I always knew I wanted to be a mom, and I always knew I wanted to have a big family, but oddly enough, it wasn’t until getting pregnant that I realized I’d actually not spent a lot of time *thinking* about having a baby. For some reason – and maybe others can relate – I always imagined the little feet running through the house, family mealtimes, carting a bunch of kids off to sports practices and games. But I kind of glazed over the whole pregnancy, birth, and having a newborn experience – ha! But we both love being parents, and we’ve just figured all the other stuff out along the way.
We spent a lot of time learning and preparing for Brady when I was pregnant. We took a horrifying birthing class at our hospital (never. again.), we took online newborn prep classes, I did a ton of registry research, we spent hours and days preparing his room, washing all his clothes, and getting all his gear ready. And still, there were a lot of things we missed. The two biggest things I felt grossly underprepared for as a new parent was with how hard and how much work goes into breastfeeding, and how hard the first two weeks with a newborn are. One of the best tips a family friend gave us was to research sleep training and getting Brady on a schedule. As type A people who love and thrive off of schedules and routines (and were very, very sleep deprived), this immediately had us interested. That very night I started Googling and even ordered a few books off of Amazon. Below I’ll share how we first got started with sleep training, what we’ve learned along the way, and what a typical day looks like for Brady now.
Disclaimer: I realize sleep training is not for everyone, and you should do your own research on whether it’s right for you and your family. Sleep training has worked GREAT for our family. (I truly maintain that this is the best thing that ever happened to us as parents!) We chose to sleep train Brady because we believe sleep makes everyone better. When Brady sleeps well, he’s much happier, less fussy, and in turn fights sleep less. When we as parents sleep, we’re happier, less stressed, and able to be better, more calm and level-headed parents. We also believe that routine and consistency is great for babies, and having some predictability to our days truly helped us all to thrive and not hate the newborn stage.
What is sleep training?
Sleep training is teaching your baby to fall asleep and stay asleep independently. This means you put baby in their crib drowsy but awake and without having to rock, nurse, sway, or shush them completely asleep each time.
A myth about sleep training is that it’s cruel, you let your baby cry all night, and they develop abandonment issues. That is definitely not the case, or at least, it’s not been our experience with the program we followed. Personally, we found Brady cried much more before he was sleep trained (or when he was going through sleep regressions early on), vs. after sleep training. After sleep training he’s been so much happier since he’s so well-rested! The program we chose to follow (Moms on Call) only lets your child cry for set periods of time – starting at 3 minutes and gradually getting longer as they get older. But you’re NEVER abandoning them or leaving them for long stretches of time.
With that being said, I don’t think sleep training will be right for you if: 1) you don’t like schedules or will have trouble being consistent with a schedule, 2) you can’t handle ANY amount of crying from your baby, or 3) your partner doesn’t or won’t buy in. I really believe you have to be a team on this, so if one partner is not totally invested or is going to deviate from/undermine the plan when you’re not around, it’s probably not going to be that effective. Sleep training is also only for healthy babies who are continuing to gain weight. So if your baby has complex medical issues or is having trouble keeping weight on, it may not be recommended to sleep train, and you may have to add in extra feeds, keep a certain number of nighttime feeds, etc.
Our experience with sleep training
We started sleep training Brady right at 2 weeks, which is the earliest they recommend getting your baby on any kind of schedule. (Note: You definitely do NOT have to start this early… that’s just what we did! Two weeks in, for us, felt like 2 years, we were very tired, sleep-deprived, and desperate to get on any kind of a schedule.) At two weeks we gave ourselves – and Brady – a lot of grace with the process, and of course added in extra feedings as needed… realized that naps would not be perfect yet… etc. But even having some semblance of a structure to our days made a huge difference for us.
We gradually got more and more strict with it as we felt Brady was ready. I would say around 4-6 weeks we tried to be as firm and consistent with the schedule as possible, because that’s what was recommended to us and what was recommended for the best results. We still had plenty of ups and downs along the way, and there were times when Ryan wanted to quit the program and was really questioning if things were working. But I will tell you it allll pays off when you start getting those first nights of longer sleep! Now we are 100% believers and we (especially my husband) will shout it from the rooftops to anyone who asks.
At 5-6 weeks, Brady was going down to sleep between 9 and 9:30 and sleeping until 3 or 4 AM. At that point we’d gotten him to that single middle-of-the-night feeding, and he’d go back to sleep afterwards until 6 or 7 AM. Between 6-7 weeks he went through a bad sleep regression, started waking up 2-3 times again in the middle of the night, but once we made some changes to his schedule, things got a lot better from week 7 1/2 or so on. He’s been sleeping through the night (7:30 PM – 7 AM) now since he was 13 or 14 weeks, and we’ve never looked back! We’d heard terrible things about the 4 month sleep regression and were so nervous as to how it would affect him… but he just skipped right over it, along with every other sleep regression, since then! When we go in to wake him up in the morning, 99% of the time he’s happy, smiling, giggling. Occasionally he will wake up a little before 7 (sometimes as early as 6:00), but he’ll either play quietly in his crib until them, or go in and out of sleep again. We never go in to get him before 7, unless he’s sick or there’s an emergency.
When we first started implementing Brady people thought we were crazy and being too strict. Now, we constantly get compliments on how sweet and well-behaved he is, and how well and often he sleeps. We’ve also gotten a lot of ‘wow, you’re so lucky you have such a great sleeper!’, but I can assure you that is definitely not the case! It was a lot of hard work and consistency that got us to this point.
The Moms on Call approach
The first book we read about sleep training/newborn sleep habits was On Becoming Babywise – which we loved and which really taught us a lot. Ultimately, though, we still had a lot more questions, and we were left wanting more specifics, more sample days, more concrete details, etc. Serendipitously, at around that time a few bloggers I follow posted about the Moms on Call approach and how well it was working for their family. I started doing my own research and immediately felt like this was the right style for us. It laid everything out super clearly, gave you sample days to follow (with built-in flexibility for your own babe… especially as you gradually wean those nighttime feeds). It also serves as a complete baby care guide, and we learned a ton about safe sleep habits, bathing, dressing, feeding, and first aid for Brady in general… which we’re so grateful for.
Side note: there are plenty of other sleep training approaches out there. Taking Cara Babies has been a really popular one, but I recommend reading about their recent controversy before you decide whether or not you want to support them. You can also choose to hire an independent sleep consultant (Google newborn/infant sleep consultants… there are tons in every area!). I know a lot of people who have done this. Even just spending time learning via social media is a great place to start, and a great way to find what resonates with you. There are a lot of baby sleep accounts out there.
Moms on Call is a baby care guide – as well as a sleep training method. It gives you age-appropriate routines and guidelines, with the goal of helping your baby work towards sleeping through the night. They follow a wake-eat-play-sleep routine, and teach you how to optimize your baby’s ‘wake windows’ during the day to ensure they’re getting enough rest – not too much that they’re wide awake come bedtime, but also so that they don’t become overtired and start resisting sleep. (We definitely found that the latter was a thing that happened with Brady! That’s part of why good, consistent sleep habits have been so key for us.)
Moms on Call uses something called soothing rounds to held you extend nighttime sleep. Soothing rounds are where you wait a certain number of minutes after your baby wakes up crying (this varies depending on the baby’s age… but it’s never very long) before going in, soothing them, maybe offering a paci, and giving them a chance to ease back into sleep. You’ll do this for 3 times total, and if they’re still fussy, you get them up to feed.
Starting at 12 weeks on you can choose to use the ‘cry it out’ method for getting your baby to sleep completely through the night (7:30-7)… IF you choose. We waited until about 13 or 14 weeks to do this, but honestly, it ended up being way better than we expected – and so many other Moms on Call moms have said the same thing. Many moms don’t end up having to do CIO at all, as their baby starts sleeping through the night on their own. The first night we did CIO, Brady cried on and off for about 2 hours, but that was it. That one night was really hard, but the next night he cried on and off for maybe 30 minutes… then he’s been sleeping through the night ever since.
We got started with Moms on Call by buying the Moms on Call 0-6 Months book on the Kindle app. (You can also by a hard copy.) I loved having it on my laptop, as I referenced it constantly! They have books for each baby phase, all the way up to the toddler years. We’re now using the 6-15 Months book and are already sad for when we graduate from the toddler book… Moms on Call has been such a great resource for us every step of the way! 😭 The books are really short and easy to read, which new moms will appreciate. It’s a pretty straightforward approach, and the books will tell you everything you need to know.
The other benefit to Moms on Call is the incredibly active, supportive Facebook group. You get access to the group (should you choose) when you purchase one of their books. There’s currently 16,000 members in the group, and it’s been an amazing resource for me, personally. Anytime I’ve posted a question or was looking for help/support, dozens of other moms rushed right in to comment and offer their tips and experiences. This alone has been just as useful as the books themselves.
What a sample day looks like at 11 months
Right now, Brady is 11 months, and his days look like this, per the Moms on Call philosophy. (Note: most 11 month olds will take either 1 longer nap or 2 1-1/2 hour naps. Brady is still taking 2 2-hour naps, so we’re rolling with that for as long as possible!)
7:00 AM: Wake-up. Change. 6-8 oz. bottle.
8:00 AM: Breakfast of solid foods.
9:00 – 11:00 AM: Morning nap
11:00 AM: Wake-up. Change. Snack bottle of 2-4 oz.
12:00 PM: Lunch of solid foods.
1:00 – 3:00 PM: Afternoon nap.
3:00 PM: Wake-up. Change. Snack bottle of 2-4 oz. + a solid foods snack.
Lots of play time until dinner. We’ll sometimes do a stroller walk either during this window, or before his 1:00 nap.
6:00 PM: Family dinner. We all sit down together (Brady at his highchair), and 90% of the time he’s eating some version of what we’re eating. He’ll also have a snack bottle of 2-4 oz. with his meal.
6:30 PM: Nighttime routine – bath, PJs, book, and a big 6-8 oz. bottle. We do bath time every night, not necessarily because he needs it, but for the routine aspect per Moms on Call. It’s a nice way for him to wind down and get out some of his energy from the day.
Sometime between 7:00-7:30 PM: Lights out. White noise machine on. We kiss Brady, put him in his crib, and he’s asleep within anywhere from 0-10 minutes.