A sleep training success story

For months, I scoured the internet looking for personal stories on how to sleep train. Sleep training twins, cry it out vs. pick up, put down method, transition from rock n play to crib, transition out of swaddle – I’ve seriously been thinking about these issues for a long time. And I was DREADING training the twins, especially C, to sleep with all these changes.

It’s not perfect, it’s not (and never will be) done,  (as Lil C just started fussing…..okay, she’s back to sleep) but I must say – sleep training these babies was the best decision I ever made. And the reason I’ve come out of blog-hiding is to put a little summary of how it went down here, in case there’s anyone out there who is spending their sleepless nights doing exactly what I did – looking for help.

My twins are 5.5 months old, they were in rock n plays at night, swings during the day, still being swaddled, and in separate rooms. We are only on the 6th night, so I’m well aware that there will be highs and lows to come, but still – it’s now SO much better than it was.

For a long time, I couldn’t decide which sleep training method to use. There are so many of them out there and people swear by each and every one. Some take longer, like pick up, put down (otherwise known as PU/PD) and some are usually done in 2-3 days, like cry it out (CIO) extinction. I’m not here to judge, but I knew that I personally couldn’t leave my babies to cry all on their own until they stopped, with no help from me. That wasn’t going to work, with a screaming baby who gets herself hysterical. And I wouldn’t have been able to stomach it either. At the same time, PU/PD wouldn’t work either, because picking Lil C up was the cause of the start of sleep training in the first place. And for a little while, I was just against sleep training at all, because I knew it would involve my babies crying and I wasn’t ready for that. I found the wait it out method (WIO) which is basically just that – waiting, knowing that things will pass, do what works for now…that sort of thing. At the time, it was exactly what I needed to hear – that I could do what was best for my baby without making her cry. And that was great, while I had other options, other ways to get her to sleep.

See, as the parent saying goes, “It works until it doesn’t.” Lil C used to sleep. Then she hit the 4 month sleep regression and what was worse than the lack of sleep was the constant screaming. It lasted a month – I couldn’t leave my house. At 5 months, she calmed down and started getting to sleep with my help again, but she still was fidgety. As time went on I quickly realized she didn’t WANT to be held to go to sleep anymore. She definitely didn’t want to be rocked. She didn’t want to be in the swing. She didn’t want to be touched, walked around, bounced, etc. But when I would put her down without those things, she would cry as well, because that was foreign to her. And then she started fighting her swaddle, that trusty thing that worked for 5 months. Me, trying to walk her around the room with gentle bouncing, with her in a swaddle = screaming baby. I felt like I had no choice.

And now I know, the #1 reason sleep training has worked for her so far is because she was ready for it. Even if rocking her to sleep was a pain a month ago, it was working. She wouldn’t have taken to sleep training so positively. But when NOTHING else was working, she was producing 30 minute naps and was unable to put herself back to sleep, she woke up many times after being put to bed – it was time. I had no other options. Not to mention Mr. B’s legs were sticking out the end of the rock n play, and both babies were trying to sit up in them. I really had to get them into their cribs, and that meant sleep training them.

So we decided to do a modified CIO – CIO with checks. There would be so many changes – on that first night that we started, we took away their swaddles, their rock n plays, and put them in cribs, in the same room. I decided to let Lil C keep her paci, because she has never needed it throughout the night or through naps, she only uses it to get to sleep. Once it falls out of her mouth, she’s fine with that. Plus, it works. It still calms her down.

I have to give a shout out to Mr. B, and then I’ll move along. No one searches for sleep training success stories to hear about a baby who didn’t need to be sleep trained at all. So I’ll keep it short. Mr. B didn’t need to be sleep trained at all. That first night? He was like, “Oh, you want me to be in a new room, in a new sleeping environment without my swaddle? Sure, no problem!” He turned his head and went to sleep. For the entire night. Now, tonight and last night he has cried when put down, but for exactly three minutes. Then he turns his head and sleeps until morning (when I have to wake HIM up). Okay – that’s enough about that. So in terms of sleep training my twins, I’m really only sleep training one baby. When Lil C cries, Mr. B doesn’t wake up. But if he had – our plan was to do the same for him – with checks on them both at the same time. So if Lil C  had cried for 5 minutes and it was time for a check, but Mr. B had only cried for 3 minutes, we would still check on them both, so as not to come back into the room when one baby was trying to get themselves to sleep.

The first night, it went all wrong right off the bat, because they fell asleep drinking their bottles and were put down asleep. Oops. But when Lil C woke at the 30 minute mark, as she always does, she cried for 35 minutes. I cried too, but not as long. I did a check at 3, 5, 7 and 10 minutes. Each time, going in there was the right move for her. I kept my eyes shut so she couldn’t stare me down, put the paci back in her mouth and held it in there for a few seconds, and shushed her. I stayed for about 30 seconds, and it made me feel better that she knew I was there, that I hadn’t abandoned her, and would always be coming back. She quieted, calmed, and eventually went to sleep. I dream fed her at 10:30 pm, put her down asleep (which at this point, I have no problem doing because she slept through the feed anyway), and she woke at 2:30 for food again. And again, she fell asleep drinking her bottle and I put her down asleep. But that’s because it was the middle of the night and she was already sleeping. I wasn’t about to wake her up just to have her be put down awake at that time of night. And then she slept until morning.

I did not keep a detailed record since then, but there have been a few noteworthy aspects of this process:

1) Night #4, and the following morning’s first nap, were the worst thus far. She woke up at 3:45 am that night, and I fed her as normal, but then she was WIDE awake. I, in my sleepy stupor, stupidly picked her up before she was even crying. I just wanted her to be sleeping. But she woke up further in my arms, and started to fuss because I was walking her around the room. So I had no choice but to put her back down, and she cried off and on from 4:00-6:00 am. And then she slept until 7:00. It sucked. My checks didn’t help, either. But that was the worst.

2) I was not planning on nap training at the same time, because they say you want your baby as well rested as possible leading up to sleep training the nights, so they aren’t overtired. So you’re told to do what works for naps, just until the nights are under control. But as I’ve said, nothing was working. So I put her in the crib for naps too, and since then have been training both naps and nights. (I am still separating them for naps, though, and Mr. B sleeps in the swing in a different room. This is because they don’t always nap at the same time exactly, so I wanted to make sure they each could get their quality nap sleep. Plus, Mr. B is flexible, so I know it won’t hurt him to put him back in the swing).

3) On Day 5, for her second nap I gave her a little lovey to hold onto. She fell asleep after maybe 2 minutes. I’ve now made sure her little fingers are wrapped around that silky blanket every time, and I truly believe it has cut her fussing down to 2 minutes or less.

Today, she took three naps. I had to wake her for all three of them. She held onto that lovey, sucked her paci, and fussed/cried for 3 minutes at the most. The first nap was more like 10 seconds. She slept through her 30 minute wake up. She was in a fantastic mood all day. She cried when I put her down tonight, but for three minutes. No checks, all day long. She slept the entire night last night.

She needed to be sleep trained. It has helped her be well rested, which has allowed her to learn to do cool new things, like grab at toys with both hands and roll over.

Like I said, there will be many setbacks and I’m well aware of that, but these babies are out of their swaddles, out of the rock n plays, and getting some quality sleep. I still can’t stand to hear them, but luckily the duration of their cries has lessened a lot. And the type of cry – it’s not a devastated, I’m so sad scream, but more of an angry, I don’t want to go to sleep cry. And hearing that difference has helped me get through it as well.

Here’s to hoping this trend continues!

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9 thoughts on “A sleep training success story

  1. Krista says:

    Great job Megan! It sounds like things are going well with the sleep training. I’ve never fully believed in one method for every kid. But I do believe you have to do something around that 3-5 mo mark in order to get them sleeping on their own and to be able to sooth themselves when necessary. So whether it’s one method, a modified one or a combo, if it works for you and the babies, keep it up! I have one thought tho…and this totally not a judgement or meant to throw a wrench in your plans. It’s just something I thought of while reading your blog today. You’re there everyday and know what’s going on, so it’s not advice, just something to mull over! You mentioned that you wake C up from her naps or in the morning, but is that necessary? Sometimes it definitely is, if you have stuff going on, but on the other hand some kids who sleep the best at night actually sleep the most during the day as well. And you want to consider that those first 2 naps are going to start getting longer and that 3rd one will phase out over the next few months, so she will be down to 2 a day and eventually just 1 around a year or later. I would wake my kids up from the 3rd nap if I thought it was going too late and would effect sleep that night, but let them go for the first 2. Of course, starting solid foods will help to change their eating schedules and therefore sleep as well. Hope the luck continues! It’s amazing what parents go through in the name of sleep!!!

  2. futuresoccermom says:

    Thank you so much, Krista! I absolutely welcome your ideas. You’ve had plenty of good ones 🙂 And you’re right about the naps. My train of thought at the moment is that babies around my kids’ age need about 15 hours of sleep a day. (I think – at least I’ve read it online and it seems to fit). So I want them to sleep around 12 hours at night, which leaves three hours to nap during the day. The last nap is usually around a half hour, so the first two are around one hour and 15 minutes each. I do wake them up for most of these naps, if not all of them, so you definitely have a point. A few days ago, when I knew they were overtired from adjusting to the sleep training the night before, I let them go on the first nap, and they slept over two hours. But then later in the day, it was really hard to get them down for the other naps, as if they were too refreshed from the first nap, but then they would never make it to bedtime.

    So at this point while we’re on three naps, I try to basically spread out their duration throughout the day in order to ensure that they do take three naps. However, you’re totally right about the two nap a day thing – as that starts happening, the first two will be longer and I’ll probably just let them go. I wanted to ask you about the solid food as well – I knew it changed up their sleeping schedules but I’m not sure how. What should I start preparing myself for in terms of sleep?

  3. JustHeather says:

    Great post and I am so glad sleep training is working so well for you!

    I like what Krista has to say about going from 3 to 2 and eventually 1 nap. It took me a while to realize it for my guy, but once I noticed he only needed 2 naps, life got easier. As with sleep training, napping and everything else to do with your little ones, listen to them and do what works for you all!

  4. Amber says:

    Yay for finding something that worked for you. Every family is so unique it’s important to learn from others while finding your way too.
    Love the twinkies in super seats!

  5. thefamilyvan says:

    We just started sleep training last week (my guys were 6 months yesterday). Holy, what a difference! I read your blog entry when you first posted it, and then went back to it today. Sounds like you read the book Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Baby. We have it, too, though we enlisted the help of a sleep specialist for this process. She used the same methods, pretty much.

    My guys are still nursing twice a night usually, but they don’t wake up until 7:30, and J and I have our evenings back. It’s like a whole new world!

    Anyway, it’s so nice to read about what you’re doing with your little twinnies! I love seeing the updates come into my inbox!

    • futuresoccermom says:

      Hi!! How have you been – you haven’t updated in quite a while 🙂 Our babies are very close in age. To be honest I didn’t read that book – or any other sleep training book. Instead I just spent some time on the babycenter.com group “Teaching your toddler and baby how to sleep” and got all my info from there. I’m so glad sleep training is going well for you. I think if I were nursing (one of my biggest wishes) I’d be getting up a few times a night as well – it doesn’t sit as long in their bellies as formula does. So it looks like you’re doing everything right – that’s great. Sleep training twins is no joke!

  6. Biborka Gyergyai says:

    HI!
    Well done on your success! I wish we were where you are!
    We are 5 months old twin girls and havebeen struggling with daytime naps for what seems like forever. Plus we have an addiction to the paci so I am constantly commuting to their cot to put in fallen pacis.
    Yesterday I decided that I would try sleep training them and decided on the pu/pd method. I havent actually had to apply it until this morning, on the 1 st nap, but it was a huuuuge failure especially with twin A, she got so histerical that she would scream when I’d pick her up too, so i just got her out of there. Then tried again for nap nr 2, again same story, this time both just wound themselves up soo much and of course by that time they were so overtired that couldn’t phisically fall asleep…
    So then I stumbled upon your story, and I must admit Im not a huge fan of any kind of lettim them cry, especially when i think about the 3rd day 20 mins mark!
    However, i think we need to act now, and Im prepared to give this assisted CIO a go, especially after today, I feel like if Ive already made up my mind and got both my girls in this state (they are super OT and grumpy and just crying every 5 minutes), I definitely want to give it a go, and if it doesnt work then will try again later…
    So I wanted to ask you a few questions: -do you re-set the time after every check? ex. if you went in at 3 mins, u coome out re-set the timer and go in after 5 mins?
    -when you go in, what do you actually do? and how long do you stay in?
    – do you leave even if they continue to cry?
    -what do you do when you are alone and both cry? (during nap times?) Im guessing you apply this method to all naps as well as evenings?
    -when the last timing is done, 7 mins for ex on the first night, then yu set the timer to every 7 mins after that until they fall asleep?
    I think this is all :l
    Thank you very much in advance!!!

    • futuresoccermom says:

      Hi! I also am not a huge fan of crying and really dreaded sleep training my twins. I decided that I would evaluate their level of crying, and if it ever got too much for me, if they ever were so in distress that it was making them sick or anything like that – I was going to stop. But it honestly never happened. One twin took to it perfectly, so he is a bad example, but my daughter cried and was really the child I sleep trained. But her crying was never in distress. It was more of a protest – something I felt okay with.

      The reason I never did the PU/PD method is because I knew my daughter would love it too much – she would have a really hard time when I put her back down. So I chose the CIO with checks method, because I knew my presence calmed her down, but I would never pick her up. So, to answer your questions:
      – I do reset the time after every check – when you come back out, wait for the crying to start again, and then reset the timer.
      – When I go in, I would stay for about 1 minute. You don’t want to stay any longer than that or they’ll start to get upset, wondering why you are there and not picking them up. I would put her paci back in and say “shh” over and over again. That’s it. It would calm her down, and then I’d leave. I would never say any words to her or touch her for the most part. You do leave if they continue to cry – you leave either way. My daughter would start to cry as soon as I left the room, and she would cry even harder, but I’d reset the timer and go back in a few minutes. Eventually, she would barely cry at all once I left the room.
      – Regarding naps and overnights – my twins now have learned to sleep through each other’s cries. That was kind of part of the sleep training. During naps, I decided to split them up in different rooms because they were going down and waking up at different times, and that was problematic. With my daughter, though, I actually rarely go do a check on her during a nap. I find that she’s not in a deep enough sleep to go back to sleep after I’ve been up there. Instead, she’s WIDE awake. So I let her fuss for a bit, and then if it’s been at least a half hour or 45 minutes, I just go get her. If it’s only be 10 minutes, she will go back to sleep. (That never happens anymore). I find that doing checks don’t work during naps.
      – When the last time is done, you just continue to do the same time until the crying stops. So on our first night, we did 3, 5, 7 and 10 minutes, and then after that, 10 minutes until they are sleeping. If a few hours later they wake up, you start over at the minimum minute length.
      I highly recommend you visit the “teaching your baby and toddler to sleep” board at babycenter.com…this is where I learned all of this!
      Hope this helps!

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