I’m about to explain to you how I got my baby from sleeping out of my armpit, being latched onto my nipple all night long, and into her crib, with minimal tears.
But let me start by saying this: I used to think sleep training was the devil. I would literally shutter in horror when my friends would mention the word “Baby wise” or “Ferber method.”
Sleep training just didn’t appeal to me.
I would rather wake every 2 hours with my baby sleeping in my armpit than fathom the thought of them crying all alone in their crib.
So that is exactly how I slept with both babies.
In my armpit.
Beckham, in my armpit, nursed all night long up until 22 months old. When Kennedy came, I figured that’s just how things were and I did the same with her. But I swear, doing it with two kids is such a different ball game. By 5 months, I was utterly exhausted from being up all night with Kennedy. I could barely function some days and I knew it wasn’t healthy for me or my family
Also, I felt like bedsharing with Beckham was so much easier because it was only me, him, and Eric in the bed. With Kennedy, I had to sleep alone with her in another room because I was deathly afraid that Beckham would sneak into the bed and roll over on her. So this meant I didn’t have Eric’s moral support during the night because I was alone with her on the other side of the house.
Mental exhaustion + physical exhaustion = not a happy mother or wife.
I started obsessing over ways to fix this sleep issue.
I would google “gentle sleep training” and read everything from “the chair method” to the “lady shuffle.” But nothing felt really doable to me…
There was no way in heck that I was going to be able to sleep train my baby.
Then one evening, I had been texting my friend Jamie about our sleep issues. (She is now a sleep consultant by the way and I highly recommend looking her up @nestandnod) Jamie told me to check out two people on instagram: @takingcarababies and @thewellrestedmama.
Both instagram accounts were ran by mothers who were just like me: at their breaking point of no sleep. I started following both of them and watching their stories and posts from afar. They were both really great at explaining the need for sleep not only for you as a the mama, but for your babies developing brain as well.
One night, while up for the 475th time nursing Kennedy, I went to Cara’s website and looked up her sleep courses. $179 for someone to tell me how to put my baby in a crib to cry? No thank you.
It took me another 2 or 3 weeks of having Kennedy wide awake at 3am (thank you 4-month sleep regression) where I finally decided it was time for a change. I was truly a walking zombie.. I was moody..I was a crybaby…I was on edge and I knew there had to be a better way.
I started Googling gentle sleep training methods again and reached out to my friends on Facebook. SO MANY MOMS recommended Taking Cara Babies sleep course. They promised the $179 was totally worth your sanity and sleep.
Because of how DESPERATE I became, I ended up caving and buying Cara’s course: The ABC’S of Sleep.
And that’s when my life changed folks. No but seriously. I will scream from the rooftops that Takin Cara Babies changed my life. It was a challenging first two days, but after the fourth night, her course worked like pure magic. My baby was and still is, sleeping 11-12 hours at night with two feedings. Compare that to being up every hour and a half nursing all night long, I’d say I hit the lottery.
So how did we do it?
Although I can’t give you the nitty gritty details of Cara’s guide (because it’s protected information and she could show up at my door with a lawsuit) I can tell you what steps we took to get Kennedy comfortable in her crib and sleeping through the night.
If you’ve read the Ferber method, Cara’s training is a little similar to that in where you come in and check on the baby at timed intervals. Night 1 was the hardest night of all because Kennedy went from being snuggled warmly against my body to being in her own space. It was foreign to her and she did not like it so she protested. But, Eric and I took turns going in and checking on her until she fell asleep. It was a rough night one but by night two she was a little better and by night 4, this girl was being laid in her crib and quickly passing out to dreamland.
My biggest advice when it comes to gentle sleep training is to stay consistent. Follow Cara’s guide and don’t confuse your baby by changing it up on him or her every night. Create a routine and stick to it.
How I Got My Baby from Sleeping Out of My Armpit and into Her Crib
Step 1: Start an evening routine
Cara’s training method is all about responding to your baby and offers a gentle approach to sleep training. It’s important to start a routine with your baby at night time so he/she knows what’s to come. I made it my mission to come up with an easy to follow evening routine so that no matter who was putting Kennedy down for bed, they could easily follow it.
Here’s what our evening routine looks like:
We start our evening routine with dinner. Since Kennedy was about 5 months old at the time of training, she was ready to start eating solids. I started her off with rice cereal and mixed it with 2 ounces of breastmilk. I wanted Kennedy to know that dinner meant the start of bedtime. We still have this routine except now she will either eat cereal, oatmeal, or whatever we are all eating for dinner.
After dinner I put Kennedy in the bathtub and wash her up. We use both Young Living’s Seedlings body wash or The Honest Company’s Perfectly Gentle Sweet Orange Vanilla Shampoo. I wash her body (and hair every other night) and let her splash around for a few minutes before getting her out.
6:20: Pajamas and a Book
At the time of training I was putting Kennedy in her Merlin suit but now we have transitioned to the Zipadee Zip. I have more information on both of these sleep products below. THEY ARE BOTH LIFESAVERS. The merlin suit is not to be used after your baby can roll while in the suit. (Rolling in regular clothes is fine, but if they can roll in the suit, it’s time to get rid of it.) After we dress her in her sleep suit I read her a book. We have been reading I am a Unicorn (Little Golden Book) and this girl literally lights up when I start reading.
6:30 Sound machine and nursing
By 6:30pm we turn on the sound machine and shut the lights off. At this point, if I were to follow Cara’s training to a T then I would be putting Kennedy in her crib awake and leaving the room, BUT because I am an attached mama, I do one last nursing session at this time. She usually falls asleep after eating and I am able to lay her down in her crib and she stays asleep. <– THIS TOOK TRAINING THOUGH. Nights 1-5 I would nurse her and lay her down and she would wake up and that’s when I had to use Cara’s sleep training method of just laying her down and leaving and coming back at timed check-ins to reassure her.
Breastfeeding and Sleep Training
I made the decision to keep two middle of the night breastfeeding sessions. Cara does have steps you can take to wean the feedings but I felt more comfortable keeping two feedings through the night. To make feedings work at night and to not confuse your baby, it is suggested to choose designated feeding times and to stick to those times every night.
I chose 10pm and 3am to feed Kennedy and then I place her back into her crib. At the beginning she would fight being in the crib alone but like I said above, by night 4 she was thriving in her new space. Kennedy is now six months and my pediatrician has cleared me to drop my night feedings, but I have not made the decision to do so. I kind of like having that special time with her and it gives me a reason to “check in” on her.
My Favorite Sleep Products to use During Sleep Training
Now the fun part…my favorite sleep products. These sleep products helped me get through the sleep training. Without them, I don’t know if the ABC’s of sleep would have gone so smoothly.
Kennedy had been swaddled since birth so I knew throwing her into a crib cold turkey was not going to be the way to go for my girl. After tons of research we decided on the Merlin Magic Sleep Suit and then transitioned to a Zipaddee Zip Sleepsack. If I could go back in time, I would have just skipped the Merlin suit and gone straight to the Zipadee zip so that I could avoid another transition, BUT I will say the Merlin served it’s purpose of getting my girl to sleep in her crib and out of my arms.
The Merlin magic suit is a big, fluffy, marshmallow type suit that snugs your baby so that they feel secure. I knew this was going to be very important for Kennedy since she had literally been snuggled up to my body her first 5 months of life. The only downside of the merlin is that once your baby is able to roll over IN THE SUIT, you are supposed to get rid of it. Usually, this doesn’t happen till a little later on in age, but I’d say our baby girl is advanced lol because she figured out how to roll in it only 2 weeks in.
Once Kennedy was rolling in the Merlin I searched all over google for the best way to transition her OUT of the suit and into something else. We tried just putting her in a sleep sack with her arms free, but Lord Jesus that child went wild rolling around all over the place and would not go to sleep. So I put her back in the Merlin for a night (and didn’t sleep at all because I was too scared, staring at the monitor all night) until we got the Zipadee Zip in.
Tons and tons of Merlin users swore that the best transition out was the Zipadee Zip. I was skeptical but after one nap in the Zipadee zip and sleeping soundlessly, I knew that this sleep sack was going to be our best friend. I can not recommend this thing enough. This special sleep “sack” or whatever you want to call it is cool because it allows free movement so baby is able to roll all she wants in the crib. As you can see from the photo below, her hands and feet are “enclosed” so she feels secure and cozied in.
Kennedy rolls around like a crazy woman sometimes while she tries to get comfortable and there were a few nights when her leg would get caught in the slabs of her crib so I found a breathable crib bumper on amazon and nipped that issue right in the bud.
This is the white noise machine that Jamie (@nestandnod) recommended to me and we LOVE it. It’s portable so I can take it in the car if I know we’re going to be traveling during nap time. It’s also rechargeable so NO batteries. This is another “sleep sign” I use on Kennedy. She knows when this gets turned on, we’re about to go to sleep. I use it for all daytime sleep and nighttime sleep.
How to make it work for you and your baby
One of the biggest mistakes parents make, no matter what sleep-training method they use, is being inconsistent. That’s alllllll I read about when researching gentle sleep training techniques. That’s why when I finally made the decision to work on Kennedy’s sleep, I really stuck to it.
Remember, you’re not being selfish for wanting your baby to sleep better so that you can get more sleep. Sleep is so important for our babies to grow and so we as parents can get rest to provide optimal care to our babies.
The Keys to Successful Sleep Training
- Be Persistent: Sleep Training can take a little while, don’t give up after one or two nights.
- Communicate with Your Partner: Be sure you and your partner are on the same page, you don’t want to undo one another’s progress.
- Wait until 4-5 months to Sleep Train: Please don’t try to sleep train when baby is only a couple of weeks old. Cara recommends waiting until 5 months before starting any form of sleep “training.”
- Don’t Sleep Train During a Big Life Change: Whether it’s teething, illness, moving etc… avoid sleep training, it probably won’t work and it’s not fair to your baby.
Best of luck to you on your journey to better sleep!
You may also like reading: Q + A with Certified Infant/Toddler Sleep Coach Nest and Nod
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