by two minutes, until he either fell asleep or cried for ten minutes. I didn’t feel comfortable letting him scream for more than ten minutes at a time. After the ten minute mark I would start again all over. I would say the first two nights were the worst. By the third night he would cry no more than three to five minutes and then be asleep. On the flip side to that was he would always fall asleep sitting up! It used to scared me in fear he would hit his head. Sometimes all it took was me lying him down or he would eventually figure it out himself.
This method is what worked for us, as we tried many others. It’s what always gets him back to a healthy sleeping routine, if you will. Jasper was putting himself to sleep (both nap time and bed time) and staying asleep for a solid seven months!
To put this method to test, at around seventeen months old when the eighteen month sleep regression hit early, we introduced this method once again. We decided to do this after about two weeks of him not even wanting to sleep in his crib. He would need our hand to hold to fall asleep in our bed. He wouldn’t even nap in his crib. It got to a point where I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I felt like all I did was soothe my toddler to sleep only for him to wake up again.
So, onward to our version of gentle sleep training. The first night we did it he was fast asleep in ten minutes! He is now eighteen months old and is falling asleep all on his own again. However, I will say, he has a few nights where he wakes up and ends up in our bed (normal for a toddler his age to have a bout of separation anxiety, plus he is teething). But overall he is falling asleep on his own for both nap time and bed time- and that has been a huge relief!
Below I wrote out exactly what my husband and I did so that you can try it out too if you’re interested.
Again, this is what works for us and, more importantly, Jasper. We follow an attachment parenting approach but it’s important to us that our children get good sleep as well. We meet in the middle and go from there. I hope you can respect that and hold off on any negative comments! If you use this method please tell me how it worked out for you!
OUR VERSION OF GENTLE SLEEP TRAINING
Go upstairs to Jasper’s room around 6:45pm
Turn on his diffuser, sound machine, and close the blinds (this is signals to him it’s time to unwind for bed).
Change his diaper, give him a massage with lavender scented lotion, apply his sleepy time oil behind his ears, and Copaiba on his gums for any teething pain.
Put on pajamas.
(Mark usually does all that while I’m reading him a bed time story)
Turn off lights.
Nurse (he no longer nurses to sleep now).
Sometimes I would sometimes sing him a song before placing him in his crib.
*starts to cry*
Wait 3 minutes. Go in and KEEP him in his crib. Comfort him and lay him back down. Stay in there for only 1-2 minutes. Walk out.
If he cried again I would wait 5 minutes, then go in and do the same thing.
Then 7 mins. Repeat.
Then 10 mins. Repeat and start over from 3 minutes.
I increased the time by 2 minutes, never allowing him to cry more than 10 minutes at a time.
Share your thoughts with me! Comment below or head to my Instagram page (@iamdevonjade)!