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!



The time has come to SLEEP TRAIN

In 24 hours, my husband and I will be a few hours into what I am anxiously anticipating as the hardest night with the babies that we have had – night #1 of sleep training.

The time to sleep train is here. I know it is a controversial topic and some people think it’s cruel to sleep train a baby younger than like a year old. And my twins are only 5.5 months old. They are young, no doubt about it. And I do have guilt already, and we haven’t even started yet. However, my old tricks don’t work anymore. I would have been willing to do whatever it took for a little while longer, but it’s not an option. Here are my official reasons to sleep train C (and B too, but he has been a piece of cake, so I’m hoping he adjusts quickly.)

– C no longer wants to be held to sleep. She doesn’t mind falling asleep in your arms after she’s already slept a half hour – in fact, she prefers it if I want her to sleep more at all – but falling asleep initially? She doesn’t want to be rocked, paced, shushed, swaddled, you name it.

– But she doesn’t want to be put down either. She doesn’t know what she wants and neither do I.

– She is breaking out of her swaddle.

– She is trying to sit up in her rock n play.

As I said, B is a great sleeper. You can put him down awake, and he puts himself to sleep with ease with minimal fussing. However, he has outgrown his rock n play at a large 20 pounds and the largest size swaddle.

So he, too, will face some changes. We are moving them back into the same room, putting them in cribs, and ditching the swaddles. I am still on the fence about giving C her pacifier, but at this point I think I would like to, so she has something familiar when everything else will be different. I don’t know.

I know I’ve done extensive research about sleep training twins, so if anyone is doing the same and stumbles across this, here is my exact plan. It’s a modified cry it out plan. Once it’s all over I’ll let you know if it worked!

We are going to continue our nighttime routine of bath, pjs, bottle and bed, but instead of swaddles C will be going into the magic sleep suit and B will be going into a sleep sack. Then they will be burped, paci given to C, kiss goodnight and into their cribs they go.

Then we go downstairs and I drink heavily. Kidding! An extra large ice cream sundae will be on hand. And some earphones. I anticipate the babies being confused for a bit. There will be fussing. When the fussing turns into a cry, we will start the stopwatch. At 3 minutes in, we will go in, I to C’s crib and Nate to B’s, as they are used to us specifically putting them to bed. For B, Nate will do what he currently does if B gets upset (which is rare). He puts a hand on B’s chest, tells him it’s okay, and that’s it. The difference is Nate usually keeps his hand there until B is sleeping, but now Nate will take his hand away after 30 seconds, sleeping or not. For C, I will re-insert the paci, maybe put my hand on her chest or not, and sing a little “It’s okay” song while attempting not to cry for not doing what I usually do, which is scooping her up. The we are going to leave the room together.

On night #1, we will do these checks at 3,5,7, and 10 minutes. We won’t let them cry more than 10 minutes. Assuming we all survive to see night #2, our times checks will be at 5, 10, and 15 minutes, and night #3 will be 10, 15, and 20 minutes.

After a few days, if we have seen zero progress and there’s been nothing but hysterical screaming for 12 straight hours, I’m going to wave the white flag and try again in a few weeks. But I’m really hoping something good will happen.

I have been thinking about this day for what seems like months and I’m definitely going into it with anxiety. I hate to hear my babies cry, especially C with her massive hysterical meltdowns. But it’s time.