Operation Bedtime Bootcamp is all about changing the way we put Sophie to bed so that she falls asleep on her own and stays asleep.
Read about our decision to institute sleep training here.
*I will make individual posts for each day during the week of sleep training, then link them over to a separate page that can be accessed easily at the top of the blog for future reference.
Does this sound familiar? The little one wakes, so you nurse her or walk her until she drifts back to sleep. Gingerly, you place her back in bed and ever so gently, finger by finger, peel your hands away from her peaceful body. Then “pop,” you curse your ankle bones that crack. You hold your breath, watch your sweet one’s eyelids. Please, oh please, little bean, stay asleep.
Sophie has been nursed to sleep for bed and naps hear whole long life of nearly six months. It worked great, until it didn’t. A couple of months ago, it started taking longer and longer to get her to sleep. Sometimes two hours or more of put down, tiny nap, stir, cry, pick up, nurse again, put down, immediately wiggle awake, pick up, walk, fall back to sleep, put down, eyes pop open. Over and over.
I had been reading about sleep training off and on for a while. And after a night of extreme bedtime shenanigans that lasted well into the early morning hours, I decided it was time to implement Operation Bedtime Bootcamp.
All day Wednesday I felt anxious. I’d look at Sophie, gnawing happily on her fuzzy book, and feel overwhelmed with guilt. She had no idea what I was about to do to her.
First, we decided on a bedtime routine, something calming (hopefully) that did not revolve around a final meal.
I’d feed her first, but then we’d change diapers and put on pajamas, give her drops for gas and saline for her nose, give her a little massage with oil to help her dry skin. Then I’d read a story or two if she felt like sitting still, and finally we’d watch her favorite music box butterflies spin around each other, slowly winding down.
I laid her in her sleeping bag, zip her up good, kiss her goodnight and wish her sweet dreams as I left her room.
We set our goals to check in on the little bean at 3, 5, 7, 10, 12 and 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes would be the maximum wait period.
We watch her movements on our video monitor.
And so began:
Night 1 – This is as hard as they say it’s going to be
8:00 p.m. – Crying begins. This really sucks. She is mad, mad, mad. Mom and dad are sad, sad, sad. But we hold our breath and watch the seconds tick by on our cell phone timers.
We go in at each of the check times we established and it’s harder for everyone. It hurts to see her so upset, and she gets more upset when we don’t pick her up and nurse her back to sleep as usual. When we leave, all heck breaks loose and I repeat a mantra: “She will be happier when she learns how to sleep.” It’s tough love and I’m convinced, now, that it really does hurt the parents more than the kids.
8:40 (ish) and we’re ready to go in again. Our sweet girl has been crying for so long. We’ve seen this before, in the car on the way home from my sister’s house. She cried for almost an hour nonstop. But this was worse. We could do nothing in the car. But here, at home, we knew exactly how to make her happy (in the short term) but we were choosing not to (for the benefit of the long term).
As we sat waiting through the 12-minutes before our next check, Sophie settled into a new rhythm — cry, pause, cry, repeat. The sleep gurus I’ve been reading suggest skipping checks at this point because it’s a sign that she’s figuring things out. We wait. She mumbles. We wait. She fusses. We wait. She’s quiet. We wait. She protests. We wait. We wait. We wait.
Eyes glued to our video monitor. She’s still. No sound. It happens so suddenly that Dominique wants to go in her room, make sure she’s still breathing. Then she rubs her eyes. Settles. And that is that. Our first night of sleep training.
We survived. The little one remains asleep for more than 45 minutes, our nighttime record, and I coped. (We now have the most organized cupboards in all of Switzerland.)
She woke again at 11:30 p.m. and 1 a.m., crying for 60 minutes and 52 minutes respectively. We had a 2 a.m. cut off time for feeding but she falls back to sleep at exactly then.
At 5:30 she wakes and I give her a snack, happy to snuggle her in my arms and she smiles at me like I had just carried in Christmas. I make sure to lay her back down awake, a chance, once again, for her to practice going to sleep on her own.
I kiss her goodnight, tell her I love her, and hold my breath as I close the door behind me. I wait for it but nothing comes. Sophie is back to sleep until 8:30 a.m. I actually sleep a little, too. We were both ready to start the day.
Day 1 – Surprisingly better than expected
They said nap training would be harder because the sleep isn’t as deep. You can skip naps until nights are more settled. But I thought it wouldn’t be fair to Sophie if I nursed her to sleep during the day but not at night. Too confusing. So we were going to do this all at once.
I laid her down after a short little nap routine of snack, music box, sleeping bag. She cried again, not as loud as last night, but not just a quiet whimper. I went in after 10 minutes, hugged her in her crib, she kissed (well, sucked on) my cheek, and I wished her sweet dreams. (please, gods of sleep, be kind to the little one)
Five minutes later she fell quiet and stayed asleep for two hours.
The same happened for nap No. 2. I was amazed. Sophie has never been a good napper. The only time she’d sleep for more than two hours was on my lap. That all stopped a couple of months ago and she began waking every 30 – 45 minutes.
I actually started missing her. She’s always on me, near me, something. And now she’s far off in the land of milk and chew toy dreams without me.