contact us

Want to hear more? Having trouble accessing something on our site? Have a comment? Let us know!


Tabs' Blog

Self-Soothe Training

Tabitha Helms

Judah is a wonderful baby. He's not colicky, his cry isn't very loud, and he has an active, inquisitive mind. From day 1, he's slept in three hour increments through the night--waking up to eat after each. This is great for a newborn!

The only thing that's been challenging during those night shifts is the 3 or 4am shift when he decides he wants to have Awake Time after eating and won't go back to sleep for another hour or two. With Hubby working full time, this is a shift I take so he can be rested enough for work, and I pray that I can "sleep when the baby sleeps" at some point the next day. Most often after a couple hours of shushing and rocking and swaying and changing positions to keep him pacified, we would both end up falling asleep on the couch. I'd wake up with a sore back and a crick in my neck--not rested because I woke every time he startled himself. Several people and sites had said how important it was to put them down drowsy, but Judah would cry and not sleep at all if we did that.

Self-Soothe Training for Babies

Out of my desperation, I began to research sleep training. Most options were recommended by the masterminds behind them for older babies 3-4 months old. I really didn't want to succumb to no sleep at 3am for three months. Many people and some theories said the younger the better and had had success with their children early. But I knew this was because every child is different. 

Another problem we were having was putting him down to sleep. He'd take forever to finally fall asleep--fighting it with every ounce of energy he had. His droopy eyes would finally close, and 5 minutes later they'd open wide and we'd do it all over again. The second we put him down, he would cry and we'd have to pick him up again. Last week, I began to feel the exhaustion that all day I had been trying to get him to sleep--in the carrier, in my arms, on my chest--just waiting until he was actually asleep and could be put down and give my aching arms and back a rest. 

Self-Soothe Training for Babies

At 4:30am on Sunday morning, I hit the wall when he was wide awake and fussing every time I tried to put him down. I decided that was the moment we were going to start teaching him to self-soothe. My body could no longer handle the stress of soothing him enough to make him fall asleep. We had become his sleep crutch, and it didn't seem to be helping him since he would still take hours to fall asleep. I decided he needed to learn to soothe himself to sleep after being put down drowsy instead of us doing it and putting him down asleep--praying he wouldn't wake when we set him down. I probably should have consulted my husband on this decision as he had to wake up early for worship team that day, but it was 4 in the morning and discussions don't really happen at that time of day. Haha.

1) Swaddle and give him pacifier
2) Cuddle, shush/sing and rock him until his eyes are drooping
3) Set him down in the Pack N Play, and if he doesn't cry immediately, walk away (if he does cry immediately, repeat Step 2)
4) If he starts to cry after walking away, wait 3 minutes before going in to replace his pacifier, shush, pat him, and walk away. (**If patting didn't calm him enough, pick him up and do Step 2)
5) If he starts to cry, wait 5 minutes, then repeat Step 4.
6) If he starts to cry, wait 8 minutes, then repeat Step 4.
7) If he starts to cry, wait 10 minutes, then repeat Step 4. 
8) Continue with 10 minute cry intervals until it is time to eat.
9) At eating time, change his diaper, reswaddle, and feed him.
10) Start the plan over again. 

*If at any time he cries but stops before the time is up, I watch to see if his mouth is searching for his pacifier and go replace it quietly without shushing/patting to help him continue to self-soothe like he already did a great job with! Reward good behavior! :) 

The IDEA Behind the Plan: 
This plan involved progressive wait times, which is kind of a modified "Cry It Out." (Cry It Out involves letting them cry as long as it takes for them to finally fall asleep.) I think Judah's a little young for crying it out; he's still very dependent on us and sometimes just needs the security of a good cuddle in our arms. But I also didn't want him to learn that the second he cries, we come running when he's in no danger. The progressive lengths of time allow him to independently make the choice to wait for us or to calm himself down and get what he needed (sleep). I decided to commit to this for 1 week and if it didn't work, then to put it on hold for another month when he was a little older. 

Self-Soothe Training for Babies

Sunday -
4am: We got all the way to step 10. Hubby and I had a well deserved nap the next day lol
7am: Fell right asleep with no crying and slept for 3 hours
11am: Got to step 5, slept for 3 hours
3pm: Got to step 4, slept for 1 hour
5pm: Got to step 6, slept for 1 hour
7pm: Got to step 10 (Note: He has a hard time sleeping at this nap right before bed. We've found that if he takes a 30 minute nap or less at this time, he sleeps 5, 6, 7-1/2 hours straight afterwards for bedtime. So we are okay with not a good nap here. We don't skip the nap attempt because he is giving sleepy cues and is tired, so we at least try.) 
10pm: Fell right asleep with no crying and slept for 6 hours

Monday -
Fairly the same as Sunday, but he had fewer times that he needed me to comfort him. Most naps required 0-2 times when I needed to go replace his pacifier and shush/pat. 
7pm: Got to step 10 quickly. His cries were very loud, and I had a pounding headache. I finally went and sat outside to cool down from the heat and let the headache subside a bit. 
10pm: Slept immediately for 7-1/2 hours--the longest stretch yet! (Note: He ate for double the amount of time he usually does right before this sleep and right after it. 

Tuesday - 
5:30am: Got to step 8 and then I accidentally fell asleep and woke up and hour later to him crying sadly a little. I felt like a horrible person; I hadn't intended to do Cry It Out with him like that. Who knows if he cried that whole time or not. However, a big shift happened after this point. Since that unintentional Cry It Out, his crying hasn't been as loud, he goes longer shifts in between crying, he settles very quickly into his calm state when set down. This is a HUGE change from what we were dealing with before of crying the second he was set down to nap. 
Judah took two, 3 hour naps, ate a ton, and had another couple 1 hour naps. He cried his usual evening time and went to bed at 10 without crying. He slept for 6 hours. 

Wednesday -
4:45am: Went right to sleep with NO Awake Time!! This is the first time he's done this since we brought him home! 
6:30am: Woke to eat
7:30am: 1 hour nap
9:00am: I went out to run errands. Judah fell asleep in the car with no crying (he hates his car seat when he's first put in) and he slept for 3 hours--unaffected by me taking his car seat in and out, lugging him around places, taking him out of the car seat and putting him in his carrier, taking him out of the carrier and back in the car seat. I'm amazed that he fell right back asleep each time without tears!
1:30pm: 1-1/2 hour nap
4:00pm: 2 hour nap in the carrier on a walk to the laundromat and while doing laundry and walking home. 
7:00pm: cried for 2 hours, fed him, gave him a bath which calms him down, swaddled and rocked
9:00pm: wouldn't go down for me, Hubby took over and in a few minutes Judah was out like a light with no tears!

Self-Soothe Training for Babies

We aren't finished with the week but we've already seen some amazing progress for our little one! 
1) Softer crying
2) Quicker to fall asleep
3) Doesn't need to be rocked and bounced to sleep, can be put down drowsy
4) Longer sleep times
5) Doesn't cry the whole 8 or 10 minute stretch, but pauses to try and calm himself
6) Much happier during Awake Times throughout the day

One of the sleep methods says "give your child the gift of sleep." I really have felt like we've given Judah a gift with this training. He's in a better mood--getting more out of Awake Time. Having good naps has helped him sleep better at night. And it's no wonder--who doesn't feel better after getting enough sleep!? I encourage you to try out what you feel comfortable with for your child. Remember that each little one is different and what works for one might not work for another. Don't be discouraged if something doesn't work; put it on hold or try something different. And don't forget to love on that sweet babe. Knowing they're loved and safe with you will help them make this transition whenever they're ready. <3

Self-Soothe Training for Babies