Sleep Training at 5 Months Old

Sleep. The bane of my existence. Well, lack of sleep is the bane of my existence, as I’m sure every parent will agree.

Once bub was about 3.5 months old, his sleep went right out the window. You hear a lot about the 4 month ‘sleep regression’ as a new parent, and if that’s what it was, I hated every minute of it with a deep passion. The books and articles tell you this should last a couple of weeks, 6 weeks at the most extreme. Guess who got the most extreme…

For us, this ‘sleep regression’ or whatever it was, meant that bub was waking every 30-90 minutes all throughout the night. I was getting so little, so very broken, sleep that I became a bit of a walking zombie. The problem is, as a mum and wife and daughter and friend, you don’t just get to zombie about. I still had to function, and I’m sad to say every aspect of my life suffered, including my relationships. I was a hot mess of a woman, easily irritated and always on edge, always slightly crazed, always exhausted beyond anything I had thought possible. I cancelled plans left right and centre, retreated into a dark hole within myself, hating the world, but never quite hating my beautiful baby (how could I?).

I eventually put out a defeat call on Facebook, explaining my situation, and the support came rolling in. Everyone had kind words, understanding, suggestions and ideas.

Every night I was researching what to do, how to cope. Eventually my husband and I decided we needed to start sleep training. Enough was enough, and it wasn’t getting any better on its own.

We started our sleep training at 5 months old (well technically one week shy of 5 months). There are a lot of mixed messages out there about when the ‘right’ time to start is, but we decided for us this was it.

We decided to go with the Ferber method, which is essentially controlled crying. You can read a quick overview here.

A few nights before we went away for the wedding weekend, I’d started to wean him from feeding every time he woke at night. I decided I wouldn’t feed until after 11pm, so if he woke before that I would just rock him back to sleep. This worked a couple of nights, but a couple of other nights he just wouldn’t stop crying so I gave in and fed him. I also tried to wean between midnight and 3am, but he would never settle so I gave up on those too. I figured I’d tackle them at the same time as the sleep training, so I wouldn’t have a screaming baby during the night while we were staying at a hotel for the weekend.

Of course every parent has their own preference for this sort of thing, but we felt this was the right choice for us. So after returning from a weekend away at a wedding, we jumped right into it. Below is how it went for us during that first week.

Night 1

  • We set a bedtime routine that was a slight variation on what we’ve done since birth – a feed, bit of a play, pjs, couple of books, sleeping bag, cuddle, then into bed
  • We also decided on a check routine – a pat/rub and some humming, which is a variation of the rocking and humming to sleep we’d been doing previously
  • Of course when we put him down he started to cry, so hubby went in at the 2min mark for the first check.
  • After this first check he kept crying, so I was going to go in 5 mins later for the next check, but at 4mins 30secs he stopped crying – a few mins later and he was asleep
  • Over the next hour he only half stirred twice
  • Woke at 12.30am – breastfeed and back to bed (he never really wakes for these night feeds, so I don’t ever really need to resettle him)
  • Woke at 3am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 5am and didn’t go back to sleep until 6, with me feeding and patting
  • Woke for the day at 7am

Night 2

  • Bedtime routine from 6:30pm, into bed at 7pm
  • Alternated between whinging, crying, and calm/quiet for half an hour
  • Went in at the 5min mark, but didn’t cry consistently after that so didn’t go back in
  • Fell asleep after that half hour
  • Woke at 10pm – started by fussing, then whinging, then started crying so I started the timer to go to him at 5mins, but before that could happen he stopped crying and eventually went to sleep
  • Woke at 1am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 5am – wanting to wean those feeds so let him whinge until 5.30 then fed
  • Slept 6-7, fed and napped for 10mins then up for the day

Night 3

  • Last nap of the day was only 15-20mins, so probably over tired
  • Did bedtime routine from 6:30pm, then into bed at 7pm
  • He cried until the first check – husband went in for first check and bub was laughing and cooing at him, then started crying as soon as he left
  • I went in for the second check – his eyes were closed the entire time and he was sucking his fingers at the same time as crying (as he does, he won’t take a dummy), and he seemed to calm at my touch and humming to begin with, but then got louder again
  • Fell asleep soon after that check (before the next check)
  • Woke at 12.20am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 3.15am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 5.15am – waited until 5:45 to feed
  • Woke about 6.30am, then when it was evident he was really awake we got up for the day at 6.50am

Night 4

  • Fell asleep feeding at 6.45pm, put to bed still asleep
  • Woke soon after, cried and fussed for 10mins (before first check)
  • Went quiet after that, fussing around in bed but not making noise
  • Fell asleep just before 7.30pm
  • Woke at 1.15am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 4.15am – breastfeed
  • Woke at 6.20am – breastfeed, then again it was obvious he was really awake so we got up for the day

Night 5

  • We started the bedtime routine late, into bed at 7.20pm
  • Whinged for about 10 minutes, then squirmed quietly
  • Was asleep within 20mins (we didn’t actually start the timer this time, as he never escalated to crying)
  • Woke at 11:30pm, but I am trying to not feed before midnight – I ended up giving in at 11:45pm because he was awake, and he didn’t end up going back to sleep until 12:30am after a double feed and a nappy change
  • Woke at 5:30am to my husband coming in to get clothes for work so I fed him then – I’d be interested to know if he would have slept longer than that if he wasn’t woken up!
  • Woke for the day just before 7am

Since then he has consistently gone to sleep within half an hour of being put to bed, and often much sooner than that. Tonight, which is technically night 8 of the training, he cried for less than 5 minutes and was asleep within a minute or two of that. He is definitely improving!

As for the night waking, he is still waking about 3 times per night. The first is around midnight (an hour or two either side), the second is anywhere from 2-4 hours after that, and the third is generally 1-3 hours after that.

He is waking for the day any time from 6-7am, which I’m assuming is dependent on his wakings during the night and what sort of noise disturbances happen in the early morning.

I’m so very happy we have committed and done this sleep training. We now have our evenings to ourselves as a couple, and bub has clearly adapted to the process well.

The next step is to work on day naps, since he won’t nap unless he is fed and/or rocked to sleep, and half the time wakes up as soon as I put him down!

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