As you read in the previous sleep post, things were going SO great then Esmé had a sleep regression.
Around 5ish months Esmé's nighttime sleep regressed from her waking 2-3x a night to 4-5x a night. It was hell. I felt like I was back in the newborn stage and I did not want to be there.
After about a month of getting up 4-5x a night, I basically said f*** this. I was miserable and so tired.
The Little Ones Program we followed previously did have a version for Esmé's age and I actually had a copy but I felt so desperate that I tried a different program.
I had been following Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep on Instagram since before Esmé was born but opted not to hire her as a sleep trainer initially.
We decided to do the Little Ones program first because it was a "one-size-fits-all" program that did come with a community aspect and we had access to the sleep trainers but it wasn't 1:1 coaching/specifically tailored to Esmé. This means the cost was significantly cheaper than Amanda's 1:1 sleep training.
But when Esmé was going through her sleep regression, Amanda actually came out with a group coaching type of program that was in between the more hands off Little Ones program and Amanda's 1:1, meaning the price point was also in between.
In a fit of desperation I just went for it and bought Amanda's program and holy heck, am I ever glad.
No joke, within 2 nights of implementing Amanda's suggestions...Esmé went from waking 4-5x a night to 1-2x a night. Yup, the second night was completely different and from there on out, Esmé woke up 1-2x.
Okay, to be honest, Amanda's suggestion was really simple...let Esmé cry. I know it sounds terrible BUT Amanda said that at this point we have created habits and associations.
The habits and associations we created were that anytime Esmé woke up she knew if she cried we would come get her, regardless of her being hungry or needing us. Instead of her waking up and just going back to sleep (like we do) she was in the habit of crying.
So Amanda suggested we pick 2x in the night to go in and feed her because she could actually be hungry still overnight but the other times she cried, we had to let her cry.
Yes, there are other sleep training methods that entail going in, having your baby aware you're in the room, rubbing their back, sitting by their crib, picking them up to soothe them and more. The reason we opted not to go that route is because it makes Esmé more mad. If she knows we are in the room or if we pick her up, she cries harder and will not stop until we take her out of the room and do something else.
So we picked 2x to go in and feed her and the other times she cried....and the funny part was...she only ended up crying 1 extra time for about 15 minutes. She never woke up after that. We continued to do this method and within a week Esmé was back to waking up 1-2x a night.
Yes, it was torture. Yes, my heart was breaking. Yes, I wanted to go in there SO badly BUT I couldn't. There is NO point in doing this if you aren't going to stick with it because once you change your plan, the whole thing is ruined and the baby won't learn.
Esmé's Sleep Schedule
So we continued to follow the Sleep Schedule from her previous months but it was slightly adjusted to match her wake windows (the times would change based on when she woke up but this was a rough estimate). Esmé's wake windows are 3-3.5 hours now:
6:30am: Wake up
6:30-9:30am: Feed & play
9:30-11am: First nap
11-2pm: Feed, play, feed again
2-3:30pm: Second nap
3:30-7pm-5: Feed, play & get ready for bed
Now before you start thinking 7pm-7am sleep means Esmé started sleeping through the night....let me just clarify...NOT YET (remember, it didn't happen until 7 months). At this point, she was still waking up 1-2x a night to feed.
How Did Esmé Start Sleeping Through The Night?
I know this is the real reason you came to this post so here are the goods.
Around 7 months I started to become curious if Esmé was still hungry overnight or if the 1-2x night wakings were habitual, just like the previous 4-5x night wakings.
I implemented the same strategy as before except this time I never went in at all. The first night Esmé woke up once and she cried for about 40 minutes. Eventually she went back to sleep on her own and didn't wake again. It was awful and I was so sad for her but I just kept telling myself that she's just mad and she's not actually hurt.
The second night she woke up once and cried for about 25 minutes.
End of story.
Seriously. She has slept through the night basically since then. Yes, she'll wake up periodically and cry for a few minutes but it's not often and it's not long.
How Does Esmé Go To Sleep?
Around 5 months I started to let Esmé fall asleep unassisted. So instead of rocking her to sleep all the way, I would rock her a bit until she was sleepy but still awake and then set her in the crib and let her fall asleep on her own.
We also took her soother away around this time because I knew it could become a problem if she woke up at night and got mad that she couldn't find it. She definitely protested for a few naps/nights but after about a week, she was over it.
Now at almost 9 months, we literally plop Esmé in her sleep sack and lay her in the crib fully awake and she falls asleep on her own. Some days she does cry but a lot of the time she just falls asleep.
At this point in our sleep journey, Esmé naps for about 3 hours during the day (split between a morning and afternoon nap) and sleeps from 7pm-6:30am straight.
I'm totally aware things could change and she could go through another sleep regression but I'm trying to enjoy this while I can!
I know sleep training is not for everyone and I know letting babies cry is not for everyone. Whichever side you're on, I just want you to know that letting your baby cry a bit is okay. It's not harmful. It's not hurtful. There's TONS of research to back this up.
Yes, it totally sucks to hear Esmé crying at 4am while I lay in bed. It's not pleasant. BUT we have to look at the risk vs reward. This is a short-term discomfort for her (and me) but it reaps long-term benefits for you (and me).
A baby who sleeps well is a happier baby. A mom who sleeps well is a happier mom who can function at a higher level. Sleep deprivation is real and it's detrimental.
As I said in my last post, at the very least look at all the sleep training options. There are some really gentle ways to go about it if you're uncomfortable with crying.
I would also recommend getting a sleep trainer so they can tailor a program to your baby and yourself. That way you can also have the support and the confidence that you're doing something that is healthy for your baby. I would totally recommend Amanda from Baby's Best Sleep as a sleep trainer.
Also, when questioning whether or not you should remove night feeds, always consult with your doctor as some babies do need to be fed overnight. Please get confirmation that it's ok to remove the night feedings before moving forward.
Overall though, it was worth it for us. I need my sleep so much. I'm not a person who can function on even 6 hours of sleep so having 6-7 hours of unbroken sleep was so bad for me that I needed something to change. And once I realized that Esmé was getting up out of habit, I knew it was okay for us to cut out the night waking.
And now we ALL sleep happily ever after (for now at least haha).
People have ALL types of opinions surrounding sleep training. I was very open about our sleep training process but for some moms, it may be best to actually not tell anyone what you're up to because there's nothing more discouraging than having someone come and criticize you for the sleep choices you are making.