It finally happened, the ‘balanced’ scale has tipped. Hmmm I suppose it was always tipped but now more so than ever [i.e my lack of blog posts]. Motherhood is my all-consuming reality and though it has been non-stop for both Mike and me, I was somehow still able to find moments to do the pre-motherhood activities I enjoyed. In the earlier months, while Atlas slept, I did calligraphy; went out for lunch; got manis; went to yoga… Perhaps selfish, but I had to take advantage as I knew this time was fleeting. FF to now; I have a 6month old [4month corrected age] and he’s a brand new baby!
Today, I’m sharing my most recent + still in progress DIY. It has consumed all my time, energy, and thoughts over the last few weeks so I thought it worth sharing. This DIY can’t be worn, shared on a dessert table, or photographed a million ways, but it is my most important and most challenging one to date. Mike and I are sleep training [ST] Atlas! Before I start, I will say – I’m not a professional, I’m not here to pass judgment, and I’m not here to give a step-by-step tutorial. I am solely sharing my experiences, thoughts, and learnings as Mike and I continue on this sleep training journey based on our specific baby and our family’s needs. If you chose to read on, it’s a lengthy one.
Reading was never really one of my go-to pass times and because my baby prep time was cut 2 months short, I surrendered to the fact that we are parenting on the fly. I read and Google only when prompted and research only when necessary. However, as Atlas approached his corrected 4months [note: sleep patterns and development is based on due date], there was a change in our sweet little sleeper resulting in an uncharacteristic spike in my reading patterns. Atlas stopped sleeping through the night, was 24/7 fussy, and a nightmare to put down. Experienced moms mentioned he may be going through a “4month regression” and what I read on the topic exactly aligned with what we were experiencing. This started my leap down the literary rabbit hole of Baby Sleep. My web browser quickly became tiled with windows opened to sleep sites and my Toronto Public Library e-bookshelf was filled with all the sleep books I could get my texting fingers on.
Note, I brought up this “4 month regression” [on 2 separate occasions] to medical professionals and neither acknowledged it as a “thing”. The more I read, the more I saw that this 4month regression was definitely a “thing” plaguing parents and definitely a “thing” on all the Sleep Training sites; perhaps reminiscent of the creation of halitosis for the purpose of Lysterine that you learn about in marketing class LOL. Well, what ever it is, I read it may last 2-6 weeks or indefinitely. Mike and I rode it out for a few weeks. We rocked, we danced, we sang, and we shushed Atlas down for each nap, and at every bedtime and then again when he would wake. It was quite the backbreaking production and I’m certain had we continued we’d be up for a Tony nomination. Something needed to change!
Once we got the doc’s green light to start sleep training Atlas’, I started my research and reached out to my mom friends. Though I was hoping to find a no-tears sleep solution, based on what I read and given the rock heavy state we were in, I knew that wasn’t an option. Everything the method detailed was everything we needed Atlas stop relying on. It was inevitable, we had to power through an all tears journey. Once Mike and I agreed on a method and vowed our full commitment to it, I drafted up a 1-pager of rules/instructions and we started training later that evening; ripped it off like a Band-Aid!
We chose a fade-style ST method and, yes, it is definitively in the Cry-It-Out category; [crying by both baby and me!]. This method involves sitting on a chair in the nursery supporting your child with key words and gentle soothing touch as they cry and cry and learn to self-soothe. Gradually, you move your chair further from the crib and reduce the comforting cues as the ’10 day’ plan progresses. I wasn’t sure if we were to tackle night sleep before day sleep or vv but I didn’t see any way around training both simultaneously. Mike and I took shifts, he did the nights and I did days. We quickly learned that Atlas’ temperament didn’t take well to our comforting efforts and, if anything, made him more agitated. This resulted in us skipping through the “gradual” process and right to the “sitting by the door silent until he sleeps” phase.
Overall, I think lacking in the world of Baby Sleep instruction [or maybe I haven’t looked hard enough], is a Sleep Training 101 Condo Edition. Each technique I read, I envisioned working perfectly in a house but not so easily in a 750sq ft condo. There are no floors dividing Atlas’ nursery from our communal space [his room is adjacent to both our living room and kitchen]; we have neighbors sharing walls and halls; and Atlas’ den turned nursery is a whole 8×7 feet causing several challenges especially with the fade method as the chair can only be moved so many lengths from the crib. Also, we have the added challenge of the unexpected building fire alarms and announcements going off and the overactive smoke detector annoyingly installed right next to the oven. Needless to say, we had to make modifications to make the sleep routine work for our space.
Now, 2 weeks into the sleep training process [10 day plan ha! sadly not in this condo-hold] I wanted to share my learnings and thoughts as a downtown mom trying to get everyone their much-needed sleep attempting this crazy thing called sleep training.
- Night 1 was hard but we survived it. Atlas cried 40mins before falling asleep. I think that’s average.
- Sleep training is isolating. Commitment meant sacrificing our time out in the world to instil routine into Atlas’ sleep life. I am thankful for friends who make the pilgrimage with snacks and who still invite me out knowing that there’s a 99% chance I will decline. We will be out and about again soon!
- Babies crying while losing their voice is extra sad. Sooo sad! The saddest!
- A white noise machine is a MUST in close quarters
- Light leaks in through the door frame of a windowless den/nursery. Since a cave-like environment is optimal for sleep, DIY blackout door curtains are also a must.
- Nap training is WAAAY harder than night training. Aside from being alone all day, baby’s nap more than once, therefore, I am in that 8x7ft room listening to all the cries before AND after naps.
- Short naps suck but a reality until 6 months when naps consolidate and are more routine [that’s what I keep reminding myself]. The longest Atlas has cried was 68mins and it was before a nap. Patience runs thin when your child cries 40+ mins only to sleep for 30mins.
- Learn the sleepy cues and observe the wake windows. Putting baby down to nap before the over tired kicks in is the difference between a 30+ min and and 5min cry session. Atlas’ current wake window is 90mins. We are working up to 120mins!
- Listen to music to distract and to help pass time. Mike suggested I do this while in the room with Atlas; so I tried it. Note: Be aware of songs when shuffling through random Apple Music playlists for when Mariah Carey comes on those ear buds, it’s game over as MC + ST + emotional/tired mom = all the tears. LOL
- Teamwork makes the dream work! Partnering with experienced moms and with your significant other is definitely making this ridiculous process easier. Fellow moms are the best coaches to keep you focused and to help troubleshoot.
- Will my baby ever stop crying before sleep and if so how long will it take? This was the only question I needed answered and no one answered it. FYI: According to my detailed data spreadsheet, Atlas stopped consistently hardcore crying around Day 9.
- Will my baby claw his face off while in a crying fit? As a result of this thought I am now obsessed with trimming Atlas’ nails and no, he has yet to claw his face off.
- What about vaccines? Atlas got his 6month shot on ST day 10. Part of me thought, he’d be done training by then [HA!] and another part wanted to postpone training until after the shots but we couldn’t go another 9 days of bad sleep habits. Do we pause sleep training a day? Will we be undoing the 9days of progress? What if he’s crying because he’s in pain? Should I pick him up? [No Google-able info to be found] Ultimately, we carried on with the ST. Using our judgment, I limited the crying and picked him up when I thought he needed a little more support/soothing. His sleep was definitely affected for the next 48hrs but, thanks to the 9days of training, Atlas was a lot easier to soothe.
- Focus on the wins! Our progress hasn’t been a linear trajectory, which I hate! Our path is full of ups and downs; good naps –bad naps – good nights –bad mornings and it is really easy to let one bad nap overshadow all the wins. So on that note here are our wins thus far
- Before ST Atlas woke at 12am + 4am [for a feed]. By night 2 he dropped the 12am wake and by night 4 he dropped the 4am feed [note, we were told it was safe to do so by his doc]
- Atlas is now a self soother! Its quite rewarding to watch Atlas put himself back to sleep when he wakes after his 1st sleep cycle with in minutes.
- We have our bedroom back!
- Our biggest achievement: Atlas can go to sleep without needing a Broadway production of Westside Story to put him down!!!
- My back and shoulder pain has been drastically reduced aka less money spent on chiro and massages = more money for Toronto day care LOL
- Atlas is now able to lay in his crib awake after sleeping and remain calm; he must be using the time for self reflection and meditation. This is a new thing; he just lays there and I only know he’s awake because I can hear him moving or see it on the monitor. Still unsure as to how long to leave him in his crib.
I know there’s always worse and that the hits will keep on coming but I think these last few weeks, leading up to and inclusive of ST, have been some of the hardest and most frustrating. I didn’t think I would get so emotional, but I cried everyday up until last week. Hearing your child cry while you sit in a room beside him is definitely a form of torture. I have never second guessed myself so much and read so frantically in my entire life; the sleep game is real people! Knowing Atlas, the second we think we have a handle on his sleep, he will flip the script. Therefore, instead of saying “we are almost there” I’m going to say, “we are well on our way”.
I’m not too sure what I wanted to achieve from this blog post but sharing is caring and I’d like to think I’m paying it forward to other moms the same way others have done for me. Maybe you can relate to my story and take from my learnings or maybe not. I was hesitant to share this decision to ST as the anticipation was causing me so much anxiety. Also, the parenting world is quite opinionated and I didn’t need any opinions swaying our decision. However, I’m finding that talking about my progress and challenges is helping me get through and will hopefully keep me focused to the end. So far, though our road has been paved with a ton of doubt, we haven’t looked back and are en route to a more rested condo-hold. Can’t wait for teething, sick days, and the looming fall time change. Until then, we continue to work on his new 5:30am [bah] morning wake up and on taking longer naps.
Any baby sleep tips? Send them my way!!! Thanks for reading along. I swear I edited this post a ton, but there was just so much to share.