I was really excited to have another baby now, as an experienced sleep coach, to see if having that experience would change my parenting. (Rest assured, no pun intended, I was also excited for other reasons.) I was not yet a sleep coach with the first two; I just read and researched a lot about sleep with them.
I also thought that I would post short daily updates about my newborn and that was lesson one: do not overestimate what you can get done with a newborn! I had forgotten how fast and simultaneously slow the days can go by when you are in an endless cycle of feeding, diapering, and rocking a baby. I did get a shower in every days but some days, not much more.
Lesson number two was that I always advise parents to “anchor” the day with a reliable wake up time, generally between 6-7 am although it could be as late as 7:30 with a baby under 5 months.
Now, having a newly 4-month old of my own, and not needing to get her out of the house for daycare, I prefer not to have a set wake time for her. If she was up at 5:30 to eat, I’d prefer that she sleep until 8:30, if she wants to. Waking her at 7:30 seems ridiculous. I don’t know what I was thinking.
I do like having a predictable bedtime for her, around 7 but… sometimes she goes to bed earlier or later. Last night she went to bed right on time but started waking up 1.5 hours later, something she hasn’t done in ages… after the fourth pacifier re-insertion, I got her up and as soon as I unwrapped her swaddle and laid her on the bed, she happily kicked and cooed. After a few minutes she ate a rather large meal and then went back to sleep until 5:30 this morning.
So I’m more flexible than I used to be.
And the third thing I’ve learned and that has changed my practice is a subtle shift about the earliest age a baby can be sleep trained. Valentina needed to be rocked to sleep every time she slept until one day, when she was 3 months old, I laid her down on the bed, swaddled, while I stepped out of the room for a moment. When I came back, she was asleep.
I was stunned. And the very next night, I couldn’t get her to sleep, despite rocking, burping, feeding… and she was wailing miserably despite all my efforts. So I put her in her bed and let her cry it out. At 3 months. An age I would have previously suggested was too young.
It took two nights but now she puts herself to sleep independently most of the time. And usually sleeps 9-10 hours now.
My partner still likes to rock her to sleep and that’s another thing I’ve learned – you don’t have to be absolute about rules when you start sleep training young.
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Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.