Every pregnant woman probably gets the advice, “Sleep now, because you’re never going to again!” I certainly got that not-so-sweet remark during my nine months of pregnancy and as someone who loves to sleep (OK, who doesn’t?), I freaked out a bit.
First of all, sleeping extra long during pregnancy does not stockpile sleep to prepare you for the haze of newborn life. Aside from that, pregnancy sleep is quite uncomfortable, so if any pregnant women know the secret to a peaceful night, please share your wisdom (and yes, I tried all the pregnancy pillows).
As I started to have my minor freak out about never sleeping again, I turned to my best friends, many of whom already had kids. I sent out a mass text asking for their recommendations on sleep training, which approach to take, and which book I should read. While it’s impossible to stock up on sleep, I figured researching it was my next best bet.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that every single response was different. One praised Twelve Hours’ Sleep by Twelve Weeks Old, another raved about Cry It Out, one had a very involved excel spreadsheet that she swore by but couldn’t recall the source of the information, and still others took no particular approach and just followed their kid’s lead. I was so overwhelmed, I gave up on preparing and decided to worry about it later.
And later did come. Fortunately, a friend (who didn’t even have a baby at the time) had heard that Taking Cara Babies was the magical answer to baby sleep and gifted me the course. Shout out to her for making the decision for me, because clearly, I couldn’t do it myself.
If you’re a soon-to-be-mom or a new mom, you’re probably thinking about sleep. Every baby is different, so unfortunately, there isn’t one magical answer, but it’s helpful to hear about other women’s experiences and see what might work for your family and your situation.
Today, The Everymom editors are sharing the sleep training approaches they took and shedding some light on their personal experiences. Hopefully, this will help you to navigate the sometimes overwhelming world of baby sleep without having to mass text every mom friend you know.
Method: Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course & Sleep Coach
I purchased the Taking Cara Babies newborn course along with a one-time call with their sleep coach when my son was about 12-weeks old. Our problem wasn’t so much the daytime naps but rather night sleep. This course taught me how to let my son soothe himself to sleep and shared when to go in to soothe him versus letting him soothe himself again when he woke up during the night.
After we tried the techniques for a few weeks, we got the chance to speak to a sleep coach and go through any issues we were experiencing with the techniques. This was great because she reminded us how much a 20-minute nap, something that used to happen on his ride home from being at daycare all day, can impact night sleep. I found the course and the sleep coach extremely helpful and would consider purchasing again if we decided to grow our family in the future.
Method: Taking Cara Babies Newborn Course & 3-4 Month eBook
I did the online Taking Cara Babies newborn course when my daughter was around 8-weeks old, and honestly, I wish I had done it before she was born. I learned so much about baby sleep, including information on wake-windows, soothing techniques, and how to read my baby’s sleepy cues. I didn’t know how little I understood about baby sleep until taking the course, and afterward, I felt like a total pro. The course was informative and easy to follow and I did it while my baby napped next to me.
I also read the 3-4 month eBook to improve my baby’s naps and nighttime sleep. I was planning to do some version of cry-it-out if necessary, but based on what I learned from Taking Cara Babies, my daughter turned out to be a pretty good sleeper, and I never really had to turn to CIO.
Method: My Pediatrician’s Recommendations (Eat-Play-Sleep)
I talked with my pediatrician about sleep at every appointment we had. The first thing she recommended was following an eat-play-sleep routine during the day. Essentially, it’s exactly what it sounds like: the baby wakes and eats, we play for a little bit, and when they get tired, they go down for a nap or for bedtime. With this approach, the idea is that babies learn to fall asleep without (or with minimal) parental intervention and without say, nursing to sleep.
My pediatrician always said “sleep begets sleep,” so ensuring my son got good naps during the day was essential to helping him get a good night of sleep too. Were there exceptions or nights that he fell asleep while nursing or taking a bottle? Of course. Did I have to rock him to sleep if he wasn’t feeling well? Certainly.
Another piece of advice that stuck with me is that consistency is key, but it’s OK if you get off track occasionally. I relied on my pediatrician for advice on anything and everything sleep-related, including how many hours my baby should be able to stay up at a time before needing another nap (it’s not many!), when to start pushing bedtime earlier, and whether I should wake him at night to feed him if he was sleeping soundly on his own. I used the same approach with my second baby, and it worked just as well the second time around. Certainly, luck and genetics come into play with everything parenting-related, but I recommend finding a pediatrician who you trust for more than just medical advice for illness, etc., but for the growth and developmental milestones like age-appropriate sleep expectations.
Method: Neuropsychologist specializing in pediatric sleep
We struggled with sleep with our firstborn big-time—nothing worked. No eat-play-sleep routine, no gentle sleep soothing methods, no cry-it-out. We focused on quality daytime naps and avoiding “bad” habits and “sleep-learning,” and still, nothing worked. I was exhausted and constantly on the edge of tears. I thought I would never sleep again. On top of that, I worried day and night about how this inability to sleep was affecting my son’s growth and development. I felt like I was doing everything wrong.
Eventually, our pediatrician recommended a sleep specialist to shed some light on our specific situation and, hopefully, offer some solace. I went into the meeting hoping for some solid advice and answers. What I got was none of that, but so much more.
After the doctor observed my son play and we spoke at length about his personality and all of the methods and practices we’d tried, what he told me was this: “None of this is because of something you’re doing. This is how he’s wired. Some kids are just different.” And while there was no concrete plan in that statement, what I felt was relief. As the doctor explained the science behind brain function and sleep and pointed out all of the aspects of my son’s personality that were interfering with his ability to calm, he also pointed out how those personality traits would play out later in his life. And now, over 7 years later, as I’ve seen who he’s grown to be, it all makes so much more sense. All of the struggles we went through are reflected in the nuances of his personality and his individuality—they’re all a part of what makes him the kid he is today. At 7 years old, he now sleeps great.