Our sleep journey with the Trikester has been tumultuous. Up until six months of age, he slept in the Rock ‘N Play – it was an adequate set-up, but he was starting to outgrow the portable cradle. I knew we needed to get him into the crib, and based on our previous attempts, I was expecting the transition to be a huge fight.

Although I wanted to avoid the sleep training war in the worst way, it had to happen, so around 5 months of age I started plotting a strategy.1)   Set a (reasonable) deadline. I didn’t want to sleep train, so I kept finding excuses to put it off: I’m tired, the baby has a cold, we have a busy day tomorrow, I think the baby is teething, etc.  When sleep training, timing is important, so delaying it wasn’t helping our cause. As per Mrs. Bee’s post on the book Bed Timing, babies are most receptive to sleep training during certain periods of development. The authors, developmental therapists, note that the most ideal time to sleep train is between 5.5 and 7 months of age. If I waited much beyond that window, my next good opportunity to sleep train wouldn’t arrive until the Trikester almost hit the one-year mark.  No way was I waiting another six months to make this happen, so I set a deadline to accomplish sleep training by the time he was seven months old.

2)   Read all you can about sleep training. You need a strategy going into this fight, and it helps to review lots of options. I read two books: Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems by Richard Ferber and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth. I really tried to like Dr. Ferber, but his tone rubbed me the wrong way. Even though he pretends to be open minded about co-sleeping, I felt like he was criticizing the practice, and therefore criticizing me. The transition to the crib was not going to happen without some crying, so I decided to follow the Weissbluth recommendation, and do CIO with extinction. I also found the sleep training information on Troublesome Tots to be super helpful.

3)   Begin a sustainable routine. We’ve had a routine since about month 3: bath, story, and then nurse to sleep. Nursing the baby to sleep wasn’t going to work for CIO, as I had to be able to put him in the crib awake. In order to prep for the transition, I switched up our routine two weeks before we started sleep training. Now we nurse, take a bath, and read books.

4)   Establish a schedule for night feeds. I didn’t want to night wean – just not ready to do that yet. In order for CIO to work, I could only get the Trikester out of the crib when it was time to eat. If I didn’t have a set schedule, I wouldn’t know when the crying was for food vs. dissatisfaction with the crib. A month or two before we started sleep training, I worked really hard to time his night feeds to 1:30 AM and 4:00ish AM (see Part I). Also, I think it’s really important to note that CIO isn’t designed to stop night feeds – if you try to CIO and night wean at the same time, you’re going to have twice as many tears (as per my reading).

5)   Quit the swaddle. We were still swaddling at 5.5 months, but when we transitioned to the crib, we’d have to cut the swaddle because the Trikester is a champion roller.  At around 4.5 months I started swaddling him with one arm out knowing that eventually we’d have to ditch the swaddle all together (though I usually re-swaddled him with both arms in after our 4:00 AM nursing session). Then at about 5.5 months I stopped swaddling altogether. We continued to use the same Halo sleepsack; I just wrapped the Velcro wings around his belly with both arms out.

6)   Ensure you’ve got two sets of crib sheets, mattress pads, and sleep sacks. The Trikester never leaked in the Rock ‘N Play, but his second night in the crib was a soppy mess. I only had one mattress pad and one sleep sack, so when I picked up his drippy little body at 1:30 AM, I realized he couldn’t go back in the crib. I felt like we took a step backwards, as he slept in the Rock ‘N Play the rest of the night.

7)   Get a video monitor. Don’t have one? Buy one. When your baby is crying, it’s comforting to watch him and see that he’s physically okay. My other piece of advice – turn the sound off on the monitor. It’s heart wrenching enough to hear muffled sobs from the upstairs nursery – it’s almost impossible to hear crying amplified through a monitor.

8)   Buy wine, lots of wine and DVR a good show. During our first few nights of CIO I had a glass of wine and watched trashy Bravo reality shows. I need major distraction to get through the process.

With battle plan in place, we started sleep training last week. The first night he cried for 40 minutes, the second night he cried for 30 minutes, and the third night he cried for 15 minutes. He usually wakes up and cries for 2-10 minutes (this is decreasing significantly as we go on) around midnight, and then wakes up to eat around 1:30 and 4:00.  When I return him to the crib after nursing he cries for less than 30 seconds, and then falls back asleep. The second night of CIO he slept through the night, but he hasn’t done that since.

Is his sleep perfect? No way. We’ve been doing this for a week, and it still takes him 20 minutes to fall asleep in his crib. There’s usually lots of crying while we wait for this to happen. Twenty minutes of nightly crying is a long time, and it makes me question what we’re doing wrong. I think bedtime is probably too late – he’s in the crib by 8:00 PM, but it should probably be an hour earlier to keep him from getting crazy overtired. We’ve been working to move this up little by little every night, so maybe that will help.

He gets between 9 and 10 hours of night-time sleep, and then usually naps for another 4 hours. There’s usually a 1.5 – 2 hour nap first thing, and then two or three shorter naps (45 minutes – 1 hour) during the rest of the day. He’s getting between 13 and 14 hours of sleep, but I don’t think it’s enough. He’s plenty happy during the day, but beginning at 4:00 PM, the grumpiness takes over and multiplies until bedtime.

The most positive aspect of CIO is that I have a little time to myself at night. Before, I went to bed when the baby went to bed, so I was running around every evening to get bottles washed, the dishwasher running, etc. Knowing I have time after he’s asleep takes the pressure off. I also love the fact that Mr. Tricycle and I have a little time to ourselves in the evening after the baby’s in bed. I’m still trying to catch-up on my sleep, so we don’t get through more than one episode of The Big Bang Theory before I call it quits and head to bed, but it is an improvement over the last six months when we had ZERO time in the evening.

Was bedtime a battle in your house? If you sleep trained, how long did it take before you baby peacefully feel asleep in the crib?