Friday 24 January 2020

Baby Sleep and Sleep Training

Baby sleep: it seems to be the only thing that's on your mind once your bundle of joy arrives and dominates all baby-related conversation. Myself I found that I was answering the same questions over and over again from well-meaning family and friends. "How is baby sleeping?" or "Is he a good sleeper?" Coupled with the unpredictability of a new baby's sleep schedule and how important a mother's need for sleep is, it really does seem like sleep dominates your life.

This blog post will detail Benny's sleep patterns as a newborn, the inevitable and dreaded four month sleep regression we faced and our choice to sleep train. Sleep training is a personal choice, and one I found out that can be quite controversial. Let me be clear: I am an adult in my mid-thirties with a degree in Psychology and a capacity for rational thought. Both Brian and I were comfortable with our decision to sleep train, but totally respect the individual decisions of others. Infant sleep and the decision to sleep train is a decision that each parent makes for themselves and varies from one child to the next.

Now, with that out of the way, let me tell you about Benny's sleep from when he was a newborn, through the sleep regression and our experience sleep training with Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep.

Benny's Sleep from Newborn to 4 Months

It's known that newborns have a pretty unpredictable sleep schedule, but Benny really surprised us from the beginning by being a great little sleeper. While he never slept through the night, we were usually able to get multiple 3-4 hour stretches of sleep at night with multiple naps during the day.

Here's the details on sleep from Benny's early days:

  • We never had Benny on any sort of sleep schedule. We would follow his sleep cues for naps (rubbing red eyes, throwing his head and body back) and act quickly on them. 

  • Benny would breastfeed on demand with a pumped bottle of breastmilk in the evenings so aside from the bottle, his eating schedule lacked any sort of specific structure.

  • Benny slept in a bassinet beside our bed at night, and took his naps in the same bassinet that we would move into the living room during the day. We were never concerned with daylight or blackout conditions.

  • In terms of props for sleep, we used a pacifier to help sooth Benny to sleep for both night time sleep and nap. For night time sleep, we used a sleep sack. While we would sometimes use a white noise machine, most times we would forget.

So aside from knowing Benny's sleep cues and acting quick on them, the first four months of Benny's life saw very little structure. While he slept for fairly long stretches at night, his naps would cap at 30 minutes at the most. Sometimes he would nap at home, most times it would be in the stroller as we took on the city during the warm summer and milder fall months. While it wasn't perfect, and he certainly wasn't sleeping completely through the night, we were able to create a shared schedule around Benny's sleep cues that saw us both getting adequate sleep. We were even experimenting with successful naps with Benny in his crib! It was very do-able and we figured that we would naturally transition to longer periods of sleep.

4 Month Sleep Regression

Just when we thought we had a handle on Benny's sleep, the dreaded four month sleep regression reared it's ugly head. Naps, unless they were taken in the stroller, became nonexistent. I would spend longer trying to get Benny down for a nap than he would end of sleeping. The same went for night time sleep. We would spend upwards to an hour trying to rock Benny to sleep, only to have him wake up 1-2 hours after going down, and continue to wake up every two hours throughout the night.

Needless to say, our once rock-solid sleep routine that ensured that both Brian and I got adequate sleep to function during the day went out the window. It was Benny's world and Brian and I were just trying to survive on a mere few precious hours of sleep.

Now I've never been someone who needed a lot of sleep to function, but trying to survive the day-to-day with an infant on a few hours of sleep was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I found myself irritable, unable to hold a conversation and would get waves of nausea throughout the day. It's important to note that I work for myself as a freelancer and did not allocate any time for a maternity leave. Trying to not only survive but keep my business afloat during one of the busiest times in the industry (the holidays) was borderline impossible. I felt like I was drowning.

Sleep Training - The Process

Thankfully I had connected with Amanda Jewson of Baby's Best Sleep in order to create a custom sleep training plan with Benny. Amanda is one of those amazing women who's glowing reputation proceeds her, so I was actually very familiar with her work before she had even reached out. What I liked most about Amanda's approach is that it was completely tailored to not only Benny's unique situation, but Brian and I's preferences.

The reason that Brian and I decided to pursue formal sleep training is because we recognize how important Benny's sleep is to our overall quality of life, and it wasn't something that we wanted to mess around trying to perfect on our own. Based on the fact that it was basically a free-for-all with Benny's feeding and sleep schedule prior to sleep training, we knew that we needed to rely on an expert to help guide us into a more routine way of life. Plus, we know ourselves as a couple and could already predict that sleep training on our own would lead to differences of opinions, frustrations and fights. Best to just leave the important stuff to the experts.

After filling out a detailed questionnaire about Benny's sleep, Amanda doing a full assessment on Benny, having a formal sleep plan sent over and a phone call with Amanda, we were ready to begin the process of sleep training.

Now, because we chose one of Amanda's personalized sleep plans I'll go through the basics of what our sleep training plan included, however it's important to note that this plan is specifically for Benny. Amanda offers the same tailored and personalized sleep plans if you're looking for a more involved sleep training process like we were, however she does also offer a fabulous DIY online course for families who want to sleep train on their own.

Here's the nitty gritty of our sleep training:

  • The first night we started our new sleep schedule, and night one of sleep training, Amanda came to our condo to explain and support. I cannot even tell you how valuable this was, and how imperative I think Amanda being there was to our sleep training success. Although I knew that there would be some crying involved, with our personalized plan we were able to go in to the nursery every twelve minutes to sooth and comfort Benny. With Amanda's support, we were able to decipher between a true cry and a protest, and while we did go to comfort Benny multiple times, his cries never intensified (on a scale of 1 to 10, his cries only got to about a 6.) It took one full hour on the dot from the time we placed Benny in his crib to when he fell asleep.

  • We removed all crutches for Benny's sleep (for him that meant his pacifier) and placed him in his crib drowsy but awake. This allowed him to practice and learn self-soothing, something that continues to be a valuable tool for him.

  • We developed a solid and consistent sleep routine that we practice every night for night-sleep, and a modified version for daytime naps. For us, at night our routine includes feeding, a warm bath, gentle lotion massage, PJs, sleep sack, reading a book, white noise on and down in the crib. We practice the same routine (minus the bath) before all naps.

  • Our daytime nap routine depended on a 'wake window' of 2 hours in between sleeps, so our naps look different most days. It's hard to explain how it happened, because I honestly still don't know, but once we nailed down our night sleep the naps just started to fall into place. Now I can expect at least one nap that last's over an hour and a half per day, with two short naps as well. It's been a huge game changer.

  • Benny will now go down to bed extremely easily after our bedtime routine and will sleep through the night with feeding anywhere between 2 to 3:30am. To me, this is a huge success because previously he was waking up almost every hour and would be a nightmare to get down to bed. We're keeping his night feed until he has a good routine with solids because Benny is a bit on the smaller side and his doctor and I feel like he needs the extra calories.

Our New Routine (Roughly)

6:30 - Wakeup
-Feed twice during wake window

8:30AM - Nap 1 (crib)
-Feed another one or two times
-Lots of playing after nap

11:30AM Nap 2 (crib)
-Feed and play in between

3:30PM Nap 3 (usually in crib, but sometimes in the stroller for an afternoon walk)
-feed twice with lots of play time

6:30 - 7:00PM - Start bedtime routine

7:00-7:30PM - Bed time in crib.

Basically we try to operate on a 2ish hour wake window for naps during the day, with a longer stretch of awake time between Benny's last nap and bedtime. I like to feed Benny twice between each nap, especially since he's still breastfed and seems to do best when he's good and full.

My Thoughts On Sleep Training

Now that it's all said and done, we have a more predictable sleep routine and calm has fallen upon our household again, here are my thoughts on sleep training and the sleep training process:

  • Sleep training was a fairly simple process, but that doesn't mean that it was easy. I found it to be extremely tough and am so thankful that we chose to go with a personalized sleep coach. Honestly, without Amanda's support, I would have given up somewhere around the third day. I found it so helpful to not only have her expertise to answer questions that came up along the way, but also offer us a sense of accountability. 

  • Be prepared to grapple with a sense of guilt throughout the process. For me, I started to feel massive mom guilt once the process was almost over and we were onto a more regular sleep routine - how backwards is that?! The fact that Benny was getting long stretches of sleep made me almost miss how much time we spent together and I started to feel guilty. Thankfully that feeling quickly passed and I'm now just so grateful for daytime sleep and cry-free nights.

  • The process works, but you need to be prepared to put in the work. Myself, that meant canceling plans and clearing my schedule for a few days so that we could really work on our sleep routine. I'm not someone who does well with routines, so I had a hard time with temporarily slowing down my life and almost fought it at first. If I had just stuck with the routine right from the beginning and embraced a slower life for a few days, I'm confident that we would have completed the sleep training process earlier.

  • Baby sleep will never be perfect. Just when I think we have everything down, the routine changes. Currently we're dealing with teething and a possible shift to only two naps during the day. To me, this is when the true value of sleep training comes into play since I'm less panicked when our routine changes and have the tools to get us back on track. 

In the end, I'm very happy with our sleep training experience and am one hundred percent confident in our choice. I'm so thankful to Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep for essentially giving me my sanity back and helping me crawl out of a very dark period. I'm much happier these days, Benny is well-rested and thriving and in the end that's the best outcome that we could have ever hoped for.

What do you guys think? Have you ever tried sleep training your baby? Did you use a professional sleep coach? Let me know.

xo Joëlle

This post was created in partnership with Baby's Best Sleep. My thoughts, opinions and experiences are 100% my own.


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience! Your little one is so cute! Sleep training is a hotly debated topic. "Cry-it-out" method is not for my liking. Luckily, researchers today are investigating a wide range of gentler sleep training approaches that can help.

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