How I sleep trained my baby & removed the snuggle me!
Updated: Jan 26
It took some courage for me to finally decide to start sleep training my little man, but I am sooooo happy I did! He officially just turned 7 months, but a few weeks ago he began the teething process and the sleep regression. Prior to this regression he was sleeping 6 - 8 hour windows, which I loved. Also want to note that he was sleeping in a snuggle-me, and had been since the day I first put him into the crib.
When his most recent sleep regression began, he was waking up after 40-60 minutes, screaming! I would go get him and ultimately, I caved and brought him into the room with me to sleep through the night. It was easier than constantly getting up and I could easily pop my boob in his mouth and fall asleep with him. I did not know how to get him back to those 6 to 8 hours and had no idea 12+ hours was even possible, until I reached out to a sleep consultant!
If you can relate to any of the above, and are sleep deprived like I was, please keep reading!
Just a few notes before we dive in: (1) I am not a sleep specialist or medical professional, and this is not a recommendation – just a (semi-long) recap of my own personal experience with sleep training. (2) I’m not out to convince anyone to do sleep training – it’s a personal parenting decision and to each her own! (3) Be sure to check with your pediatrician before starting sleep training, because their recommendation may vary depending on your baby’s weight and health.
Before reaching out to a sleep coach, I was told from friends and read multiple sleep training methods. Cry it out being one of them, which I do not believe in at all. I did try it once, but when he cried screaming for 30 minutes, I went and got him. I couldn't go longer than that. I also tried the method where you check him after every 3 - 5 minutes, and that did not work for us either. But keep in mind, each time he was still in the snuggle-me. I watched a video about weaning from the snuggle-me and they offered a gradual process with adding bumpers to the crib. The snuggle-me is good until babies are 9 months or outgrow it. I initially intended to use it until then, then use the weaning method since it is so cozy. Not realizing that it was restricting his movement and range of motion to actually get comfortable.
This is where it gets scary! (for me it was)
So, because I knew I needed a solution, I contacted the sleep coach, Katie Giguere, and after our conversation she had me fill out a simple questionnaire about Adel’s current sleep habits. Then within 48 hours she sent me a sleep plan for Adel with various methods to try out (we chose the check and console method). Within the first few paragraphs she told me I needed to REMOVE THE SNUGGLE ME ASAP, no weaning :’-( just rip it off like a bandaid. I FREAKED OUT! Thinking no way he can sleep without his snuggle-me! But she told me to trust her. Thankfully, Adel never got attached to a pacifier, that would have been double trouble!
The most important element of sleep training and for your baby is having a solid bedtime routine.
Thankfully we had all of that in place already. It helps to establish a bedtime routine that is consistent each night so baby can anticipate that bedtime is approaching and know that it is time to wine down. At night we keep activities to a minimum and begin quiet time. After dinner him and his Dad do their evening prayers and affirmations (6:15 PM) then he enjoys a nice warm bath with lavender essential oils to bath time melodies (6:30 PM) . After bath time, we sing songs and play sleep-time lullaby music (the same exact sound track every night, where he literally falls to sleep at the song each night). To help him continue to wind down, I give him a nice chamomile lotion massage and place lavender essential oils behind each ear. I then put him in his pj’s and sleep sack. I close the blinds and the black out curtains, turn on his camera/monitor, his humidifier and his sound machine/night light is on. I then give him his warm night time bottle, we read a book, I turn off the night light, I give him kisses and tell him I love him and good night (7-7:15 PM). BEFORE, I would allow him to fully fall asleep on me then put him in his crib in the snuggle-me, but NOW it was time to put him down without the snuggle-me awake then walk out the door!
Mama’s, despite having made the decision to sleep train, it can still be tough to get started and there were a lot of tears the first night (mostly mine); but like many things, the anticipation was worse than the reality, and after surviving the first night, each night got a little easier. It also really helped that I truly believed in the “why” we were doing it – because, my sleep coach explained, it was best for his health in the long run. She told me it is like Adel getting his vaccines: you put up with watching him cry and be in pain in the short-term because of the long-term health benefits; and most of us would not even question that.
Before starting, you want to make sure that you have a plan, and if you have a spouse/partner, that the two of you are on the same page, because CONSISTENCY KEY. If you’re planning to play things by ear or you each have distinct ideas of how long to let the baby cry, what to do when you go in the room, whether to give a pacifier, etc., it won’t work very well and likely will take a lot longer with more total crying involved.
Remember learning about unpredictable rewards in Psych 101? If not, here’s an example: if you occasionally give your dog scraps under the dinner table, you can bet that your dog will be sitting there every night waiting for the food; because even if you haven’t done it in a week, the dog remembers that time that he DID get the chicken and will wait just in case another piece of chicken shows up. Sleep training is like that – if you sometimes follow it but then sometimes decide you’ll just go pick up the baby and feed or rock him, he’ll keep crying the next time (even longer if he has to) until he gets the “reward” again. Babies are smart! And they are also resilient and fine and will have forgotten about any crying by morning, so don’t worry – we project a lot of our own feelings and things we think they might be feeling onto the baby at this age.
Things to consider pre-sleep training:
Will you keep the swaddle?
Will you keep the pacifier?
What will be your bedtime routine? (whatever it is, BE CONSISTENT)
What counts as crying? (a little whimper or gentle fuss doesn’t count)
What will your check-in phrase be? (e.g “It’s time for sleep now, Adel. I love you very much. I will see you in the morning.”)
Whether or not you will do night feedings?
What time will you wake the baby for the day? (I am still determining that time)
My actual sleep training method: (worked by night two)
Do the bedtime routine that I mentioned earlier
Put Adel down awake, but drowsy between 7 and 7:30 pm.
Tell him reassuring loving positive phrases as I lay him down and rub his chest and kiss his head.
Leave the room and start a 10 minute timer.
I go turn on the monitor and keep it close as I listen. If he is still fully crying after 10 minutes, I go into the room (no longer than 30 seconds), but do not pick him up and I go tell him the same phrase as I did when I said goodnight. I rub his belly and head and leave the room again. I restart the timer. *If at any time during the 10 minute window he stops crying or transitions to a light whimper, I restart the 10 minute timer.
Do the same check-in method for any middle-of-the-night wakings. REMEMBER, the most important thing is to be consistent – if you pick the baby up at any point, it lets them know that crying will eventually get you to hold them and you’ll have to start all over.
How each night went for me:
Night 1: We did the usual bedtime routine, and as previously mentioned, we used to use a snuggle-me, and I would allow Adel to fully fall asleep on me before laying him down. Night one, I fully removed the snuggle-me and everything out of the crib (no-weaning). At the end of the routine, I told him my usual night time phrase and put him in the crib AWAKE. He began screaming and crying immediately. I set the timer for 10 minutes and walked out the room. I felt so bad! But I had to trust the process. I grabbed the monitor and I stayed close by waiting to enter again. He lasted the full 10 minutes. I went back in the room for no more than 30 seconds, rubbed his belly, told him the I love you phrase and left the room. I restarted the 10 minute timer. He cried again for the full 10 minutes. I repeated the check and console method. This time I went in and I removed his humidifier and took it to my room, because I was sure that this was not going to work. We were now on the third 10 minute cycle. I told myself if he stays crying these next 10 minutes he will just come sleep with me. During this third round his cry turned into a light whimper and by the final two minutes it was dead silent! I looked at the monitor and was shocked! He was out like a light, ASLEEP! I was ecstatic and could not believe that he was sleeping in the crib solo without the snuggle-me!!
He continued to sleep for the next 5 hours. When he woke I went to feed him since my boobs were like rocks and needed to be released. But I wondered if he could go through the night without a feed. So I was determined that night two, I would see if he could sleep fully through the night without feeding. After that feed he went back to sleep until 8:30 am the next day! I had to go and wake him up! He woke up laughing with a giant smile on his face, just as happy to see me as ever.
Night 2: The second night, he cried for 8 minutes, and by the last two minutes he was out silent. He did wake a few times throughout the night, but never anything longer than 5 minutes, and each time went straight back to sleep. HE SLEPT 13 HOURS!! Again I had to go and wake him up, I was in shock! (I pumped my breasts at 2:15 am, again they were like rocks).
Night 3: The third night, he had a light whimper when I put him down, but as soon as I shut the door he went to sleep. I did not even need to set the timer and he slept another 12+ hours. I had to wake him up. (This night my breasts did better and was able to wait to feed him in the morning).
Night 4: The fourth night he tried to play after we read our book and acted like he was not tired. But I told him, “Listen Adel, you’re going to bed. I am putting you in the crib now. Okay? I love you.” I put him down in the crib and there was NO FUSS, NO CRIES, and he was like, “Okay, I guess it is time for me to go to bed.” And he turned over to his belly (how he likes to sleep) and went right to sleep through the night for another 12+ hours! (I now realize I need to set him a wake up time, because he only wakes when I go get him.)
I am very happy that we decided to finally start sleep training, trust the process and fully believe in the health benefits of it – for both baby/child and us parents. We are both now getting excellent sleep and hopefully it is helping Adel learn lasting sleep skills. Even if he does ever have a regression or his sleep is messed up by travel, I am confident that it will be easy to get back on track now that we have a solid sleep foundation and experience of sleep training. One of my girlfriends told me when we were considering it, “You never hear of anyone regretting doing sleep training,” it is so true!
So, to all the parents out there getting ready to sleep train – may your baby take to it as quickly as ours did, and may you enjoy getting your nights back. The quality of sleep and time that my husband and I now get has truly been amazing.
If you are sleep training or have done so in the past, what method worked best for you and your baby? And if you you decided to try this check and console - 10 minute timer method, I would love to know how it works for you and baby :-). Wishing you many blessings and hopefully soon a better nights sleep.