At nearly 11 months old, we have decided to just bite the bullet and delve into the realm of sleep training. Violet is nearly 1 and hasn’t ever been able to self-settle for either naps and bedtime. For the last year we have rocked her until she drifts off every single time she needs to sleep. We must have spent hours and HOURS of our lives rocking, rocking and rocking her again and honestly we just can’t go on like this. I worked out we were spending around 12-14 hours in her nursery a week just trying to get her to sleep. That is a long time! It’s not just about getting our time back, I’m sure Violet would also want to learn to fall asleep herself too. It must be horrible having someone decide on your sleep times and relying on them to get the technique right to settle you, so we want to give her independence too.
I know there are various methods of sleep training, ranging from ‘Cry it Out’ to the ‘No Tears’ methods and I have to say we fall closer to the gentle side as I just can’t bear the thought of her crying. So, we decided to try the ‘Pick up, Put down‘ method, which means Violet was never left alone at all, we are there to reassure her at every step of the way and we’ll try our best to make this as least distressing to her (and us!) as possible! Firstly, here is the guide we followed (the 8-12 month bit at the bottom)
- Follow Violet’s bedtime routine as closely as possible so everything is familar
- Instead of putting Violet in her pushchair to be rocked we put her straight into her cot laying down
- Feed her laying in her cot
- Stay in the room, reassuring her with sentences like ‘sleep time now’ and ‘I’m right here’
- If she stands up, lay her back down (however many times that takes)
- Try not to pick her up once she’s in her cot (unless she’s really distressed)
- Stay with her until she falls asleep, however long that takes
We waited until Friday evening to start our sleep training. During the week we always worry about getting to bed early as the alarm goes off for 6am. So knowing we had nothing to do the next day meant the pressure was off if the first night was a disaster or took hours! We started Violet’s normal routine with a bath and got her into her bedclothes and sleeping bag to calming music (thanks Enya!) and low lighting. We put Violet straight into her cot which she seemed fine with at first, taking her bedtime bottle of milk laying in her cot.
After her milk she started to notice things weren’t quite the same and started to try to get up, which just made her get super frustrated as she was in her sleeping bag so kept getting tangled up. Plus, every time she stood up we would lay her back down, so she got really frustrated. I didn’t expect there to be tears so early on, but she did start crying quite a lot, more angry tears of frustration and tiredness, rather than distress. By 20 minutes in, she was getting super worked up, which I have to say, was really hard to deal with as I wanted this to be a ‘no tears technique’. I hate hearing her cry so knowing we were causing it felt horrible but I kept saying in my head this is to benefit her in the long run, so to stick with it. It was pretty tough at this point.
Violet got so worked up she was red in the face, covered in sweat and inconsolable, even though we were right there in the room. We didn’t want her to find this too distressing, so decided at this point to pick her up to calm her (even though it wasn’t in the plan but we felt we couldn’t leave her). We also opened her window and got some cool air running through the room to cool things down and just start again.
Once things calmed again I put on her usual bedtime sounds (which is a track of this album repeated all night using our Alexa). This seems to keep her really calm, it’s a miracle worker! I then laid her back into bed and gave her the rest of her bedtime milk, which she took and then continued to lay down, sleepily putting her arm round her toy monkey for comfort. She then laid there for about 15 minutes just getting more and more sleepy. We seemed to be making progress! When I hadn’t seen her move for about 5 minutes I left the room and checked her on the monitor (as I couldn’t really see her in the dark) and her eyes were closed. We had done it! I’d set a timer, so I checked my phone and saw we’d been less than an hour! What a result, the whole thing took 56 minutes. Not bad for a first time, right?
She then slept 12 hours, with two very short wakes for a bit of milk, both times I didn’t take her out of her cot, I just gave her the bottle to hold herself and she dropped off to sleep as soon as she finished drinking.
Naps N/A (we started it in the evening)
Bedtime: 56 minutes
On Day Two we did the sleep training process for naps as well as bedtime. We thought it would be too confusing to keep letting her nap in the pushchair, so had to just do it all in one go. For Violet’s first nap of the day about 9am, we started the process just as above. She went through another phase of getting frustrated, but there was much less crying – maybe only 10 minutes or even less. She had much more energy than in the evenings so kept standing up, so it was a battle of wills, laying her down time and time again. It took longer for her to drop off, this one took 1hr 30 minutes, but she didn’t cry much at all and in the last 30 minutes I actually left the room and watched her on the monitor as she was just laying down looking at the ceiling until she eventually drifted off.
She then decided to skip her afternoon nap all together as we were out and about.
Bedtime came round and we prepared ourselves for a battle as she was mega overtired from skipping a nap. I expected tears, but after milk in bed she dropped off after only 16 minutes with absolutely NO TEARS at all. Miracles can happen!
Morning nap: 1hr 34 minutes
Afternoon nap: N/A
Bedtime: 16 minutes
Every day that we did the plan, things got easier. The main thing that put my mind at rest was that after the first couple of days we haven’t had ANY tears. Violet seems fine to be placed in her cot to settle, which is such amazingly quick process as I thought it would take at least a week, maybe even more. She still rolls about a bit at first, tries to stand we just put her back down, reassure her and eventually she’ll stop wiggling about.
I think the 16 minute bedtime was a fluke as she was so tired as she took longer to settle at bedtime, but with no tears and less need for reassurance, she didn’t really even need me in the room with her the entire time.
Naps – N/A as we were out all day so naps were in the pram and in the car seat!
Bedtime – 50 minutes
Day four fell on a Monday, so the thought of doing the sleep training process on my own with places to go by 11am was slightly daunting but I stuck with it and gave it a go! I was pleasantly surprised that Violet fell asleep for her morning nap within 40 minutes, but I wasn’t in the room the entire time, once she was calm I left her to settle, checking her on the monitor, got myself showered and dressed and before I knew it I checked the screen and her eyes were closed. RESULT. The same pattern followed with her afternoon nap, with only 25 minute settle time, of which I was in the room for 10 minutes. I feel like I’m getting some of my life back, it feels SO WEIRD not having to be with her for so long whilst she settles!
Bedtime was a bit of a disaster. She took nearly 2 hours to settle! She wasn’t crying during this time, just playing in her cot. She napped for nearly 4 hours in the day (much longer than usual) so I think her naps were just too long. Oh well, I’m still feeling positive about everything as she wasn’t crying, she got there eventually, it just took time – you win some, you loose some.
Morning Nap: 40 minutes (only 20 in the room with her)
Afternoon Nap: 25 minutes (only 10 minutes in the room with her)
Bedtime: 2 hours
As this post is getting RIDICULOUSLY long, I won’t document our entire week – I think the pattern is beginning to form, things are definitely getting easier. Violet is much more confident being on her own in her cot, the settle time is reducing and even if she isn’t settling she’s ok to lay on her own rather than having to be rocked. I’m so impressed with her so far, I was honestly ready for the biggest battle, but it hasn’t been at all.
I have one tip for sleep training if you wanted to give it a go and thats to STICK WITH IT. The first night wasn’t easy and she did cry, I wanted to give in and I’m SO glad we didn’t. If you try a sleep training technique, it’s a one-way street, you can’t go back to your old habits as it’s too confusing for your little one and also it just tells them if they kick up enough stink you’ll cave and go back to your old ways, so just be ready to see it through when you start.
If you’ve tried this sleep training technique or similar I’d love to hear your experiences. If you have any questions about this, just drop me a line – I’ve had SO many messages about it so far and am happy to help out. GOOD LUCK! 🍀
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