Operation Bedtime Bootcamp

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.

**Sorry this post is so long. I wanted to make a separate page and fill it with details in case any other parents wondered how we were doing this. Sometimes reading sleep logs can help you figure out what could work for you. At least it did when I was planning how to do this. Anyway, I’m still new to WordPress and have no idea how to make separate posts on a new tab. So it’s all here and I will continue to update here as we continue through the process. **

Use the following links to jump to a particular night on the main blog, or read them in sequence on this page below.

Night and day 1

Night and day 2

Night and day 3

Night and day 4

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 so 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.

Night 2 – Mostly good

7:37 Put down in crib

7:43 Started to fuss off and on

7:51 Quiet. Little one fell asleep in 8 minutes with no crying. Wow. HUGE difference.Does this plan really work?

10:40 Fussing, then crying.

11:05 Asleep

11:20 Nope. Back awake and fussing. Start checks over again.

12:45 We are close enough to feeding time (1 a.m.) that I go in and feed her first, then change her so that I know she’s awake when I put her down.

12:55 Put down. Asleep on monitor by the time I walk back to my room.

4:00 Awake

4:15 Put back to bed awake after second feeding.

4:17 She growls

4:27 Asleep

7:50 Awake for the day. That’s three 3-hour stretches and two feedings, the maximum she should have. Hopefully, in the next month or so, we can get that down to one night feeding. Once she’s eating solids regularly, there will hopefully be no more nighttime feedings.

Day 2 – Amazing!

10:20 Put down for first nap.

10:21 Asleep!

12:20 Woke the little one. A two-hour nap is plenty, and if she has another one like it, she will have reached her 4-hour maximum nap time. That limit is supposed to keep the babies from mixing up days and nights.

2:20 Put down for second nap.

2:24 Asleep. This is really something!

4:45 Wake her again. She has been stirring after 90 minutes but is able to fall back to sleep until I wake her.

Night 3 – Not so great

Checks for tonight will be 10, 15, 20 and 25 minutes

6:40 Put in crib. Fussing a lot. Crying for a few minutes. Quiet for a few minutes. This goes on for a while. I think she’s about to sleep, then she wakes. Maybe I put her down too early? But she had been up earlier and has been up from her nap long enough. She was yawning and tugging her ears, rubbing her eyes, all of her “I’m sleepy” signs.

I get online, BabyCenter, to ask for advice. I’m starting to doubt myself here. Her cries are breaking my heart. I wasn’t expecting this considering how much better everything had been going.

A sleep expert there encouraged me and reminded me that there can often be regression around the third day. The little ones want their old ways back and they can sometimes fight the new routine. I actually read that somewhere, too. But I had been scouring my books and couldn’t find it. With Sophie crying in the background and me fighting my own tears, I am so anxious. It’s dinner time for mom and dad and I have no appetite. And it’s Fondue! This is awful. 😦

7:55 Asleep. The same time she fell asleep the night before. But this time, with 1 hour 15 minutes of crying. Same, too, as the first night, she doesn’t stay asleep. She wakes in an hour and cries for a half hour. She sleeps for 90 more minutes and wakes hungry.

11:05 It’s been about five hours since she ate last, so I feed her. She goes down in her crib awake and she doesn’t make a peep. She’s asleep before I get back to bed.

3:45 Awake for food. That’s a solid 4-hour stretch! I put her back down awake. Once again, she immediately settles into dream land. Now we’re back on track. Except now I can’t sleep. Have been awake since 2 a.m. Grrr. 😉

7:40 Awake for the day. Ok. This started off crap and then got better. We’re in this for the long haul, right? Stay strong. This is for everyone’s benefit even though it’s very tough now.

Day 3 – A bit of a rocky road – that’s mom and dad’s fault

10:00 Put down for first nap. She’s asleep instantly. I am so in love with these new naps.

11:30 Awake. Still a good long nap at 90 minutes.

Here’s where we screwed up. We run long at the grocery store and the little one is getting antsy to get some sleep. We don’t get home until 2:20 p.m. She should have been in bed twenty minutes ago. Now she has fallen asleep in the car seat on the 6 minute drive home.

Not sure if I should leave here there to sleep, but I opt for getting her into her own bed. I get her up and she’s not happy with that AT ALL. I give her a snack, change her diaper and let her listen to her music box. She’s totally happy now. Except when I go to lay her down.

2:30 Put her to bed and she instantly cries. Poor thing is so tired.

3:00 She never does settle, so I get her up and plan to try again in a bit.

3:45 We try the whole thing over again, minus the snack. She cries instantly, before I even leave the room. I go in to check on her after ten minutes. She’s still mad. And then the unexpected happens.

3:57 She falls asleep. Now I have to think about how long to let her sleep so that it doesn’t mess up bedtime. Probably 5:30. … Ah, there she is. Awake at 5:20. Keeping our fingers crossed for Night 4.

Night 4 – Oh what a night

Saturday Jan. 28

9:00 p.m. Tonight I did something I haven’t done in a long, long time. I sat down with a cup of tea and my eReader (Reading: The Help) and read in silence without a baby on my lap. Sophie went to bed an hour ago. The only sound she made as I kissed her goodnight and closed the door, was a few little babbles (probably saying goodnight to her new mobile — which, by the way, you should click the picture to see up close how cute those little bugs are!).

Her new wooden mobile hangs too low, so it’s down at her feet where she can’t reach. We’ll have to move it once she is mobile herself.

Tonight is night four of Operation Bedtime Bootcamp (darn, I just realized Bootcamp should actually be Boot Camp, but it’s too late. These are my rules.) I was expecting horrible things. Sophie had a tough night last night. She did not want to go to sleep. Now here we are, exactly one hour from the time I placed her in her crib, AWAKE, and she went to sleep on her own.

I am in awe. Dominique warned me not to jinx this. But you know what? Whether she wakes in an hour or two, whether the middle of the night is rocky, there is success here. She has now gone to sleep for the night on her own. She’s done it at naps. She’s done it in the middle of the night. And now she’s done it during her first put-down of the night. I couldn’t be happier.

It went down like this:

Bedtime routine got a little flubbed up. It was bath night (we still only bathe her a couple of nights a week) so she had pjs before food this time. She then proceeded to get so excited about the book we were reading that she got the hiccups. Great. I’m sure she’ll settle now! Then, a giant rumble in her Pampers. Now we’re back on the changing table. Nothing. Just air. OK. Now, let’s just chill and listen to the music box and wind down a bit. Hiccups still a raggin’ so I wind it up twice, she snuggles in while we rock and listen. Cross my fingers and place Sophie in her crib.

She lays there, all quiet, just looking at me.

Sophie ready for bed

I zip up her sleeping bag (actually, this is the Baby Merlin’s Magic Sleepsuit), kiss her cheek and she turns her head to the side, the way she does when she sleeps. No whimpering. No fussing. No kicking of the feet in protest.

I close the door and hear a few “ahs” and “uh guhs.” Then … nothing. And there it is. My baby went to bed and fell asleep all by herself. Just like a big girl. I can’t believe it so I’m glued to the video monitor.

Here’s how the rest of the night went:

Went to bed around 10 and Dominique said, “See you in an hour,” because that’s when she has been waking. When I heard her waking, I looked at the clock and it was 12:45. Nice! That’s a long stretch for my girl. The experts say you should wait 5-10 minutes after night cries because babies cry in their sleep. If you go in too soon, you might actually wake them as they are putting themselves back to sleep. But after a few minutes she was definitely up and looking for food.

12:55 She is fed, 5 1/2 hours since she at last. We burp, cuddle a minute, then lay back down to bed. I hear her give a little whine and then she’s out. The next sound I hear from her is a cry at …

3:40 I wait a minute and she goes back to sleep.

5:18 and she is loudly asking for mom. This is nearly 4 1/2 hours after her last meal. The master plan is working. 🙂 She’s so tired, even her burp sounds sleepy. I lay her down and she passes out.

8:00 we’re up for the day. What a great night. This is where I hoped we would be.

Day 4

In celebration of a successful night of sleep, we decide it’s time for treat. Sophie usually sits in her chair on the table when we eat. (We never, ever leave her up there without us sitting right next to her.) We peel a banana and let her take a taste. This is her first foray into the world of solid foods.

It’s touch and go for a minute, then she grabs on with both hands and dives in.

After cleaning up a bit, we get ready for nap #1.


10:15 Put down, she babbled for a minute and drifted off to sleep. That’s my girl.

11:50 The little one’s awake, singing to the darkness. Another successful nap.

Nap #2

2:20 Sophie goes down easy, sings for a minute, then fusses for a minute and is asleep in eight minutes.

4:00 The little one protests and I should have waited a bit before responding. Her eyes were closed as I opened her blinds. Maybe she would have fallen back to sleep for a while.

Operation Bedtime Bootcamp is officially over — Mission Accomplished.
Please let me not regret uttering that phrase. 😉
bwaha ha ha ha

As we close out four nights and four days of sleep training, I have to say the pain was worth the progress. Sophie is already back to her old, alert self. She is going down with little to no fight. Mom and dad have some together time. And we’ll all soon be getting the sleep we so desperately need.

It’s not over yet. I’ll be watching the next few nights closely. New routines take a while to set in. And I’m sure there will be bad days and nights along with the good. C’est la vie.

I still have plenty of questions, as well, like how do I structure her feeding times around these new sleep routines? How do I still take her for walks and jogs when I know she’ll fall asleep, though for shorter periods than regular naps? When is she going to stop drooling all over me?

One thing I know for sure, I will need to find another excuse for putting off practicing German. 😉

Thanks for reading along with me on this crazy adventure. Stick around if you like. Follow me on the blog to receive e-mailed posts or just bookmark me here and remember to check in now and then.

7 Responses to Operation Bedtime Bootcamp

  1. Jessica says:

    Amazing! I love your play by play. Linked to your blog from baby center. I too, go there to read up on sleep strategies!!

    Good luck! I will keep checking in!!

  2. Just forward this to a friend who started sleep training last night. We can all use support when sleep training. I’ll be bookmarking so I can read when we sleep train baby #2. I’ve blocked sleep training the first one 😉

  3. JKP14 says:

    hi! found your blog on baby center and had a read through- great stuff and glad operation bootcamp was successful! i was also an expat in Switzerland (Zurich) but we moved back to the States due to a job change a year ago. We miss it everyday and hope to return soon!

    My friend in Zurich gave me Dr. Weissbluth’s book and we have also been doing sleep training this month since our precious daughter (6 months on Thursday) needed longer sleep stretches at night- as well as us! Keep up the great writing!


  4. Pingback: Week 5: German, I get the hint | Another 52 Weeks

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